A mixed-method examination of food marketing directed towards children in Australian supermarkets
The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of children's food requests, and parents' experiences of food marketing directed towards children, in the supermarket environment. A mixed-method design was used. Firstly, intercept interviews were conducted with parents accompanied by a child/children on exiting supermarkets (sampled from a large regional centre in Australia). Parents were asked about the prevalence and types of food requests by child/children during their supermarket visit and whether they purchased these foods. Secondly, focus groups (n = 13) and telephone interviews (n = 3) were conducted exploring parents' experiences of supermarket shopping with children and the impact of child-directed marketing. Of the 158 intercept survey participants (30% response rate), 73% reported a food request during the supermarket visit. Most requested food items (88%) were unhealthy foods, with chocolate/confectionery being the most common food category requested (40%). Most parents (70%) purchased at least one food item requested during the shopping trip. Qualitative interviews identified four themes associated with food requests and prompts in the supermarket: parents' experience of pester power in the supermarket; prompts for food requests in the supermarket; parental responses to pestering in the supermarket environment, and; strategies to manage pestering and minimize requests for food items. Food requests from children are common during supermarket shopping. Despite the majority of the requests being unhealthy, parents often purchase these foods. Parents reported difficulties dealing with constant requests and expressed desire for environmental changes including confectionery-free checkouts, minimization of child friendly product placement and reducing children's exposure to food marketing.