Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Soda Ads Target Low-Income Shoppers, Study Finds

Food
Soda Ads Target Low-Income Shoppers, Study Finds
Daniel Oines / CC BY 2.0

Low-income children and adults drink more sugary beverages than their more well-to-do counterparts, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Now, a new study suggests this might not be just a question of poor nutritional education, but a direct result of shady marketing tactics, The Washington Post reported Thursday.


The study, published online in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine in May, found that customers in New York state are more likely to see displays for sugary beverages like soda on days when food stamps are distributed, suggesting that beverage companies or supermarkets are deliberately targeting low-income customers.

"People will argue that individuals are ultimately responsible for their choices, but we know that the environment in which we make choices matters," said Alyssa Moran, study lead author and assistant professor of health and social policy at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "This study is another example of industry targeting sugary beverage marketing toward lower income families," she told the Post.

The study used 2011 data from a census of beverage marketing in more than 600 stores conducted by the New York State Department of Public Health. They found that stores were 1.88 times more likely to feature sugary drink displays from the first to the ninth of the month, when Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are distributed in New York.

In further evidence that SNAP recipients were being targeted, the likelihood of customers encountering soda displays on those days went up by 4.35 times in neighborhoods with lots of SNAP recipients and fell to zero in neighborhoods with few. Tellingly, ads for low-calorie or low-sugar drinks did not increase at the same time.

Since beverage companies pay stores to prominently display items, Moran told the Post it is not possible to know if stores or beverage companies are responsible for the targeted marketing. Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group and the Food Marketing Institute, speaking for retailers, all denied targeting ads to SNAP recipients.

The findings come as some want the government to add a ban on the use of SNAP benefits to purchase soda into the 2018 Farm Bill. Soda is the first of the top ten commodities SNAP users purchase, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But Moran told the Post that a ban would be counterproductive since SNAP recipients could still purchase soda with cash and it would not address more structural issues of marketing and access, like those raised by her study. Instead, she recommended states distribute food stamps on a different time every month so that marketers couldn't target recipients on any one day.

For Monica Mills, Food Policy Action executive director, the findings back up the assertion that the blame for the nutrition gap should not be placed on low-income individuals.

"SNAP recipients need access to healthy food choices just like everyone else," Mills told the Post. "It's shameful that they are being zeroed in on by the soda industry, and at the same time, they are scrutinized and even ridiculed for the food choices they make."

A replica of a titanosaur. AIZAR RALDES / AFP via Getty Images

New fossils uncovered in Argentina may belong to one of the largest animals to have walked on Earth.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Trump's Affordable Clean Energy rule eliminated a provision mandating that utilities move away from coal. VisionsofAmerica /Joe Sohm / Getty Images

A federal court on Tuesday struck down the Trump administration's rollback of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan regulating greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A wild mink in Utah was the first wild animal in the U.S. found with COVID-19. Peter Trimming via Wikipedia, CC BY-SA

By Jonathan Runstadler and Kaitlin Sawatzki

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have found coronavirus infections in pet cats and dogs and in multiple zoo animals, including big cats and gorillas. These infections have even happened when staff were using personal protective equipment.

Read More Show Less
A mass methane release could begin an irreversible path to full land-ice melt. NurPhoto / Contributor / Getty Images

By Peter Giger

The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner - but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats.

Read More Show Less
Doug Emhoff, U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Jill Biden and President-elect Joe Biden wave as they arrive on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol for the inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

By John R. Platt

The period of the 45th presidency will go down as dark days for the United States — not just for the violent insurgency and impeachment that capped off Donald Trump's four years in office, but for every regressive action that came before.

Read More Show Less