Junk Food Advertising to Kids is on the Chopping Block as Unilever Suspends Marketing to Minors

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Life might be like a box of chocolates but your kids won’t be hearing about it any time soon. CPG giant, Unilever, recently announced they will suspend all advertisements of food and beverage products to youth under age 16, in a move to counter childhood obesity and reduce early addiction to sugary products.

The move will encompass Unilever’s global advertising through traditional and social media channels, as brands find themselves increasingly in the hot seat as to how they market products known as HFSS (high in fat, sugar, and salt) to children.

Matt Close, who is president of ice cream at Unilever, issued a statement, “Recognizing the power that social media and influencer marketing can have on children’s choices, we believe it’s important to raise the bar on responsible marketing to a minimum age of 16 years old across both traditional and social media.”

Unilever, who owns popular brands like Ben & Jerry’s and Hellmann’s, also pledged not to collect or store any data on minors. They further promised not to use celebrities and influencers who are minors themselves, or who appeal to children, in promoting their food and beverage products.

Unilever says they’re trusting parents to make wise choices for their kids. Said Close, “By making these changes, our goal is to continue to reduce children’s exposure to advertising … and instead support parents to select appropriate treats to be enjoyed from time to time.”

Some are taking even more aggressive steps. In late 2022 or early 2023, the UK will see controversial legislation introduced to completely ban marketing of HFSS food and drink products on TV and digital channels before 9pm. Further regulation is slated to for the European continent as well.

For some critics, the idea opens up a proverbial can of gummy worms with potential for invasion into individual rights. Could such measures lead to restrictions on the production or purchase of “junk food” items altogether? Should food and beverage choices be regulated by governmental authorities? Read more here.

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