70% of teens surveyed engaged with food and beverage brands on social media in 2017

November 20, 2019

Hartford, Conn. -- Seventy percent of teens surveyed report engaging with food and beverage brands on social media and 35 percent engaged with at least five brands, according to a new study from the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity published in the journal Appetite. The study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found that 93 percent of the brands that teens reported engaging with on social media were fast food, unhealthy snack foods, candy, and sugary drinks, which are primarily the brands that target them with traditional forms of advertising.

The study surveyed 1,564 U.S. teens ages 13-17 about their engagement (liking, sharing, or following) with food and beverage brands on social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat, their time spent watching TV and on other screens (e.g., cell phones, computers), and demographic characteristics. The survey was conducted from March to May of 2017.

Study authors say the findings reflect how food and beverage companies use social media to reach teens. Almost 40 percent of teens surveyed for the study reported being on other screens (non-TV) 4 or more hours each day, where social media dominates their time. Social media marketing comes in the form of attention-getting videos and other posts on companies' social media accounts designed to create engagement (comments, likes, shares, follows) that encourages teens to essentially market these products to friends in their social networks.

"This study shows how successful companies are at using social media to reach teens and take advantage of teens' peer networks. Companies usually pay big bucks to market their brands, but with social media they are getting teens to do it for free. And, since teens' choices are heavily influenced by their peers, the payoff is huge," said Fran Fleming-Milici, PhD, lead study author and assistant research professor for the Rudd Center. "Parents don't realize that all of their efforts to create a healthy food environment at home are undermined when their kids are bombarded by unhealthy food marketing on their phones and computer screens."

The study also found that brand engagement was highest among Black teens, Spanish-speaking Hispanic teens, and teens whose parents have lower education levels. These findings raise public health concerns due to higher rates of diet-related diseases among communities of color. Authors say more research is needed to fully understand why brand engagement was higher among these groups, but another Rudd Center report found that food companies disproportionately target Black and Hispanic youth with advertising for many of the same unhealthy brands that teens report engaging with the most on social media.

Other key findings:"It's probably not a coincidence that the brands that teens engage with the most on social media are the same ones that spend the most to target them with advertising messages designed to make their products seem fun, cool, and daring," said Jennifer L. Harris, PhD, MBA, study author and director of Marketing Initiatives at the Rudd Center. "Unfortunately, those products also have high amounts of added sugars, fat, and calories that can lead to negative health consequences for a lifetime."

Researchers recommend that food and beverage manufacturers stop targeting teens with marketing for products that can harm their health. Currently, the food and beverage companies' voluntary self-regulatory program, the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, only limits unhealthy advertising to children up to 11 years old.

Researchers say the program should cover children up to at least 14 years old.

Study authors also recommend that more states and localities enact excise taxes on sugary drinks to increase the cost of unhealthy beverages to help reduce teens' consumption. Companies must also stop disproportionately targeting marketing of their least healthy products to teens in communities of color.
-end-
About the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity

The Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut is a multidisciplinary center dedicated to promoting solutions to childhood obesity, poor diet, and weight bias through research and policy. The Rudd Center is a leader in building broad-based consensus to change diet and activity patterns by conducting research and educating policy makers. For more information, visit http://www.uconnruddcenter.org and follow us on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/uconnruddcenter and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/uconnruddcenter.

UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity

Related Social Media Articles from Brightsurf:

it's not if, but how people use social media that impacts their well-being
New research from UBC Okanagan indicates what's most important for overall happiness is how a person uses social media.

Social media postings linked to hate crimes
A new paper in the Journal of the European Economic Association, published by Oxford University Press, explores the connection between social media and hate crimes.

How Steak-umm became a social media phenomenon during the pandemic
A new study outlines how a brand of frozen meat products took social media by storm - and what other brands can learn from the phenomenon.

COVID-19: Social media users more likely to believe false information
A new study led by researchers at McGill University finds that people who get their news from social media are more likely to have misperceptions about COVID-19.

Stemming the spread of misinformation on social media
New research reported in the journal Psychological Science finds that priming people to think about accuracy could make them more discerning in what they subsequently share on social media.

Looking for better customer engagement value? Be more strategic on social media
According to a new study from the University of Vaasa and University of Cyprus, the mere use of social media alone does not generate customer value, but rather, the connections and interactions between the firm and its customers -- as well as among customers themselves -- can be used strategically for resource transformation and exchanges between the interacting parties.

Exploring the use of 'stretchable' words in social media
An investigation of Twitter messages reveals new insights and tools for studying how people use stretched words, such as 'duuuuude,' 'heyyyyy,' or 'noooooooo.' Tyler Gray and colleagues at the University of Vermont in Burlington present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on May 27, 2020.

How social media platforms can contribute to dehumanizing people
A recent analysis of discourse on Facebook highlights how social media can be used to dehumanize entire groups of people.

Social media influencers could encourage adolescents to follow social distancing guidelines
Public health bodies should consider incentivizing social media influencers to encourage adolescents to follow social distancing guidelines, say researchers.

Social grooming factors influencing social media civility on COVID-19
A new study analyzing tweets about COVID-19 found that users with larger social networks tend to use fewer uncivil remarks when they have more positive responses from others.

Read More: Social Media News and Social Media Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.