Marketing Soda to Kids: Curb the Carbonation
When my kids were younger my husband and I did a great job of avoiding soda. My brother-in-law told my 4-year-old daughter that the caffeine would make her knees turn black. Totally nuts, but that was enough to turn my anxiety-ridden child away from soda.
Fast-forward several years, and I now have 2 kids that will empty their piggy banks for a cola.
Why am I concerned about soda? Well, here’s the skinny (ha!) on soda consumption. A 2012 study published in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found up to 85 percent of school children have at least one can of soda every day. King 5 recently featured a story on how diet soda can decay your teeth like a meth addict. Running low on toilet cleaner? Try Coke! Type 2 diabetes? Step right up! And . . . I could go on. And on. Sigh.
First off, let me set the stage. I’m not a perfect parent. I don’t buy 100% organic all the time, and we do the happy dance when a complete meal makes it on the plate. We’ve been known to have Cheerios for dinner while racing in between soccer games and gymnastics workouts.
But, the one thing I do try to avoid is having soda in the house. I didn’t get it much growing up, and my teeth and I now thank my health-conscious parents for that.
Let’s face it. As parents we don’t have the time or energy to fight every battle. It’s exhausting. But, this is one that I have decided to put some effort into.
However, marketers are not making this easy for me.
Soda is everywhere. Restaurants, parties, movie theaters, amusements parks, ice cream parlors, special events and vending machines galore. Advertisers have done a brilliant job instilling that you’ll have more fun with 41 grams of sugar gliding through your veins. #Responsiblemarketingfail.
Coke, the world’s largest beverage distributor, is making global commitments to stop marketing to kids under 12. They have promised to sponsor physical fitness activities, put calorie counts on the front of packaging, and have low calorie options widely available. Additionally, they will not advertise on television shows where more than 35% of the audience is kids. They have proactively launched a “Coming Together” campaign with an anti-obesity website.
Is it progress? Some. But what about kids who are older than 12? They’re still fair game? Remember the adorable ads featuring the polar bears and Santa Claus? Here to stay.
I also don’t get the warm fuzzies from the “Coming Together” campaign. Coke, I think you’re in damage control. You can do better.
Additionally, the non-soda options major beverage companies offer are terrible. “Here’s a can of chemicals, sweetie. Drink up!” Kids think if it’s diet or says “juice” then they must be making a good choice.
We live in a capitalistic society. Coke and Pepsi aren’t going away. Frankly, I’d be bummed if they did. I enjoy a soda at the movies with my popcorn.
So what is a parent to do?
The best that we can do is model healthy habits and continue to offer alternatives to soda. We need to educate kids that just because the can says “diet” or “zero calorie” it doesn’t mean it’s good for you. It doesn’t mean my kids can never have a soda. My philosophy has always been, “everything in moderation.”
Additionally, we can continue to pressure the beverage community to create and market healthy drinks that are truly healthy and also scream “fun!” You should also encourage your local kid community hot spots to stock their vending machines with non-soda options.
So what are some alternatives when your child is begging for a side of sucralose with her dinner? Here are some ideas:
- Lowfat milk or chocolate milk (in moderation)
- Low sodium carbonated water. We make our own with our Sodastream maker. And it makes an awesome farting noise.
- Flavor your water with berries, lemons, limes, etc.
- ½ 100% fruit juice mixed with ½ seltzer water
- All-fruit yogurt smoothie
- Chop up bits of fruit and freeze with water in ice tray to add to a glass of water
When my kids are grown and need to make their own drink choices, I can only hope they have retained some of what we are trying to instill. Until then, we’ll continue to be the annoying parents that tell our children to “make a good choice.”
Image credit: Wellness Online