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Championing global commitments that ensure no food marketing to under-16s

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We’re raising the age for restricting marketing of foods and beverages to kids aged 13–16. It’s one of our enhanced principles recognising the influence of adverts on digital and social channels and supporting parents in the selection of permissible treats for their family.

Close-up of a young girl on a beach eating a green and white ice lolly

We live in an ever-more digitalised world, and while traditional media such as TV, above-the-line and retail points of sale still have a strong role to play in advertising, brands and their audiences are increasingly engaging and interacting on social and digital channels.

For more than 15 years, self-regulation in the food and beverage industry has supported responsible marketing to children. In fact, Unilever was one of the first to apply principles for marketing to children.

But as our industry and audiences evolve, we continue to challenge ourselves to set the bar higher. We have worked hard to strengthen the industry’s collective criteria for responsible marketing. For example, it has seen us create, among many other initiatives, the #Unstereotype standards that increase diversity and inclusion in the creators and content of our ads.

Now we are going even further and championing a commitment to new global principles for responsible marketing to children.

Working to raise the bar for responsible marketing to children

In our connected world, children learn online. At 12–13 years of age, on average, a child gets their first smartphone. From 13, they can enter the world of social media, creating their own content and engaging with and following influencers on platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, YouTube or Facebook.

We understand that children are increasingly exposed to online promotional content from a broad range of industries. So, from 1 January 2023, Unilever will stop marketing and advertising food and beverages to children under the age of 16 years old across both traditional media and social media channels.

As always, our marketing and point-of-sale communications will comply with all relevant country laws and regulations as well as self-regulatory codes that guide us. In some markets, including, for example, the UK and Portugal, existing codes and laws mean that these new principles are already either partially met, fully met or exceeded. But for most countries across the globe this is a major step forward.

Recognising and reacting to the power of social media influence

The principles will apply across Unilever’s foods and refreshment portfolio which includes ice cream. “We believe that people deserve a treat from time to time,” says Matt Close, Unilever’s President of Ice Cream. “We are committed to market these treats responsibly. That means we need to recognise the power of social media and influencer marketing on children’s choices – and address it.”

In fact, our consumer insights have revealed that outside main meals, children consume around 12 snacks a day and eat ice cream five times more often than adults. Our insights have also highlighted that 88% of these snacks are consumed with other people and at these moments, children are the key decision-makers.

Clear packaging signposting to help inform decisions

Our new marketing approach has been designed to support parents and caregivers in identifying the permissible treats we offer for children without compromising on excitement.

Products included are our ice cream products such as Twister, Paddle Pop, Mini Milk and our Disney range, as well Horlicks health food drinks and Maizena porridges.

Our ice cream promise, ‘Responsibly Made for Kids’, ensures that products are responsibly sold in a way that allows parents and caregivers to make informed choices. The promise also ensures that products are responsibly developed to excite and reward kids with an ice cream made according to Unilever’s Highest Nutritional Standards, and that all of this is responsibly communicated in marketing that adheres to our new enhanced principles.

“It’s our goal is to continue to reduce children’s exposure to advertising from the food and beverage industry and to support parents instead,” says Matt. “This way, caregivers are put back in the driving seat as decision-makers when it comes to their kids having a treat.”


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