Unilever sets industry example with pledge to stop marketing food and beverages to children under 16 years 

UK – British multinational consumer goods company Unilever has set a new industry example with a pledge to stop marketing food and beverages to children under the age of 16 years old, across both traditional media and social media. 

The London-headquartered company announced the update to its global principles for responsible marketing to children saying it was raising standards for an increasingly digital world.  

According to Unilever, the principles will apply across its food and refreshment portfolio, which includes ice cream with the deadline for brands to comply being January 2023.  

Unilever said in most countries in the world, the food and beverage industry restricts marketing to children under 13 years old. 

Matt Close, president Ice Cream, Unilever said: “Recognising the power that social media and influencer marketing can have on children’s choices, we believe it’s important to raise the bar on responsible marketing to a minimum age of 16 years old across both traditional and social media.  

By making these changes, our goal is to continue to reduce children’s exposure to advertising from the food and beverage industry, and instead support parents to select appropriate treats, to be enjoyed from time to time.” 

Marketing targeted at children is frowned upon because younger children are often unable to understand the purpose of advertising and are unable to recognize that companies are trying to persuade them into buying these products. 

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Younger children are often unable to understand the purpose of advertising and are unable to recognize that companies are trying to persuade them into buying these products. 

Food and beverage advertising has particularly come under scrutiny as it “may contribute significantly to childhood and adolescent obesity, poor nutrition, and cigarette and alcohol use,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.   

In 2020 Unilever announced it would stop marketing and advertising foods and refreshments to children under the age of 12 in traditional media, and under the age of 13 via social media channels.  

As part of the new principles, Unilever said it would not be targeting children under 16-years old with any marketing or social media communications and would not be collecting or storing data on children under 16.  

It also said it would not use influencers, celebrities or social media stars who are under the age of 16 or primarily appeal to children under the age of 16 and would provide clear details of the obligations of influencers to limit the child appeal to influencer content.  

Unilever also confirmed it would continue to refrain from promoting our brands or products in schools, with the exception of participation in educational campaigns, when specifically requested.  

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