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Advertisers: Trix aren't for kids


"The twinkie driving the bus is CLEARLY an adult," said a Hostess spokesperson.

The makers of Hostess Twinkies, Nestle Crunch, and Little Debbie cakes have come up with an unexpected response to critics who blame them for marketing junk food to kids: denial.

"Hostess is not a kids' brand," says Jacques Roizen, chief marketing officer for Interstate Bakeries Corp., maker of Hostess snack cakes and fruit pies. "A majority of our snacks are consumed by adults."

The target customer for Baby Ruth candy bars? "Definitely adult men," says Barb Skoog, spokeswoman for Nestlé SA.

What about the Hostess Twinkes sold last year with green filling, in conjunction with the video release of Shrek 2? Roizen doesn't consider that marketing to kids because the movie "appeals to all ages."

In its defense, Roizen's company also claims that 53% of households that purchase Twinkies have no children. Even if you accept that as true, so what?  No doubt a large percentage of adults who eat Twinkies first developed the habit when they were kids. I mean, that's one of the main reasons so many companies target kids in the first time: once you've sold them on your product, you've got a nice, long period to reap the gains.

(Via the Wall Street Journal)

Snack Foods' New Marketing Sweet Spot: Grown-Ups

April 12, 2005; Page B1

Hostess Twinkies aren't really for kids. Neither are Nestlé Crunch bars or Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies, according to the companies that make them. The marketers say they have a better audience: grown-ups.

With food companies being targeted in the growth of childhood obesity, some are shifting their advertising strategies. They're insisting that their products -- staples of school lunchboxes and trick-or-treat offerings -- are really geared more toward moms and dads.

In the 1950s, the puppet Howdy Doody pitched creme-filled Twinkies on the classic children's television show. Now, "Hostess is not a kids' brand," says Jacques Roizen, chief marketing officer for Interstate Bakeries Corp., maker of Hostess snack cakes and fruit pies. "A majority of our snacks are consumed by adults."

The target customer for Baby Ruth candy bars? "Definitely adult men," says Barb Skoog, spokeswoman for Nestlé SA. McKee Foods Corp., maker of Little Debbie Nutty Bars and Oatmeal Creme Pies, says women ages 18 to 45 are its key buyers -- even though they're eaten by consumers of all ages. A spokeswoman for the company, Ruth Garren, points out that it gets letters praising the treats from nursing-home residents. "A lot of adults have them in their lunches," Ms. Garren says.

Some people aren't buying it. "That's almost laughable," says Sen. Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who has blamed junk-food ads for contributing to rising childhood obesity rates. He estimates the food industry spent $10 billion last year advertising directly to children. (See related article.)

Referring to promotions that employ characters from the "Shrek" and "Scooby-Doo" movies, he says, "I don't know that they would really use these if they were really marketing to adults."

Sen. Harkin plans to introduce two pieces of legislation if food companies don't on their own create new guidelines for advertising to children. One would give the Federal Trade Commission the power to prevent food companies from advertising junk food to kids. The other would grant the U.S secretary of agriculture authority to curb junk-food advertising in schools.

For years, food companies have unabashedly pitched junk food to children, running sugary-cereal spots during cartoons and tying kids' movies to fast-food promotions. But rising childhood obesity rates have turned food makers into targets for criticism -- and made them increasingly careful about their marketing.
Hostess ads once used Marvel heroes.


"I've never seen our clients more sensitive to the issues around kid marketing," says George Carey, president of Just Kid Inc., which helps companies develop strategies to reach the youth market. Many companies that can profitably aim snacks and treats at adults rather than children are doing so, he says.

Kraft Foods Inc.'s announcement in January that it would stop advertising Oreo cookies and other treats to kids under 12 has put the food giant's competitors on the defensive. General Mills Inc. and Kellogg Co., two big children's advertisers, so far have not announced plans to cut back on marketing aimed at children.

Still, food companies have been quietly tweaking certain pitches over the past several years to deflect complaints. In November, Masterfoods USA said it would stop advertising that its Shrek Colors M&M's Minis candies were available "for a limited time" because it created a sense of eating urgency. The change came after the Council of Better Business Bureaus Inc.'s Children's Advertising Review Unit, a watchdog group, asked Masterfoods to modify the advertisement.

CARU also asked H.J. Heinz Co. to eliminate the line "The more you scarf, the better your chances" from promotions for a 2003 sweepstakes for the company's Bagel Bites frozen snacks. CARU was concerned the slogan encouraged kids to overeat. Heinz said the promotion was aimed at consumers over the age of 12, but dropped the line anyway.

Food companies are realizing that it's sometimes easier and more effective to appeal to adults, either as gatekeepers for their children or as the end consumers. Nestlé was aiming to win over grown-ups buying for their kids when it put Scooby-Doo characters on packages of popsicles the company launched this month, says Steven DuPuis, president and creative director of DuPuis, a branding and packaging firm that helped create the box. Parents are familiar with the cartoon because it was popular during the 1970s, he says.

The decision at Interstate Bakeries, Kansas City, Mo., to shift Hostess advertising toward adults comes after decades of campaigns that hooked kids on golden sponge cake and creamy fillings.

In the 1970s, Continental Baking Co., which owned the Hostess brands then, hired illustrators from DC Comics and Marvel Comics to create strips inside comic books in which Batman, Wonder Woman, the Incredible Hulk and other heroes used snack cakes and pies to fend off villains. The comic books' target audience at the time was boys 8 to 13 years old, says Bob Rozakis, a former DC Comics writer who wrote some of the Hostess strips.

Hostess lost some of its luster in the 1980s when new owner Ralston Purina Co. limited advertising to magazines and in-store promotions. When Interstate Bakeries bought the company in 1995, the Hostess brand had missed at least one generation of kids due to the weak marketing, says Steve Gordon, senior vice president at Campbell Mithun, Interstate Bakeries' current ad agency.

The following year, Interstate Bakeries began pouring money into a new ad campaign to win back kids, using bears and raccoons as its ad characters. In one spot, a bear mistakes a yellow mobile home for a Twinkie and rips off its roof in search of the filling. The ads aired on the Nickelodeon TV channel and other networks during the late afternoon. As recently as last summer, the company announced it had chosen 10 finalists -- ages 6 to 11 -- to design a 75th anniversary Twinkie box.

Now the baker says it's retooling its marketing. New managers took over at Interstate Bakeries in September after the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Research showed that 53% of households that purchase Twinkies have no children. Adult males represent a big portion of the consumer base because they grab Ho-Hos and fruit pies when they stop at convenience stores. So the company decided to cut back on campaigns aimed at kids, says Mr. Roizen, the marketing executive.

He says the changes weren't prompted by a desire to be more socially responsible. For Interstate Bakeries, advertising to kids "would just make bad business sense," he says.

This year the company is considering running advertisements in People magazine and on daytime soap operas to reach older consumers and moms who might buy products for their kids. It also is producing an adult-oriented cookbook to mark Twinkies' 75th birthday and has been promoting recipes for Twinkie wedding cakes. The company has no plans to buy advertisements on the Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon or other kid-oriented channels, Mr. Roizen says. Last fall, the company sold Twinkies with green filling tied to the video release of the film "Shrek 2." But Mr. Roizen says that wasn't marketing to kids because the film appeals to all ages.

With a limited postbankruptcy marketing budget, Interstate Bakeries has been relying on free publicity to reach consumers. Mr. Roizen says the company has appealed to television shows for coverage of the Twinkie's 75th birthday this month. Yesterday, it scored with a mention on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Posted by carrie on 04/12/2005 | Permalink


No one is forcing you to eat these products. If I like it and it tastes darn good, I'm having one! No matter how bad it might be for me. Folks, you need to stop looking for excuses and take charge of your own body and what you put in it. You need to be responsible. You don't need to change what products are out there on the market.

Posted by: Ron Bahls | Jun 14, 2007 1:15:44 PM

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