NEW DELHI: Top food and beverage makers are gearing up to meet the December 31 deadline for stopping all advertising of products to children below 12 years of age, a move that could involve changes to the way some of the biggest foods brands in the country are promoted.
This is in line with a pledge by the Food and Beverage Alliance of India (FBAI) under the aegis of a global self-regulatory alliance of foods and beverage companies. FBAI members include Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Co, Kellogg, Mars-Wrigley, Nestle, Ferrero, HUL and Mondelez India.
“FBAI members will not engage in food or beverage marketing aimed at children in primary schools. The policy covers food and beverage product marketing communications that are primarily directed to children under 12 in all covered media,” according to the pledge, of which ET has a copy. “The association will publish periodic reports to demonstrate compliance with this policy. The policy will become applicable to all members by December 31, 2016.”
“This approach is global and applies to every market where we do business, including India,” a spokesperson said. “We continue to be actively involved and support local, regional and global marketing to children pledge programmes and other self-regulatory efforts.”
While companies are briefing agencies on the pledge, the nutritional guidelines are some way away. “A few members are still in discussion stage about setting common guidelines; it’s work in progress.
For example, setting common nutrition guidelines for noodles, potato chips, cereal and chocolates is the challenge,” said a top executive. Nestle, which makes Maggi noodles and KitKat chocolate, said it will not advertise to children under the age of 12, except for products that fulfil specific nutrient criteria.
“The FBAI Common Nutrition Criteria (CNC), which is the basis of the updated India Pledge signed on July 1, 2016, are a set of sciencebased guidelines developed in India that follow the work undertaken by the EU, Singapore, USA Pledge Groups and International Choices Programme,” a Nestle spokesperson said. “As per FBAI, signatory companies will not advertise products that do not meet the nutrition guidelines to children under the age of 12 years and this updated India pledge becomes effective from December 31, 2016.
FBAI signatories will have until December 31, 2017, to comply with the nutrition guidelines.” India’s largest FMCG player HUL too has promised to comply with the guidelines. “We affirm our commitment to the updated India pledge," a spokesperson said.
Globally, foods makers have come under attack from health activists and governments for not doing enough to protect children from fat, sugar and salt-laden packaged foods.
Coca-Cola has done away with the cartoon characters it used to promote orange fizzy drink Fanta. A company spokesperson said it has made a global commitment to market products responsibly. “As a result, we do not buy advertising directly targeted at audiences that are more than 35% children under the age of 12,” the person said. “Our commercial practices are aligned with business goals and we conform to a responsible marketing policy in every market we operate in.”
PepsiCo, which makes fizzy drinks and snacks under brands Lay’s, Cheetos and Kukure, is committed “to only advertise products to children under age of 12 years that meet common FBAI pledge nutrition criteria or not to advertise products at all to children under 12 years,” a spokesperson said.
Mars-Wrigley, Ferrero and Kellogg have been working in recent months to alter their ads. “Kellogg India will abide by its global policy of responsible communication to children and ensure that the products offered to children will meet with the Kellogg Global Nutrient Criteria,” a spokesperson said.
Aspokesperson for confectionery maker Wrigley India, a unit of chocolate giant Mars Inc, said all advertising for Boomer gums, its largest brand in India, has moved away from targeting children in recent months. “We are doing the same for each of our other brands and new advertising for other brands will not be aimed at children,” the spokesperson said.