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Food Marketing and the preschool child

Project Reference: 09-2010

Status: Completed

Commencement Date: January, 2011

Project Duration: 36 months


The overall aim of the project was to investigate the level and types of exposure of young children to marketing of unhealthy food and to examine its influence on family food purchases and children’s nutritional status. A literature review explored the relationship between food marketing practices and children’s diets, explored methodologies in this domain and examined current policies globally.

  • A survey of food advertising and marketing channels used to target preschool children on the Island of Ireland provided a greater understanding of the various marketing strategies used to promote food, particularly to preschool children
  • A detailed content analysis of the principle marketing channels used to target preschool children was carried out to assess their exposure to marketing messages for unhealthy and healthy foods
  • Childcare workers’ and teachers’ understanding of the intent of advertising and its influence on children’s food choice was assessed to examine whether marketing messages are actively promoted in the preschool/school setting
  • A study of preschool children and their parents was conducted to determine the children’s understanding of nutrition, their ability to absorb information from marketing and to identify parents’ perception of the influences of advertising on young children’s food choice/demands
  • Preschool children’s understanding of the purpose of advertising, what information they take from advertisements, whether they remember that information and whether they can distinguish an advertisement from a programme was examined
  • A qualitative study established parents’ understanding of the intent of advertising specifically and its influence on their children’s food choice, and also to provide parents with the necessary knowledge and skills to mediate the effects of food advertising
  • A survey tool examined parental attitudes and experiences of food advertising and its impact on diet habits of preschool children

Principal Contractor(s):

Prof Patrick Wall, University College Dublin


Prof Barbara Livingstone, University of Ulster

Dr Moira Dean, Queen’s University Belfast



Food marketing to preschool children

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