Food marketers have what kids want: Junk food. But, over time, the problems of childhood obesity and parental concern have induced many food marketers to cut back on promoting junk food on TV during kids’ shows. Even the Disney channel has announced that it will not show ads for foods that don’t meet specific nutrition requirements when its channels and websites run child-focused programming.
But food marketers are already finding a new way to reach kids and it’s all about mobile. These days, kids begin, on average, to use smartphones at age 7. By ages 12–14, 47% of kids regularly use smartphones. And, the rapid penetration of tablets into the consumer market certainly means that more kids will be using these devices to educate and entertain themselves, as well.
Food companies have noticed this trend and they are rolling out apps. Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Anton Troianovski points out that J&J Snack Foods has published Icee Maker and SuperPretzel Factory. At least 8 million consumers have downloaded Icee Maker so far. These apps are popular with kids who are no longer just passively watching TV ads. Now they can engage with free apps and play games designed to whet their appetites for specific brands and products.
Several large food companies that belong to the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative have agreed not to directly advertise to children. They may no longer be advertising on TV but they see mobile as a different world. The director for the group noted that more food companies are looking into designing mobile apps for kids. This type of advertising doesn’t “qualify as child-directed” because they believe the parents are downloading the app in the first place.
It may take regulators a while to keep up with technology but it seems that sooner or later, someone will try to restrain this new way of marketing unhealthy foods to kids. In the meantime, experts point out that smaller food manufacturers now have an effective way to compete with larger established firms by using mobile creatively and connecting with kids who will ask their parents to buy favorite brands and products for them.[Sources: Heavey, Susan. Disney junk-food ad ban latest move to slim kids. Reuters.com. 5 Jun. 2012. Web. 21 Sept. 2012; Troianovski, Anton. Food Makers Hook Kids. Professional.wsj.com. 17 Sept. 2012. Web. 21 Sept. 2012]