HARTFORD, CONN. — A new report, Sugary Drinks FACTS 2020, from the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut, indicates beverage companies spent $1.04 billion to advertise “sugary” drinks in 2018, up 26% from 2013, as well as continuing to target advertising at Black and Hispanic youth. Authors of the report used the findings to call for state and local soda taxes, among several other recommendations.
The report showed that $586 million was spent to promote regular soda and soda brands, up 41% from 2013, while advertising spent for all diet and unsweetened drinks, including water and 100% juice, was $573 million. During the period since 2013, money spent to advertise sports drinks increased 24%, to $159 million in 2018, and for sweetened iced tea increased 192%, to $111 million.
The report said that sugary drink advertisements continued to target Black and Hispanic youth, who have higher rates of sugary drink consumption than non-Hispanic White youth.
The study used Nielsen data to identify brands in the soda, sports drink, energy drink, iced tea, fruit drink and flavored water categories that spent at least $100,000 in advertising and contained added sugar, with diet soda and diet drinks in the same categories included for comparison.
The study found that teenagers remained the primary target audience for sugary drink advertising, and that preschoolers’ and children’s exposure to sugary drink advertising on television increased.
Sugary drink advertising was primarily driven by PepsiCo (38% of all sugary drink ad spending and sugary drink television ads viewed by children and 41% of ads viewed by teenagers) and Coca-Cola brands (31% of sugary drink ad spending, 23% of television ads viewed by children and 21% of ads viewed by teenagers). In addition to those companies, more than $100 million was spent to advertise Gatorade and Mtn Dew in 2018.
The report recommended the following:
“Beverage companies should commit to discontinue targeted marketing of sugary drinks to communities of color;
“States and localities should enact excise taxes on sugary drinks and invest the resulting revenue in community-defined programs and services to reduce health and socioeconomic disparities;
“The Food and Drug Administration should establish regulations to address unclear labeling practices, such as requiring disclosures of added sugar, low-calorie sweeteners, juice and caffeine content on the front of product packages;
“State and local municipalities should prohibit the sales of energy drinks and shots to children under age 18 and require they be placed in low-visibility locations;
“Grassroots and other advocacy groups should develop campaigns to highlight excessive advertising of sugary drinks, especially advertising that disproportionately targets teens and communities of color;
“Health care professional organizations should develop campaigns aimed at children and teens to raise awareness about these harms, especially for sugary drinks that are perceived to be healthier than soda and energy drinks.”