Package design and nutritional profile of foods targeted at children in supermarkets in Montevideo, Uruguay

Cad Saude Publica. 2017 Jun 12;33(5):e00032116. doi: 10.1590/0102-311X00032116.

Abstract

Marketing of unhealthy products has been identified as one of the main characteristics of the food environment that negatively affects children's eating patterns. Restrictions on advertising of unhealthy foods to children have already been imposed in different countries. However, marketing strategies are not limited to broadcast and digital advertising, but also include package design. In this context, the current study aimed to describe the food products targeted at children and sold in supermarkets in Montevideo, Uruguay, in terms of package design and nutrient profile. Two supermarkets in Montevideo were selected for data collection. In each supermarket, all products targeted at children were identified. Products were analyzed in terms of package design and nutritional profile, considering the Pan American Health Organization Nutrient Profile Model. A total of 180 unique products were identified, which included a wide range of product categories. The great majority of the products corresponded to ultra-processed products with excessive amounts of sodium, free sugars, total fat, saturated fat, and/or trans fat, which are not recommended for frequent consumption. Several marketing strategies were identified in the design of packages to attract children's attention and drive their preferences. The most common strategies were the inclusion of cartoon characters, bright colors, childish lettering, and a wide range of claims related to health and nutrition, as well as the products' sensory and hedonic characteristics. The study's findings provide additional evidence on the need to regulate packaging of products targeted at children.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Food Industry
  • Food Packaging*
  • Humans
  • Marketing / methods*
  • Nutritive Value*
  • Persuasive Communication
  • Uruguay