“The addition of Chips Group is a major contribution to the pledge,” said Dr Sabine Seggelke, public affairs & policy director of the ESA.
Chips Group is a leading player in the Nordic and Baltic regions with well known brands such as OLW, Taffel, Kims and Ādažu in its product portfolio.
By joining the EU Pledge, all member companies have made a commitment to changing food and beverage advertising on TV, print and internet to children under 12 in the EU.
The involvement of Chips comes on the heels of another Northern European snack maker’s decision to join the initiative. September 2010 saw Estrella Maarud signing on to the scheme that claims to promote healthier snacking choices and balanced lifestyles among children.
Other ESA member companies such as Intersnack, Lorenz Snack-World, Procter & Gamble, Unichips and Zweifel Pomy-Chip signed up to the pledge in April last year.
Genesis of EU Pledge
Over the past few years, the rising incidence of childhood obesity has stirred up the issue of children’s food marketing. In 2005, the consumer affairs commissioner, Markos Kaypriano gave a warning to the food industry to restrict advertising products that are high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) to children.
The EU pledge followed in December 2007 when 11 leading food and beverage companies, including two ESA member companies, LU Snack Foods (Kraft) and PepsiCo, agreed to stop running junk food adverts on the TV, print and internet.
Stricter definitions urged
However, Sue Davies, chief policy adviser at Which? – the UK advocacy group – told this publication previously that the EU Pledge needs to go further “as it only covers younger children, doesn't extend to all forms of marketing used to target children and needs to have stricter definitions for which foods are covered."
Speaking to BakeryandSnacks.com today, ESA policy director Seggelke said that as regards the age of children there is “a wealth of evidence that by the age of 12 today’s children have developed a sophisticated understanding of advertising: most academic reviews recognise that by the age of 12 children develop their behaviour as consumers, effectively recognise advertising and are able to adopt critical attitudes towards it.
There is also a strong degree of academic consensus that by the age of 12 children are fully capable of understanding the persuasive intent of advertising and have the necessary cognitive tools to assess it critically.”
In terms of definitions of foods covered by the Pledge, the ESA policy director points out that the EU Pledge includes companies with widely varying product portfolios and that, as a result, the company criteria will reflect the diversity of product portfolios.
“At the same time,” added Seggelke, “they have to be consistent with the most widely accepted national and international guidelines that exist (e.g. WHO, FAO, USDA, IOM, EURODIET)."
As regards forms of marketing mentioned by Davies, the ESA spokesperson argues that by endorsing the EU Pledge, companies are responding to societal concerns about their "core advertising practices" which target children directly.