Digital marketing exposure increases energy drink usage among young adults

Online marketing of unhealthy foods requires greater scrutiny, according to a new study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior


Philadelphia, October 5, 2018

Energy drinks represent a new category of nonalcoholic beverage with global sales of over USD 50 billion. Containing caffeine as a main ingredient, energy drinks are a central part of partying and sporting culture. A new study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found that digital marketing of energy drinks was more persuasive with young adults than other marketing methods.

“Consumption of energy drinks is a public health concern in children and young adults because they may cause dental problems, cardiovascular and neurological issues, and in rare cases, death,” said lead author Limin Buchanan, PhD candidate, School of Health and Society, Early Start, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia. “Because Internet usage among this age group is so prevalent, digital marketing of unhealthy food and beverages may have a greater effect.”

To study this possibility, researchers recruited 359 young adults from the New South Wales region through flyers, online ads, and mentions in lectures. The group was primarily middle-class students who worked part-time. Over half of the student subjects had consumed energy drinks. They were asked to take a 44-question survey asking about exposure to and engagement with energy drink marketing, attitudes toward energy drink use, and frequency of consuming energy drinks. The results identified differences between users and non-users, although few respondents reported high levels of energy drink consumption.

Energy drink users reported both greater exposure to and engagement with digital marketing than non-users. While exposure alone was not a significant predictor of energy drink usage, engagement with digital marketing did increase usage. Examples of engagement include clicking on a social media ad or playing an online game. This engagement also increased their attitude towards the normalcy of energy drinks and their perceived likelihood to use energy drinks when pressured by peers. However, the study also showed that impact of digital marketing engagement was mediated by young adults’ attitudes against energy drink usage and its normalcy, indicating that enhancing nutrition education knowledge among these individuals may reduce the effects of such marketing.

“Public health professionals have advocated for stronger regulations on marketing unhealthy foods to children through traditional media,” said Ms. Buchanan. “This advocacy could be expanded to include restrictions on digital marketing to young adults based on current research. Future nutrition education interventions may focus on strategies to lessen the appeal of energy drinks, denormalize energy drink use, and strengthen young adults’ ability to reject this drink option when with peers.”

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Notes for editors
The article is “Digital Promotion of Energy Drinks to Young Adults is More Strongly Linked to Consumption Than Other Media,” by Limin Buchanan, BSc (Hons); Heather Yeatman, DPH; Bridget Kelly, PhD; Kishan Kariippanon, MD, MPH (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2018.05.022). It appears in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, volume 50, issue 9 (October 2018) published by Elsevier.

Full text of the article is available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Eileen Leahy at +1 732 238 3628 or jnebmedia@elsevier.com to obtain copies. To schedule an interview with Limin Buchanan, School of Health and Society, Early Start, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia, please contact her at +612 4221 5643 or limin1026@gmail.com.

An audio podcast featuring an interview with Limin Buchanan and information for journalists are located at www.jneb.org/content/podcast. Excerpts from the podcast may be reproduced by the media; contact Eileen Leahy to obtain permission.

About the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB)
The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB), the official journal of the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB), is a refereed, scientific periodical that serves as a resource for all professionals with an interest in nutrition education and dietary/physical activity behaviors. The purpose of JNEB is to document and disseminate original research, emerging issues, and practices relevant to nutrition education and behavior worldwide and to promote healthy, sustainable food choices. It supports the society’s efforts to disseminate innovative nutrition education strategies, and communicate information on food, nutrition, and health issues to students, professionals, policy makers, targeted audiences, and the public.

The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior features articles that provide new insights and useful findings related to nutrition education research, practice, and policy. The content areas of JNEB reflect the diverse interests of health, nutrition, education, Cooperative Extension, and other professionals working in areas related to nutrition education and behavior. As the Society's official journal, JNEB also includes occasional policy statements, issue perspectives, and member communications. www.jneb.org

About Elsevier
Elsevier is a global information analytics business that helps institutions and professionals advance healthcare, open science and improve performance for the benefit of humanity. Elsevier provides digital solutions and tools in the areas of strategic research management, R&D performance, clinical decision support and professional education, including ScienceDirect, Scopus, SciVal, ClinicalKey and Sherpath. Elsevier publishes over 2,500 digitized journals, including The Lancet and Cell, more than 38,000 e-book titles and many iconic reference works, including Gray's Anatomy. Elsevier is part of RELX Group, a global provider of information and analytics for professionals and business customers across industries. www.elsevier.com

Media contact
Eileen Leahy
Elsevier
+1 732 238 3628
jnebmedia@elsevier.com