Academic Study Finds Companies Target African Americans With Ads for Unhealthy Foods

A new report led by scholars at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut, documents that major food companies almost exclusively market unhealthy foods such as fast food, candy, sugary drinks and salty snacks to Black youths.

Jennifer Harris, the lead author of the report and director of marketing initiatives at the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center, notes that “food companies have introduced healthier products and established corporate responsibility programs to support health and wellness among their customers, but this study shows that they continue to spend 8 of 10 television advertising dollars on fast food, candy, sugary drinks, and unhealthy snacks, with even more advertising for these products targeted to Black youth.”

The study found that in 2017 food companies spent almost $11 billion on television advertising. Only $195 million of this spending was on healthy foods. The report states that $1.1 billion of the television food advertising was spent on programs targeting Black or Hispanic audiences. The data showed that 86 percent of the advertisements on programs targeting Blacks were for unhealthy foods.

Furthermore the study found that unhealthy food advertising targeting Black audiences increased by more than 50 percent between 2013 and 2017. Overall television food advertising declined by 4 percent during the period. The analysis found that Black teenagers saw more than twice as many ads for unhealthy foods than White teenagers.

The full report, Increasing Disparities in Unhealthy Food Advertising Targeted to Hispanic and Black Youth, may be downloaded by clicking here.

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