Unhealthy food and drink marketing contribute to festive blowout

Health experts are concerned that a spike in advertising and price promotions on sugary drinks in the lead up to the Christmas holidays is having a significant impact on the health of families.

Written by Chantelle Gourlay

Research released by Deakin University and health promotion foundation VicHealth found approximately 56 per cent of sugary drinks are discounted in the weeks before Christmas, compared with an overall average of 30 per cent of drinks over the year.

It also found price promotions for unhealthy drinks, like soft drinks, were 2.3 times more likely to be on sale in December than healthy drinks such as water and milk.

Researchers are concerned that marketing tactics like discounted sugary drinks are causing us harm, with many people gaining close to one kilogram over the festive season – which may be more than half of the average annual weight gain.

VicHealth CEO Dr Sandro Demaio said aggressive price cuts and incessant marketing of unhealthy food and drinks made it challenging for parents over the holidays.

“Parents walking into the supermarket at this time of year are bombarded with promotions and advertising on sugary drinks making it hard to say no.”

“Often these promotions work so that the cheaper sugary drinks are, the more we buy; meaning we continue to drink them long after Christmas is over.”

“Food and drink companies have been hugely successful in using Christmas to market their unhealthy products, making us think they’re an essential part of the holidays,” Dr Demaio said.

“Sugary drink companies have been using Santa and other Christmas imagery for over a century, exploiting our love of Christmas to increase their profit margins at the cost of our kids’ health.” For example, the image of Santa that is often used in the Coca-Cola branding during December.

Dr Kathryn Backholer, Associate Director of the Global Obesity Centre at Deakin’s Institute for Health Transformation, said the peak in price promotions for sugary drinks at Christmas was yet another example of how the junk food industry put profits before health.

“Discounts for sugary drinks peaked in December and are also worryingly prevalent year-round,” Dr Backholer said.

“This marketing tactic undermines public health efforts to reduce sugary drink consumption, obesity and dental decay among children.”

Dr Demaio said with around a quarter of Victorian children above a healthy weight it was time to set higher standards for how the sugary drink industry markets drinks to kids.

“Nearly a quarter of Victorian children are above a healthy weight and there’s a clear link between regular sugary drink consumption, weight gain and poor dental health,” he said.

“We know sugary drinks are hugely profitable for the food and beverage industry because they’re packed full of cheap ingredients like sugar.”

“We want supermarkets to put our kids’ health above profits and give families a break from the bombardment of sugary drink promotions.”

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