Influencer Simon Desue is very successful in marketing Haribo on social media
Dabobert Duck and YouTube star Simon Desue have something in common: They like to take a bath in the crowd.
Scrooge in a heap of money, Desue in a heap of Haribo: Groaning with happiness, the young influencer wallows in green and blue bags full of colorful candy canes in one of his promotional videos.
The problem with this: 29-year-old Desue is one of the YouTubers with the greatest reach in Germany with 4.3 million subscribers.
His followers are mainly children and young people.
And the social media star explicitly advertises McDonald's fast food and Haribo sweets on TikTok, Instagram or YouTube.
"With the help of influencers, the companies send their advertising messages to the parents and directly into the children's room and on young people's cell phones," says Luise Molling from Foodwatch.
Companies such as McDonald's, Coca-Cola or Mondelez, but also German family businesses such as Haribo or Coppenrath & Wiese did business "with overarching marketing methods at the expense of children's health."
Foodwatch: influencer advertising promotes obesity
In the new "Junkfluencer" report, the consumer organization evaluated thousands of posts and videos from the twenty influencers with the greatest reach over several weeks.
The food industry uses TikTok stars and Instagram starlets to market "sugary drinks, fatty snacks and sweets" to millions of children.
And that promotes malnutrition and obesity among minors.
The duo of the two young Austrians Viktoria and Sarina is particularly popular with young girls.
In a pink glitter world, they present random sweets from Ferrero, Coppenrath & Wiese with girlie voices - or their own pink cookie dough to spoon.
And thus reach well over a million fans each via Instagram, TikTok and YouTube.
"You get the impression that the two of them only eat sweets when you click through their social media channels," says Molling.
In some cases they even did it on their own initiative: "For example, in their voluntary advertising for new Ferrero chocolate products, where they practically ask the group for sponsorship," says the expert.
The influencer Viktoria presents her »cookie dough for spooning«
For the young influencers, deals with the industry can bring a lot of money - Simon Desue shows off his million dollar villa, his luxury cars and his model girlfriend on the internet.
But sponsoring is also worthwhile for companies.
"Influencer marketing is a billion dollar business," says Molling.
56 percent of young people have already bought influencer products
The teen stars from the net enjoy a high level of credibility with children and young people.
A study by the market research agency M-Science shows: the younger the target group, the more uncritically children receive the advertising messages.
According to this, 11-15 year-olds give themselves to their online stars "unconditionally", they enjoy their "complete confidence".
The recommendations to their precisely defined target groups therefore have a major impact: 56 percent of young people state that they have already bought products from influencers.
"Advertising increases the energy supply and makes children sick," says Berthold Koletzko, Chairman of the Children's Health Foundation at the Children's Clinic at the University of Munich.
In fact, studies show that food advertising leads to increased energy intake, especially among 7-12 year olds - and is consequently associated with being more overweight.
15 percent of children in Germany are overweight
Malnutrition among children is widespread in Germany: According to data from the Robert Koch Institute, 6-11 year olds now only eat half the recommended daily amount of fruit and vegetables, but at the same time consume two to three times as much sugar or snacks as they do World Health Organization WHO recommended.
The result: around 15 percent of children and adolescents are currently considered overweight, and six percent are even obese.
They are later threatened with nutrition-dependent diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke or heart attack, which can lead to premature mortality.
The companies do not want to let the allegations sit on them.
"Haribo always markets its products responsibly," the confectionery manufacturer wrote in response to a request from SPIEGEL.
The company has undertaken to never direct advertising and marketing messages directly to children under the age of 12.
In addition, the articles with Simon Desue are clearly marked as advertising or advertisement.
Even Haribo recognizes that younger children also see the advertising on the Internet - but sees the parents as having an obligation to prevent this.
Desues Haribo Challenge: 1000 gummy bears in 100 seconds
»Haribo produces confectionery.
Consumers know that these pleasure products should only be consumed in moderation and clearly distinguish them from staple foods, ”the company continues.
What doesn't stop them from promoting mass consumption with Simon Desue: In his Haribo Challenge, he eats 1,000 gummy bears in 100 seconds.
Desue is also under contract with McDonald's - and reached more than half a million potential customers online with the #IssmirWurstChallenge.
But McDonald's also explains on request that children under the age of 12 are not addressed online and with the help of influencers.
In order to »support a balanced diet«, McDonald's is developing its products and transparently giving the guests »all the information they need, such as nutritional values, ingredients and the origin of the ingredients."
Julia Beautx with Jonas Ems brings the Milka Oreo chocolate into the children's room
The confectionery group Mondelez, on the other hand, emphasizes the justification of confectionery: “Basically, we are of the opinion that, within the framework of a balanced and active lifestyle, confectionery as luxury goods, consumed in moderation, should have a place in our eating culture.
We support our consumers with the greatest possible transparency and information. «Mondelez hired 21-year-old influencer Julia Beautx as the face for a Milka Oreo campaign.
Together with Youtuber Jonas Ems, she reached almost 230,000 viewers amid dozens of biscuit and chocolate products.
Klöckner relies on voluntary self-restraint instead of prohibitions
Meanwhile, Federal Food Minister Julia Klöckner (CDU) has recognized the growing problem, but continues to rely on the voluntary self-commitment "EU pledge" of the industry, which has existed since 2007.
However, in a current statement, it calls on the Central Association of the German Advertising Industry to "make improvements to the age limit and to advertise foods with an unfavorable nutritional composition".
What the Scientific Advisory Board of your own ministry asked for in an opinion in June 2020 would be much more effective: a ban on advertising aimed at children for products with a high sugar content.
Because: In countries with such restrictions - such as Sweden, Great Britain or Peru - according to data from the report, junk food consumption fell by 8.9 percent between 2002 and 2016, in countries with voluntary commitments by the industry, on the other hand, it is 1.7 percent gone up.
Foodwatch is therefore also calling for mandatory advertising restrictions for the industry.
Industry has the minister on her side.
When asked about an advertising ban, Mondelez refers to "EU care" and his "responsible" advertising practice since 2005, according to which no children under the age of 12 are addressed.
Haribo is even more explicit to SPIEGEL: "We advocate a policy of education, information and corporate self-commitment instead of one of the bans or punitive taxes."
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