Yale weighs the marketing v. nutrition of kids cereal
Imagine you are 5 years old. In the supermarket cereal aisle. Towering above you are rows upon rows of cardboard boxes, brightly colored like construction paper, and emblazoned with your favorite mascots or silly characters that seem to hug you from their perch on the shelves. Sure, there are some understated choices—the simple yellow Cheerios box, offering up a bowl of mutely-colored rings. But remember, you're 5. You're more likely drawn to the rainbow of fun featured on the Fruity Pebbles package. Not only does this cereal come techicolored, but it's got Fred Flintstone on the box. You wish you could go barefoot and drive a car with your feet.... you tug at your mom and begin begging: "Please, please, please, can we get Fruity Pebbles?!!"
Pebbles (the fruity and cocoa versions) was ranked the least nutritious cereal in a recent report by Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity that lambasted cereal companies for peddling their poorest choices to kids.
Yale decided to check up on the food industry's plan to police itself—the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative. Formed in 2006, the initiative called for promoting healthy foods and lifestyles to kids. Two years later, Yale studied the cereal market and reviewed the landscape last year. The first report found that companies were "doing zero marketing of their healthiest cereals," to kids, says Kelly Brownell, a Yale University professor of psychology who directs the Rudd Center. Today, "the number is still zero," and, furthermore, "they're doing aggressive marketing of their least healthy foods.