Sugary Drink Makers Target Latino Youth, Report Says

A new study conducted by Yale University suggests that soft drink and other sugary beverage manufacturers target their marketing campaigns to Latino and African-American children and teenagers.

Beverage makers primarily target young African-American children, who in 2010 tended to view 80 to 90 percent more TV ads for these drinks compared with their white peers. One example is African-American children and teens viewed 2.5 to 3 times as many ads for Sprite soda compared with their white youth peers, according to the study conducted by the Yale University Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity.

“The young people that companies view as an opportunity to grow their business are also the first generation expected to live shorter lives than their parents due to obesity and related diseases,” the reports executive statement said.

The report found that soft drink and energy drink brands did not have a significant presence on Spanish-language TV or radio, with just eight of the 32 brands studied in the analysis advertising on national Spanish-language TV, and 15 advertising on local Spanish-language radio.

Most beverage ads aimed at Hispanic youth were dubbed versions of their English-language counterparts, said Jennifer Harris, the director of marketing initiative at the Rudd Center.

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However both Coca-Cola and Kool-Aid focused their advertising to the young Hispanic market, with the soft drink giant accounting for approximately one-third of young people’s exposure to advertising and Kool-Aid being the only beverage brand to advertise directly to children or parents on Spanish-language TV.

"Koolid marketed their product as a value product compared to other more expensive drinks," Harris added.

Researchers did find that the sports drink Powerade was marketed more heavily to the Spanish-speaking youth market than it did to English speakers.

Some of the television ads that equated soft drinks to energy boosters frightened researchers. In one ad, a young child is seen at a kitchen table studying and yawning when his mother walks in and hands him a Coca-Cola to give him an energy burst

“That kind of disturbed us from a public health perspective,” Harris said.

Andrew O'Reilly can be reached at andrew.o' or follow him on Twitter: @aoreilly84

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