A majority of Kiwis want unhealthy food marketing to kids regulated, Consumer NZ's latest survey has revealed.
Sixty-seven per cent of people supported tougher rules to protect children from being the target of junk food ads.
Consumer NZ chief executive Jon Duffy says 78 per cent of Kiwis feel children are exposed to too many ads for unhealthy food and drinks.
"Seven out of 10 felt these ads contributed to obesity and influenced what parents bought for their kids.
TV ads were the top worry, followed by online marketing, sponsorship and product packaging. Of those who were concerned about this type of marketing, 92 per cent wanted a ban on TV ads for unhealthy foods and drinks at times when children watch TV.
“For parents, a trip to the supermarket with children can be a minefield, with cartoons and games slapped across unhealthy food products. We’re losing the battle of the bulge, with the second-highest rate of childhood overweight and obesity in the OECD. Food marketing has a big part to play in that,” Jon says.
“Slick marketing also makes it difficult for parents to decipher which products are a healthy choice."
Consumer NZ’s report looked at 10 food products promoted for kids, including Nice & Natural Fruit Watches. They claim to be ”99% fat-free” and “65% fruit juice” but have two teaspoons of sugar per watch with the sweetness from the juice topped up with glucose and added sugar.
Le Snak Cheese Dip claims to be “a good source of calcium” but is high in saturated fat and sodium.
"Children are a lucrative market for the food and beverage industry. Kids influence what their parents buy, and marketers bank on them retaining purchasing habits developed when young. However, children are particularly vulnerable to marketing and there’s evidence food marketing is linked to childhood obesity," Jon says.
Consumer NZ is calling for regulation of unhealthy food marketing to be a priority.
Existing voluntary regulation by the Advertising Standards Authority isn't working. The ASA is an industry-funded body that develops voluntary codes of practice and hears advertising complaints.
Jon says several public health organisations – including Health Coalition Aotearoa, the Cancer Society and Healthy Auckland Together – also support regulation.
Last year, in coalition with these groups, Consumer NZ made a submission to the review of the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act recommending a mandatory standard within the Food Standards Code to regulate unhealthy food marketing to children.