Energy Drinks Have Become The Social Currency Of The Playground

The truth about how children are being targeted by big food companies

I’m Clemmie and I am super excited to be updating you on our new campaign: Fuel Us Don’t Fool Us. We may be in exam season (eeeekkkk) but here at Bite Back we are continuing to push on in our fight for a fairer food system.

I used to blame myself for my food choices, stuck in a loop of continually seeing food as “good” or “bad” and feeling frustrated with myself when I would consume what I was told was bad for me. However, after seeing our latest research that highlighted how seven of the top ten businesses are using child-appealing packaging for healthy foods, my mind changed. I feel enraged when I think of how my friends, both suffering both from food-related ill health and devastating psychological issues with food, feel a sense of personal guilt when — in reality — billion dollar companies have sat around a board table deliberately scheming on how best to get us to consume their products. It is not fair that we are made to question our food choices, to anguish ourselves over them, when we are pitted against a million dollar industry that is forcing this food down my throat.

Vin and Jacob at Brand Launch event September 2023

That is why I am so passionate about our new campaign. It makes me reassess the sneaky tactics of the food industry in my everyday life. For example, the other day at school during a briefing for a peer-mentoring scheme, the teacher in charge warned us of the current troubles in year seven, the biggest being some kids who have been selling Prime energy drink on the school’s ‘black market’, trying to undercut the prices of other sugary drinks in the canteen. It’s the drink of the moment because its manufacturers have paid YouTubers a fortune to splash it all over their channels. I have to admit, at first I laughed when I heard about these 11-year-old entrepreneurs. My friends and I did something similar at that age, trying to make a profit from reselling Freddo frogs. But then I considered this more and realised: these sweet foods and drinks have become our social currency, it’s them — rather than football or Harry Potter cards — that the coolest kids want to trade.

I don’t have a younger sibling but I frequently babysit an eleven year old girl and her six year old brother. The other day, whilst I was (as-passionately-as-I-could) trying to engage them in a board game, I couldn’t stop them arguing over the plastic toy hidden in a Kinder surprise egg. One of them apparently got the plastic cat that they had both wanted. They begged me to give them both another chocolate egg so they can both get another toy. Companies such as Ferrero — who produce Kinder surprise — say they don’t market to children. Are they really filling their sugar-filled products with plastic toys to appeal to a 50 year old man? No. These are clearly manipulative tactics to target young people, and I see in my everyday life how successfully pervasive they are.

Maya and Dev Stunt Day February 2024 Reaction to junk food

It should anger you that this is the food system we are facing — companies that are placing their profits above our health. They market their products as cool, as trends, as something young people should aspire to have but in reality they are partially responsible for 1/3 of young people being at risk of having their lives impacted, or cut short, from food-related illness.

The good news — these issues are totally preventable, we just need the Government and businesses to step up to the challenge. It would make my day if you could please sign our open letter to the heads of 10 global (eg. mega-powerful) food companies to help instigate this change.

Well, that was a lot. I hope you feel both as infuriated and motivated to make change as I do!

Clemmie.

Author Bio

Clemmie

When Clemmie's not whipping up a culinary storm in the kitchen, life is all about paving a better future for her generation. Whether that's through babysitting, where she sees the "ominous forces of junk food giants" worming their way into young children's lives, or fighting back against the food system. "It infuriates me when I see my friends anguish themselves over their own food choices when, in reality, financialised companies have invested millions in how best to force us into consuming their products — placing their profits above our health," says London-based Clemmie.

Harrison cropped

TELL BIG FOOD CEOS: PROTECT OUR HEALTH

If you want to see an end to sinister child appealing marketing, then sign our open letter today.