Disney's limits on links to fatty kids' foods speaks to CSR trend

In an effort to help curb childhood obesity, the Walt Disney Co. has initiated a campaign to restrict the products that its characters and brands can promote.

In an effort to help curb childhood obesity, the Walt Disney Co. has initiated a campaign to restrict the products that its characters and brands can promote.

The initiative, which focuses on kid-centric products only, will include limiting licensing deals to foods with certain percentages of fats. The company will also offer healthier options to kids at its theme parks and will cut out trans-fatty acids from the park food.

This follows the trend of corporate social responsibility that has taken over corporations that deal with marketing to children. In recent years, the food and beverage industry, specifically soft drink manufacturers, has developed guidelines for the marketing of such products to children.

Why does it matter?

"Self-regulation is the most cost-effective way to do things, but I don't think this is so much regulation as good business," says Gene Grabowski, VP at Levick Strategic Communications. "Parents want their kids to eat more nutritious foods without eliminating snacks. They are demanding healthier options, and the industry is responding."

Grabowski emphasizes that the marketplace is the best regulator. He mentions that many corporations are looking to PR at the moment to find counseling on corporate social responsibility as it pertains to this issue.

Five facts:

1 In 2000, the National Cancer Institute's 5 A Day campaign to promote fruit and vegetable consumption had an annual budget of $1 million - 1,000 times less than what McDonald's spent on promotional costs.

2 McDonald's followed the CSR trend in January 2005 when it had Ronald McDonald serve as an ambassador to elementary schools to promote fitness among kids.

3 In 2005, Kraft and General Mills, along with the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Grocery Manufacturers of America, formed the Alliance for American Advertising, a lobby group created to protect the industry's First Amendment rights to advertise to kids and to promote self-regulation above government regulation.

4 The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is promoting an effort by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) to restore the authority of the Federal Trade Commission to regulate marketing to children.

5 A report by the Kaiser Family Foundation concluded, "It appears likely that the main mechanism by which media use contributes to childhood obesity may well be through children's exposure to billions of dollars' worth of food advertising and cross-promotional marketing year after year."

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