Objective To explore and categorise the nature of promotional claims on packaging of commercial baby foods (CBFs).
Methodology An online survey of CBFs (for infants up to 12+ months) in 7 UK supermarkets and Amazon in 2020. On-pack promotions were classified as marketing, composition, health, and nutrient claims using the WHO Nutrient Profile Model draft for infants and young children, and European Union regulation on health and nutrition claims.
Main outcome measure Distribution and proportion of claim types, and association between product characteristics and claim types.
Results A total of 6265 promotional claims were identified on 724 products. Marketing (99%, n=720), composition (97%, n=705) and nutrient claims (85%, n=616) were found on the majority of CBFs, compared with health claims (6%, n=41). The median (Q1, Q3) number of total claims per product was 9 (7, 10), marketing 5 (3, 6), composition 2 (1, 2), nutrient 2 (1, 2), and 0 (0, 0) health. Marketing claims were mainly texture (84%, n=609, eg, super smooth) and taste related (70%, n=511, eg, first tastes). The main composition claim was organic (63%, n=457) while nutrient claims were mainly around ‘no added’ or ‘less’ sugar (58%, n=422) and salt (57%, n=417). Baby led weaning claims (BLW) (eg, encourages self-feeding) were found on 72% of snacks, with a significantly higher (p<0.01) number of BLW claims on snacks (99%, n=209) compared with other product types.
Conclusion Promotional claims on CBF packaging are extensively used and, for the most part, unregulated. CBFs are promoted using ‘healthy halo’ connotations that might confuse parents. Regulations on their use should be implemented to avoid inappropriate marketing.
- child health
- infant development
Data availability statement
Data are available upon reasonable request. Data are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.
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Contributors ALG conceived the study design, supervised data collection and analysis and is responsible for the overall content as the guarantor. RM collected data, undertook analyses, and produced the first draft of the paper. AP helped plan the study and supervised the analyses and write up. All authors contributed to successive drafts, and have approved the final draft.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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