Invasive marketing by food manufacturers must be regulated
“We won’t get children to change their behaviour when it comes to junk food unless we regulate the invasive marketing
methods used by food manufacturers”, says Professor of Marketing Janet Hoek of Massey University. Professor Hoek was
speaking at a seminar preceding the Annual General Meeting of FOE (Fight the Obesity Epidemic Inc) held in Wellington on
Professor Hoek outlined some of the marketing methods being increasingly used including product placement, sports
sponsorship, links with well-known sports personalities, and intensive merchandising using characters from children’s
“The growing use of the web as a medium that reaches children increases the salience of fast food brands. These become
so well integrated into our environment and so familiar that it is increasingly difficult for healthy eating messages to
prevail,” said Professor Hoek.
The food and advertising industries’ response to the major health problem presented by childhood obesity was discussed
at the seminar, and found disappointing. “The food industry’s promotions continue to focus on products high in fat, salt
and sugar, despite calls for greater responsibility”, Professor Hoek commented.
Concerns were also expressed at comments the recent Food Industry Group report to the Minister of Health made about
health advocacy groups. Professor Hoek noted that “It is deeply ironic that organisations claiming to protect free
speech appear to have few qualms about calling on government to restrain advocacy groups who challenge the industry’s
Professor Hoek concluded that behavioural change through social marketing and education will not work without a
regulatory framework. “Social marketing will reinforce healthy eating patterns where these exist. However, it has very
little chance of improving poor eating behaviours in a media environment that contains frequent promotions for high fat,
salt and sugar items.”
FOE’s chairperson Dr Robyn Toomath earlier in the meeting launched a petition calling for Parliament to take action to
help reduce the amount of junk food that our children eat.
“One third of New Zealand children are now overweight or obese, and the time is overdue for serious measures to turn
this around,” said Dr Toomath.
“It is essential that we reverse the trend for growing numbers of our children having to experience serious health
problems including Type 2 diabetes as a result of obesity.”
The petition asks that Parliament prevents the sale in schools of food or drink products high in sugar, fat or salt, and
with low nutritional value, bans advertisements of such products during children’s television programmes, and conducts a
Parliamentary inquiry into other actions needed to prevent obesity.
A poll conducted in June this year by BRC showed very strong public support for these measures.
“FOE calls for all concerned New Zealanders to demonstrate this support to Parliament by signing the petition,” said Dr
Petition forms are available on FOE’s website, www.foe.org.nz.
Fight the Obesity Epidemic (FOE) is a voluntary organisation working to promote policies to stop and reverse the rise of
obesity and Type 2 diabetes in children. It is working to change the New Zealand social, cultural, physical and
regulatory environment so that it is easier for all New Zealanders, especially children, to maintain a healthy body
weight. This is a huge challenge.
FOE was founded in 2001 at a meeting of the International Diabetes Federation and WHO in Kuala Lumpur. It first gained
wide media coverage in 2002 after noting the dire consequences when the Ministry of Health forecast dramatic increases
in Type 2 diabetes and obesity by 2011. FOE has members across New Zealand. Visit www.foe.org.nz