Food advertising - Statistics & Facts

In the United States, obesity is a pressing public health concern and a constant feature in the media. In 2014, America’s population was considered to be one of the most overweight in the world. The ways in which the country’s food and beverage industries advertise, market, and brand their products could be considered as a key attribute of this worrying epidemic. Of all the brands advertised in the United States in 2015, McDonald’s was ranked fourth in terms of advertisement spending, with a fee of 802 million U.S. dollars, which was more than Ford Motors, T-Mobile and Macy’s.

In 2013, the food and beverage industry as a whole spent a total of 136.53 million U.S. dollars on advertising. Of this total, 23.06 million was spent on cable TV advertising, 20.07 million was spent on magazine advertising and 795.5 thousand U.S. dollars was spent on newspaper advertising. In comparison, the restaurant industry spent a total of 6.45 billion U.S. dollars on advertising. For the restaurant, the prepared food, the beverage, and the alcohol industries, television, whether cable or network, was the most heavily invested advertising medium in 2013.

The Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, based at Yale University, believes that the number and frequency of food and beverage television advertisements, particularly those aimed at children, has contributed to the level of obesity in America. Food marketing is largely a self-regulated body, but regulations on its practices have been suggested by the World Health Organization and a variety of health related charities including the American Heart Association. The number of advertisements viewed by children for particular food and beverage products in 2015 is revealing. On average, children aged between two and 11 years old viewed 476 adverts for candy and those aged between 12 and 17 viewed an average of 624. In comparison, advertisements for fruit and vegetables were only viewed 45 times for the younger age group and 37 times for the older age group in an entire year.

One way in which the industry’s advertisers target susceptible children and adults is through high profile celebrity endorsement deals featuring America’s most popular athletes and musicians. The soft drinks industry in 2016 has had a wealth of celebrity endorsement deals. Pepsi, owned by PepsiCo, has the likes of One Direction, Beyonce, Britney Spears and Calvin Harris promoting its products. Many celebrities, particular professional athletes and sports stars, are often criticized for the high-fat and high-sugar products they advertise which seem to contradict their own healthy lifestyles.

Despite health orientated policies enforced on the food and beverage industry in the United States, the leading companies in terms of advertising spending included the largest chocolate manufacturer in North America, the Hershey Company. In 2015, Hershey’s invested 637 million U.S. dollars on advertising in the United States, up from 539 million U.S. dollars in 2012.

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