It’s all that cinnamon and sugar that makes the crunchy little squares (Cinnamon Toast Crunch) so irresistible. It’s all that cinnamon and sugar that should tell you that one of your child’s favorite morning snacks should never be advertised as a healthy, nutritional breakfast. Children should never be targets for marketing campaigns, yet General Mills has a different vision. The gross of the company’s income comes from products designed for children, but these are not the healthiest General Mills brands.
A new study from Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity discovered that General Mills markets to children more than any other cereal company. Six of the ten least healthy cereals advertised to children are made by General Mills, including the advertised cereal with the worst nutrition score—Reese’s Puffs, which is 41% sugar.
Is not that General Mills is bad, as a matter of fact the company does have enough healthy cereals in its assortment, but these are marketed to adults. Grownups can make a choice, and don’t fall for colorful advertisements that easily. They know that sugar is not healthy, and they are not easily impressed by marketing hype. Children, on the other hand, are easy targets: colors rule their worlds, happy little characters become their heroes, cutesy mascots influence their decisions, and sugar… well sugar is addictive, irresistible indeed.
The Cinnamon Toast Crunch commercial’s are not really designed to appeal to children, but in the 80s and the 90s children could not resist the witty commercials interjected amid their favorite TV programs. In 2009, there are no doubts about the target in the Reese’s Puffs commercials…
Now General Mills is boosting its marketing and PR efforts, pushing on the market five Chex(R) gluten free cereals brands, in an effort to grab the buzz imminent from the Celiac Disease Awareness Month, which ends in two days. The campaign, as expected, targets “consumers who suffer from celiac disease, are gluten intolerant, or choose to limit or remove gluten from their diet because of a lifestyle choice” – adults, not children. This is a good campaign, well-thought, designed to inform and protect consumers. This proves that General Mills has the marketing intelligence to present its products to the right audience.
So why not taking the same approach for children products? Why not designing products for children. products with less sugar, and more nutritional values and target their parents instead (oops, on the Internet they are already doing the targeting through mommy bloggers)?
The food industry should protect young people from the unhealthy influence some of these products, and I am not talking only about General Mills. Products designed for children should have children’s health as their aim, they should be at least as nutritious as the foods marketed to adults.