Beverage makers disproportionately market sugary beverages to Black, Hispanic youth

Dive Brief:

  • Beverage companies spent $1.04 billion to advertise sugary drinks and energy drinks in 2018, up 26% from 2013, according to a study from the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut shared with Marketing Dive. These companies spent $586 million of this ad expenditure to market sugary drinks in 2018.
  • These ads disproportionately targeted Black and Hispanic youth, and this audience consumes these beverages at higher rates than non-Hispanic white youth, leading to health disparities among these communities of color. Black children saw 2.1 times as many sugary drink ads and Black teens saw 2.3 times as many, as compared to non-Hispanic white teens.
  • Beverage brands spent $84 million to promote soda, sports drinks and energy drinks on Spanish-language TV, up 8% from 2013 and up 80% over 2010. Additionally, the study revealed that sports drink brands disproportionately advertised on Spanish-language TV spending 21% of TV ad budgets on Spanish-language TV, as compared to 10% on average for all sugary drinks.

Dive Insight:

Advertisers have increased their spending on sugary drinks significantly over the last decade and Black and Hispanic youth are the target of these ad dollars. The report correlates this spend to the disproportionate health issues caused by unhealthy diets seen in these communities of color.

“Our findings demonstrate that beverage companies continue to target their advertising to Black and Hispanic communities, which exacerbates ongoing health disparities affecting those communities” said Jennifer L. Harris, PhD, MBA, lead study author and senior research advisor at the Rudd Center, in a statement.

While $573 million of ad spending was focused on non-sugary drinks such as water, diet and unsweetened drinks, the report revealed that spend on sugary drinks is on the rise. Total sugary drink advertising expenditures increased 41% in 2018 as compared to 2013.

This ad spend rose across a variety of sugary drink categories over the five year period. Sports drink advertising was up by 24% to $159 million in 2018. Advertising for sweetened iced tea went from $38 million in 2013 to $111 million in 2018.

Obesity and other diet-related diseases disproportionately affect communities of color, and by advertising sugary drinks to these communities, beverage makers are promoting negative health outcomes and perpetuating ongoing health disparities for these communities, per the report.

“Companies should not target communities of color with advertising that almost exclusively promotes unhealthy products and undermines efforts to improve the long-term health of young people,” Harris said in the statement.

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