Update: General Mills responds to findings that toddler preference for breakfast cereals is influenced by TV ads

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

General Mills has responded to a study's findings that toddlers are heavily influenced by television advertising. Pic: ©GettyImages/Thanasis Zovoilis
General Mills has responded to a study's findings that toddlers are heavily influenced by television advertising. Pic: ©GettyImages/Thanasis Zovoilis

Related tags: General mills, Breakfast cereals, Sugar, Advertising, Children

The cereal giant has expressed confusion regarding a recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that suggests preschoolers (3-5 years) who watch televisions advertisements for breakfast cereals consume more of the product.

The study’s authors claimed that more than $102m is spent annually marketing ready-to-eat, high-sugar breakfast cereals (SBCs) on several national children’s networks, including Boomerang, Cartoon Network, Disney XD, Discovery Family Channel (previously The Hub), Nickelodeon and NickToons.

They did concede, though, that the SBC manufacturers included in the study participate in the self-regulated Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) and all meet the nutritional criteria as foods appropriate for child-directed (less than 12 years) advertising.

A General Mills spokesperson told BakeryandSnacks the company “does not engage in any product advertising directed to children under six years of age.

“This means we do not run advertising on any programming where children under six are the primary audience,”​ he said.

The Dartmouth College scientists, however, asserted that – despite manufacturers’ claims that the nutritional quality of foods advertised to children on TV is high – the most frequently advertised SBCs exceed recommended sugar limits.

Out of date

In response, General Mills’ spokesperson told this site that “the numbers cited in the study of the amount of advertising done for cereal are significantly inflated and out of date [2009 data].

“All our cereals contain significant quantities of whole grain, including all of the cereals mentioned in the study.”

In contrast to study findings that indicated ‘advertisement exposure may have long-term effects on children’s requests and brand preferences as measured over this 1-year follow-up’,​ the spokesperson said, “Children who frequently consume cereal are less likely to be overweight, and have superior nutrient intakes, than children who consume cereal less frequently. These results hold true regardless of whether the cereal eaten is “pre-sweetened” or not.”

Kellogg's and Post had not responded to this site's request for comments before going to print.

Study:

Exposure to Child-Directed TV Advertising and Preschoolers’ Intake of Advertised Cereals

Authors: Jennifer A. Emond, Meghan R. Longacre, Keith M. Drake, et al.

American Journal of Preventive Medicine

Available online December 17, 2018

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2018.09.015

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