Sugary Drinks 101 for Latinos (Part 2)


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Editor’s Note: This post is part of an ongoing series that will highlight the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s work in Latino communities across the country.

SaludToday Guest Blog: An Interview with Jennifer Harris

Jennifer Harris

Young people are being exposed to a massive amount of marketing for sugary drinks, such as full-calorie sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks and fruit drinks, according to a new study from the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. The study is the most comprehensive analysis of sugary drink nutrition and marketing ever conducted. The data indicate that the companies involved target young people, especially Black and Latino youth.

In an interview, Jennifer Harris, director of marketing initiatives for the Rudd Center, details exactly how beverage companies are marketing to Latino youth, how sugary drinks contribute to childhood obesity and what parents need to know to ensure their children and teens are getting the nutrition they need.

The report details how marketers see Latino and Black youth as future sources of growth. Can you explain that finding?
The best place to find this kind of information is company annual reports. We found that both Coca-Cola and Dr Pepper/Snapple group have said in their annual reports that the Latino market and Latino youth are important future growth opportunities for them.

On one hand, it’s a good thing that they’re recognizing the importance of this consumer. On the other hand, these are very unhealthy products that are clearly contributing to obesity, and no one should be consuming more of these. So making [Latinos and Blacks] a growth market is a public health issue.

What about the marketing that has shifted from traditional radio and TV to newer forms of media like smartphone apps?
Coca-Cola really is the extreme case. It just received an award for marketer of the year for innovative marketing practices. It is less on traditional TV than other brands. But it is the highest advertiser for product placements on TV and radio. It has the most youth visitors to its website and offers the My Coke Rewards program, which is a website that basically gives rewards for purchasing the product. A frequent drinker program of sorts.

On Facebook, it has more followers or likes than any other brand of any sort, not just food brands. It also does mobile marketing, and not many beverage companies do. Its iPhone apps are clearly youth targeted—for example, a spin-the-bottle and magic Coke bottle apps. Just like the Magic 8 ball, you ask it questions and you’ll get an answer from the Coke bottle when you shake it. It’s entertaining stuff, which is all designed to get people to love the Coke brand.

Coke is the extreme example of this, but many other brands are expanding their marketing to include similar things.

So how do we educate parents to understand what daily beverage consumption is considered healthy?
There’s no reason that any child should ever drink a product that has added sugar. The most important thing is to check the label to see if there’s added sugar. The sad thing is that we found very few products that had low levels of added sugar. Most of them had very high levels, and a lot of these products had more sugar than a child should be drinking in an entire day in just one serving. Children should be drinking water, low-fat or non-fat milk and small amounts of juice. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 7 ounces for a young child, and I think its 12 ounces for an older child.

There’s no reason that they should be drinking sugary beverages because, more than any other food product, there’s a lot of research to show that drinking these products directly contributes to obesity.

By The Numbers By The Numbers



of Latino kids have obesity (compared to 11.7% of white kids)

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