Comparison of online marketing techniques on food and beverage companies' websites in six countries

Marie A. Bragg, Margaret Eby, Josh Arshonsky, Alex Bragg, Gbenga Ogedegbe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Food and beverage marketing contributes to poor dietary choices among adults and children. As consumers spend more time on the Internet, food and beverage companies have increased their online marketing efforts. Studies have shown food companies' online promotions use a variety of marketing techniques to promote mostly energy-dense, nutrient-poor products, but no studies have compared the online marketing techniques and nutritional quality of products promoted on food companies' international websites. For this descriptive study, we developed a qualitative codebook to catalogue the marketing themes used on 18 international corporate websites associated with the world's three largest fast food and beverage companies (i.e. Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken). Nutritional quality of foods featured on those websites was evaluated based on quantitative Nutrient Profile Index scores and food category (e.g. fried, fresh). Beverages were sorted into categories based on added sugar content. We report descriptive statistics to compare the marketing techniques and nutritional quality of products featured on the company websites for the food and beverage company websites in two high-income countries (HICs), Germany and the United States, two upper-middle-income countries (UMICs), China and Mexico, and two lower-middle-income countries (LMICs), India and the Philippines. Of the 406 screenshots captured from company websites, 678% depicted a food or beverage product. HICs' websites promoted diet food or beverage products/healthier alternatives (e.g. baked chicken sandwich) significantly more often on their pages (25%), compared to LMICs (145%). Coca-Cola featured diet products significantly more frequently on HIC websites compared to LMIC websites. Charities were featured more often on webpages in LMICs (154%) compared to UMICs (26%) and HICs (23%). This study demonstrates that companies showcase healthier products in wealthier countries and advertise their philanthropic activities in lower income countries, which is concerning given the negative effect of nutrition transition (double burden of overnutrition and undernutrition) on burden of non-communicable diseases and obesity in lower income countries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number79
JournalGlobalization and Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 26 2017


  • Food marketing
  • International
  • Obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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