Promoting food to children has become a $1.6 billion industry and that doesn’t include the restaurant industry’s attempts to generate demand from kids and teens.  And the restaurant industry is under increasing fire from the Center for Science in the Public Interest which just announced that most kids’ meals contain a calorie overload.

But persuading kids to eat food designed specifically for them is growing more complicated. Several food companies are adhering to guidelines they developed in order to prevent the Federal Trade Commission from taking action against them.

Here’s a brief summary:

  • Companies are reformulating products to be healthier. In some cases this means smaller serving sizes or products with reduced levels of sodium.
  • Companies have defined advertising to children to generally mean targeting a group of children with 50% of members under age 12.
  • The chief form of advertising has been TV though many companies maintain Web sites designed to attract children.
  • In cases where changing a product line or marketing message is too complicated, the company may choose to advertise to the parent.

Keep these details in mind if you’re working on campaigns that market new food products to kids.

[Sources: “Obesity on the Kids’ Menu,” CSPI , 4.08.2008; Clifford, Stephanie. “Tug of War in Food Marketing to Children,” New York Times, 7.30.2008