If the Government is serious about reversing the obesity epidemic, it must introduce tough new rules on the packaging of children’s treats, Consumer NZ says.
The consumer advocacy group is calling for the control of marketing gimmicks on food packaging – particularly cartoon characters, free toys and on-packet puzzles targeting children.
Consumer chief executive Sue Chetwin said under-13s were particularly susceptible to tricks of the advertising trade. With a person’s lifelong food preferences formed at an early age, if companies rope them in young, they’ll likely be hooked for life, the watchdog’s report says.
American researchers have found children preferred the taste of McDonald’s-branded food over that in plain packaging, even though both were identical – and the same effect was seen with cartoon characters like Dora the Explorer.
Chetwin said licensing kids’ characters from companies like Disney was costly, and companies would not invest the cash unless they knew it would pay off.
Of course, but do you ban marketing just because it is effective?
New World currently has a evil genius promotion where you can buy a toy cupboard store for your kids if you shop there, and then every time you shop there so much spending gets you a toy item for the toy store.
I’ve had reports from mums that their kids are now demanding they only shop at New World, so they can get extra products for their toy stores. They love being able to play shop. They face full scale tantrums should they now shop anywhere but New World. Some marketing executive has earned a very large bonus.
But who is losing out here? It’s Countdown. Families are not generally doing extra grocery shopping to get the toys. They are choosing New World over their competitors.
Do we want a country where the Government approves marketing schemes. I don’t. You can push for measures like plain packaging, and then instead they’ll do promotions like toy stories. So what next? Require a Government agency to approve all promotions for all businesses? It’s a nasty slippery slope.
Consumer was asking the Government to set out a framework specifying what marketing techniques could and could not be used on children’s food packaging.
Health Minister Tony Ryall said the Government had no plans to introduce such regulation.
Food and Grocery Council head Katherine Rich said many food and beverage companies already regulated themselves, including Mars and Coca-Cola.
But she doubted government regulation would earn public support.
“Do they really want plain-packaged chocolate: no Cookie Bear, Milky Bar Kid or Freddo Frog? Obesity is clearly an issue but banning all childhood fun is not the answer.”
The fun police!