Video ‘countermarketing’ can help cut demand for unhealthy food, study finds

by Shannon Kelleher

Viewing 45-second videos that explain common misperceptions about toddler milks and fruit drinks reduced caregivers’ intentions to serve these sweetened beverages to their young children, according to a study published today in the American Journal of Public Health.

The study’s findings suggest that countermarketing messages designed to illuminate problematic marketing techniques could reduce demand for unhealthy foods.

“We were delighted at the findings,” said Frances Fleming-Milici, a researcher with the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Health at the University of Connecticut and an author of the study. “We’re hoping that we have an opportunity to see effects on actual behavior and long-term behavior.”

“There isn’t a lot of research in countermarketing in the area of highly processed food, junk food,” said Chris Palmedo, an associate professor at the City University of New York School of Public Health. “[The study] confirms the gradual progress that research is making in this area.”

Previous research suggests many parents do not realize what they are really buying when they purchase toddler milks and kids’ fruit drinks. Popular fruit drinks often contain less than 10% juice and are packed with added sugars and diet sweeteners. Health claims on toddler milks, which are also sweetened, are not backed by science.
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises giving children under five mostly water and plain milk to drink, stating that sugar-sweetened beverages are “detrimental to child health,” artificial sweeteners’ health effects on kids are “not well-understood,” and toddler milks are “unnecessary for most children and provide no nutritional benefit over a healthy, balanced eating plan.”