While most of the blame for childhood obesity is placed on the marketing practices of food manufacturers, research by Nancy Childs, Ph.D., professor of food marketing at Saint Joseph's University, suggests that more attention should be given to the in-store marketing activities of food retailers, especially those that directly target children.
Childhood obesity is an international issue that has gained extensive attention in the U.S. with First Lady Michelle Obama's public commitment to end the epidemic within a generation. Through various outreach and legislation, the effort is well underway. Unfortunately, Childs says food retailers have been overlooked as a potential source for addressing this critical issue which affects children around the world.
"Retailers are mostly off the radar screen on this issue, yet they have enormous potential to assist shoppers with healthier selections, especially busy moms," says Childs. "This is a great opportunity to connect with an important and valuable shopper group through social media and apps, as well as the methods explored in this study."
Childs' research, "In-store Marketing to Children: U.S. Food Retailer Practices Abating Childhood Obesity," was shared in a European conference on marketing to children, and published by Revista Portuguesa De Marketing (Portuguese Journal of Marketing). It examined 30 leading U.S. and U.K. food retail chains to identify key marketing tactics and activities used to target childhood obesity. Each practice, 11 of which involved in-store marketing, was classified within one of three categories: product selection, merchandizing and promotion, and nutrition education.
The results concluded that U.S. retailers are most likely to implement marketing strategies that emphasized nutrition education and physical activity. Retailers also expressed an interest in healthy product sampling for kids -- an opportunity for brand building and "retailtainment." The outcome is an in-store environment geared toward healthier choices for kids.
Childs is an international expert on food marketing and is involved in numerous boards and committees regarding food policy, labeling and safety, such as the USDA, FDA, NAREEAB, and the White House.
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