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Food advertising - statistics & facts

Food advertising comprises the actions used in communicating a food product's features and benefits in attempt to persuade the consumer to purchase the product. This can be done in-store, out-of-store, or even on the packaging itself. In the United States, advertising spending within the grocery stores industry alone generated over 1.79 billion U.S. dollars in 2021, and that same year the advertising spending for the industry for canned, frozen, and preserved fruits, vegetables and specialty foods amounted to approximately 1.06 billion U.S. dollars.

Food advertising and health concerns

During entertainment programming on cable TV, the advertising of food, produce, and dairy prevail above other advertising categories such as entertainment, automotive sector, insurance, and pharmaceuticals. As obesity continues to be a pressing public health concern in the U.S., advocates against unhealthy eating link this growing risk with increased food advertisements directed at children. Ads for fast food restaurants are by far the most viewed food/beverage advertisement by children in the United States.

Media with prominent food advertising

At the end of 2018, Olive Garden accounted for the highest number of ad occurrences among the leading food related brands on TV in the U.S. Adverts for the fast food chain ran over 15 thousand times on American television at that time and was followed by Domino’s Pizza and Longhorn Steakhouse, each with over four thousand TV ad occurrences. Recent reports show that Domino's is the leading restaurant in terms of advertising spending in the U.S. followed by McDonald's, Subway and Taco Bell. Apart from TV, radio, or magazine ads, internet games, promotional packaging, giveaways, and corporate sponsorships and donations to schools are also some of the common avenues for food advertising in the U.S. predominantly targeting kids and adolescents.

Food brands spending most on ads

In 2021, Nestle, one of the most valuable food brands worldwide, shelled out around 2.45 billion dollars on advertising spending in the United States alone. Coca-Cola, the most valuable soft drink brand worldwide is also the highest spending advertiser among beverage brands in the United States, closely followed by Pepsi, Gatorade, and Dr. Pepper. The parent company’s advertising expenditure on Coke stood at around 355 million U.S. dollars. Food advertising is largely self-regulated in the U.S., although the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) playing a limited regulatory role.


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