Child-directed and nutrition-focused marketing cues on food packaging: Links to nutritional content

Matthew A. Lapierre, Autumn M. Brown, Hunter V. Houtzer, Tyler J. Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Objective We tested whether the presence of both child-targeted and nutrition-focused (i.e. parent-targeted) marketing cues on food packaging was associated with the nutritional content of these products. Design We conducted a quantitative content analysis of 403 food packages chosen randomly from the supermarket's online portal along with all products (n 312) from the cereal aisle in a supermarket from the Southeastern USA. We examined main and interaction effects for cues on nutritional content (e.g. energy density, sugar, sodium, fibre). Setting A regional supermarket chain in the Southeastern USA. Results Tests of main effects indicated that increased presence of nutritional cues was linked to more nutritious content (e.g. less sugar, less saturated fat, more fibre) while the increased presence of child-targeted cues was uniformly associated with less nutritious content (e.g. more sugar, less protein, less fibre). Among the interaction effects, results revealed that products with increased nutrition-focused and child-targeted cues were likely to contain significantly more sugar and less protein than other products. Conclusions Products that seek to engage children with their packaging in the supermarket are significantly less nutritious than foods that do not, while product packages that suggest nutritional benefits have more nutritious content. More importantly, the study provides evidence that those products which try to engage both child and parent consumers are significantly less healthy in crucial ways (e.g. more sugar, less fibre) than products that do not.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)765-773
Number of pages9
JournalPublic Health Nutrition
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017


  • Child-directed marketing
  • Food packaging
  • Nutritional content
  • Parent-directed marketing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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