New research published by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut finds that the fast food industry’s annual advertising spending in 2019 increased by over $400 million since 2012, and that children and teens were viewing on average more than two fast food TV ads per day. Black youth were found to view 75 percent more fast food ads than their White peers.
The report warns that frequent and widespread exposure to fast-food marketing increases young people’s preferences for, and consumption of, fast-food, which is largely high in calories, sugar, fat, and sodium. The study also shows that disparities in racial and ethnic targeted advertising are widening. Black youth viewed 75 percent more fast food ads than their White peers in 2019, up from a 60 percent difference found in 2012. On Black-targeted TV programming, restaurants advertised their low-cost large-portion value menu items and meal deals disproportionately more than on other types of programming.
“Fast-food consumption by children and teens has increased over the past decade, and fast-food advertising definitely plays a role in that rise,” says Jennifer Harris, senior research advisor for marketing initiatives at the Rudd Center, and a co-author of the study. “Our findings show that these advertisements disproportionately target Black and Hispanic youth, groups who already face greater risk for obesity and other diet-related diseases. Moreover, many fast-food companies tout recent introductions of healthier menu items as evidence of their commitment to improving nutrition, but they rarely promote these items in their advertising.”
The full 73-page report, Fast Food FACTS 2021, may be downloaded here.