Yesterday, the Council of Better Business Bureaus announced that six small to mid-sized candy manufacturers have voluntarily agreed to cease the direct advertising of their products to children under the age of 12.
Modeled on the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), the new “Children’s Confection Advertising Initiative” (CCAI) members are Ferrara Candy Company, Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, Jelly Belly Candy Company, Just Born Quality Confections, The Promotion in Motion Companies, and the R.M. Palmer Company. Their collective brands include Brach’s, Lemonhead, Ghirardelli, Jelly Belly, Peeps, Mike and Ike, and Welch’s Fruit Snacks.
Six larger candy manufacturers – American Licorice Company, Ferrero USA, The Hershey Company, Mars Incorporated, Mondelez International, and Nestlé – are already members of the CFBAI.
Due to their smaller size, the six members of the newly-formed CCAI won’t be required to submit the comprehensive annual compliance reports that are required of CFBAI members, but each company will have to “submit an annual statement that it has complied with its CCAI commitments.” Those commitments specifically include a promise “not engage in advertising primarily directed to children under age 12 . . . and to not advertise to children in elementary schools.”
This all sounds great on paper, but industry self-regulation of children’s food and beverage advertising has had a mixed track record, to say the least. (See, e.g., “Self-Regulation of Kids’ Food Advertising: A Doomed Effort“as well as the other Related Posts linked below). One key weakness of the CFBAI’s self-regulatory scheme has been group’s relatively loose nutritional standards, which still allow its members to advertise so-called “better-for-you” products like this to kids:
Presumably, there won’t be any nutritional loopholes to exploit in the context of candy, however, since the products are essentially non-nutritive.
But the other way in which companies get around their self-regulatory commitments is through creative ad placement. Indeed, just four months ago, the journal Appetite published a study, “Sweet promises: Candy advertising to children and implications for industry self-regulation” (paywall protected), which found that CFBAI-member confectionery companies were still managing to reach children by advertising on “networks with higher-than-average youth audiences” instead of using the children’s networks they’d promised to avoid. As a result, the study found that children’s exposure to candy ads on television increased 74 percent between 2008 and 2011 – hardly an encouraging endorsement of self-regulation.
Whether these newest entrants into the Council of Better Business Bureau’s self-regulatory program do better remains to be seen. But the formation of the CCAI is still supported by public health advocates, perhaps on the grounds that self-regulation (and the annual reporting requirements placed on participants) is better than no regulation at all.
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