Cereal FACTS (Food Advertising to Children and Teens Score ) 2012

Limited Progress in the Nutrition Quality and Marketing of Children's Cereals

The Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity has released an updated study on the nutritional content of cereals and related marketing to children. In 2009, when Rudd released the first Cereal FACTS, researchers found that the least healthy breakfast cereals were those most frequently and aggressively marketed directly to children as young as age 2. The updated study, which compares data from 2008 and 2011, shows that even though cereal companies have improved the nutritional quality of most cereals marketed directly to children, they increased advertising to children for many of their least nutritious products.

Key findings:

  • Overall nutritional quality improved for 13 of the 14 brands advertised to children. Of the 22 different varieties of these cereals available in both 2008 and 2011, 45 percent had less sodium, 32 percent had less sugar, and 23 percent had more fiber.
  • Total media spending for advertising to children increased by 34 percent, from $197 million in 2008 to $264 million in 2011.
  • Spending on Spanish-language TV advertising for all cereals more than doubled, and Hispanic children’s exposure to these ads tripled. Black children also were exposed to 7.5 percent more ads in 2011.
  • The cereals advertised to children contain 57 percent more sugar, 52 percent less fiber, and 50 percent more sodium than cereals advertised to adults.

The study authors recommend that cereal companies reduce advertising for high-sugar cereals and find creative ways to market healthier products to children.