(Reuters) - Food companies spent considerably less to advertise to children in 2009 than they did in 2006, although the foods that were pitched were only slightly more nutritious, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said in a report released on Friday.
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Cereal makers, fast food restaurants and other food companies spent $1.79 billion to advertise to children aged 2 to 17 in 2009, down almost 20 percent, on an inflation-adjusted basis, from $2.1 billion three years earlier, the FTC said.
But that drop came not necessarily because companies were advertising less but because they were switching from more expensive television advertising to cheaper online marketing, the FTC said.
Spending on online, mobile and viral marketing increased by 50 percent, the FTC said.
The FTC also found "modest nutritional improvements" in the foods advertised to children, in categories including cereals, drinks and fast-food kid's meals.
By category, cereals advertised were slightly more nutritious because of a drop in sugar content, and fast-food restaurants advertised fewer unhealthy products, the FTC said.
But beverages remained an issue since the FTC found that drinks marketed to children had an average of more than 20 grams of added sugar per serving. That is slightly less than a candy bar.
The issue is a source of concern since about 17 percent of U.S. children and teens are obese and another 15 percent are overweight, according to 2010 data by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)
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