January 26, 2020

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

Transferring Racial/Ethnic Marketing Strategies from Tobacco to Food Corporations: Philip Morris and Kraft General Foods

Kim Nguyen, Casey Palmer, Laura Schmidt and I recently published “Transferring Racial/Ethnic Marketing Strategies From Tobacco to Food Corporations: Philip Morris and Kraft General Foods” in American Journal of Public Health.  This paper, based on the tobacco industry documents, shows how Philip Morris transferred the knowledge of how to target racial and ethnic minorities it developed to sell them cigarettes to sell them junk food.

This paper is a companion to our earlier paper, “Tobacco industry involvement in children's sugary drinks market” that showed how RJR did a similar technology transfer from tobacco to sugary beverages in order to increase youth use of sugar sweetened beverages.

Both these papers show the value of cross-industry analysis of industry documents to understand how these major multinational corporations trade public health for profits.

Here is the abstract for the new paper:

Objectives. To investigate the transfer of marketing knowledge and infrastructure for targeting racial/ethnic minorities from the tobacco to the food and beverage industry in the United States.

Methods. We analyzed internal industry documents between April 2018 and April 2019 from the University of California San Francisco Truth Tobacco Industry Documents Library, triangulated with other sources.

Results. In the 1980s, Philip Morris Companies purchased General Foods and Kraft Foods and created Kraft General Foods. Through centralized marketing initiatives, Philip Morris Companies directly transferred expertise, personnel, and resources from its tobacco to its food subsidiaries, creating a racial/ethnic minority–targeted food and beverage marketing program modeled on its successful cigarette program. When Philip Morris Companies sold Kraft General Foods in 2007, Kraft General Foods had a “fully integrated” minority marketing program that combined target marketing with racial/ethnic events promotion, racial/ethnic media outreach, and corporate donations to racial/ethnic leadership groups, making it a food industry leader.

Conclusions. The tobacco industry directly transferred racial/ethnic minority marketing knowledge and infrastructure to food and beverage companies. Given the substantial growth of food and beverage corporations, their targeting of vulnerable populations, and obesity-related disparities, public policy and community action is needed to address corporate target marketing.

The full citation is: Kim H. Nguyen, Stanton A. Glantz, Casey N. Palmer, and Laura A. Schmidt. Transferring Racial/Ethnic Marketing Strategies From Tobacco to Food Corporations: Philip Morris and Kraft General Foods.  American Journal of Public Health Epub ahead of print 16 Jan 2020: 0, e1_e8, https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2019.305482.   It is available here.

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