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LT18: Commercial Marketing of Healthy Foods and Beverages

Framework Component

Changes - Multi-Sector

Indicator Description

This Indicator focuses on sub-national, policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) changes in organizational systems where commercial food and beverage marketing practices-advertising, PR, promotion, and personal sales-are most likely to influence the food choices of SNAP-Ed audiences, especially children, youth, and low-income, limited-English and ethnic adults. Changes in commercial marketing activity are distinct from those reported in LT5 and LT6, which may include institution-sponsored marketing introduced as part of an evidence-based intervention. The changes will be made by community institutions that decide what commercial marketing to feature or decline. The marketing changes reported here are likely to result from public/private partnerships and are deemed to have occurred due, at least in part, to SNAP-Ed efforts.

Background and Context

Authoritative recommendations: Recommendations for changes in commercial marketing practices come from many authoritative sources. These include the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, the Partnership for a Healthier America, the Better Business Bureau (Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative), American Restaurant Association (Healthy Dining, Kids LiveWell Program), the Federal Trade Commission, and the federal government's Health and Sustainability Guidelines for Federal Concessions and Vending Operations. There are few data about in-language and ethnic-specific food marketing. As yet there are no publicly available data sources that track the mix of methods used in commercial marketing of foods and beverages at the sub-national level.

This Indicator is strategically important because it can focus local attention on pervasive and powerful marketing influences that only community residents, organizations and businesses can impact. When conducted in combination with other interventions, a change in food/beverage marketing is recommended by experts as necessary to achieve population-wide results.

State plan: If interventions are being planned for any of the channels below, then changes in commercial marketing practices may be included among the SMART objectives for those interventions.

On-site assessments, targets: On-site assessments can routinely Include commercial marketing practices. This provides baseline values and allows tracking of change. Some assessment tools provide an overall score which may be used to incent positive change over time. Examples for different settings include the School Health Index and other school assessments, GO NAPP-SAC, and others.

Engage community members: On-site assessments may be conducted by students as part of nutrition education and service learning projects or by community residents incidental to nutrition education or community engagement projects.

Comprehensive wellness policies may already cover many of the commercial marketing activities listed above in institutional settings such as ECE, schools, CYOs, and worksites.

Implementing Agencies may identify the number of total and SNAP-Ed qualified sites in some key settings/channels, such as:

  • ECE, schools, and afterschool programs by virtue of free or reduced price meal free or reduced price meal eligibility
  • Community youth organizations (the Y, Boys' and Girls' Clubs)
  • Public properties like parks and recreation centers in qualifying census tracts; SNAP, social service, and public health offices
  • SNAP-certified stores, including supermarkets, corner stores, and non-food stores
  • Fast food chains with high patronage by SNAP-Ed audiences

Other marketing to children, youth, and vulnerable groups is addressed in MT13 Media Practices.

Outcome Measures

Increases in positive marketing practices, as above (advertising, PR, promotion, personal sales), in the following channels that are due, in whole or in part, to activities of SNAP-Ed and its partners: Decreases in marketing practices that promote the purchase of foods/beverages-to-discourage in the following channels:

What to Measure

This indicator will report the number of SNAP-Ed qualified organizations in key channels that intentionally introduce written policy changes. As per authoritative recommendations, the new marketing policies are designed to:

  • Make the healthy choice the easy, appealing, desired, and affordable choice to SNAP-Ed audience segments, including through behavioral economics and default choices.
  • Restrict or discourage the marketing of unhealthy foods to children and youth
  • Restrict or discourage the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to vulnerable groups, including through ethnic and in-language outreach and programming.

Sub-national marketing practices to general audiences, children or in-language segments:

  • Advertising: TV, radio, outdoor, transit ads; on-site signage, placements, banners, posters, wraps (vending, vehicles)
  • Public relations; Online games, contests, give-aways, community events/sponsorships
  • Promotion (to consumers): Special pricing, seasonal specials, rebates, incentives, celebrity appearances, movie or event tie-ins
  • Personal sales (to intermediaries): Sponsorships, trips, contests, donations (school supplies, athletic equipment), charitable contributions, sales incentives

Examples of how changes may be verified:

  • Procurement standards
  • Contracts with suppliers/vendors
  • Pre-post on-site assessments
  • Key informant interviews with organizational leaders
  • Policy documents, such as worksite or school wellness policies
  • Executive orders, resolutions, initiatives



Surveys and Data Collection Tools


Additional Resources or Supporting Citations

These changes embody recommendations from a variety of credible sources, including the federal government, foundations, universities, and advocacy organizations, including those focusing on the prevention of childhood obesity and other chronic diseases.