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Starbucks Wants to Sell to Kids

Dave Gordon - Monday, 29 October, 2007
From National Post
(1632 views, Comment on this article)

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Starbucks previously had a policy of not marketing to children, but have recently changed their minds. The move is drawing criticism from those concerned with the health affects on youngsters.
Their fear is that kids will develop an unhealthy coffee habit, and they will be exposed to drinks that be may be high in fat, sugar, and caffeine.
But kids do not need Starbucksí help in getting unwholesome beverages.
For those of us who allow our children to have soda, weíre giving them a nice dose of sugar and caffeine already.
     Though Coke in a can has one-third the amount of caffeine that coffee has, few stop at one per day. Mountain Dew has about twice the amount of caffeine as Coke. Whatís more, their advertisements also often target the young crowd.
Caffeine fuels most energy drinks. Red Bull and Jolt, found in most convenience stores, have about two-thirds the caffeine as coffee. Powershot has about ten times that of a cup of coffee.
So whereís the outrage?
While these drinks donít market specifically to kids, if kids wanted it, itís within reach, and perfectly legal.
I donít think parents have reason to panic. Itís going to take a lot of work on Starbuckís end to change the beverage habits of a generation. A cursory look at the local supermarket or convenience storeís fridge section shows a selection of hundreds of kinds of drinks to choose from.
For the sake of the argument, letís say a junior high schooler grabs an after-school mochaccino with a chum. Isnít it better that the two of them slide on a couch and interact with each other, instead of being plugged in to an iPod, Xbox, DVD player or television?
    If the essence of the argument is about how our kids are being targeted to consume something thatís bad for them, then itís time to take a closer look at the other, more harmful, garbage theyíre putting into their mouths.
Why havenít we heard any outrage that the most ubiquitous fast food restaurant in the world has from its very inception encouraged children to eat there? Just see McDonaldís directly targeting kids.
As far back as thirty years ago I remember seeing TV commercials starring Ronald McDonald, Grimace, and the Hamburgler during Saturday morning cartoons.
They invented Happy Meals to cater to the under-14 set. It comes in a cute box, and they toss in the tchotchke; something the kids can tinker with for a next day until it engenders enough tedium to compel them to chuck it or lose it. There are always movie tie-ins and shtick for kids.
It would seem that our ďfast food nationĒ - that persistently supersizes - has a growing problem.
  Two-thirds of North Americans are either overweight or obese, and shifts in eating habits have a lot to do with it, experts say. So Iíd much prefer a youngster supersizing their mocha, over supersizing their bacon double cheeseburger.
One might argue that even giving kids a KitKat bar each week, to cite a random junk food example, is better than allowing them to indulge in McDonaldís food with the same frequency. Chocolate, as it turns out, is actually much better for oneís health than one might suspect. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/413099.stm).
Chocolate contains no artery-clogging fats, peculiar preservatives, or strange animal by-products. And thereís no toy in KitKat bars, the incentive that makes Happy Meals so kid-friendly. And thereís no KitKat Playland, encouraging kids to spend more time around food with questionable content. Thereís never been outrage over candy bars and sweets at every impulse aisle of every pharmacy, supermarket, convenience store or movie theatre Ė all of which youngsters regularly pass through.
Is it the worst thing in the world if kids get a hankering for a chai tea or latte? After all, European cities have for a long time been the home of cafes, and the ubiquitous coffee kultur there hasn't seemed to affect young people.
While thereís been no study that I can find that says coffee is terrible for kids, it certainly hasnít adversely affected the adult population. Thereís some good news from the scientific community regarding the health benefits of coffee. Several studies confirm this:
and here
Iím no advocate of hopping up our kids on caffeinated and sugar-laden drinks. Naturally, Iíd much prefer parents set good examples, and insist their children indulge in healthy food and drink. I see no point in kvetching about Starbucks, rather than emphasizing personal responsibility.
Still, parents neednít worry. I donít think the popular coffee chain will ever get a return on its marketing investment with kids. While some of us grown-ups with jobs are able to plop down $5.75 for a frappaccino now and again, where are thirteen year olds going to get that kind of money, let alone regularly enough to be frequent customers? Kids are too busy hunting out the closest McDís, and getting a burger and fries for $2.55.


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