Measuring the Power of Food Marketing to Children: a Review of Recent Literature

  • Charlene ElliottEmail author
  • Emily Truman
Diabetes and Obesity (CB Chan, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Diabetes and Obesity


Purpose of Review

This scoping review examines literature from the past 5 years (June 2014 to June 2019) across three databases (PubMed, MEDLINE, and Scopus) to detail how the persuasive power of child-targeted food marketing content is addressed and evaluated in current research, to document trends and gaps in research, and to identify opportunities for future focus.

Recent Findings

Eighty relevant studies were identified, with varied approaches related to examining food marketing techniques to children (i.e., experimental, survey, meta-analyses, mixed methods, content analyses, focus groups). Few studies specifically defined power, and studies differed in terms of techniques examined. Spokes-characters were the predominant marketing technique measured; television was the platform most analyzed; and dominant messages focused on health/nutrition, taste appeals, and appeals to fun/pleasure.


Mapping the current landscape when it comes to the power of food marketing to children reveals concrete details about particular platforms, methods, and strategies, as well as opportunities for future research—particularly with respect to definitions and techniques monitored, digital platforms, qualitative research, and tracking changes in targeted marketing techniques over time.


Children Food marketing Power Exposure Marketing technique Policy 



The authors would like to acknowledge the Helderleigh Foundation and the Canada Research Chairs program for support of this project.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Charlene Elliott holds a Canada Research Chair on Food Marketing, Policy and Children’s Health and has provided recommendations and advice to Health Canada on policy related to food marketing to children.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Canada Research Chair, Food Marketing, Policy and Children’s Health, Department of Communication, Media and FilmUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.Department of Communication, Media and FilmUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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