Impact of Food Advertising on Diet 

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The impact of advertising on consumers’ diet is more important than they may realize. This is due to advertising working in such subtle ways that consumers often do not even realize they are being marketed to when the way they eat changes after coming across advertisements. It has been determined that food advertisements have an influence in swaying consumers to unhealthy choices (Palmer).

Although advertisements of soda, chips and candy may be good for the bottom line of some companies, Sharon Palmer explains the health consequences that consumers face when they are exposed to those marketing messages in her article “The Power of Persuasion: Food Marketing Really Does Work.” The more that consumers are exposed to food advertisements, the more likely they are to overeat (Palmer). This paper will discuss how manipulative advertisements work, the problems they cause, and what can be done to reduce these harmful consequences.

Many food marketing techniques are designed to drive increased purchasing by consumers. According to authors Pierre Chandon, Professor of Marketing at INSEAD, and food psychologist Brian Wansink, food marketers use quantity discounts through encouraging consumers to buy multi-unit packs or larger packet sizes at a cheaper price. The goal is for consumers to add and accumulate food at home. Stockpiling in consumers’ homes causes them to overeat, which is unhealthy and leads to obesity. According to research during the period that food companies were offering multi-unit purchase discounts, there was a 100 percent increase in orange juice consumption, while the consumption of cookies increased by 92 percent (Chandon and Wansink 10). The study revealed that the qualities of the discounted food were manipulated so that it could be cheaper to produce and sold at lower prices to earn revenues.

Why is healthy eating so difficult? In the article “Why Healthy Behavior Is the Hard Choice”, Lawrence Oglethorpe Gostin, an American law professor who specializes in public health law, says that, food companies are aggressively marketing addictive foods with saturated fat, salt, sugar, and carbohydrates. Many companies are advertising sugar-filled foods targeted towards children with clever advertising and deceptive ads. For example, fast food restaurants typically give away toys in children’s meals as a marketing strategy (Gostin 243). Nowadays, it seems that there are food advertisements are around every corner ready to tempt people with unhealthy choices.

Why don’t food companies care about health? According to Marion Nestle, the Paulette Goddard professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, companies care primarily about profit. In order to boost sales, competitive companies will put their products in school vending machines and then integrate their products into various media channels as means to get people thinking about their products after watching. Often, the marketing techniques can be so subtle that most people will not notice it as marketing (Nestle 10).

Nestle further explains how supermarkets also do not consider health as a priority. Placing products in supermarkets is more than guesswork. According to Nestle, “research shows that [companies] want products at eye level and at the ends of aisles and at the cash register” in order to find the best position for driving sales. Moreover, companies will pay to get the supermarkets to feature their products prominently (Nestle 10). Nestle explains that “there is no nationally advertised food product that has a budget of less than $10 million a year, and that’s way on the low end.” Large companies like PepsiCo are known to invest 1 billion dollars a year in advertisements (Nestle 10).

Food advertising is related to childhood obesity and makes a huge contribution to the problem. In an article “A Crisis in the Marketplace: How Food Marketing Contributes to Childhood Obesity and What Can Be Done,” authors Jennifer L. Harris, Jennifer L. Pomeranz, Tim Lobstein, and Kelly D. Brownell have determined that adolescents and children form food marketer’s largest customer base. In the United States, these age groups spend more than $ 2 billion annually on food (Harris et al., 212). It is not surprising that for this reason the food corporations are investing heavily and increasing the intensity of messaging geared towards these age groups in order to increase sales.

The average child in the United States watches more than 5,500 television commercials of food ads each year (Harris et al., 212). Food marketers strategically spend and promote their products where they know adolescents and children are spending most of their time. The most popular targets being the television, school, and social media channels (Harris et al., 213). Food marketers will also commonly use product placements in the content of movies, music, and video games. These methods of child-targeted advertisements will cause children have their minds made up as to the type of food they want to consume. In most cases, food advertised to adolescents and children is calorie-dense and provide low nutritional value (Harris et al., 213).

In fact, recent studies conducted by Consumers International in 23 countries have found that many food products advertised in most countries include confectionary, sweetened cereals, fast food, savory snacks, and soft drinks. Food marketers will often go beyond promoting only good taste, they also promote being “cool” and having fun. Marketing to children makes it obvious that it is exciting to eat great-tasting, calorie-dense food without negative consequences almost any time of the year time (Harris et al., 213).

There is a common assumption that as children mature, food marketing will not affect them. However, marketers persuade consumers by building a brand image of their products that will develop over time. Food companies are designing every encounter between consumers and brands to represent specific messages. The food company’s goal is to remind children of brands they see on social media, television, and school. Most often, these food companies begin creating a brand relationship with consumers from as early as age 2 (Harris et al., 215).

Televised food advertisements increase snacking and potential weight gain in children and adults according to a series of experimental studies conducted by Frederick J. Zimmerman and Sandhya V. Shimoga, Professors in the Department of Health Policy and Management. Exposure to food advertising on television has been recognized as a source of information that have strong effects on individual food choice, especially towards unhealthy foods. For example, consumers exposed to food advertising chose 28% more unhealthy snacks than those exposed to non-food advertising, with consumption of 65 more calories. It was also seen as inflicting profound effects when individuals were cognitively working on other tasks, resulting in 43% more unhealthy snacks, with consumption of 94 more calories (Zimmerman and Shimoga 4). This research shows a powerful link between television food advertising and calories consumed by adults and children.

In the journal “Exposure to television food advertising primes food-related cognitions and triggers motivation to eat,’ authors Kemps, Eva, Marika Tiggemann, and Sarah Hollitt determine that when people are continuously exposed to the references of eating – in malls, fast-food sites, billboards, public transportation sites or restaurants, it tends to trigger an appetite, even if an individual is not feeling hungry. Food advertising triggers cognitions or eating thoughts, in turn, triggers a person to correspond with a desire to eat. The more people encounter food ads, the more likely they are to be overeating (Kemps et al., 1192).

Obesity has been linked to several serious medical conditions. No one is immune to it. It affects adults and children, young and old, as well as each and every ethnicity. In the documentary, Feeding Frenzy: The Food Industry, Marketing & the Creation of a Health Crisis, industry analysts, health experts, and advertising scholars, Marion Nestle, Kelly Brownell, Sut Jhally, Brian Wansink, and Michele Simon provide glaring insight to the growing obesity epidemic. According to the film, obesity rates in America are higher than anywhere else in the world.

A growing epidemic of obesity is linked to chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, hypertension and many more. Nestle says “Type 2 diabetes has become rampant as result of gaining weight so that changes the game because it means that somebody’s [got to] pay for the healthcare of people that have obesity-related chronic diseases. And this changes obesity from being a personal problem to be a societal problem” When discussing the issue of this rising health epidemic plenty of blame falls on people putting off exercise.

However, “Feeding Frenzy” suggests that allowing the food industry to self-regulating without input from government, is the cause to these serious consequences. Food advertisers believe that since they are not forcing anyone to buy what they offer; they are not responsible for the consequences. While one may agree that people are responsible for what they eat, it is more and more difficult to control eating habits due to what is readily available.

‘Eighty percent of food decisions we make, eighty percent of food we eat is within five miles of our house. It includes our house, our school, where we go to work, our two or three most favorite frequented restaurants and where we do our grocery shopping.,’ said Brian Wansink. ‘And for most of us, that’s the food environment that makes all the difference.’ The food industry can have a substantial role in the quest to reduce obesity by cutting back on sugary products, offering healthier choices, becoming clearer with nutritional information, and putting an end to misleading advertisements. Maybe then consumers can be a part of a healthier nation.

Consumers are constantly being enticed to purchase things they don’t need, and that includes food. “Feeding Frenzy” points much of the health crisis to the role of the food industry and its use of marketing. Food companies are under a great deal of pressure to maximize profits over maximizing the health of consumers. Thus, they create and promote products that take advantage of biological weaknesses in order to help earn more profits. Simon says, “We’ve taken an essential human need and really turned it over for corporate profit making.”

The more time consumers spend in the store the better it is for the company because they know that the likelihood of purchasing a product increases with more time spent in the store. The same is true for a variety of businesses, including the grocery store. It has been determined that many consumers’ grocery store purchases are unplanned and made in the store. This leaves people susceptible to subtle environmental influences that endorse the consumption of less healthy foods in places like supermarkets or restaurants.

Nestle says “That’s why the milk is always at the furthest corner from the door, so that you have to walk through the entire store to get to it. And many of the decisions about lighting, music, placement of products are very, very carefully designed to get you to stay in the store and impulse buy.” The shelves are also set up with an eye on consumers wallets. The grocery store will encourage buying in bulk — even when people won’t use all of it. And, of course, the checkout line is surrounded with goodies to tempt people at the last minute.

Each year billions of dollars are spent treating obesity related illnesses, there’s a lot at stake. Fifteen years ago, almost no one was working on food related issues. Today, there are masses of people who are trying to help change the food system to make it healthier for people and the world. Overall, food advertising has been identified as a major factor that contributes to the consumption of low nutritional value foods, its influences on consumer’s nutritional knowledge, purchasing behaviors and consumption patterns.

Each year billions of dollars are spent treating obesity related illnesses, there’s a lot at stake. Fifteen years ago, almost no one was working on food related issues. Today, there are masses of people who are trying to help change the food system to make it healthier for people and the world. It should be a priority for any society that considers itself to be civilized to focus on changing the food system for the better. Consumers really need to adopt a new point of view, let the buyer beware. Because food companies are not friends, they’re just trying to sell people more products.

My hope is that consumers begin to buy with new eyes. I believe consumers should make a list the next time they visit their local supermarket and buy only what was intended. It is important to take pause and look out for the deal’s placed at the doorway. Rome was not built in a day, but everyday there is an opportunity to make wiser choices in order to maintain a healthy diet.


Cite this paper

Impact of Food Advertising on Diet . (2021, Jun 14). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/impact-of-food-advertising-on-diet/

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