Food Marketing: Is it Really What You Want?

Every day we are exposed to marketing in a variety of ways. While watching our favourite TV programs, on a billboard on our drive to work, or more likely, online via countless social media platforms. While this product promotion may seem passive or non-threatening, it can actually have a large influence on our behaviours and attitudes. 

Food is marketed to us in the same way as other products such as clothes or entertainment. The problem, is that the majority of food products marketed to us are high in fat, salt, and sugar, making them less nutritious1. I’m sure we’ve all seen a TV commercial for frozen pizzas or Fast-Food chain restaurants. Billboards in sports arenas advertise sugar sweetened beverages. Social media influencers make posts about various snack foods and popular beverages. Even the strategic placement of chocolate and candy at the till in grocery stores is a form of marketing. I know that I’ve fallen victim to this marketing on occasion, because let’s face it, their tactics work.

Teenagers are a major target for food marketing. Teens and young adults begin to develop more independence towards their food choices, making them very susceptible and vulnerable to food marketing2. Companies use bright colours, bold fonts, and interactive tools and posts to target teens on social media2. This can lead to negative outcomes such as2:

·  Food marketing messages are linked to the purchasing and consumption of less nutritious foods in teens.

·  The most common foods marketed to teens are salty snacks, confectionary products, and sugar sweetened beverages.

·  Food marketing leads to the awareness of those products, which affects attitudes and preferences, which ultimately leads to the purchase and consumption of the marketed foods.

So, if it seems almost inevitable that we will be exposed to this food marketing regularly, what can we do about it? It’s important to be aware of and to combat these influences so that we can use our own knowledge and beliefs to make the decisions that are right for us, not necessarily right for a business.

Here are some tips for remaining aware of and challenging food marketing1:

·  Question everything you see!

·  Ask yourself “why do I want to purchase this product?” Is it because it is a food that aligns with your personal nutrition goals and preferences? Or is it because the packaging looks nice, or you saw a picture of it online?

·  Look at where food messages are coming from and ask yourself “is this source reliable?” or “are they nutrition experts?”

·  When in doubt, look for more information, so that you can make the decision that is right for you.

Food marketing is prevalent in many settings where children are present3, and it is important that we foster healthy habits and critical thinking skills within them through positive role modelling. While we don’t have much control over what we are exposed to, we do have control over how we react to it.


1. Canada, H. Marketing can influence your food choices. Canada Food Guide (2020). Available at: (Accessed: 11th May 2022) 

2. Elliott, C., Truman, E. & Aponte-Hao, S. Food marketing to teenagers: Examining the power and platforms of food and Beverage Marketing in Canada. Appetite 173, 105999 (2022).

3. Food marketing exposure and power and their associations with food-related attitudes, beliefs and behaviours: A narrative review. World Health Organization Available at: (Accessed: 11th May 2022)

Written By Emma Wiwchar Edited by Doug Klein

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