Report: Black Youth Singled Out by Food Chains

Food companies disproportionately target their TV advertising for fast food, candy, sugary drink and snack brands to Black and Hispanic consumers, according to a new report released by the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut, the African American Collaborative Obesity Research Network (AACORN) and Salud America!

The comprehensive report found the following:

  • Fast food and other chain restaurants spent the most on advertising in targeted media, totaling $224 million in Spanish-language TV and $61 million in Black-targeted TV. Notably, Wendy’s, Olive Garden and Burger King devoted more than 10 percent of their advertising budgets to Spanish-language TV.
  • Compared with other food and beverage categories, candy, sugary drink and snack food brands disproportionately targeted their TV advertising to Black and/or Hispanic consumers.
  • M&Ms, Snicker’s, Hershey’s Candy Bar and Twix ranked in the top 10 Hispanic-targeted packaged-food brands, spending $12.8 million to $17 million on Spanish-language TV advertising. The top 10 Black-targeted packaged food brands included Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, M&Ms, Hershey’s Kisses and Hershey’s Candy Bar, each spending more than $2 million on black-targeted TV advertising.
  • Overall, Black youth viewed 70 percent more food-related TV advertising compared with their white peers. In addition, they saw almost twice as many TV ads for candy, soda and other sugary drinks, and snacks.
  • A total of 48 brands (18 percent of those included in the analysis) were identified as disproportionately targeting their TV advertising to children and teens compared with adults. These 48 brands were also significantly more likely to target their TV advertising to black and/or Hispanic consumers. Youth-targeted brands with the highest advertising spending on Spanish-language TV included McDonald’s, Twix Candy Bar, Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal and Orbit gum. Youth-targeted brands spending at least $2.4 million on advertising on black-targeted TV included McDonald’s, Pop Tarts, Tyson Frozen Entrees and Gatorade.

Rates of obesity and related diseases are higher among Black and Hispanic populations, compared to whites, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Public health experts have raised concerns that targeted marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages could exacerbate these health disparities.

“This is a clear case of tactics that must be profitable from the business perspective but at the cost of fostering an environment that promotes poor health in Black and Hispanic youth in particular,” said Shiriki Kumanyika, Chair of the African American Collaborative Obesity Research Network.

Click here to view the full report.