Unhealthy food marketing

Food marketing and digital targeting of children in Ireland

The widespread marketing of unhealthy foods (food and non-alcoholic drinks high in fat, sugar and salt) plays a causal role in unhealthy eating and obesity.

Marketing manipulates food choices by creating an advertised diet that is very different than the diet recommended to maintain good health. Due to digital media, junk food companies can target children relentlessly and bombard them with clever and effective marketing messages across many forms of media.

Ban junk food marketing to children

The Irish Heart Foundation has long called for regulation of digital marketing particularly in the online and social media space, where children can be directly targeted by junk food brands.

Ireland restricts broadcast advertising to under-18s, of food high in fat, sugar and salt, but only on TV up to 6pm. Children in Ireland are increasingly active on digital media, with most 9 to 16-year-olds now going online via a smartphone.

In 2017 the Irish Heart Foundation launched a petition called Stop Targeting Kids to show the government the public supported a ban on junk food marketing to children.

Building the evidence base for action, the Irish Heart Foundation commissioned a study to look at relevant digital trends, marketing strategies and parents’ awareness and views. The report shows how children are being emotionally manipulated by companies selling high-fat and high-sugar foods, targeting children through Facebook and other mediums through the use of sports stars, celebrities and games.

You can download a copy of the Who’s Feeding the Kids Online report here.

Irish Heart Foundation’s advocacy team work to reduce childhood obesity. You can read more on Progress to date