Nestlé’s clampdown on marketing to kids: ‘We will prohibit direct advertising of confectionery, ice-cream, biscuits and beverages with added sugars to under 16s’

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

The Swiss food giant won't advertise confectionery or sugar sweetened drinks, among other categories, to children under 16 / Pic: GettyImages-ViewApart
The Swiss food giant won't advertise confectionery or sugar sweetened drinks, among other categories, to children under 16 / Pic: GettyImages-ViewApart

Related tags Nestlé Marketing

Nestlé is strengthening its policy on responsible marketing to children by voluntarily banning the direct marketing of products that don’t meet the Nestlé Policy Nutrition Criteria to audiences under 16-years-old.

Previously, Nestlé’s responsible marketing strategy applied to children up to the age of 13 years, with a total ban on product marketing targeting children who are six and under. The updated standard will be applied to all channels, including TV, social media, gaming, and events where more than 25% of the audience is under 16 years old.

“We do not direct any marketing communication to children 0 to below 6 years of age. In our new Marketing Communication to Children policy, when directing marketing communication to children 6 to below 16 years of age, this can only be permitted with products that achieve the Nestlé Policy Nutrition Criteria. We will not direct any marketing communication to children below 16 years of age, irrespective of the Nestlé Marketing Communication to Children Policy Nutrition Criteria being met, for the following categories: sweet and savoury biscuits, sugar confectionery, chocolate confectionery, water-based beverage products with added sugars [and] ice-cream products,”​ a spokesperson explained.

The digital dilemma

Nestlé also vowed that it wouldn’t work with social media influencers over the age of 18 or collect data on minors.

However, it is notoriously challenging for brands to control their reach in a digital ecosystem where digital advertising, targeting and data collection – in many ways the entire digital ecosystem – is relatively unregulated, uncontrolled and - until recently at least - unscrutinised compared to the physical sphere. How will Nestlé ensure its content isn’t reaching the eyes of children under 16 years of age?

Collaboration will be key, the spokesperson told FoodNavigator. “We use all possible available tools to measure the audience as accurately as possible, working closely with our partners (social media platforms, event organizers, video games studios) to have first-hand reliable information on the breakdown of the audience age groups before advertising.

“Nestlé has been engaging for years in industry platforms such as the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) and contributed to the implementation of industry-wide standards such as the IFBA Global Responsible Marketing Policy. Many companies have collectively committed to restrict marketing of indulgent products to children below 13 years and this was reflected in Nestlé’s own Policy. Our new Policy, voluntarily extending marketing restrictions to children below 16 years is industry-leading and aims to align with WHO’s Policy recommendations to protect children from the harmful impact of food marketing (currently under discussion). Nestlé calls for more companies to put forward similar measures that support the wellbeing of children.”

Building a ‘solid foundation’ for healthier lifestyles

In addition to ramping up advertising restrictions, Nestlé said it will ‘continue long-standing efforts’ to help families establish healthy eating habits.

“Coupling existing nutrition services, educational tools and recipes with these additional safeguards helps give children and young adolescents a solid foundation for building a healthy lifestyle. Through our Nestlé for Healthier Kids program and various nutrition campaigns such as ‘adopt a fruit, adopt a vegetable’, #cooktogether and ‘healthy food for the future’, we have provided resources to help 80 million children become more knowledgeable about good nutrition, balanced diets and healthy lifestyles since 2016,”​ the company stressed.

Nestlé did not comment on what the new advertising code will mean for its total advertising spend – or whether we could expect resource to be reallocated towards its efforts to promote healthy eating. “On total advertising investment, we won’t make any forward-looking statements on that but of course as always we remain committed to maintaining and building our brands,”​ we were told.

Last month, Nestlé said it will start to report on the nutritional standards of its global portfolio in a commitment it said is part of its work to grow and expand ‘certain segments’ of its portfolio​, including what it described as ‘nutritious plant-based and children’s products’.

The world’s largest food manufacturer is working to advance the nutritional profile of its products through a strategy leveraging both reformulation and fortification. In 2021, the company sold 124.6 billion servings of ‘affordable nutrition’ with micronutrient fortification. It has also achieved a 5.1% reduction in added sugars in Nestlé products since 2017. However, the company did not reveal whether it has set specific time-bound targets for either reformulation or the proportion of total sales it wants come from better-for-you segments of its portfolio. 

Related topics Regulation & safety Nestle

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