Unilever unveils tighter youth marketing policies

The company will not advertise food and beverages to children under 16, including through influencer content.

Unilever is updating its advertising commitments, announcing it will stop marketing food and beverages to children under 16.

In 2020, Unilever stopped marketing and advertising foods and beverages to children under the age of 12 in traditional media, and under 13 on social media. It also stopped the use of influencers, celebrities or social media stars who “primarily appeal to children under the age of 12.”

This morning’s announcement raises the threshold for those policies to the age of 16. It also adds the provision that it will not collect or store data on children under the age of 16, as well as “providing clear and prominent disclosure of provisions to influencers and limiting child appeal to influencer content.”

The principles will apply across Unilever’s food and refreshment portfolio. While brands like Hellmann’s, Knorr or Lipton might not seem like they have the highest level of youth appeal, that portfolio also includes ice cream brands Ben & Jerry’s, Breyers, Klondike and Magnum.

“Recognising the power that social media and influencer marketing can have on children’s choices, we believe it’s important to raise the bar on responsible marketing to a minimum age of 16 years old across both traditional and social media,” says Matt Close, president Ice Cream, Unilever.

By making these changes, Close says, the company’s goal is to also continue to reduce children’s exposure to advertising from the food and beverage industry overall, and instead support parents to select appropriate treats, to be enjoyed periodically.

The compliance deadline for brands globally is January 2023.

Last summer, Canadian food and beverage associations announced a Code for Responsible Advertising of Food and Beverage Products to Children, a self-regulatory response to concerns around the Bill S-228 debate. It was at the time supported by The Association of Canadian Advertisers, The Canadian Beverage Association, Food, Health & Consumer Products of Canada, and Restaurants Canada, with members having until summer 2023 to reach compliance.