If there were any confectionery companies out there having doubts about marketing to youth, there’s now 211 billion reasons to do so.
New research from the 2012 Harris Poll YouthPulse (SM) study estimates that American youth (those 8 to 24 years old) will have $211 billion dollars to spend in 2012. And yes, that’s billion - with a B.
"When we look at what youth today personally own, it's definitely more than the generation before them and immensely more than what kids owned two generations ago,” explains Regina A. Corso, Senior Vice President for Youth and Education Research at Harris Interactive. “What is also important to remember is that youths are not passive receivers of things. Today's youth actively have input into what they have and what their families have."
So not only do they have billions of dollars at their fingertips, they also have control over what their parents spend money on. Even better.
Of, course, none of that matters to the confectionery industry though, if they’re spending it on video games and pizza, right? Well, they’re not.
More than half of 8 to 12 year olds will spend their own money on candy (61%), while about 51% of teens, those 13-17, will make a point of treating themselves to sweets.
All this data would be great for confectionery companies, if only it didn’t present so many dillemas.
Over the last few years, “junk food” has become target number one for food nannies, and any candy company that’s at least as responsible as a seventh-grade honor roll student has listened to the concerns and pulled back on marketing to youth.
For example, Hershey, Mars North America, Ferrero, USA Inc., The Topps Company, Inc., Perfetti Van Melle USA, Inc., Nestle USA and others are part of The Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU), a program of the Council of Better Business Bureaus that runs the industry’s main self-regulation program.
The problem is, if you follow the logic train to the end of the line, limiting candy commercials to children eventually leads to a place where none are allowed at all. But, how do you act responsibly to share holders by effectively ignoring a $211-billion market that loves your product?
Don’t get me wrong, obesity is real problem, especially among children. And any company that has the power to halt the epidemic, should. But, that doesn’t mean all candy advertisements to children should be banned. The demographic just spends way too much money for companies to neglect them.
Maybe there is a way to please both sides though. Companies shouldn’t pass over the enormous consumer base that is America’s youth. Rather, they should advertise products that feature healthier portion sizes, reduced sugar and better-for-you ingredients in them.
It’s a marketing campaign even some of the “food nannies” surely could get behind.