You are here

The Business of Junk Food Marketing

child sitting in front of television

Sonia Jean-Philippe is an Ottawa Public Health Registered Dietitian and this month's guest blogger. 

Marketing of junk food and beverages has changed. Children and youth are seeing marketing that is more entertaining, more interactive and more powerful than even a decade ago. Marketing is any message that advertises or promotes a product or service.

Did you know that children view four to five food and beverage ads per hour? When you consider children watch on average two hours of television a day – the number of food and beverage ads viewed by our children adds up. But marketing is more than TV ads. Junk food and beverage marketing is everywhere; other examples include:

  • Advertising products on popular apps, websites, in movies, and in video games
  • Food and beverage packaging and labelling.
  • The use of mascots or characters popular with children to promote products.
  • Celebrity product endorsements.
  • Where companies place the product and displays.
  • Sponsoring sports teams and children’s programs.
  • Contests and free giveaways.
  • School fundraisers.

Children and youth are vulnerable to marketing; they believe what they see.

  • 5-year-old child can't tell the difference between an ad and a television show.
  • 8-year-old child is unlikely to know the reasons behind marketing.
  • 10-year-old child knows that ads sell products, but is often unable to judge an ad.
  • 16-year-old youth is influenced by digital marketing. It is a form of entertainment, grabbing their focus and attention.

Healthy habits start in childhood. Children learn about nutrition through the marketing of junk food. Marketing influences foods that children eat and that they ask their parents to buy. It also makes unhealthy foods seem “normal.” Unhealthy eating over the course of time can lead to high blood pressure, cancer, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

Interested in more information and how to talk about marketing to your child or youth? Visit Media Smarts, Canada’s Centre for Digital and Media Literacy. For more information on actions taken by Ottawa Public Health, please visit Ottawa Public Health.



Sonia Jean-Philippe is a Dietitian with Ottawa Public Health, an avid traveler and runner. Her love for new cultural experiences and adventure has taken her on all five continents. When she is not planning her next big trip, she is trying out new recipes or working towards new personal bests in running events.

The Business of Junk Food Marketing by sherry_library