How the US food marketing compares to the world

junk food

Food is one of the biggest priorities in the USA. The county implements food marketing tactics unlike the any other across the world. 

The marketing tactics in USA could arguably be a contributor to the country’s high obesity rate, which currently stands at 36.2%, making it the 12th highest in the world. Despite that there have been tactics implemented by the US to encourage healthier eating and lifestyles, amongst the population, including the Let’s Move campaign, there are still marketing campaigns, that shamefully targeting the US population with junk food at a high rate.

When comparing America with the likes of the UK, that have introduced bans for junk food marketing, the country has a lot of work to do. Supplier of goulottes électriques to food manufacturers, Electrix, compares the USA to the world when it comes to food marketing.

Everything goes in the US

Whenever we think of junk food, no doubt that the US springs to mind, due to the fact they have the biggest producer and food consumer in the world. TV shows like Man v. Food have highlighted the extremes some food producers in the US go to, featuring delicacies including a 7lb burger; a 72oz steak; and the Hawaiian Mac Daddy pancake – 3lbs of pancakes loaded with sauces, blueberries, and cream.

Other countries such as New Zealand have reached their limit with receiving a high number US junk food adverts, that they’ve even outlawed certain adverts such as Paris Hilton’s now-infamous Carl’s Jr burger advert. When it comes to regulations in the USA, the Central Hudson standard is often used. This four-step test asks four questions:

  • Is the ad misleading, and is the activity promoted lawful? (For example, saying that “these burgers are delicious” would not be deemed misleading.)
  • Does the government have a valid reason for regulating this commercial speech? (For example, is it worth introducing regulation around junk food?)
  • Will the regulation have the intended result? (For example, will introducing this legislation lower obesity?)
  • Would the regulation be disproportionate to the advert? (For example, is there enough reason to warrant legislation based on the contents of this advert?)

There are scientific studies that suggest more should be done to regulate junk food advertising in the USA, because there has been clear correlation between junk food advertising and overeating. However, because of the way the constitution operates, the high court often prioritises the protection of free and commercial speech. Currently, there are no plans to more strictly regulate food marketing in the USA, which puts it in direct contrast to some of the rest of the world’s plans.

UK is trying to put a stopper to child obesity

The UK is one nation that’s trying to heavily focus on health tactics. From increased health initiatives that include government support for obese people to NHS public health campaigns, the UK is focusing on getting its people to a healthy weight.

Junk food advertising online and before 9pm on TV have also been banned. Deemed one of the toughest restrictions on food marketing in the world, the ban is scheduled to come into play by the end of 2021 and will apply to the advertising of foods that are high in fat, sugar, and salt (HFSS). It’s estimated that over £600 million is invested on food advertising online and on TV in the UK, so these actions are less likely to be impactful.

However, these legislation are have been essential to help reduce childhood obesity, as the stats are shocking, indicating that young people are exposed to 15 billion junk food adverts online a year. The UK was the first nation to restrict the times in which food advertising was shown in order to protect children, as well as prohibiting it from channels aimed at kids, and this ban strengthens its position in this area.

France needs to introduce more regulations.

This country seems to be inspired more from the US, than the UK when we talk junk food. A 2020 study found that in Europe, French children are exposed to junk food advertising the most. While a 2003 regulation required junk food advertising to include a health message, it’s clear more can be done to improve food marketing in France. Currently, junk food adverts must include one of the following lines:

  • “Avoid snacking between meals”
  • “Avoid eating too much salt, sugar, or fat”
  • “Take regular exercise”
  • “Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day”

A proposed ban on junk food advertising to children under 16, was brought forward in 2018, which was dropped due to too much criticism. However, Sante Publique France, the publisher of the study, said the results should push the French government to take more action on food marketing to protect young children from obesity.

In 2020, a petition was for stricter regulations on junk food advertising after a UFC-Que Choisir study found that 90% of adverts aimed at children were promoting foods high in fat, salt, and sugar. 

Germany have been tough with its regulations

Germany follows the UK in regard to their food tactics. The country had introduced regulations on advertising junk food to children. Some restrictions were already in place, and the age covered by the existing code has been raised from 12 to 14. Advertisers of unhealthy foods are no longer allowed to attribute “positive nutritional properties” to their products, in order to prevent presenting them as healthy. The restrictions have also been extended to video platforms including TikTok and YouTube.

The current German Advertising Standards Council Code of Conduct on All Forms of Commercial Communication for Foods and Beverages went live in 2021, which contained updated regulations on food marketing. Some of the things food advertisers cannot do include:

  • Undermine a healthy lifestyle or a balanced, healthy diet
  • Encourage excessive consumption of unhealthy foods
  • Abuse the consumers’ confidence in the quality of the foods
  • Encourage overconsumption of foods that have a negative nutritional or physiological impact

These regulations give a clear indication that public health is important in Germany.

The USA has a bad reputation for its excess, as well as its food marketing. Many of its regulations are voluntary, while American courts have historically been reluctant to implement tougher restrictions. The UK and Germany are leading the way in regulations on junk food advertising aimed at children, and there are renewed calls in France for tougher restrictions as the country is lagging behind its European counterparts.