Social media posts are always competing for our attention, and it seems that was no different for food, beverage, and alcohol companies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Australian researchers found that, over a four-month period in 2020, food and alcohol companies incessantly marketed their brand using COVID-19-related themes about isolation activities (e.g., what to do while at home) or community support, such as the following post “Connect with your mates online and we’ll get through this together, with a GOLD in hand”. Fast food, alcohol and food delivery companies took advantage of themes about hygiene and delivery, e.g., “Working from home? You can still enjoy your Macca’s faves and have them dropped on your doorstep with contactless McDelivery”. Many companies showed off their corporate responsibility talking donations (e.g., to relief organisations or of sanitizer) or offered health advice. A third of the posts investigated on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter were COVID-19-related.
People with obesity are more likely to experience severe symptoms from COVID-19 so using the pandemic as an opportunity to influence unhealthy food and drink and alcohol consumption is irresponsible. The researchers call for comprehensive regulations to restrict unhealthy food and alcohol marketing, particularly as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Martino F, et al. The Nature and Extent of Online Marketing by Big Food and Big Alcohol During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Australia: Content Analysis Study. JMIR Public Health Surveill. 2021.