By: Helena Bottemiller Evich

The number of youth-targeted television ads for sugar-sweetened beverages dropped sharply from 2010 to 2013, but preschoolers and children under 11 saw significantly more TV ads by PepsiCo over the same period, according to a new report by Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

The report, set to be presented at the American Public Health Association's annual meeting in New Orleans today, found that children viewed 39 percent fewer TV ads for sugar-sweetened beverages and teens 30 percent fewer ads over that time frame. Youth-targeted marketing for the same products on websites dropped by 72 percent, while social media marketing and “advergames” that integrate advertising into video games proliferated, the report said. 

Researchers pointed to PepsiCo as a concern. The company increased overall spending on marketing during the period of the study, with the result that preschoolers saw 39 percent TV more ads for the company’s sugar-sweetened beverages in 2013 than in 2010. Meanwhile, children under the age of 11 saw 25 percent more PepsiCo ads, the report found. 

Red Bull also stood out, increasing TV advertising aimed at youth by 59 percent.

African-American children and teens were exposed to twice as many sugar-sweetened beverage ads over the three-year period, the researchers said. In addition, Spanish-language TV ads for sugary drinks and energy shots increased by 44 percent. 

“Despite promises by major beverage companies to be part of the solution in addressing childhood obesity, our report shows that companies continue to market their unhealthy products directly to children and teens,” said Jennifer Harris, the Rudd Center’s director of marketing initiatives and lead author of the report. “They have also rapidly expanded marketing in social and mobile media that are popular with young people, but much more difficult for parents to monitor.”

Christopher Gindlesperger, a spokesman for the American Beverage Association, said the report confirms a drop in the levels of marketing targeting youth on TV and children's websites. 

“Obesity is a complex issue that will not be solved by singling out any one product or industry," he said. "The people at our member companies — many of whom are parents themselves — are delivering on their commitment to advertise only water, juice and milk on programming for children under 12."

Originally Published: Politico