Lidl GB has committed to removing cartoon characters from all own-brand cereal packaging to tackle ‘pester power’ in the supermarket aisles.
By spring 2020, the retailer says it will have introduced new, cartoon-free branding for its Crownfield cereal range, which includes Honey Rings, Choco Rice, Frosted Flakes, Rice Snaps, Choco Shells, and Honey & Peanut Cornflakes.
“We want to help parents across Britain hake healthy and informed choices about the food they buy for their children,” said Lidl GB head of corporate social responsibility Georgina Hall.
“We know pester power can cause difficult battles on the shop floor and we’re hoping that removing cartoon characters from cereal packaging will alleviate some of the pressure parents are under.”
Combatting childhood obesity
The move comes as obesity levels rapidly increase around the globe, with the UK estimated to be among the most overweight countries in the world.
Childhood obesity is also prevalent, affecting approximately 16% of children aged 2-15 years in the UK. The pandemic is largely driven by poor food choices and lack of exercise.
So what links can be made between cartoon characters on food packaging and childhood obesity?
Firstly, pester power – a term used to describe the ability of children to pressurise caregivers into buying them products targeted – relates directly to marketeers’ messages. And many products marketed to children contain high levels of fat, salt and sugar (HFSS).
In a survey conducted by campaign groups Action on Sugar, Action on Salt, and UK charity Sustain’s Children’s Food Campaign, 51% of 526 food and drink products with packaging that would appeal to children in major UK retailers are classified as HFSS.
The results, published in July 2019, also revealed that children’s favourite cartoon characters such as Peppa Pig and Disney’s Frozen were found on a number of high sugar confectionery, yoghurt, cake and snack products.
Secondly, according to the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) there is some evidence that marketing practices such as cartoons on pack can influence food choices.
Reducing children’s exposure to marketing of HFSS foods and drinks, may be an effective part of strategies to reduce childhood obesity, we were told.
Parents and caregivers appear to agree. According to a Parents’ Jury survey conducted in 2018 by the Children’s Food Campaign, parents said that after TV advertising, the marketing tactic they were most concerned about was the use of children’s favourite TV and film characters on unhealthy food.
Results also revealed that nine out of 10 parents said they would support the government bringing in new rules to restrict use of kids’ characters on unhealthy foods.
‘If they can do it, why can’t everyone else?’
UK campaign group Action on Sugar, which is concerned with sugar and its effects on health, would also be supportive of governmental enforcement in this area.
“We’re in the midst of a child obesity crisis and it’s wrong to advertise sugary, fatty, salty foods to kids,” Action on Sugar nutritionist Katharine Jenner told FoodNavigator. “It’s time for the government to step in and underpin tighter advertising restrictions with similar rules for packaging and promotions.”
UK campaign group Action on Sugar told FoodNavigator it welcomes Lidl’s move, and hopes other players in the food industry will follow its example. “We fully applaud Lidl GB’s decision to remove cartoon characters from all its cereal packaging by spring 2020,” Jenner told this publication.
“If they can do it, why can’t everyone else? We hope the tide is now turning and that other retailers and food manufacturers will follow suit for both own label and branded products.”