KitKat cereal

Source: Nestlé

Nestlé’s Kit Kat cereal was among the products investigated by Bite Back

Mondelez, Kellanova, Mars, Nestlé, Unilever, PepsiCo and Ferrero have been called out for marketing unhealthy products to children.

Youth-led charity campaign group Bite Back analysed 262 products that were deemed to appeal to children from 10 companies.

Whether or not the packs had child appeal was judged based against an established framework of 18 techniques used by manufacturers.

These techniques included featuring a product’s unconventional colour, shape or flavour on pack; the use of cartoons and licensed characters or celebrities on pack; and the presence of games or activities.

For instance, Mondelez’s Cadbury Curly Wurly Squirlies were deemed to appeal to children due to the “unusual shape” of the treat and the phrase ‘bags of tasty fun’ featuring on pack. Nestlé’s Kit Kat Cereal was also deemed to appeal to kids for taking “the popular and highly recognisable Kit Kat brand” to create an unconventional cereal flavour.

Bite Back found that for seven of the 10 manufacturers included in the analysis, most of their child-appealing products were HFSS.

Mondelez was “one of the worst offenders”, the report claimed. Of 58 of its products deemed to appeal to children, all were HFSS.

Similarly, the report found all 22 of the child-appealing products it analysed from Ferrero were HFSS.

Ninety-seven per cent (30) of Mars’ child-appealing products were HFSS, compared with 86% (25) of PepsiCo’s and 78% of Kellanova’s.

The report found 59% (10) of Unilever’s kid-friendly packs to be unhealthy, compared with 56% (33) of Nestlé’s.

“Once again, Bite Back exposes how brands are actively using marketing tactics to target children,” said celebrity chef and Bite Back co-founder Jamie Oliver.

“Whether it’s through fun characters, bright images or exciting new shapes, these switched-on companies are choosing them because they know they will capture young minds.”

A spokeswoman for Mondelez told The Grocer: “We disagree with the report’s characterisation of our products, many of which have been enjoyed in the UK for generations.

“Bite Back has used extremely broad criteria in its evaluation which is heavily open to interpretation.”

A Mars spokeswoman said: “As the business behind some of the UK’s best-loved brands, we recognise that we have a responsibility to ensure our consumers know to enjoy our products as a treat and as part of a healthy and balanced diet.

“A big part of this is our commitment to doing the right thing by young people – we launched our Responsible Marketing Code in 2007 to ensure all our marketing meets UK requirements, as well as our industry-leading Global Marketing Code.”

A spokeswoman for Nestlé said: “We share a lot of Bite Back’s ambitions but this report on child appeal is basic, subjective and provides an inconclusive analysis that creates confusion about the healthiness of food.”

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for PepsiCo said the manufacturer had “led the way for almost 20 years in developing healthier products and taking a responsible approach to marketing and advertising.

“In 2007, we voluntarily made the decision to not advertise products that are classified as HFSS to under-16s across all media outlets. All of our marketing activity undergoes careful review to ensure compliance.”

The Grocer has approached Kellanova, Unilever and Ferrero for comment.