The influence of advertising on the pattern of food consumption in the UK

Martyn Duffy

This paper addresses the question: can firms in the food processing industry influence household diet, for better or for worse, through their advertising campaigns? This issue is investigated through the estimation of an advertising-augmented Rotterdam model for 11 broad food groupings using time series data spanning the 1969-1996 period in the UK. The econometric estimates reveal no evidence of advertising affecting the demand for food as a whole at the expense of non-food demand. There is almost no evidence of advertising affecting the product composition of any given level of total food demand.


This paper examines the influence of food advertising in the UK upon consumer preferences and behaviour across 11 broad product categories. The scale of advertising in this sector is substantial, as can be seen from the summary statistics presented in Table 1. Notable features of the figures in that table include the large proportions of total food advertising which are devoted to the promotion of sugar, confectionery and soft drinks brands. In comparison, very little is spent on advertising, for example, fish and fruit.