Beverage industry recommits on marketing to children

by Eric Schroeder
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BRUSSELS, BELGIUM — The International Council of Beverages Associations (I.C.B.A.), the worldwide trade association established in 1995 to represent the non-alcoholic beverage industry on a global level, has adopted guidelines on marketing to children. The guidelines, which Atlanta-based The Coca-Cola Co. and Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo, Inc. have agreed to implement by the end of 2008, are intended to address commercial practices with respect to children under the age of 12.

Under the terms of the guidelines, any beverage company that commits to the initiative voluntarily agrees to eliminate the advertising and marketing of a wide range of beverages, including carbonated soft drinks, to any audience that is comprised predominantly of children under 12. This policy includes paid media outlets such as television, radio, print, Internet, phone messaging and cinema (including product placement).

Also as part of the guidelines, the I.C.B.A. said it will review other forms of marketing, including the use of licensed characters, sponsorships, presence in schools, and point-of sale promotions by the end of 2009.

The policy does not cover water, juices and dairy-based beverages — segments that are not represented by all I.C.B.A. members. The I.C.B.A. intends to issue its first report on the implementation of the guidelines by the end of 2009.

"Adopting robust guidelines such as these broadens our industry’s commitment to providing meaningful leadership around the world," said Susan Neely, president and chief executive officer of the American Beverage Association (A.B.A.). The A.B.A. represents the companies that manufacture and distribute non-alcoholic beverages in the United States. "Our industry has long recognized the positive role it can play in promoting healthy lifestyles for consumers of all ages, including children, and this policy will only serve to strengthen that role."

Ms. Neely said that while the non-alcoholic beverage industry produces a wide variety of beverages that may be part of a healthy lifestyle, the reality is children are more susceptible to marketing campaigns and may not always be able to make the right dietary choices for themselves.

"Parents are telling us they want to be the gatekeepers," she said. "We are listening and want to protect their role so that we can work together to help teach children around the world how to make more informed choices."

The guidelines were developed within the framework of a wider food and drinks industry commitment to collaborate with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other stakeholders to help implement the 2004 WHO Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health.

The guidelines are similar to the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, which was launched in November 2006 by the Council of Better Business Bureaus to provide companies that advertise foods and beverages to children with a transparent and accountable advertising self-regulation mechanism.

Under the terms of the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, participating companies agreed to devote at least 50% of their advertising directed to children under 12 to promote healthier dietary choices and/or to messages that encourage good nutrition or healthy lifestyles. Participating companies also have agreed to include healthier dietary choices that incorporate one company’s food or beverage products; not engage in food and beverage product placement in editorial and entertainment content; reduce the use of third-party licensed characters in advertising that does not meet the Initiative’s product or messaging criteria; limit products shown in interactive games to healthy dietary choices, or incorporate healthy lifestyle messages in the games; and not to advertise food or beverage products in elementary schools.

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