Marketing to children in supermarkets: An opportunity for public policy to improve children’s diets

Jennifer L. Harris, Victoria Webb, Shane J. Sacco, Jennifer L. Pomeranz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Public health experts worldwide are calling for a reduction of the marketing of nutrient-poor food and beverages to children. However, industry self-regulation and most government policies do not address in-store marketing, including shelf placement and retail promotions. This paper reports two U.S.-based studies examining the prevalence and potential impact of in-store marketing for nutrient-poor child-targeted products. Study 1 compares the in-store marketing of children’s breakfast cereals with the marketing of other (family/adult) cereals, including shelf space allocation and placement, special displays and promotions, using a national audit of U.S. supermarkets. Child-targeted cereals received more shelf space, middle-and lower-shelf placements, special displays, and promotions compared with other cereals. Study 2 compares the proportion of product sales associated with in-store displays and promotions for child-targeted versus other fruit drinks/juices, using syndicated sales data. A higher proportion of child-targeted drink sales were associated with displays and promotions than sales of other drinks. In both categories, the results were due primarily to major company products. Although in-store marketing of child-targeted products likely appeals to both children and parents, these practices encourage children’s consumption of nutrient-poor food and drinks. If companies will not voluntarily address in-store marketing to children, government policy options are available to limit the marketing of unhealthy foods in the supermarket.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1284
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 2 2020


  • Childhood obesity
  • Children’s foods
  • Food and beverage marketing
  • Food policy
  • In-store marketing
  • Pester power
  • Sugary drinks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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