Marketing Fast Food
Schlosser takes a critical look at what he claims is a deliberate targeting of children by fast food and soft drinks companies. He describes an explosion in advertising to children that occurred in
the 1980s. Schlosser describes how many working parents felt guilty about spending less time with their kids, and started to spend more money on them. One marketing expert has called the 1980s "the decade of the child consumer." The majority of advertising directed at children today aims to achieve the immediate goal of a purchase. As one marketer explained in Selling to Kids, "It's not just getting kids to whine, it's giving them a specific reason to ask for a product." The sociologist Vance Packard described children as "surrogate salesmen" who had to persuade other people, usually their parents, to buy what they wanted. The aim of children's advertising, as Schlosser points out, is straight forward: get kids to nag their parents for consumer goods.
This competition for young customers has led fast food chains to form marketing partnerships with toy companies, sports leagues and Hollywood studios. McDonald's has staged promotions with the NBA and the Olympics. Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC signed a three year deal with the NCAA. Burger King, Nickelodeon, McDonald's and the Fox Kids Network have formed partnerships that mix advertisements for fast food with children's entertainment. Burger King has sold chicken nuggets shaped like Teletubbies.
Soft drinks companies
The three largest US soft drinks companies, Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Cadbury-Schweppes spend large sums including on school funding programmes to increase the amount of their products consumed by American children. Americans drink soft drinks at an annual rate of about 56 gallons per person (approx. 600 twelve ounce cans of soda).
Coca-Cola has set its goal of raising this consumption of its products by at least 25%. As the adult market is stagnant, selling more soft drinks to children has become the easiest way to meet
sales projections." Influencing elementary school students is very important to soft drinks marketers," an article in the Jan. 1999 issue of Beverage Industry explained, "because children are still establishing their tastes and habits ... eight year olds are considered ideal customers as they have about sixty-five years of purchasing in front of them. "Entering the schools makes perfect sense," the trade journal concludes."
"Liquid Candy" report
A 1999 study by the Centre for Science in the Public Interest describes how US children are affected by the beverage industry.
Some of the main points are:
* In 1978, the typical teenage boy in the US drank about seven ounces of soft drinks daily. Today he drinks nearly three times that amount, deriving 9% of his daily calorific intake from soft drinks.
* Soft drinks consumption amongst teenage girls has doubled within the same period, reaching an average of 12oz. a day.
* A significant number of boys are now drinking five or more cans of soft drinks a day - each can contains the equivalent of about 10 teaspoons of sugar.
* Soft drinks like Coke, Pepsi, Mountain Dew and Dr Pepper provide empty calories and have replaced far more nutritious beverages in the American diet. Excessive soft drinks consumption in childhood can lead to calcium deficiency and a great likelihood of bone fractures.
* 20 years ago, US teenage boys drank twice as much milk as soft drinks; now they drink twice as many soft drinks as milk.
* About one-fifth of the US's 1 and 2 year olds now drink soft drinks. Michael Jacobson, the report's author, describes the marketing practice of licensing manufacturers' logos to Munchkin
Bottling Inc., a major manufacturer of baby bottles. A 1997 study, published in the Journal of Dentistry for Children, found that many infants were being fed soft drinks in those bottles.
The fast food chains run advertisements on Channel One, the commercial television network whose programming is shown in classrooms in almost every school, to eight million US middle,
junior and high school students. Schlosser further points out that the chains promote their products by selling school lunches, accepting a lower profit margin in order to create brand loyalty.
* At least twenty school districts in the US have their own Subway franchises; an additional fifteen hundred districts have Subway contracts; and nine operate Subway sandwich carts.
* Taco Bell sells products in about 4,500 school cafeterias.
Pizza Hut, Domino's Pizza and McDonald's are now selling food in US schools. The American School Food Service estimates that about 30% of the public high schools in the US offer branded fast food.
* Elementary schools in Fort Collins, Colorado now serve food from Pizza Hut, McDonald's and Subway on special lunch days. "We try to be more like the fast food places where these kids are hanging out" a Colorado school administrator told the Denver Post. "We want kids to think school lunch is a cool thing, the cafeteria a cool place, that we're with it."
In the United States, the fast food companies have targeted their worldwide advertising and promotion at a group of consumers with fewest attachments to tradition: young children.
It reveals that:
* In Australia, where the number of fast food restaurants roughly tripled during the 1990s, a survey found that half of the nation's 9 and 10 year olds thought that Ronald McDonald knew what kids should eat.
* At a primary school in Beijing, it was found that all of the children recognised the image of Ronald McDonald, saying that '... he understood children's hearts'. Coca-Cola is now the favourite
drink amongst Chinese children, and McDonald's serves their favourite food.
* Germany is now one of McDonald's most profitable overseas markets, with more than a thousand restaurants. "The Golden Arches have become so commonplace in Germany that they seem almost invisible," Schlosser notes. McDonald's Deutschland has put restaurants in new Wal-Mart stores because the latter expects the kiddie factor to create an upsurge in customers.