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Coca-Cola, Mars and Burger King Overspend on Spanish-Language TV Ads Geared Towards Hispanic Youth

First Posted: Aug 14, 2015 05:00 AM EDT

Coca-Cola, Mars, Burger King, Wendy's, McDonald's and many other brands spend above average on Spanish-language TV ads to promote nutritionally poor products and to steer consumer trends, according to a new report. Consequently, their decisive spending has contributed to poor diets and disease in multicultural communities.

Two‐thirds of food‐related Spanish‐language ads viewed by Hispanic youth promotes candy, sugary drinks, snacks, fast‐food and other restaurants. However, just 3 percent of Spanish-language TV ads promote healthier brands, which sell yogurt, other dairy or 100 percent juice.

University of Connecticut's Rudd Center, a multi-disciplinary policy research center dedicated to providing high-level expertise and guidance on obesity prevention and food related policy, recently released a report asserting that food advertising that targets Hispanic youth contributes to health disparities.

Youth in the Hispanic community ingest a "double dose" of food marketing for nutritionally-poor products, receiving a surplus of unhealthy marketing messages about fast food and sugary drink consumption that encourages a poor diet. The report, which identified a correlation between marketing and higher rates of obesity, was funded by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and was created in collaboration with African American Collaborative Obesity Research Network (AACORN) and Salud America!

Approximately 9 percent of Spanish-language food-related advertising dollars are spent on sugary snacks and drinks. Also, Coca‐Cola Classic spent nearly $16 million in Spanish‐ language TV advertising. However, healthier brands that sell yogurt, other dairy and 100 percent juice brands spent significantly less likely to advertise on Spanish-language TV, representing just 6 percent of advertising on those channels.

Spanish-language TV also failed to advertise plain water, fruits and vegetables, cementing the concern that Hispanic youth watching Spanish-language TV are disproportionately exposed to nutritionally poor products. Consequently, this encourages health disparities affecting Hispanic communities.

In 2013, Hispanic children, ages 2-11 years old, viewed 835 food-related ads on Spanish-language television, which is 25 percent more than ads viewed by Hispanic teens (ages 12-17). English-language advertising isn't much better, as analysis reveals that Hershey, PepsiCo, Mars, Yum! Brands and Kellogg's spend a great deal on the promotion of English-language TV ads that push nutritionally poor products to multicultural youth, contributing to poor diet and disease.

"Hispanic children are more likely to watch English language television and we know that in English language television there is a dearth of healthy messages to children," President and CEO of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health Dr. Jane L. Delgado, told Latin Post.

However, Coca-Cola, the world's largest producer of sugary beverages, disagrees with the notion that they and other sugary drink dispensers have helped to introduce communities to unhealthy habits. According to the Global Energy Balance Network, a company funded by Coca-Cola, the present health crisis is driven by a lack of exercise, not diet and consumption. Soda, in particular, allegedly isn't a culprit in worsening the national condition.

Coca-Cola spent great sums of money to debunk the idea that soda is unhealthy. They also want to promote the concept that weight-conscious Americans should focus more on exercise and less on what they eat. Also, Coke linked up with Pepsi, Dr. Pepper and the American Beverage Association to launch "Mixify" earlier this year, which is a multi-platform campaign that promotes a balanced mix of foods, drinks and physical activity "to keep your mix fresh and your body right." As a result, Coca-Cola has been accused of employing tactics popularized by tobacco companies, which is conjuring up scientific data to support their unhealthy products and brands. Coca-Cola also rejected claims made in a recent New York Times article written about GBEN, calling it "inaccurate," and insisting that GBEN supports diet and exercise as "key ingredients for a healthy lifestyle."

The UConn report offered a number of changes in marketing that targets Hispanic consumers to remove barriers to better health: industries should commit Spanish‐language marketing dollars to promotion and sale of healthier products. Nutritionally poor snack food brands and fast-food restaurants should stop targeting multicultural youth. Spanish‐language media should set national standards for advertised food. Health advocacy groups should highlight marketing practices that disproportionately advertise unhealthy products. Also, parents should demand that quality foods be marketed to their children and their community.

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