Marketing foods to kids is nothing new. You would be hard pressed to find an adult who doesn’t know that frosted flakes are “Grrrrreat!”. The problem is that, in the past, adults made decisions about the food they brought into their home not based on what kids wanted, but what they thought was nutritional. There is a growing trend in America for kids to be calling the shots about what goes in a family’s refrigerator and what goes on a dinner plate.
A more disturbing trend is happening in the Food service supplies company and food marketing industry, namely that marketers are beginning to concentrate more ads targeted at baby and toddler foods. Marketing based on young parents who are looking for convenient alternatives to feeding their children are being bombarded with products that may not be the best nutritional choice for their growing infant.
Researchers recently concluded that in the year 2015 alone, food companies spent an estimated $77 million in marketing infant formulas, baby foods and beverages for both infants and toddlers. Although primarily marketing healthy foods such as purees of vegetables, fruits and whole grains, 60% of ads are being allocated to foods that are not a good nutritional choice for all young infants and children.
Those products being marketed have a high sugar content and are snack foods that are very low in any nutritional value. Things like Pediasure are being advertised as a way to ensure that a child gets all the nutrition they need. But, what the advertisements don’t mention is that they are chalked full of calories. With obesity in children at historically high rates, many unwitting parents are being told that their children need supplements that are high in sugar and calories when they don’t.
For a young parent who has a finicky eater, the prospects of finding something to stop the food battle and get them all the nutrition they need, is a Godsend. The fact is that continually acquiescing to a picky eater by providing them with calorie and sugar laden substitutes, may be creating a scenario for obesity. The only children who require the additional calories are typically special needs children who are lacking in nutrition, not the average child who won’t eat their broccoli at dinnertime.
Toddler milk formulas are an excellent way to get children who have special medical needs, the necessary nutrition, but they are not designed for a child who isn’t in love with the taste of regular milk. Not a reasonable substitute, marketers are not being honest about who the products are made for and how they should be used. Formulas such as Pediasure were created to help toddlers and babies who had a failure to thrive, not a child who doesn’t want to eat what is on their plate.
Parents are going on the word of marketers instead of speaking with their pediatricians about the nutritional needs of their children. Instead of setting some standard about what kids nutritionally truly need, they are being sold a bill of goods that may not be in the best interest of their child. That may be leading to a host of unhealthy consequences for children lasting into adulthood.
There is no debate that breast milk is better for children not only for their immediate growth but also for their future health. Infant formula has been linked to higher allergy rates and obesity. Marketers are targeting young parents who are looking for a way to get finicky eaters, the nutrition they need and give them a convenient way to feed their infants, but that doesn’t mean that the advertising is real or ethical.
Toddler’s milk products were created for medically fragile children who were having a hard time thriving, not for children who simply don’t like milk. With children foods companies, giving parents the wrong impression about what or who those milk products are for, may be contributing to soaring obesity rates.
With so much marketing budget being spent touting fatty and high sugar foods to children, the addition of the new trend of marketing infant and toddler foods to parents is alarming to dietitians and nutritionists across the nation. The best way for a parent to get their child the food that they need is through finding natural foods that they like, not by supplementing their diet with sugar and high-calorie drinks.