Objective: Food marketing has been identified as a significant driver of the childhood obesity epidemic. The purpose of the present study was to (i) conduct a content analysis of the types of sports references that appear on supermarket food and beverage products and (ii) assess each product's nutritional and marketing profile.
Design: This was a descriptive study. Every product featuring sports references on the packaging was purchased in two major supermarkets during 2010. A content analysis was conducted and nutritional evaluations were made based on the Nutrient Profile Model, a validated nutrition model. Marketing data were obtained from The Nielsen Company.
Setting: Two major supermarkets in Connecticut, USA.
Subjects: Food and beverage products (n 102) were selected from two supermarkets.
Results: The 102 products (fifty-three foods and forty-nine beverages) had sports references as part of their packaging: 72·5 % featured a character exercising, 42·2 % were endorsed by a professional sports entity and 34·0 % were child-targeted. The median nutrition score for food products was 36 (1 = unhealthiest and 100 = healthiest; scores of ≥63 are considered healthy according to this model). More than two-thirds of beverages (69·4 %) were 100 % sugar-sweetened. Children saw significantly more commercials for these products than adults.
Conclusions: Companies place sports figures on food and beverage products that are child-targeted and unhealthy.