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In a story reported by Bloomberg News, a marketing executive was quoted as saying that "trend setting is often led by the ethnic consumer. Obtaining ethnic consumers' preferences help shape fast food menus and ad choices, which are then marketed to all customers."

Source: Bloomberg Business Week, July 2010 Website:

A beverage company marketing executive was quoted saying that "teens really are the future of America, and African-American teens, in particular, have proven to be trendsetters in the U.S. Their ability to shape culture is really critical."

Source: Ad Age, July 2009 Website:

  • Teens have the power to change food trends
  • Spending by black Americans has a major impact on the market
  • Marketing of fast-food and sugar sweetened beverages – more is not better
  • Extra sugar with little benefit
  • Fast and cheap food to go—not such a good deal

Teens have the power to change food trends?

Teens have significant buying power — both spending their own money and influencing what their family members buy.1

The total income of teens combined is expected to increase and reach $91 billion in 2011.2

African American youth may account for half of all young Americans by 2050.

Spending by black Americans has a major impact on the Market

Black teens outspend their peers by 10-25% in virtually every consumer category related to disposable income.3

By 2012, the buying power of black Americans is projected to grow to more than $1 trillion.4

Fast-Food & Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Marketing – More is not better?

More marketing of SSBs and high-calorie fast foods is directed to black Americans compared to other racial and ethnic groups. This may encourage more consumption of these foods and beverages.5,6

Fast-food restaurants are especially likely to be located in predominantly black and low-income neighborhoods, compared to other neighborhood. Therefore, people in these neighborhoods have more access to these foods.7

On the other hand, predominantly black and low-income communities have fewer supermarkets and full service restaurants compared to other communities.8 This means relatively less access to places that sell healthier foods.

Why do people with major spending power not have the same choices as people in other neighborhoods?

What is the point of health experts telling people to buy healthy food if the closest choices and best deals are just the opposite?

Take a closer look at what is being heavily promoted to black teens and their families.

Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) – Extra Sugar with Little Benefit

Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) are beverages with added sugars, also known as caloric sweeteners (e.g., corn sweetener, corn syrup, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, maltose and malt syrup, etc.).

These beverages include:

  • sodas and other carbonated soft drinks
  • fruit drinks or 'ades' (diluted fruit juice with added sweeteners)
  • sports and energy drinks
  • vitamin water drinks
  • sweetened milk or milk alternatives
  • sweetened tea and many blended coffee drinks

SSBs are one of the largest contributors to calorie intake in the United States but most have no nutritional value.9

More than 8 out of 10 teens drink some type of SSB every day. Daily calories consumed from SSBs was lower among black and Mexican American teens in 1990 but increased over the next 10 years to be the same as in white teens—around 300 calories per day.10

A habit of drinking a SSB daily, or even more than one serving once a day may seem normal but it can lead to health problems down the line.

  • Increased SSB consumption is associated with developing diabetes, obesity, and other health related conditions.11,12,13
  • As an estimate, daily consumption of a 12-ounce SSB could lead to as much as a 15-lb weight gain in one year.14
  • Drinking SSBs has been linked to tooth decay.15

Blacks have a higher prevalence of heart disease, diabetes, and deaths at a young age due to these diseases compared to whites.16,17

What are the long-term effects of continuing to buy these products?

Why do marketers put so much emphasis on selling SSBs to teens?

Why is there more marketing of SSBs to black Americans?

Fast and cheap food to go –not such a good deal

Fast-food restaurants are defined as chain restaurants that have two or more of the following characteristics: expedited food service, takeout business, limited or no wait staff, and payment tendered prior to receiving food.18

Between 1997 and 2006, the proportion of fast-food restaurants out of total restaurants nearly doubled to 30%.19

Fast-food restaurants rely on the billion-dollar flavor industry, which manufactures the chemicals that give distinctive flavors to processed foods.20

Research has shown that greater access to fast-food restaurants is associated with greater obesity risk.21


1. Power of the Young A Look At Teens and Their Video Usage. Cable 1st Report August 26, 2011

2. The Teens Market in the U.S. Packaged Facts 2007. Accessed:August 26, 2011

3. Teenmark, GFK Mediamark Research & Intelligence, 2007. Accessed: August 26, 2011.

4. 2008 African American / Black Market Profile.  Magazine Publishers of America. New York Assessed: June 30, 2011

5. Harris JL, Bargh JA, Brownell KD. Priming effects of television food advertising on eating behavior. Health Psychol. 2009;28:404-13.

6. McGinnis JM, Gootman, J.A., Kraak, V.I., ed. Food Marketing to Children and Youth. Threat or Opportunity: National Academies Press; 2006.

7. Block  J, Scribner R, DeSalvo K. Fast food, race/ethnicity, and income: A geographic analysis. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2004; 27(3);211-217.

8. Kumanyika S, Grier S. “Targeting interventions for ethnic minority and low-income populations,” The Future of Children, Vol. 16, No. 1, Spring 2006.

9. Block G. Foods contributing to energy intake in the US: Data from NHANES III and NHANES 1999 – 2000. Journal of Food Consumption and Analysis, 2004; 17, 439-447.

10. Wang YC, Bleich SN, Gortmaker SL. Increasing caloric contribution from sugar-sweetened beverages and 100% fruit juices among US children and adolescents, 1988-2004. Pediatrics, 2008;121(6):e1604-1614.

11. Henderson VR, Kelly B. Food advertising in the age of obesity: content analysis of food advertising on general market and African American television. J Nutr Educ Behav, 2005;37:191-6.

12. Powell LM, Szczypka G, Chaloupka FJ. Trends in exposure to television food advertisements among children and adolescents in the United States. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med, 2010;164(9):794-802.

13. Tirodkar MA, Jain A. Food messages on African American television shows. Am J Public Health, 2003;93:439-41.

15. Moynihan P, Petersen PE. Diet, nutrition and the prevention of dental diseases. Public Health Nutr., 2004;7:201-26.

16. American Heart Association. The American Heart Association Web page: 2009. Published 2010. Accessed March 15, 2010.

17. National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2009: With Special Feature on Medical Technology. The National Center for Health Statistics Web page: Accessed July 15, 2011.

18. Block JP, Scribner RA, DeSalvo KB. Fast food, race/ethnicity, and income: A geographic analysis. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2004 Oct;27(3):211-7.

19. Powell L, Chaloupka F, Bao Y. The availability of fast-food and full-service restaurants in the United States: Associations with neighborhood characteristics. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2007;33(4);S240-S245.

20. Grier SA, Mensinger J, Huang SH, Kumanyika SK, Stettler N.  Fast-Food Marketing and Children's Fast-Food Consumption: Exploring Parents' Influences in an Ethnically Diverse Sample Journal of Public Policy & Marketing Vol. 26 (2) Fall 2007, 221–235

21.  Bodor J, Rice J, Farley T, Swalm C, Rose D. The association between obesity and urban food environments. Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the  New York Academy of Medicine, 2010; 87(5),771-781.

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