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New study finds fast-food companies spending more on ads, targeting Black and Hispanic youth

The fast-food industry spent $5 billion on advertising in 2019, and the advertisements disproportionately targeted Black and Hispanic youth, according to new research published today by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut. The new report, Fast Food FACTS 2021, finds that the industry’s annual ad spending in 2019 increased by over $400 million since 2012, and that children and teens were viewing on average more than two fast food TV ads per day.

Frequent and widespread exposure to fast-food marketing increases young people’s preferences for, and consumption of fast-food, which is largely high in calories, sugar, fat and sodium. Fast-food represents 40% of all food and beverage marketing expenditures targeted at children and teens (aged 2-17). Using 2019 Nielsen data, the study found that children aged 2-5 viewed an average of 830 TV ads for fast food over the course of the year, while children aged 6-11 viewed 787 ads, and teens and tweens aged 12-17 viewed 775 ads.

Nearly all of these ads promoted full-calorie regular menu items or the restaurants in general, while just 1% of ads viewed promoted restaurants’ healthier menu items. Moreover, only 10% of ads viewed by children appeared during children’s TV programming and fewer than 10% of ads promoted kids’ meals. Further, many of the restaurants promoted their mobile apps or websites for digital orders in TV ads.

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