New Food Active and Children’s Food Campaign Research Launched

New Food Active and Children’s Food Campaign Research Launched

Parents’ perspectives of junk food marketing to children

Today Food Active and the Children’s Food Campaign (CFC) launch the start of our new research project, investigating parents’ perspectives on junk food marketing (JFM) aimed at children. We want to find out what parents think about the way their children are marketed to, whether they see this as an issue or not, whether they believe it influences what they put in their shopping basket and ultimately what their child eats and drinks. We are also interested in finding out what parents would like to see done about junk food marketing to children, if anything, in a bid to inform future work on this agenda.

Why is junk food marketing such an issue?

The marketing of high fat, sugar and salt (HFFS) products to children is a major public health concern. Marketing has now become so advanced, personalised and invasive that children are finding themselves surrounded by JFM in all aspects of their entertainment and leisure environment. It continues to undermine public health guidance by frequently promoting HFFS food and beverages which the government advice to consume ‘less often in small amounts’. Thus, children may have a distorted understanding as to what constitutes as a healthy diet and thereby form unhealthy food habits.

There is an extensive evidence base linking exposure to JFM in children with weight status, food preference, brand recognition and food consumption. There is also increasing support for the theory that banning or limiting JFM can have a beneficial impact on childhood obesity rates.

However, there is much less research into parents’ perspectives of JFM aimed at children. Research that has been carried out originates in the US and Australia, but currently there is no published research to date which investigates parents’ perspectives in the UK.

An influential piece of research in this area is the Uconn Rudd Centre for Food Policy and Obesity. This extensive report found some highly interesting and important findings: 63% of parents’ see JFM as an obstacle to healthy diets and 85% agreed that industry needs to reduce the volume of JFM aimed at children. We are hoping to expand on this research further and take a North-West perspective which will help feed into the ongoing Parents’ Jury national work by the CFC.

Why is this research necessary?

Parent’s efforts to provide a healthy diet for their child are continually sabotaged by JFM across all platforms of advertising. Parents want the best, healthy and safe environment for their children to grow up in. It’s time their voices were heard in the UK.

How will the research work?

We are aiming to recruit parents and carers who have children living under their care between the ages of 2-17 years old in the North West of England.

We are disseminating the questionnaire through a number of channels including social media, online forums and also doing some local face to face interviews within community centres to ensure we reach a representative sample. Data collection will take place over a 2-month period, aiming to close at the end of October. The questionnaire should only take between 5-10 minutes to complete and participants who complete the survey will be entered into a prize draw to win one of five £50 shopping vouchers.

With participant’s answers, data will be analysed and results will be written up in a report style. We are aiming to write up the report and submit for publication by the end of 2017.

What are the potential implications of this research?

We hope to gain insight into the knowledge, beliefs and views of parents across the North West in regards to JFM to children. This research will help to inform policymakers how to engage with and support parents on this agenda.

This research could provide preliminary results which help pave the way for a larger scale, funded study which could access greater populations and have greater impact in the evidence base.

Furthermore, this research will feed directly into work being carried out by The Children’s Food Campaign. The Parents’ Jury is a recently launched initiative by the Children’s Food Campaign. It aims to recruit over 500 parents across the country aimed at giving parents a stronger voice on the food available and promoted in their children’s schools, in shops, on the high street, and beyond. The Jury already has over 250 parents on board and results from the first survey have recently been released, regarding Cadburys recent sponsorship with the English Premier League being the first official ‘snack partner’. Over two thirds of parents’ expressed concern about this sponsorship and almost half of all parents on the Jury were concerned it may encourage children to eat more chocolate. To see the full press release, follow this link.


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