Child obesity - food advertising in context
Executive Summary & Conclusions
This summary and the report that follows draw upon the results of:
- two reviews of academic literature (-8- )
- background data on national lifestyle changes (-9- )
- re-analysis of market data on family food purchase and consumption (-10- )
- analysis of BARB audience data (-11- )
- analysis of data from Nielsen Media Research on the advertising market (-12- )
- content analysis of food advertising on ITV1(-13-)
- bespoke qualitative (-14- )and quantitative (-15- ) research commissioned by Ofcom to identify influences on children's food preferences, purchase behaviour and consumption and the role of TV advertising in this context.
These two studies were designed to explore the role of food promotion in general, and TV advertising in particular, on children's food preference, purchase behaviour and consumption, in order to provide input to the review of the provisions of the Advertising Standards Code. More specifically, these two newly commissioned qualitative and quantitative studies examine the impact of TV advertising, relative to other influences and other forms of promotion, on the consumption of HFSS (high in fat, salt and sugar) foods.
1.1 Lifestyle trends influencing British 'food culture' (-16- )
- Lifestyle trends in the UK (rising incomes, longer working hours, more working mothers, time-poor/cash-rich parents) tend to support a 'convenience food culture' and the increased consumption of HFSS foods. (-17- )
- The demand for ready-meals in Britain grew by 44% between 1990 and 2002, while growth across Europe as a whole was 29%. (-18- ) Britain is now consuming double the amount of ready-meals consumed in France and six times the number in Spain. 80% of households in the UK have a microwave, compared with 27% in Italy.
- In Ofcom's qualitative research many mothers (-19- ) talked of having no time to do 'proper cooking' and there was a feeling that real cooking is hard work. An abundance of processed products which don't need forward planning and require little if any preparation time, make it easy to produce food for children quickly and conveniently. The lack of preparation is also important to older children who are likely to be preparing their own snacks.
- Breakfast and packed lunches for school are prepared in the morning rush, when mothers are particularly busy. The food industry has developed products (many of which are HFSS) targeting these eating occasions and markets them heavily to mothers and children.
- Although the data is somewhat contradictory, there is some evidence that demand for take-away meals and affordable eating options outside the home has increased.(-20-) The food industry has met such needs by the expansion of fast food outlets, many of which sell HFSS products.
- Pre-prepared, convenience foods, take-aways and eating out, reduce parents' control over what goes into food, making it more difficult to monitor HFSS content.
- Convenient'/pre-prepared meals are less likely to be eaten with fresh fruit and vegetables – a 'knock on effect'.(-21-)
- There is a growing grazing/snacking culture amongst children, which favours the consumption of HFSS foods.
- Overall, there is a decline on the number of occasions that a family eats together . (-22-)
- The food and grocery market has developed a range of chilled, frozen and ambient pre-prepared meals specifically for children who eat without adults, which can be prepared without affecting the meal patterns of the rest of the household.
- Less authoritarian parent/child relationships and children's own growing spending power (-23- ) contribute to the finding that children increasingly control their own eating patterns.(-24-)And children like the taste of HFSS foods.(-25-)
1.2 What are children eating? (-26-)
- Foods high in fats, sugars and salt such as confectionery, soft drinks, crisps and savoury snacks, fast food and pre-sugared breakfast cereals (the 'Big Five') figure prominently in foods promoted to children in the UK and in their daily diets. (-27- )
- Families are also eating more pre-prepared/ convenience foods, which are high in fats, salt and sugar (HFSS), making a 'Big 6' (-28- ) of foods causing concern to dieticians and health professionals. (-29- )
- Children eat well below the recommended amount of fresh fruit and vegetables. W.H.O. recommends at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day.(-30-)In England the average fruit and vegetable intake for girls aged 5-15 is 2.6 portions and for boys 2.5 portions.(-31-)
- Although the consumption of fresh fruit in the home has risen for much of the last twenty five years, the consumption of fresh green vegetables was 27% lower in 2000 than in 1975.(-32-)
- Most children do know that fruit and vegetables are good for them and that they should avoid eating too many HFSS foods. However, children like the taste of HFSS food and are oblivious to concerns about health. If they do not want to get fat, it is because they perceive it to be unattractive.
1.2.1 Demographic differences
- The diet of children living in areas of multiple deprivation, or in families of lower socio-economic status, is especially poor .(-33-)
- The diet of obese children is characterised by particularly high consumption of convenience foods, carbonated drinks, dairy products and low intake of homemade foods, fresh fruit and vegetables.(-34-)
1.3 What factors influence children's food choice? (-35-)
- There is general consensus of opinion that food preference, consumption and behaviour are multi-determined. Amongst factors shown to be involved where children are concerned are:
- psychosocial factors (e.g. food preferences, meanings of food, and food knowledge)
- biological factors (e.g. heredity, hunger and gender)
- behavioural factors (e.g. time and convenience, meal patterns, dieting)
- family (e.g. income, working status of mother, family eating patterns, parental weight, diet and knowledge)
- friends (e.g. conformity, norms and peer networks)
- schools (school meals, sponsorship, vending machines)
- commercial sites (fast food restaurants, stores)
- consumerism (youth market and pester power)
- media (food promotion, including television advertising)(-36-)
1.3.1 The role of parents
- The overwhelming majority (79%) of parents in the NOP survey say parents themselves have 'a great deal' of responsibility for the situation outlined in the recent publicity about children's diets.
- However other groups are seen as having an important part to play, in particular schools (52%) and food manufacturers (43%). Just one third see the Government (33%) and the media (32%) as 'having a great deal of responsibility', and even fewer the supermarkets (28%) and broadcasters (23%).
- Asked which one of the same groups could do most to ensure that children eat healthily, 'parents/family' are again named by just over half (55%). Only a small minority name food manufacturers (16%) and schools (14%). Very few name the media (5%), government (4%), supermarkets (3%) and broadcasters (1%).
- Ofcom's qualitative research suggests that:
- the majority of parents will often defer to their children's food preferences, and serve HFSS foods. Such parents were more often to be found in the lower socio-economic groups in which money is tighter and food choice in the area more restricted
- only a minority of parents in our research seemed to exercise effective control over their children's food choices. Such parents were usually better off and more often found in the higher socio-economic groups.
- The qualitative research suggests that while many mothers think they know what a healthy diet is, they are at a loss as to how to make this attractive to their children. They feel they would have to reject whole categories of foods e.g. dairy products, sugar and carbohydrates. Their notion of a healthy diet is austere and is consequently perceived as unattainable.
- Such mothers think in terms of the outcomes of healthy eating outlined in the media – lessening the risk of obesity and better dental health. Their approach is essentially reactive – if their child is of normal weight and has no specific health problem then they make only token gestures towards establishing healthier eating patterns
- A minority of more confident, better-informed and largely middle-class, mothers were more proactive. Such mothers are aware of the long-term risks associated with obesity, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer and have a more inclusive, and consequently more attainable, idea of what constitutes a healthy diet. They do not exclude whole categories of food, but are more likely to limit HFSS foods and exclude those with artificial additives. If they buy convenience foods they favour options such as pre-packaged salads and chilled foods.
1.3.2 The role of schools
- Ofcom's qualitative research in schools found that:
- There is formal coverage of diet and nutrition in classrooms, where teachers educate pupils about healthy food choices.
- There is evidence that some schools are making successful attempts to provide healthy food choices and actively influence their pupils' diets.
- There was little active supervision of what children actually choose to eat at lunchtimes in the schools included in the survey. The school's role, as regards teaching by example, seemed to be largely unacknowledged.
- Most school provision appeared to be driven by what children wanted and could be seen as giving a seal of approval to eating HFSS products. High fat and high sugar foods (e.g. chips, burgers, hot dogs, sausages, pizza, cake and jelly) were popular in both primary and secondary schools. Secondary schools had vending machines with crisps, confectionery and soft drinks for sale.
- Schools had few, if any, rules regarding the food pupils bring in to eat during the school day. The NOP survey and the TNS Family Food Panel report that packed lunches and snacks brought in for breaks at school often contain highly branded, processed, HFSS products.
- Most parents consider the lunch choices provided by schools to be very (12%) or fairly (36%) healthy. Less than one in five (14%) considered them not to be healthy.
Barriers to healthier provision in schools
- In the qualitative research, teachers reported that finance is a key barrier to healthier provision in schools. In order to make food provision cost-effective, schools sell HFSS foods, as these are what children like, want and will buy. Vending machines bring in much needed income.
- Schools may also lack control over food provision if contracted catering companies hold the reins in terms of what food is provided. These companies can be very resistant to moves towards healthier provision that may be less popular with pupils and affect the profits or financial viability of their operation.
1.4 The role of television advertising (-37-)
- Academic research confirms (-38- ) that hours spent in television viewing correlate with measures of poor diet, poor health and obesity among both children and adults. Three explanations for this have been offered
- television viewing is a sedentary activity that reduces metabolic rates and displaces physical exercise;
- television viewing is associated with frequent snacking, pre-prepared meals and/or fast food consumption;
- television viewing includes exposure to advertisements for HFSS food products.
There is support for each of these explanations, although little empirical research attempts to disentangle them. (-39- )
1.4.1 Television advertising: direct effects
- Academic research shows 'modest direct effects' of television advertising on food preference, consumption and behaviour. There is insufficient evidence to determine the relative size of the effect of TV advertising on children's food choice by comparison with other relevant factors. Nor does a clear consensus exist yet regarding the nature of these other factors.
- In the context of the multiplicity of influences mentioned above (section 1.3), it is not surprising that the direct contribution of TV advertising has been found to be modest.
- In the NOP survey, when television advertising is put in the context of other influences, we see that it does have an impact on food choice among both parents and children, but it is small compared to other influences. For example:
- To parent and child alike, the child's own taste preferences are paramount and price and familiarity are also important. Peer pressure ('My friends like it') is also a notable influence on food choice for children. Parents are influenced by the healthiness of the products, although when actually serving food or drink, convenience ('Quick and easy to prepare') is a more powerful motivator.
- That said, promotions (e.g. special offer/in-store promotion, caught eye in shop, saw TV ad) appear to play a relatively greater role in the choice of HFSS products compared with non-HFSS products.
1.4.2 Television advertising: indirect effects
- There is insufficient evidence to show that TV advertising has a larger, indirect effect on children's food choices, however it is widely argued in the fields of social and developmental psychology and in consumer and marketing research that substantial indirect effects occur(-40-)
- Example of indirect effects: television advertising affects the views of the child's parents and peers about diet (parents' and peers' attitudes and behaviour subsequently have an impact on the child); it may normalize the image of a particular diet; it may prime the target audience to notice other forms of promotion.
- In many such indirect ways television advertising can have a powerful, if largely un-researched and possibly un-researchable, influence on young people's food preferences, consumption and behaviour.
- For a range of methodological reasons it is unlikely that research will ever produce the ideal, uncontroversial demonstration of a causal effect of food promotion on children's food choices, or the factors that in combination, influence children's food choices.
1.5 Viewing patterns and advertising spend (-41-)
1.5.1 Children's viewing patterns
- Children's total viewing has remained fairly stable over the past three years. The average child watches around 17 hours of television each week.
- There has been an increase in viewing during children's airtime,(-42-) driven by the popularity of the dedicated BBC channels, which account for a growing proportion of viewing during children's airtime and an even greater proportion of viewing in Freeview homes.
- Children spend 71% of their viewing time (12 hours per week) outside of children's airtime.
- Of the 5 hours spent in children's airtime, 2.6 hours (15% of total viewing time) is spent in commercial children's airtime (excluding Disney).(-43-)
- This means that children spend the equivalent of 22 minutes each day in commercial children's airtime
- Children aged 4-9 spend 20% (3.4 hours per week) of their viewing in dedicated commercial children's airtime, while children aged 10-15 spend around 11% (1.9 hours per week).
- More children and young people watch television at peak times (between 6pm and 9pm) than any other day part.
- Around four in ten children who view during children's airtime do so in the company of an adult, compared to seven in ten during the evening slot.
1.5.2 Advertising spend
- The total advertising spend on all types of Food, Soft Drinks and Chain Restaurants (from here on known as 'Core Category products') has decreased by 15% since 1999 (£856m in 1999 to £727m in 2003). The proportion of that spend invested in television advertising has decreased even more dramatically (by 22% from £669m in 1999 to £522m in 2003).
- In 2003 advertisers for food, soft drinks and Chain Restaurants ('Core Category' (-44- ) foods) spent £522m promoting their products on television. This represents 72% of their budget, making television a key medium for food advertisers.
- The largest sub-sectors in terms of advertising spend on television are Prepared & Convenience Foods, Confectionery and Dairy Products, mirroring the categories found to be most prominent in the diets of obese children.
- 'Big Five' products represent 77% of all food, soft drink and fast food advertising spend within children's airtime. (-45- )
1.5.3 Advertising seen
- 'Advertising seen' is measured by looking at 'impacts'. Impacts provide a measure of advertising exposure. One impact is equivalent to one member of the target audience viewing one commercial spot.
- Overall, most of the television advertising seen by children is outside of children's airtime (71%).
- Around one in five of all of the TV ads seen by children is for a Core Category product (19%).
- Television advertising for Core Category products in children's airtime represents 8% of all television advertising seen by children.
- Younger children see more advertising for Core Category products in children's airtime than older children, because they spend more time watching television in children's airtime.
- Children aged 4 – 9 see just over half of the Core Category advertisements that they are exposed to in children's airtime
- Children aged 10 – 15 see around one third in children's airtime.
- 29% of all of the advertising seen during children's airtime is for a Core Category product.
1.6 How advertising works(-46-)
1.6.1 Differences in reactions to advertising
- Before four or five years old, children regard advertising as simply entertainment, while between four and seven, they begin to be able to distinguish advertising from programmes. The majority have generally grasped the intention to persuade by the age of eight, while after eleven or twelve they can articulate a critical understanding of advertising . (-47-)
- Younger children remain relatively unengaged by the message content but may still be persuaded by the status of its celebrity source or the intensity of the message (colour, sound). Consequently advertisers may appeal to younger children through the use of bright colours, lively music and the involvement of cartoon characters or celebrities.
- Teenagers are more likely to pay attention to the content of the message, and be persuaded because they attend to, and engage with, the arguments put forward for a proposition or product. Hence advertisements for teenagers are more likely appeal through witty or stylish imagery and subtle messages. Celebrities as role models are likely to continue to have an influence.
- Television advertising may have a more powerful influence on obese children, engaging them in a more emotional/physical way than it does children of normal weight.(-48-)
1.6.2 Creative executions used to target children (-49-)
- Advertising for Core Category foods in children's airtime makes more use of animation and product tie-ins:
- In children's airtime, 42% of Core Category commercials featured animation, compared with 16% in the early evening.
- 28% of Core Category commercials in children's airtime featured a product tie-in, compared with 11% in other types of commercials in children's airtime.
- The analysis showed little use of celebrities (1% of all adverts in children's airtime compared with 8% in the early evening slot).
1.7 What parents and children say about television advertising (-50-)
1.7.1 Parents' and children's reactions to advertising
- The qualitative research found:
- children actively enjoy television advertising. It entertains them and is part of the pleasure they derive from watching television. It is also part of a shared culture with family and friends.
- most parents are also non-judgemental. Like their children, they too watch advertising with evident enjoyment. When discussing commercials seen and advertising generally, they do not differentiate between advertising aimed at children and at adults.
- The NOP quantitative survey shows that:
- few parents make any attempt to mediate the impact of television advertising on their children. Just under half of parents (44%) say they 'never' talk about adverts to their children and a further 15% say they do so 'hardly ever'. Those who do talk about them are most likely to do so only 'occasionally' and very few say they ever discuss the credibility of the advert or its commercial motivation.
- asked which kinds of adverts appeal to them most, children most often mention funny adverts (28%), and those with good music (25%). The next largest proportion talks about adverts with celebrities (15%).
- however, as previously mentioned (section 1.4.1), when television advertising is put in the context of other influences, we see that its impact on food choice among both parents and children is relatively small. More important is, for example, the child's own taste, peer pressure etc.
1.7.2 Influence of branding
- Branding and brands were discussed in the qualitative research
- It was found that both mothers and children engage with and enjoy food brands. Children generally associate heavily advertised, branded foods with 'fun', based on their colourful packaging and widespread use of pictures, cartoons and characters.
- Effectively marketed, brands generate recognition, familiarity and even affection amongst children. Well-known brands can impart status/'cool' to the user
- Brand presence is created and sustained by all forms of marketing activity – but especially by television advertising. Television advertising imagery frames how children talk about products. This imagery is invariably positive.
- Mothers often collude with their children's enjoyment of brands and use them to encourage their children to eat.
- Food advertising on television can produce confusion amongst many mothers about healthy options. Brands are seen as indicators of quality, intrinsically better than unbranded goods – yet they are differentially skewed towards the promotion of HFSS foods. They sometimes assert health claims (e.g. high in calcium) for foods that have other 'unhealthy' aspects (e.g. high in salt).
- Asked why they switch brands in the NOP survey, the largest single proportion of mothers name price cuts (42%). Next most influential are recommendations from family or friends (24%). Television advertising is only mentioned by around one in every ten respondents.
1.7.3 Parents' views on regulation
- In the qualitative research parents showed limited awareness of current regulation of food/drink advertising to children, apart from the belief that advertising (in general) is not allowed to say anything that is untrue. There were no unprompted calls for more regulation.
- In the NOP quantitative survey, asked whether they felt there needed to be any change to the rules governing the advertising of HFSS products, the majority of parents (56%) say they want some change. However 29% believe the rules should stay the way they are.
- When parents were asked how much they agreed with eight possible rule changes (see Chart 84, section 3.7.3):
- There was least support for a total ban on advertising of HFSS products. 46% disagreed with a total ban, almost twice the number who agreed with it (24%).
- In contrast, parents showed most support for changes that would provide more information.
- A clear consensus emerges in favour of a rule that would ensure that advertisements for HFSS products contain 'a nutritional message about the product'. 81% agree with this type of rule change. This rule is also the one most commonly identified when parents are asked to choose the one change they think most important to make.
(Mothers in the qualitative research point out that health information will need to be available on all forms of promotion, including packaging, not just television advertising. They also anticipated difficulties in defining 'unhealthy' foods and pointed out that health information is unlikely to be understood by younger children.)
- Two thirds (65%) agree that advertisers should not be allowed to make health claims for a product if something else about it is 'unhealthy' (e.g. high in salt, fat or sugar).
- The same proportion (65%) wants to see advertisements for HFSS foods made 'less appealing to children', although in this case fewer (27%) feel very strongly about it.
- Around half want to see cartoon characters (49%) and celebrities (48%) banned from advertising HFSS products to children.
(In the qualitative research mothers were likely to take issue with the use of sports personalities to promote foods which they regarded as very 'unhealthy'.)
- Just over half (57%) favoured a ban on advertising HFSS products during children's programmes.
(However, set against that, in the qualitative research, even those mothers who supported a ban in children's airtime recognized that children watch TV in adult airtime, where they can still see HFSS product advertising.)
- Just under half (48%) wish to see a ban on advertising HFSS products before 9pm.
(However, in the qualitative research, a ban on advertising before 9 o'clock was felt by mothers to compromise adult freedom to enjoy advertising and was considered 'unfair' to advertisers. Some however did suggest that banning ads for HFSS foods before 9pm is likely to result in food manufacturers reformulating products, so that they are no longer deemed 'unhealthy' – and therefore can still be advertised.)
Research on the effectiveness of bans
- Surprisingly little research has sought to evaluate the effectiveness of television advertising regulation and there is even less on the banning of food advertising on TV.
- However, where there has been research on the effectiveness of TV advertising bans on food advertising in relation to obesity in other countries, the conclusions are at best both unclear and contested.
1.8 Differences between obese and normal weight children
- Compared with children of normal weight, obese children consume less home-made food, fewer vegetables and less fruit. They consume more frozen food, microwaved food and more carbonated drinks.
- In the NOP survey, obese children themselves tend to report snacking more often than children of normal weight. Parents of obese children, however, do not report their child as snacking more often compared with parents of normal weight children. This is confirmed in both the NOP survey and the TNS Family Food Panel
- The TNS Family Food Panel data suggests that when obese children do snack, they are more likely than children of normal weight to consume crisps and nuts inside the home and carbonated drinks outside it.
1.8.2 Attitudes, beliefs and behaviour (-52-)
- Most obese children and their parents are unaware of, or choose to ignore, the reality of the child's situation. Obese children are considered healthy, and of 'average weight' by the majority of their parents. Most of the children themselves claim they are happy with their current weight and about the way they look.
- Compared with children and parents in families where the child is of normal weight, both obese children and their parents are less knowledgeable about healthy eating and less likely to appreciate the importance of eating fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Parents of obese children compared with parents of normal weight children are less motivated by health and more motivated by convenience and price when choosing food.
- When shopping, obese adults are more likely to be attracted to offers which can be seen as encouraging extra consumption – multi-buys and extra free content.
- Food promotion generally, and television advertising in particular they tell us, play a very small part in their decisions, although they are more likely than parents of normal weight children to cite these as reasons for their food choice. Television advertising for food and drink may engage obese children in a more emotional/physical way than it does children of normal weight.(-53-)
- Parents of obese children tend to have a more laissez faire attitude to mealtimes and are less likely to have rules about good table manners. They seem generally less confident than parents of normal weight children about their own ability to have an influence.
- Parents of obese children tend to show polarised opinions when considering what can be done to ensure a healthier diet for children. Minorities support either 'no change' to rules governing the advertising of food and drink to children, or the most radical and uncompromising alternative – a complete ban on advertising HFSS foods and drinks. (Similarly, asked to imagine an 'ideal diet' for children, mothers who were more likely to provide a poor diet for their children tended to think in terms of an unrealistic avoidance of whole categories of food.)
- Parents of an obese child are less likely to think that parents are the ones who can 'do most to help children eat more healthily'. Conversely, they are more likely to think schools can do most to help and they consider lunchtime meals to be more important than do parents of normal weight children.
- Parents of obese children are also less likely to read labels about ingredients, or to support changes to the rules about how HFSS products are advertised to children that would provide them with more information.
- Children's food preference, consumption and behaviour are multi-determined.
- The rise in obesity levels amongst children is similarly multi-determined, against a backdrop of key lifestyle changes over the past few decades
- People see parents as primarily responsible for improving children's diets. Schools and food manufacturers are also seen to play an important role. The role of government, the media, supermarkets and broadcasters is not perceived to be as important as these three.
- There is a trend for children to increasingly influence their own diet with the acquiescence of their parents.
- TV advertising forms a smaller part of a larger social issue.
- Solutions to the problem of obesity need to be multi-faceted.
The role of television advertising
There is sufficient empirical evidence to conclude that:
- TV advertising has a modest, direct effect on children's food choices.
- While indirect effects are likely to be larger, there is insufficient evidence to determine the relative size of the effect of TV advertising on children's food choice, by comparison with other relevant factors.
- This does not however mean that the indirect effects of television advertising are negligible. It is widely argued in the fields of social and developmental psychology and in consumer marketing research that substantial indirect effects occur.
- In the context of the multiplicity of influences of children's food choice, it is perhaps not surprising that the direct effect of TV advertising has been found to be 'modest'. While from our qualitative research we found that TV plays an important role, in our quantitative research we saw that more important are, for example, the child's own taste preference, price, familiarity, peer pressure, healthiness and convenience.
Children's television viewing
Analysis of children's viewing behaviour reveals:
- On average children aged 4-15 watch far more television in adult airtime than they do in children's airtime (12 hours vs 5 hours/week)
- Most of their viewing in commercial children's airtime (2.6 hours/week) is with non-terrestrial channels (1.9 hours/week)
- Children watch an average of 22 minutes a day of commercial children's TV.
- Overall, around one in five ads seen by children is for a Core Category product.
- On average, over half of these Core Category TV ads are seen by children outside of children's airtime. However:
- children aged 4 – 9 see just over half of the Core Category advertisements that they are exposed to in children's airtime
- children aged 10 – 15 see around one third in children's airtime.
- 2 9% of the advertising impacts in children's airtime are for Core Category products.
- Most of the TV advertising Core Category products that children see is for confectionery, savoury snacks, soft drinks, fast food and pre-sugared breakfast cereals (the 'Big Five').
Parents' views on regulation
- Most parents believe that the rules about how the 'Big Five' are advertised on television need to be changed.
- Least support was registered for an outright ban on the advertising of HFSS products on TV
- Most support emerged for ensuring that there is accurate information in advertising (i.e. the provision of nutritional information; banning health claims if something else about the product is 'unhealthy')
- There is also support for
- targeting the attractiveness of advertising to children (in general, not using celebrities or cartoon characters
- targeted scheduling restrictions (a ban during children's airtime or before 9 o'clock in the evening … even though in our qualitative research mothers acknowledged that regarding the former, children watch TV in adult airtime where they can still see HFSS advertising, and that, regarding the latter, such a ban was felt to compromise adult freedom to enjoy advertising.)
Experience in other countries
Little research has been done to evaluate the effectiveness of banning food advertising on TV and where there has been research in other countries on the effectiveness of bans on food advertising in relation to obesity, the conclusions are at best both unclear and contested.
Implications for regulatory change
Solutions to the problems of obesity/children's health need to be multi-faceted. While the research suggests that regulation of TV advertising has a role to play, changing the rules around the advertising of HFSS products alone as a single approach to combat obesity seems highly unlikely to succeed.
Addressing how HFSS products are advertised on television will need to be accompanied by comparable action in a number of other areas, for example:
- Improved access to healthy foods in areas of multiple deprivation (-54- )
- improved food provision in schools
- promotion of physical exercise
- educational programmes to promote healthy eating
- promotion of media and advertising literacy
- food pricing
- labelling of foods
- regulation of other forms of promotion.
Furthermore, a necessary prerequisite for any proportionate and targeted intervention would be a practical, actionable definition of what defines a HFSS/'unhealthy' product, and conversely, what constitutes a healthy food.
8. Sonia Livingstone (2004) A commentary on the research evidence regarding the effects of food promotion on children; Sonia Livingstone and Ellen Helsper (2004) Advertising HFSS Foods to Children: Understanding Promotion In The Context Of Children's Daily Lives. See appendix 1 and 2.
9. Report prepared by the Henley Centre for Ofcom.
10. From Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS) Food Panels. The TNS Family Food Panel includes 11,000 individuals within 4,200 households who record their food and drink consumption in diaries. It is the UK's largest database tracking food and drink consumption. The TNS Superpanel consists of 15,000 GB households demographically and regionally representative of the total household population. Food purchasing is recorded using palm pilot technology (bar code detail) and the information is collected through telephone line.
11. BARB TV viewing data - See Appendix 3.
12. Nielsen Media Research spend data - See Appendix 4.
13. David Graham and Associates were commissioned by Ofcom to conduct content analysis to help understand the types of creative executions used by advertisers to target children. The analysis involved the recording of advertisements shown on ITV1 in the HTV West region across 7 days between September-November 2003. Over 900 commercial spots were analysed across the entire period, including 156 food, soft drink and fast food commercials - see Appendix 5.
14. Ruth Foulds (2004) Food Promotion and Children. Fuller details of the qualitative methodology are found in section 3.
15. Survey conducted for Ofcom by NOP. Fuller details of the quantitative methodology are found in section 3.
16.Detailed information and sources are to be found in Section 3.1 of this report.
17. Henley Centre report prepared for Ofcom.
18. Mintel report summarised on http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2787329.stm.
19. Throughout the report we talk predominantly but not exclusively about mothers, as opposed to fathers, or parents in general. This is simply because we found mothers to be almost always in charge of family food shopping. Consequently their attitudes to food and approach to their children's diet is crucial. It is in no way meant to underplay the role of fathers, some of whom now fill this role in their families.
20. See Chief Medical Officer's Annual Report 2000. Cited in the Food Standard Agency's website.
21. TNS Family Food Panel data. See Section 3.2.2.
22. Mintel (2001) Regional Eating and Drinking Habits: FSA (2001) Promoting Food to Children: Taylor Nelson Sofres, Family Food Panel.
23. Sodhexho School Meals and Lifestyle Survey 2002, p.9. See htpp://www.sodexho.co.uk/segments/smsurvey2002/pdf
24. Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS) Family Food Panel data shows that parents increasingly buy what children want.
25. See present report Section 3.1. 'Favourite food' Chart 15 and 'Main meal most enjoyed', Chart 16.
26. Detailed information and sources are to be found in Section 3.2 of this report.
27. The National Diet and Nutrition Survey of Young People aged 4 to 18 years (June 2000). HMSO, London.
28. In this report, therefore, the 'Big 6' = confectionery, pre-sugared breakfast cereals, soft drinks, crisps and savoury snacks, fast food AND pre-prepared convenience foods.
29. Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS), Family Food Panel report conducted for Ofcom.
30. W.H.O. (2004) Young people's health in context. Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study: international report from the 2001/2002 survey, Eating habits pp110-119 ISBN 92 890 1372 9. http://www.euro.who.int/Document/e82923.pdf.
31. C. Deveril (2002). Fruit and vegetable consumption. In Health Survey for England 2002 report, The Health of Children and Young People. Chapter 3.
32. Data from National Food Survey (NFS) annual surveys. Cited in the Government's Food and Health Action Plan: Food and Health Problem Analysis for Comment. 31st July 2003.
33. See Department of Health (2003) Food and Health Action Plan: Food and Health Problem Analysis for comment. Chapter 3 55 . Also National Diet and Nutrition Survey of Young People aged 4 to 18 years (June 2000). HMSO, London passim.
34. Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS) Family Food Panel.
35. Detailed information and sources are to be found in Section 3.3 of this report.
36. Story, M., Neumark-Sztainer, D., and French, S. (2002). Individual and environmental influences on adolescent eating behaviours. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 102(3), S40-S51.
37. Detailed information and sources can be found in Section 3.4 of this report.
38. Sonia Livingstone (2004) A commentary on the research evidence regarding the effects of food promotion on children. See Appendix 1.
39. Robinson (2001); Proctor, Moore, Gao, Cupples, Bradlee, Hood and Ellison (2003); Dietz and Gortmaker (1985); Kleges, Shelton and Kleges (1993). Cited in Sonia Livingstone (2004) A commentary on the research evidence regarding the effects of food promotion on children - Appendix 1.
40. Sonia Livingstone (2004) A commentary on the research evidence regarding the effects of food promotion on children: See Appendix 1.
41. Detailed information and sources in Section 3.5 of this report.
42. Children's airtime= terrestrial children's slots plus children's channels.
43.Disney channels have been excluded as they do not show advertising.
44. When analysing the size and spend of the food market, we have used the following categories as defined by Nielsen Media: 1) Food 2) Soft Drinks 3) Chain Restaurants. These have been grouped together to create what is referred to throughout the analysis of the advertising market as 'Core Category' foods. This definition is broader than that used by the FSA and includes the 'Big 6th' product category which our research has identified as important - Prepared & Convenience Foods.
45. The other categories include dairy products, meat, fish and poultry, convenience foods, other than snacks and mineral water.
46. Detailed information and sources in Section 3.6 of this report.
47. See Bandyopadhyay, Kindra and Sharp (2001); Hastings et al (2003); Valkenburg and Cantor (2001); van Evra (1998), Young et al (1996), Young (2003). Cited in Sonia Livingstone (2004) A commentary on the research evidence regarding the effects of food promotion on children - appendix 1.
48. Halford, C.J., Gillespie, J., Brown, V., Pontin, E.E., Dovey, T.M. (2003) Effects of television advertisements for foods on food consumption in children. Appetite, 42 (2), pp221-225.
49. David Graham and Associates was commissioned by Ofcom to conduct content analysis to help understand the types of creative executions used by advertisers to target children. The analysis involved the recording of advertisements shown on ITV1 in the HTV West region across 7 days between September-November 2003. Over 900 commercial spots were analysed across the entire period, including 156 food, soft drink and fast food commercials.
50. Detailed information and sources in Section 3.7 of this report.
51. Further details and sources to be found in Section 3.8 of this report.
52. In this section data is sourced from the NOP survey and the TNS Family Food Panel.
53. Halford, C.J., Gillespie, J., Brown, V., Pontin, E.E., Dovey, T.M. (2003) Effects of television advertisements for foods on food consumption in children. Appetite, 42 (2), pp221-225.
54. The Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) ranks areas from among the most deprived to the least deprived. The classification is based upon area characteristics in six domains: income, employment, health and disability, education, housing and access to services. Obesity is consistently linked to IMD. Access to fast food on high streets is lower income areas is often easier than to fruit and vegetables (Inconvenience Food, Demos 1999). Cited in Henley Centre report prepared for Ofcom.