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Are makers of sugary drinks targeting minority kids, and how?

The SaludToday health site has a good two-part Q&A with Jennifer Harris of the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, which recently published a study on the marketing of sugary drinks to children. These include not only sodas but popular low-budget drinks such as Sunny Delight, marketed as having health benefits like vitamin C but loaded with sweeteners.

Some of the data indicates that marketers target black and Latino consumers for these products, and this is the focus of the interview. Here's an excerpt from part one:

- How are marketers specifically targeting Black and Latino youth with sugary drink ads?

We don"t know for sure that the marketers are targeting anyone because we don"t have access to their internal strategy documents. So what we do is look at the data and ask a couple of questions. We ask if they"re using techniques that appeal more to one group or another. For example, Sprite has a step-and-jerk dance competition, which is popular among Black, inner-city youth; that would be an indicator they"re targeting Black youth. Or any kind of Spanish-language advertising would be obvious that they"re targeting a Latino audience.

We know how many Black or Latino youth are seeing different advertising, so we compare that to how many ads white youth are seeing, and the data show us what products are reaching disproportionately more Black or Latino youth.

...The other thing that we saw was how more and more sugary drink companies are buying ads on Latino media. They spent about almost 50 percent more on Spanish-language media in 2010 as they did in 2008. So there"s an upward trend going on there.

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