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Race, Marketing, & Markets / Publication Abstract

Black Community Conversations About Opposing Ethnically Targeted Marketing of Unhealthy Foods and Beverages

Aug 20, 2021

Tiffany M Eaton, Shiriki Kumanyika, Katherine Isselmann DiSantis, Kenna Yadeta, Sonya Grier

Race, Marketing, & Markets
Health & Nutrition


Efforts to reduce disparities in obesity prevalence affecting Black Americans are having limited success. One reason for this may be the disproportionate, ethnically targeted marketing of foods and beverages high in fat and sugar (FBHFS) to Black consumers. Such marketing promotes high consumption of FBHFS, leading to excess caloric intake and unintentional weight gain. We convened focus groups with Black men and women (total n = 57) in collaboration with community groups in three localities to elicit their views, as consumers and parents/caregivers, about targeted FBHFS marketing and potential ways to combat it. At each location, trained community members facilitated two sets of focus groups: one for adults aged 18 to 25 years and another for adults aged 26 to 55 years who had a 3-to-17-year-old child at home. Each group met twice to discuss food and beverage marketing practices to Black communities and reviewed a booklet about ethnically targeted marketing tactics in between. A directed content analysis of participant comments identified and explored salient themes apparent from initial summarization of results. Results show how parents are concerned with and critical of pervasive FBHFS marketing. In particular, comments emphasize the involvement of Black celebrities in FBHFS marketing—how and why they engage in such marketing and whether this could be shifted towards healthier foods. These findings suggest a potential role for counter marketing efforts focused on Black celebrity endorsements of FBHFS, possibly with a youth focus. They also underscore the need for additional, qualitative exploration of Black consumer views of ethnically targeted FBHFS marketing more generally.

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