Canadian Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CAI)
In 2007, leading food and beverage companies launched the Canadian Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CAI), a voluntary program establishing principles for food and beverage advertising directed to children. These companies (participants)—representing an overwhelming majority of the food and beverage advertising in children’s broadcast programming—publicly committed to using their creative and marketing activities to promote and support healthy dietary choices and healthy lifestyles to children under twelve years of age.
Through the CAI, participants shifted their advertising emphasis to food and beverages that are consistent with principles of sound nutrition guidance, including those that are lower in total calories, fats, salts and added sugars, and higher in nutrients that are recognized as important to support health and well-being. Other participants committed not to direct any advertising to children.
In 2014, participants adopted new uniform nutrition criteria, which came into effect in 2016. These criteria were science-based, comprehensive and progressive, demonstrating the ongoing commitment of participants to the program. In response, many participants reformulated products or changed the focus of their advertising.
To ensure transparency and accountability, participants asked Ad Standards to administer the CAI. Based on a set of core principles, Ad Standards was responsible for auditing commitments developed by each Participant. Annual compliance reports identified those companies that met their commitments as well as those who failed to do so. In addition, Ad Standards responded to all public inquiries relating to these reports.
The CAI was a significant industry initiative designed to encourage individual participants to support responsible food and beverage advertising to children, particularly in the context of broadcast advertising.
In 2020, the CAI began to wind down in favour of a new, industry-wide program that applies to all advertising directed to children in all media. Industry launched The Code for the Responsible Advertising of Food and Beverage Products to Children in 2021. Ad Standards will support this new comprehensive program through preclearance, reporting, and administering complaints.