Laura Robbie
Jun 20, 2024

Calls grow in Australia for restrictions on junk-food advertising

As Australian doctors and medical students call for restrictions on all junk food marketing across media platforms and outlets between 5.30am and 11pm, YouGov data sheds light on what Australians truly think of the big, enticing and noisy world of junk-food advertising.

Calls grow in Australia for restrictions on junk-food advertising
Recently the Australian Medical Association (AMA) urged the government to implement measures to “establish healthy food consumption habits from a young age.” The association for Australian doctors and medical students has called for restrictions on all junk food marketing across media platforms and outlets between 5.30am and 11pm as well as a ban on sponsorships of some events. 
But what are Australians’ views on junk food, how do they define it, why do they consume it and what do they think of the big, enticing and noisy world of junk food advertising? We delve into YouGov data to understand.

Junk food perceptions

When asked what they consider to be junk food, Australians are most likely to single out food and drink items with high sugar content (79%), followed by those high in salt (seven percentage points behind at 72%) and food high in unhealthy fats (71%).

Perhaps surprisingly, deep fried items (66%), low-nutrition foods (59%) and quick-to-serve foods such as burgers, pizzas (59%) are seen as junk food by comparatively fewer Aussies.

Although significant proportions of Australians do bear in mind other factors when tagging certain food and drink items as ‘junk’, fewer proportions of them consider items packaged using artificial ingredients (51%) as junk food.

While significant proportions of both women and men consider the types of food listed in our survey as junk food, women are more likely to do so across every category. For instance, 85% of women consider high in sugar food as junk compared to 73% of men. Similarly, three quarters of women in Australia (75%) say deep fried food is junk food, while fewer men (57%) say the same.

The allure of junk food: Why we cave
Easy availability and taste are the general Australian population’s leading motivators of junk food consumption, data from YouGov’s survey shows. At 58%, easy availability is the top factor. Further, 55% of junk food consuming Australians say they consume it because they enjoy the taste, and more than four in ten of them (45%) do so because they feel it doesn’t take a lot of time to prepare. 
Other reasons explaining why Australians consume junk food:
“It’s cheaper” (30%)
“I like the variety of food available” (23%)
“Other people in my family/household pressure me to buy/eat junk food” (9%)
Easy availability of junk food appeals to men (62%) more than it does to women (55%), YouGov data shows. This pattern applied to other factors as well. But the gap widens the most when it comes to the low cost of junk food (36% of men and 25% of women).  
Second thoughts at checkout: How nutrition facts impact Aussies’ choices
Earlier this year, new requirements for the labelling of allergens in food came into force in Australia and New Zealand. Simultaneously, there’s also been deliberation about applying labels marking relevant food items as ultra-processed (food or drink items with significant levels of salt, sugar, stabilisers or other artificial ingredients). 
But how many consumers in Australia read nutrition labels on packaged junk food and drinks in the first place?
More than one in ten (13%) always do, while almost a quarter of them (24%) do so often. Nearly a third of Australians (32%) check these labels sometimes. On the other hand, 21% of Australians rarely read nutrition labels on packaged junk food and drink items and one in ten (10%) never do. 

But not all Australians who read nutrition labels, reconsider their junk food and drink purchase decisions. Over a quarter of them (27%) reconsider their purchases often, but a larger proportion of them (45%) do it only sometimes. Further, 16% of them rarely reconsider their purchases after reading labels.

Think about the children

Children's vulnerability to advertising's sugary siren song has often made it a sticky issue. In its submission to the Australian government, the AMA asks for a digital black-out on junk food adverts with a focus on children’s health.

As far as junk food and drink advertising goes, most Australians (69%) feel children should not be featured in the advertisements. Just two in ten (18%) feel that it’s okay to feature children in such ads.

Women are more likely than men (73% vs. 65%) to believe that it isn’t okay to feature kids in junk food and drink advertising.

A majority of Australians who feel it isn’t okay for junk food and drink brands to feature children in their ads, feel doing so sends a misleading message to children that consuming junk food and drinks is consistent with a healthy lifestyle (75%).

Seven in ten (70%) of this group says such ads will easily influence children to develop unhealthy eating habits (70%). Nearly half of this group (47%) also feels that ads featuring children promote products that are not suitable for kids.

AMA’s submission not only calls for a digital black-out of junk food and drink advertising, but also urges restrictions to be placed on television advertising and unhealthy food sponsorship of sports, arts and cultural events.

Data from YouGov’s recent survey reveals that, over the last three months, Australians are most likely to have seen an advertisement for junk food or drink products on TV (65%), followed by social media (43%) and outdoors, like on billboards, at bus stops or on trains (38%).

Two in ten Australians (20%) have spotted ads for junk food or drink products at events like music concerts or sports events and an equal proportion of them (20%) have seen such advertisements in direct mail in their letterboxes or post boxes.

Methodology: YouGov Surveys: Serviced provide quick survey results from nationally representative or targeted audiences in multiple markets. This study was conducted online on 15 May 2024, with a nationally/online representative sample of 1028 adults (aged 18+ years) in Australia, using a questionnaire designed by YouGov. Data figures have been weighted by age, gender, and region to be representative of all adults in Australia (18 years or older), and reflect the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) population estimates. Learn more about YouGov Surveys: Serviced


Campaign Asia

Related Articles

Just Published

2 days ago

Asia-Pacific Power List 2024: Edward Bell, Cathay ...

Soaring to new heights, Bell has navigated the turbulence of the past year with finesse. With a return to profits and brand awareness scores climbing by 16%, the airline's ascent is undeniable.

2 days ago

Fresh colours, new fonts: Inside Crunchyroll's rebrand

Merging classic with contemporary, the anime streaming service brings the focus on the fun and joy of anime with new visual assets.

2 days ago

Tech On Me: What Disney's leak tells us about ...

This week, we cover the hack on Disney's internal communications, how a loophole in TikTok is putting minors at risk, and how workers suffer during Amazon's Prime Day among other tech headlines in the region.

2 days ago

Arthur Sadoun on defying doubters, Q2 revenue ...

Publicis CEO talks to Campaign at Q2 results.