Turning advertisers into educators
restricting advertising, chocolate-makers should be encouraging
them to make the same health-conscious choices as adults when it
comes to confectionery they're sure to buy anyway.
Earlier this month, confectionery giant Masterfoods, owner of chocolate brands Mars and Galaxy, vowed to stop all marketing aimed at children younger than 12. And Cadbury rolled out a new, grown-up campaign for its core Flake brand, which featured a swanky new television advert, definitely aimed at adults. All very praiseworthy, doing their bit to halt obesity amongst children and taking a small piece of responsibility for the poor-health epidemic. After all, at first sight it looks like cutting down on peddling sugar-laden products to children can only be a good thing, but it's a little redundant given the small consumers' innate predilection for the sweet stuff. But cutting advertising is only half the story. Kids have a vague idea that chocolate is 'bad for you' but they also know with rock hard certainty that it tastes good and, while stomping out advertising directed at them will prevent children from becoming familiar with new brands, it's not going to stop them buying what they already know and love. Scandalous as it might seem, the industry would benefit not by restricting children's advertising but by broadening its scope. Instead of pushing the usual fare, how about steering kids into those niche health or ethical markets that are so up-and-coming but generally reserved for a more mature audience? In a world where sugar is demonised and figures from the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) predict nearly 287 million children could be overweight or obese by 2010, opening up new facets of the candy market to kids seems perverse and dangerous. But chocolate need not be an enemy substance. Studies have shown that cocoa contains flavenols which act as powerful antioxidants and, provided it has a high cacao content, the chocolate bar a child is munching on will not necessarily set them on the path to bad dietary choices and inevitable obesity. Dark chocolate may not seem like a winner since young tastebuds are generally more amenable to sweet varieties such as white or milk chocolate, but it is about opening up young palates to experimentation. Innovation in the sector which is proving so popular with adults has led to some interesting flavour development that could appeal to even the most sweet-addicted kids. And it is not just about teaching kids to make good nutritional choices. Sectors like Fairtrade can open up the ethically-sourced chocolate market to youngsters who are never too young to learn where their food comes from. Of course, since their emergence as a profitable market, Fairtrade and dark chocolate have generally occupied the premium end of the industry and enjoyed a reputation as luxury items. But with popularity for these products growing, perhaps it's time they became more mainstream and available to younger consumers. In the future kids will be eating chocolate. The challenge now is to ensure they will be eating the right sort. Catherine Boal is the editor of Confectionerynews.com and Bakeryandsnacks.com. She has lived and worked in the UK, Ireland, France and South Africa. If you would like to comment on this article please e-mail catherine.boal 'at' decisionnews.com