Public Health Nutrition

HOT TOPIC – Food environment

Marketing foods to children: a comparison of nutrient content between children's and non-children's products

Amelia Lythgoea1, Caireen Robertsa2 c1, Angela M Maddena1 and Kirsten L Renniea1

a1 School of Life and Medical Sciences, University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, UK

a2 NatCan Social Research, 35 Northampton Square, London EC1V 0AX, UK


Objective The predominance of marketing of products high in fat, sugar and/or salt to children has been well documented and implicated in the incidence of obesity. The present study aimed to determine whether foods marketed to children in UK supermarkets are nutritionally similar to the non-children's equivalent, focusing on food categories that may be viewed as healthier options.

Design Nutritional data were collected on yoghurts (n 147), cereal bars (n 145) and ready meals (n 144) from seven major UK supermarkets and categorised as children's or non-children's products based on the characteristics, promotional nature or information on the product packaging. Fat, sugar and salt content was compared per 100 g and per recommended portion size.

Setting UK.

Results Per 100 g, children's yoghurts and cereal bars were higher in total sugars, fat and saturated fat than the non-children's; this was significant for all except sugar and total fat in cereal bars. Per portion these differences remained, except for sugars in yoghurts. Conversely children's ready meals were significantly lower in these nutrients per portion than non-children's, but not when expressed per 100 g. Children's yoghurts and ready meals had significantly lower sodium content than non-children's both per portion and per 100 g.

Conclusions Significant differences between the nutritional composition of children's and non-children's products were observed but varied depending on the unit reference. A significant number of products marketed towards children were higher in fat, sugar and salt than those marketed to the general population.

(Received May 15 2012)

(Revised February 20 2013)

(Accepted February 26 2013)

(Online publication May 02 2013)


  • Children;
  • Marketing;
  • Nutrition;
  • Labelling


c1 Corresponding author: Email