New brief shows how food and beverage companies target Latino youth

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Salud America!, an obesity prevention program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has released a comprehensive collection of research briefs examining obesity-related trends among Latino children and teens:

Of special importance to advocates who address the food industry's target marketing is the brief on marketing to Latino youth. It focuses on the industry's extensive use of media to target young Latinos. Some of the brief's key research results include:

  • Latino youth consume an average of 13 hours of entertainment media (television, movies, video games) and digital media (Internet, mobile, new media) a day, 4.5 hours more than their White counterparts.
  • Fast-food and soda companies see Latino youth as an important target market segment. One marketing consultant from Adcentricity says, "Hispanic consumers' behavior patterns, along with their adoption of technology and media consumption trends, makes it clear that there is a goldmine of opportunity in creating new touch points and engagement strategies through digital advertising."
  • Fast-food marketers have developed sophisticated websites that target young Latinos, such as Burger King's Ftbol Kingdom and McDonald's Me Encanta website.
  • Children viewing Spanish language television are heavily exposed to advertising of unhealthy foods such as fast-food and sugary drinks.
  • Low-income Latino communities are disproportionately exposed to outdoor advertisements for unhealthful foods.

These findings support and expand on other reports released in 2011 regarding food marketing to children of color.

At a time when obesity levels have reached epidemic proportions, food and beverage companies continue to heavily target the environments that young Latino and African Americans live in with fatty and sugary foods. The reports mentioned here expand our understanding of how the industry market to Latino children. Yet we must not forget that the industry does not only use mainstream English media, but also ethnic media such as Spanish language websites and TV channels to reach children and families of color. We know less about how the industry targets children from other communities of color, such as Asians, Pacific Islanders and Native Americans, and it is not far-fetched to think that these groups are also vulnerable.

We must continue to not only monitor and expose the industry's targeting through research, but also act on a policy level to make our environments healthier. One place to start is by urging our policymakers to hold the food and beverage industries accountable for their marketing practices. All of our children deserve a better future with healthy environments.


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