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Nutritional quality and child-oriented marketing of breakfast cereals in Guatemala



Food marketing has been implicated as an important driver of obesity. However, few studies have examined food marketing in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This study documents the prevalence of advertising on cereal boxes in Guatemala and examines associations between various marketing strategies and nutritional quality.


One box from all available cereals was purchased from a supermarket located in an urban area in Guatemala City, Guatemala. A content analysis was performed to document child-oriented marketing practices, product claims and health-evoking images. The Nutrient Profile Model (NPM) was used to calculate an overall nutrition score for each cereal (the higher the score, the lower the nutritional quality).


In all, 106 cereals were purchased, and half of the cereals featured child-oriented marketing (54, 50.9%). Cereals had a mean (±s.d.) of 5.10±2.83 product claims per cereal, and most cereals (102, 96.2%) contained health-evoking images. Child-oriented cereals had, on average, higher NPM scores (13.0±0.55 versus 7.90±0.74, P<0.001) and sugar content (10.1±0.48 versus 6.19±0.50 g/30 g, P<0.001) compared with non-child oriented cereals. Cereals with health claims were not significantly healthier than those without claims.


In Guatemala, cereals targeting children were generally of poor nutritional quality. Cereals displaying health claims were also not healthier than those without such claims. Our findings support the need for regulations restricting the use of child-oriented marketing and health claims for certain products.

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We are grateful to Dr David R Williams, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Dr Kirsten Davison, Department of Nutrition and Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who provided feedback on the methods and analysis for the present study. This work was carried out with the aid of a grant from the International Development Research Centre, Ottawa. JB receives additional support from an unrestricted grant from the American Cancer Society and the Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital. CR receives financial support from the RWJF Health and Society Scholars program.

Author contributions

JS contributed to the study design, conducted the data analysis and led the writing. PL contributed to the study design and data collection. VC contributed to the study design and data collection. JB helped interpret the data and provided critical feedback on drafts of the manuscript. CR contributed to the study design, helped interpret the data, and provided critical feedback on drafts of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to J Barnoya.

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Soo, J., Letona, P., Chacon, V. et al. Nutritional quality and child-oriented marketing of breakfast cereals in Guatemala. Int J Obes 40, 39–44 (2016).

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