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Unilever to stop advertising food and drink to children under 16

young woman with glasses smiling
3 min read
AUTHOR: Fiona Holland
Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby ice cream

Food giant Unilever has announced it will cease to promote its food and drink products to children under the age of 16.

This change to the company’s advertising rules will apply to its full food and drinks portfolio, including the popular ice cream brands Ben & Jerry’s and Magnum.

Moving forward, Unilever will adopt rules which include not targeting under 16s through any form of media, and stopping the collection and storing of data on children in this age group.

In its marketing campaigns, Unilever will also no longer use influencers or celebrities on social media that are under 16 or who are known to be popular with this age group. Instead, it will work to ensure influencer content has a limited appeal to children.

The company already refrains from promoting its brands and products in schools, and will continue with this practice, except when specifically requested to participate in educational campaigns.

Unilever’s brands have until January 2023 to comply with these new rules.

Matt Close, President of Ice Cream at Unilever said: “Recognising the power that social media and influencer marketing can have on children’s choices, we believe it’s important to raise the bar on responsible marketing to a minimum age of 16 years old across both traditional and social media.

“By making these changes, our goal is to continue to reduce children’s exposure to advertising from the food and beverage industry, and instead support parents to select appropriate treats, to be enjoyed from time to time.”

Unilever last made a significant change to its marketing rules in 2020, when it announced it would stop marketing and advertising food and drink products to children under 12 in traditional media, and under 13 on social media.

Most food and beverage companies worldwide currently restrict marketing to under 13-year-olds.

When it comes to advertising, Unilever already has to respect the laws, regulations and self-regulatory codes in the countries in which it operates. Some rules which already exist in the UK and Portugal have meant many of these new principles have been fully or partially adhered to already.

For example, since 2017, the UK has prohibited adverts for products high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) from being targeted at children under 16 in all non-broadcast media including in cinemas, print, online and social media.

The Government also has plans to implement stricter HFSS regulations from October of this year, which will restrict in-store promotions of HFSS foods and ban the advertisement of such food and drink online and before the 9pm watershed on TV.

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