Canada's food guide

Marketing can influence your food choices

It is important to be aware of marketing because it can influence your food choices.

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Food marketing and you

Food marketing is advertising that promotes the sale of certain food or food products. Many foods and drinks that are marketed can contribute too much sodium, sugars or saturated fat to our eating patterns.

Food marketing can take on many forms, such as:

  • branding
  • sponsorship of events
  • celebrity endorsements
  • contests and sales promotions
  • social media posts on:
    • Twitter
    • Pinterest
    • Snapchat
    • Facebook
    • Instagram
  • commercials
    • on TV
    • on the radio
    • on the internet
    • before the start of movies
  • product placement
    • on TV
    • in movies
    • in magazines
    • on social media posts
    • in music lyrics and videos

Newer forms of marketing like sponsored posts on social media can be more difficult to recognize. This can make it hard to know when you are being advertised to.

Marketing can also be targeted to you based on your personal data, like your:

  • age and gender
  • purchasing history
  • web browsing history

Behavioural advertising tracks your personal data and online activities over time in order to deliver targeted ads.

How food marketing can affect your food choices

Food marketing is all around us. You likely receive a constant stream of changing and often conflicting messages about food. This can make it hard to make healthy food choices.

Food marketing can impact you in many different ways. It is designed to:

  • create food trends
  • encourage you to:
    • buy certain foods or drinks
    • buy foods in order to get promotional items such as:
      • loyalty points
      • tickets to movies or sports events
      • coupons for future food purchases
  • create links between certain foods or brands and a particular lifestyle
  • build brand loyalty so you will continue to purchase from a particular store or products with a brand name

Benefits of being aware of food marketing

Being aware of food marketing is a food skill that can help you:

  • recognize when foods are being marketed to you
  • decide whether a food item is healthy by using food labels rather than relying on marketing messages alone
  • teach those who may be more vulnerable to food marketing, like young children and teens, about marketing techniques

How to be aware of food marketing when making food choices

Use these tips to help you make an informed choice:

Use food labels.

Stick to your grocery list and avoid impulse buys.

Question why you want to purchase a certain food or drink. Do you think:

  • it’s cool?
  • it’s healthy?
  • it will improve your mood?
  • it will provide nutritional benefit?

Question what form of marketing you got these ideas from, like:

  • a sponsored blog post
  • a celebrity endorsement
  • messages on the product itself

Explore ways to lessen your exposure to ads. Try:

  • limiting screen time
  • using ad-free platforms
  • downloading software that limits advertising and pop-ups

Learn about:

  • what you can do to protect your privacy
  • how your online browsing history can be used to send you targeted ads

Before you share or like content online like a video, game, blog or quiz ask:

  • if you really want to share a promotion for a food or drink product

Talk with those around you about the effects of marketing. Ask each other:

  • whether you have ever purchased foods even if you did not intend to and why you think that is
  • what strategies you use to help limit your exposure to food marketing

Visit the Food guide for life for tips to:

  • Be aware of food marketing
  • Make healthy choices when eating out

For more information

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