GLOBAL – Starting May next year, Nestlé, the largest publicly held food company in the world, will globally cease all marketing including advertisements targeting children below 16 years of age on certain high-sugar products.

The Swiss multinational food and drink giant said its new marketing communication to Children policy will prohibit direct advertising of confectionery and ice cream, as well as water-based beverages with added sugars, to younger teenagers.

The ban will be applied to TV and online platforms, including social media and gaming ones with greater than 25% of their audience under 16 years old.

Additionally, Nestlé said it will not collect data on minors and only partner with social media influencers over the age of 18.

Marie Chantal Messier, Head of Food and Industry Affairs at Nestlé said: “Consistent with our existing policy, we will prohibit direct advertising of confectionery, ice cream, and water-based beverages with added sugars to children below 16 years of age.

“This standard will be applied when children below 16 represent more than 25% of the audience. The policy reaffirms the ban on product marketing communication targeting children between 0 and 6 years of age, as per previous versions.”

The company said that also since 2017, the sugar reduction in products has been 5.1%, and products have been fortified with iron, vitamin A, iodine, and zinc, but has decided on a new marketing policy to improve child nutrition by “coupling existing nutrition services, educational tools, and recipes.

These safeguards, according to Nestlé, will help children and young adolescents build a solid foundation for a healthy lifestyle.

The KitKat manufacturer is calling for other companies to introduce similar unilateral measures.

The move follows pressure from investors to revise the nutritional makeup of the group’s product portfolio.

A call-to-action by the European Club of Childhood Dieticians (CEDE) was issued on Nutri-Score, as D and E-labeled products have been shown to be below the World Health Organizations (WHO) criteria for ultra-processed foods, based on the results from a study published in Nutrients.

The CEDE stresses that 34% of children between two and seven years old are overweight or obese in France and that there has been a visible effect of unhealthy food marketing for children.

 High in fat, sugars, and salt and ultra-processed foods, the packaging of products for children often contains drawings or mascots that draw children’s attention.

The study, conducted by CEDE, points out that most food marketed to children is sweet. Out of 1,135 products sampled, nearly 90% of the products contained added sugar, and 23.81% had sweeteners listed as the first ingredient.

Moreover, more than 97% of product packaging included drawings, and nearly 78% depicted mascots, such as heroes or cartoon characters.

Pressure on confectionery, ice cream and sugary drink manufacturers has also come from anti-obesity campaign groups and, in the case of the UK, from the government.

The UK already operates a sugary drinks tax and has partially introduced planned legislation targeting reductions in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) within snack products.

Restrictions on where HFSS products can be promoted in-store such as checkouts, store entrances and the ends of supermarket aisles, came into force this October.

Recently, the company announced that it would ban global marketing of infant formula up to six months old, expected to be implemented from January 1, 2023.

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