Pay attention. In the United States, television advertising of junk food, that is high in sugar, salt, and fat, targets almost exclusively Black [and Hispanic] children. The stereotype that Black people love sugar is fueling advertising agencies to spend millions of dollars to sell their products to your child. But it’s worse than that. Advertising agencies don’t think Black parents purchase nutritional food for their children. They spent basically none of their budget on advertising healthy options like water, fruit, or nuts to the Black consumer; zero dollars.
A report by Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, Council on Black Health, and Salud America! stated that, “Food-related companies almost exclusively target Hispanic and Black consumers with advertising for their least nutritious products, led by fast-food, candy, sugary drink(s), and unhealthy snack brands. These products are high in sugar, fat, sodium, and calories; represent the majority of empty calories in young people’s diets; and directly contribute to lifelong diet-related diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. These same diseases disproportionately affect communities of color. Furthermore, disparities in Black youth exposure to these ads compare to White youth have substantially increased over the past five years.“
“…Diabetes, heart disease, and obesity…disproportionately affect communities of color.”
In 2017, advertising agencies spent almost 11 million dollars to target your children. Spending on ads aimed at Black children and teens surged 53 percent to $333 million. Healthy food companies for items like nuts, yogurt, and other healthy foods, only spent one percent of their $195 million advertising budget on African American families. No water, fruit, or nut brands targeted either Hispanic or Black consumers.
Black youth also saw a disproportionately high number of television ads for snacks, over 30% more than White youth saw. Here are some of the companies that spent the most money: Hershey, PepsiCo, and Domino’s which allocated the highest proportion of their TV advertising budgets (approximately 4%) to Black-targeted television. Brands that invested more than 10% of their TV advertising budgets to Black-targeted programming included Lipton Iced Tea (20%), Jolly Rancher candy (16%), Lay’s Poppable Potato Chips (12%), and Lay’s Potato Chips (10%).
The problem with this type of targeting is the risk of long term health effects such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease which are common health issues in Black families.
Advertisements are difficult for children to process, especially teens who don’t have the maturity to resist the immediate rewards of a sugary drink, candy, and other types of junk food. Parents can talk about the tricks that advertising agencies use to get children to request and desire junk food, but the best thing a parent can do is to lead by purchasing healthy options, and by eating nutritious foods.