News / Children's Food Campaign

Easter film releases signal fresh opportunities for marketing sugary snacks to kids

New research by Children’s Food Campaign finds the Minions film to be worst offender for junk food licensing deals in past year. Haribo, Fox’s biscuits, Kinder, Chupa Chups and HoneyMonster are some of the brands most likely to bring out special edition products connected with films and characters popular with children. The Children’s Food Campaign are calling for Government to step in to stop this practice, rather than leaving it to failing voluntary agreements. 

On the day family movies Zootropolis (PG) and Batman V Superman (12A) are released, children's health campaigners have published new research [1] showing the extent of high sugar products licensed and marketed via such school holiday blockbusters. The Children's Food Campaign found that far greater amounts of sweets and chocolate, cakes, sugary cereals and drinks feature tie-ins with Minions, Star Wars, Frozen and other recent cinema hits popular with children than markedly healthier options. The research highlights how high profile voluntary pledges, such as that made by Disney to rebalance their licensing deals, are failing to deliver. Hence the Children's Food Campaign is today reiterating its call that only stricter and properly-enforced rules on licensing and brand characters will end this form of junk food marketing to children, and should be introduced as part of the Government's forthcoming childhood obesity strategy. 

Malcolm Clark, co-ordinator of the Children's Food Campaign, said: 

“It is hard to resist the pester power when your child is swept up in the latest animation or superhero film craze. Voluntary pledges by film studios and manufacturers seem to be having limited effect in stemming the waves of sugary products using their connection with such movies to appeal to children. When even Disney has admitted as much, you know that self-regulation has had its day.” [4] 
“Film and character licensing has become a £250million vehicle for encouraging excessive sugar consumption in children, and that needs to stop. [3] The Committee on Advertising Practice’s imminent consultation on non-broadcast marketing of food and drink to children should be the starting point for changing the rules. But ultimately it comes down to the Government following up its announcement of a sugary drinks tax by introducing similarly brave and bold measures on tackling junk food marketing.” 

Media Contact: 
For further information, and for interviews, please contact Malcolm Clark, co-ordinator of Children's Food Campaign, on / 07733322148 / 0203 5596 777 


1)    Research summary 
The Children's Food Campaign has analysed news stories in the trade press as well as promotions on company websites and additional web searches to identify the food and drink featuring characters and branding from some of most popular kids' and family movies of the past year. The research uncovered Star Wars branded ice creams, biscuits, cakes, yogurts, sugary drinks and Christmas and Easter special products. Further explorations of the character-licensed space reveals last year’s Minions film had tie-ins with many brands, including Haribo, HoneyMonster, Kinder Surprise and Capri Sun. The Capri Sun deal saw the introduction of a limited edition Minions flavor, Ban-Apple, which was only available with added sugar. 

A full list of the products analysed, including images and links to product information and advertising, is available from Children's Food Campaign.

2) The power of marketing 
Reducing the extent and persuasive power of marketing unhealthy foods to children worldwide are important obesity prevention goals. Public Health England, in their report 'sugar reduction: from evidence to action' concluded that “the use of characters or ‘spokes characters’ can increase preference for, or choice or consumption of, high sugar foods in young children (aged 3 to 7 years) .” 
A systemic analysis of academic papers on the power of licensed characters to influence children’s food choices concludes: “Results suggest that cartoon media character branding can positively increase children's fruit or vegetable intake compared with no character branding. However, familiar media character branding is a more powerful influence on children's food preferences, choices and intake, especially for energy-dense and nutrient-poor foods (e.g. cookies, candy or chocolate) compared with fruits or vegetables. 
In one study, published by the American Association of Pediatrics, it was found that up to 87.5% of children chose foods with a character appearing on a package when presented with the same food packaged with or without, media characters.
3) Licensing is big business 
Over £250million was spent in the UK in 2014 on film and other character licensed on food and drink products. [The Grocer
4) Disney 
In 2006, Disney made a pledge that 85% of food bearing the likeness of a Disney character or brand would be healthy, with the remaining 15% dedicated to treats and celebrations. It cited a need to provide parents with more nutritional options for children, highlighting awareness of the responsibility for the undue influence its brands exert over children, and subsequently parents.
By the end of 2012, then Director of Food, Health and Beauty for Disney UK and Ireland, Phillipe Roucole, admitted that that they were “still progressing towards that goal” in the UK and were not yet doing enough. But he was unable to provide any figures to quantify that process and was similarly unable to give any figures when asked in the same interview, what proportion of product sales could be attributed to products meeting Disney’s nutrition guidelines and those that didn’t.
Research on products available in supermarkets or promoted via website indicates Disney has focused on licensing deals for healthier versions of processed foods (pizzas, ready meals, jelly desserts) and less sugary juice drinks, but not on pro-actively encouraging better dietary habits, such as increased consumption of fruit and vegetables. 
5) The never-ending cycle of licensed sugary products and kids' films 
The confectionery industry is already planning ahead to capitalise on the summer’s upcoming films e.g. Topps confectionery manufacturers promoting a tie in with The Secret Life of Pets.
6) Children’s Food Campaign 
The Campaign aims to improve children and young people's health by campaigning for policy changes in our schools, in our communities and throughout our society that would promote healthy and sustainable food environments. The Children's Food Campaign is supported by over 100 UK-wide and national organisations. We are co-ordinated by Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming. 


Published 25 Mar 2016

Children's Food Campaign: Better food and food teaching for children in schools, and protection of children from junk food marketing are the aims of Sustain's high-profile Children's Food Campaign. We also want clear food labelling that can be understood by everyone, including children.

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