The FoodSuppAds project, promoted by the European Commission, is aimed at verifying the content and accuracy of advertising messages, with particular reference to cases of advertising messages conveyed through so-called influencers, which promote products in the food supplements / enriched foods sector.
The food supplements market in Europe and in Italy in particular is growing rapidly. According to the latest available data, sales in Italy reached 3.6 billion euros, with an increase of 4% in 2019 compared to the previous year. These numbers make Italy the first market in Europe. At the same time, investments increased, destined primarily for marketing and communication (followed by research and development, training, plants and new machinery). The growing advertising push is aimed at inducing the consumer to include food supplements among the fundamental purchases, recognizing to these products a fundamental role in maintaining health and well-being.
While pharmacists and doctors remain the main point of reference for consumers (in 2019, 28.6 million medical prescriptions for food supplements were registered), there is an increase in purchases through direct online channels (company sites, accessible also through the links inserted in the posts of the affiliated influencers), which in turn determines a growing role of the digital market and social networks also in this sector.
Among all social networks, Instagram is the platform that best lends itself to marketing conveyed by influencers. The data available, both internationally and nationally, confirm this social network is preferred by companies / agencies and by influencers for promotional campaigns. As for the public, however, the same Instagram platform discloses some numbers deriving from internal surveys which show that about 90% of all users follow at least one company profile.
The aim of the project is to focus on hidden advertising and marketing in social media (e.g. non-explicit advertising by influencers or marketing practices within private Facebook groups) in the health field, focusing on dietary supplements. Social media, by offering the opportunity to advertise products in the form of personal stories and opinions, create an emotional bond with unwitting customers, and sell products by leveraging familiarity, credibility and closeness. Thanks to the support of BEUC, we want to better apply EU consumer law in the context of new media and raise awareness among consumers about the risks of hidden and / or misleading advertising, as they are often not aware that companies sometimes use social media for marketing purposes, falsely representing themselves as consumers.
Read and download the article by Altroconsumo (available in Italian)