Food & Latino Kids Research: Marketing of Unhealthy Food


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This is part of our Food and Latino Kids: A Research Review »

Latinos face economic barriers to healthy eating

Focus groups of Latino mothers have revealed that the most significant barrier to establishing healthy eating habits for their children is economic constraint.82

Many Latino families experience intermittent or chronic food insecurity; however, food is usually given the highest priority. Because of financial constraints, lower-income Latino mothers’ food purchases are driven almost exclusively by price.83

Mothers have expressed that they commonly travel to several different locations to purchase specific items at the lowest prices available.82

These practices demonstrate that Latino mothers’ desire to provide healthy meals for their families and protect their children from food deprivation.83

The marketing of unhealthy food to children

In addition to economic constraints, a plethora of unhealthy food advertising to children and youths is a challenge for providing healthy meals to children of low-income families.

The Institute of Medicine identified media as the most influential environmental factor affecting diets of youths.84 Food marketing of both individual products and restaurants disproportionately focuses on promotion of unhealthy foods.84

Studies show that expenditures on marketing to youth have increased by 50 percent since 2006.85 In addition to television advertisements, marketers promote products using online/mobile advertising, viral marketing, and “advergames.”85,86

One study showed that 82% of foods commonly marketed on television or the web are stocked in food stores.87

Eating out and the impact on obesity

Eating outside of the home has become more popular in recent years, and several studies have evaluated the consequences on nutritional intake and weight gain.

One systematic review, which included 20 cross-sectional studies and 8 prospective, cohort studies, found that eating outside of the home was positively associated with body weight in adults.88

Another systematic review of 29 studies reported that children and young adults commonly consumed foods prepared outside of the home and that eating these foods was associated with lower intake of micronutrients.89

The impact of media and food purchasing among Latinos

Latino youths are a fast-growing population that consume more media and have higher spending power than other youths.90,91

As a result, marketers have purposefully implemented campaigns geared to Spanish-speaking youth. Two studies found that advertisements to Spanish-speaking youths are more likely to promote unhealthy foods than advertisements to English-speaking youths (82% vs 72.5% of advertisements, respectively).92,93

These food marketing strategies influence diet by affecting food preferences, requests, consumption patterns, and nutritional knowledge.84,94–96 Studies show Latino youths are known by marketers as “super-consumers” of soda, candy, and snacks.97

Self-regulation of marketing to children by food and beverage companies has not been effective at reducing promotion of unhealthy foods to children. In fact, ethnically-targeted marketing has increased.92,98

Overwhelming evidence indicates that food marketing increases demand for and consumption of unhealthy foods. There is a need for additional research on the role of food and beverage marketing to Latino children and youth on the obesity epidemic in this population.

Regulation of marketing to children and increased promotion of healthy foods have been suggested to improve diet quality and decrease obesity in low-income homes.99

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References for this section »

(82) Lindsay, A. C.; Sussner, K. M.; Greaney, M. L.; Peterson, K. E. Influence of Social Context on Eating, Physical Activity, and Sedentary Behaviors of Latina Mothers and Their Preschool-Age Children. Health Educ. Behav. 2009, 36 (1), 81–96.

(83) Quandt, S. A.; Grzywacz, J. G.; Trejo, G.; Arcury, T. A. Nutritional Strategies of Latino Farmworker Families with Preschool Children: Identifying Leverage Points for Obesity Prevention. Soc. Sci. Med. 2014, 123, 72–81.

(84) McGinnis, J.; Appleton, G.; Kraak, V. Food Marketing to Children and Youth: Threat or Opportunity? National Academies Press: Washington D.C. 2006.

(85) Federal Trade Commission. FTC Releases Follow-Up Study Detailing Promotional Activities, Expenditures, and Nutritional Profiles of Food Marketed to Children and Adolescents.

(86) Cheyne, A. D.; Dorfman, L.; Bukofzer, E.; Harris, J. L. Marketing Sugary Cereals to Children in the Digital Age: A Content Analysis of 17 Child-Targeted Websites. J. Health Commun. 2013, 18 (5), 563–582.

(87) Grigsby-Toussaint, D. S.; Moise, I. K.; Geiger, S. D. Observations of Marketing on Food Packaging Targeted to Youth in Retail Food Stores. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011, 19 (9), 1898–1900.

(88) Bezerra, I. N.; Curioni, C.; Sichieri, R. Association between Eating out of Home and Body Weight. Nutr. Rev. 2012, 70 (2), 65–79.

(89) Lachat, C.; Nago, E.; Verstraeten, R.; Roberfroid, D.; Van Camp, J.; Kolsteren, P. Eating out of Home and Its Association with Dietary Intake: A Systematic Review of the Evidence. Obes. Rev. 2012, 13 (4), 329–346.

(90) U.S. Census Bureau. An Older and More Diverse Nation by Midcentury.

(91) Rideout, V.; Lauricella, A.; Wartella, E. Children, Media, and Race: Media Use Among White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian American Children; Chicago, IL, 2011.

(92) Kunkel, D.; Mastro, D.; Ortiz, M.; McKinley, C. Food Marketing to Children on U.S. Spanish-Language Television. J. Health Commun. 2013, 18 (9), 1084–1096.

(93) Adeigbe, R. T.; Baldwin, S.; Gallion, K.; Grier, S.; Ramirez, A. G. Food and Beverage Marketing to Latinos: A Systematic Literature Review. Health Educ. Behav. 2014.

(94) Harris, J. L.; Pomeranz, J. L.; Lobstein, T.; Brownell, K. D. A Crisis in the Marketplace: How Food Marketing Contributes to Childhood Obesity and What Can Be Done. Annu. Rev. Public Health 2009, 30, 211–225.

(95) Cairns, G.; Angus, K.; Hastings, G.; Caraher, M. Systematic Reviews of the Evidence on the Nature, Extent and Effects of Food Marketing to Children. A Retrospective Summary. Appetite 2013, 62, 209–215.

(96) Kraak, V. I.; Story, M.; Wartella, E. A.; Ginter, J. Industry Progress to Market a Healthful Diet to American Children and Adolescents. Am. J. Prev. Med. 2011, 41 (3), 322–333; quiz A4.

(97) Samuels, S.; Craypo, L.; Dorfman, L.; Purciel, M.; Standish, M. Food and Beverage Industry Marketing Practices Aimed at Children: Developing Strategies for Preventing Obesity and Diabetes; San Francisco, CA, 2003.

(98) Ogden, C. L.; Carroll, M. D.; Flegal, K. M. High Body Mass Index for Age among US Children and Adolescents, 2003-2006. JAMA 2008, 299 (20), 2401–2405.

(99) Harris, J. L.; Graff, S. K. Protecting Children from Harmful Food Marketing: Options for Local Government to Make a Difference. Prev. Chronic Dis. 2011, 8 (5), A92.

By The Numbers By The Numbers



for every Latino neighborhood, compared to 3 for every non-Latino neighborhood

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