According to a new American report, sugary drinks marketed to kids in the United States remain massively popular, in spite of warnings about their deleterious effects on health. The study demonstrates the power of TV advertising aiming to promote the drinks and they ways in which they can fool parents into purchasing them.
The Children’s Drink FACTS 2019 report, conducted by researchers at the University of Connecticut Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, has shown that out of the $2.2 billion in yearly sales of drinks marketed to children, 62% were for drinks containing added sugar, such as fruit cocktails (containing very little fruit), or flavored milks. The healthier options, such as 100% pure juice, represented only 38% of sales of children’s drinks in 2018.
According to lead study author and the Rudd Center’s Director of Marketing Initiatives Jennifer L. Harris, PhD, MBA: “Beverage companies have said they want to be part of the solution to childhood obesity, but they continue to market sugar-sweetened children’s drinks directly to young children on TV and through packages designed to get their attention in the store.”
The report does reveal that Americans aged 2 to 11 have seen over twice the number of ads for sweetened drinks than drinks without added sugars. Meanwhile, a third of all fruit-flavored drinks marketed to children contain at least 16 grams of sugar per portion, representing over half of the recommended daily added sugar intake recommended for kids by experts.
Misleading marketing might fool parents
The study also shows that the health claims written on the products’ packaging tout similarities between sweetened and unsweetened drinks, which could mislead parents regarding their nutritional content. Among the 34 products studied, 60% of drinks claimed to contain “less” or “low” sugar, or “no high fructose corn syrup.”
According to study author and assistant professor of Nutrition and Dietetics at Saint Louis University Maria Romo-Palafox, PhD, RD: “The fronts of the packages make children’s drinks look healthy, but there’s no way to know which ones have added sugars or low-calorie sweeteners reading the front. You have to read the nutrition facts panel on the back and you have to know the names of low-calorie sweeteners, such as acesulfame potassium and sucralose, to realize they are in the product,” she added.