FMCG giant Unilever has announced that it will stop the marketing and advertising of its products to children by the end of this year, amid concerns about rising global obesity rates.

The company noted in a blog post that the World Health Organization has identified childhood obesity as one of the most serious public health issues of the 21st century and, consequently, Unilever is updating its principles for marketing food and beverages to youngsters.

By the end of 2020, Unilever will no longer target marketing to children under the age of 12 across traditional media or to children aged under 13 on social media (Facebook and other major social networks don’t allow users under that age).

In addition, the company – whose extensive portfolio of brands includes Wall’s ice cream and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream – said it would implement “strict controls” around the placement and content of its ads.

This includes a promise not to use any influencers, celebrities or social media stars who appeal primarily to children under the age of 12. Unilever also will limit the use of cartoon characters in its advertising – and where cartoons are used, that will only be for “products with a specific nutritional profile”.

“It’s a move designed to help parents, caregivers and kids make informed choices about the food and drinks they buy, and to address the rise of social media, and the vast increase in products on sale,” the blog post read.

Wall’s, whose popular brands include Max and Twister, will spearhead the initiative and become the first global ice cream brand with a ‘Responsibility Made for Kids’ promise that will be displayed across its point-of-sale communications, such as product packs.

Unilever, which has steadily built up a reputation for sustainability over recent years, also promised that every ice cream in its children’s range will contain no more than 110 calories and a maximum of 12g of sugar per portion.

“Our promise is a genuine commitment to make and market products to children responsibly,” said Matt Close, EVP of Unilever’s global ice cream business.

Sourced from Unilever; additional content by WARC staff