Unilever has announced that it will stop marketing and advertising its food and drink products to children under the age of 12 in traditional media, and below 13 via social media channels.

The groundbreaking move is part of the consumer goods giant’s commitment to help in the fight against rising obesity rates amongst young people.

Unilever stated that it will implement strict controls concerning the placement and content of its ads, and it won’t use any influencers, celebrities or social media stars who primarily appeal to children under the age of 12.

The group will also be limiting its use of cartoon characters in its advertising and they will only be used for products with a “specific nutritional profile”.

The new rules will be rolled out to all of Unilever’s food and drinks products by the end of 2020, kicking off with its Wall’s ice cream brand.

Wall’s kids’ ice creams such Max, Paddle Pop, Twister will be “responsibly communicated”. This means Unilever will be shifting its advertising to speak to parents and carers as part of the company-wide pledge not to direct any marketing communications to kids.

Responsibly Made for KidsUnilever admitted that children under 12 would inevitably be exposed to its products in stores, but it is introducing a ‘Responsibly Made for Kids’ logo on point-of-sale communications. This indicates to parents that products are designed for children, so they can make an “informed choice” when buying the products.

The Wall’s kids range will also be “responsibly made” with every ice cream having no more than 110 calories and a maximum of 12g of sugar per portion by the end of 2020.

Matt Close, Executive VP of the firm’s global ice cream business, commented: “We at Wall’s believe that everyone deserves a little joyous treat from time to time and we strive to offer something for everyone. Our promise is a genuine commitment to make and market products to children responsibly. It is the promise of better ice cream and healthier, happier children. Both now and in the future.”

In 2016, 18% of children and adolescents were overweight globally – up from 4% in 1975, according to the WTO’s latest figures.

A number of countries, including the UK, have implemented stricter rules for children’s advertising over the last decade. However, the obesity problem is growing with the food industry facing increasing pressure to cut sugar levels and stop promoting unhealthy products.