Contra Costa Kids Drinking Less Sugary Drinks

Together with Healthy and Active Before 5, we launched our hard-hitting and award-winning Sugar Bites campaign in 2013 urging parents to protect their toddlers and preschoolers from sugary drinks and serve them water instead. New data show local parents are heeding the message.

Analysis of children’s sugary beverage consumption among families new to First 5 services shows a steady decline over the last four years. The data come from First 5 Contra Costa’s annual family survey, a detailed list of questions hundreds of families complete when they start participating in services we fund.

The survey asks parents if their child had a sugary drink yesterday. Back in 2012/13, 80% of respondents answered yes. Last year, the response had dropped to 63%.

Juice Drinks

Sugar Bites is a unique campaign for many reasons, one being its focus on sugary juice drinks. Three of the four print ads we’ve run feature drinks like Sunny D or Capri Sun to challenge deceptive marketing tactics used to trick parents into thinking juice drinks are healthy beverages for young children. We also ran a TV commercial with this message.

Juice contains as much sugar as soda, sometimes more. Sugar Bites has provided a much-needed counter message for parents barraged by misleading claims from the beverage industry.

Since 2012/13, children’s consumption of juice in Contra Costa County is down 26%.

Decline mirrors state health data

Data from the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), the nation’s largest state health survey, show a decrease in juice consumption among young children in Contra Costa County as well.

Families with children age two to six were asked if they served their children juice yesterday. In 2011, 22% of respondents said their child did not drink juice the day before. By 2015, this percentage had tripled, with 66% of children not drinking juice.

We continue to run the Sugar Bites campaign each year. For the last two, we’ve had a smaller campaign targeting Concord and San Pablo via bus ads, grocery carts, convenience stores, and window clings on sugary drinks cases in small shops. The last campaign had about 24 million media impressions (the number of times people saw the ads). First 5 Sacramento also runs the ads in the Sacramento region.

Learn more about Sugar Bites at

Sugar Bites is Back with New Ads

We’re running our Sugar Bites ads this summer to remind parents that serving water instead of sugary drinks is the healthiest option for quenching their children’s thirst.

The ads, which focus on soda and sugary juice drinks, are running in Concord and San Pablo at bus shelters, convenience and grocery stores, gas stations, and on County Connection buses.

And for the first time, we were able to place printed window clings directly on refrigerated beverage cases in about 40 convenience stores and gas stations.

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Our Impact in 2015

2015 was another productive year at First 5 Contra Costa, as our funded programs continued to improve the lives of our county’s most vulnerable children and families. Take a look at some highlights accomplished by our funded programs in 2015:

Programs and activities funded by First 5 Contra Costa reached 5,100 children, 18,725 parents, and 1550 early care and education providers. 

385 expecting and new parents received home visiting services, with 6,700 visits provided. We changed our home visiting model three years ago to provide more intensive and longer services. Since then, families are now getting more than twice the number of home visits and being served twice as long.

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New Sugar Bites TV Ads Target Children’s Juice Drinks

Our popular Sugar Bites campaign is back with provocative new television commercials challenging the deceptive marketing tactics used to trick parents into thinking sugary juice drinks are healthy beverages for young children.

The commercials, available in English and Spanish, feature a young child pleading with her mother to purchase a juice drink in the grocery store. The mother is horrified when the container morphs into a toothy monster and she learns that consumption of sugary beverages can lead to tooth decay, obesity, and type II diabetes. We created the ads with our campaign partner, the Healthy and Active Before 5 collaborative.

Watch the ads:

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2014 Highlights

2014 was a productive year at First 5 Contra Costa. Our funded programs served more than 22,500 children and parents. In addition, 1,875 early child care educators from 217 child care sites received training and support on providing higher quality child care. Thanks to our funding partners for their work to help Contra Costa’s children grow up healthy, nurtured and ready to learn.

Take a look at some of our top highlights from 2014:

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Sugar Bites Highlights: Round 2

The second cycle of our Sugar Bites campaign was another success. This time we focused primarily on sugary juice drinks, which many parents didn’t know contain as much or more sugar than soda.

The second campaign included many of the strategies used in round one, such as BART, convenience stores, and bus shelter ads as well as posters and brochures distributed through WIC, Head Start and our funded programs. We also tried a few new things in round two:


We placed ads on billboards on major highways in Pittsburg and in neighborhoods throughout Richmond.



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Juice is a Sugary Drink

fruitMost parents know that soda isn’t good for young children, but deceptive marketing tactics trick them into believing that juice drinks are a healthy alternative. They’re not. Most popular children’s juice drinks contain little fruit, extra calories, and loads of sugar. For example, eight ounces of soda and eight ounces of apple juice both have over 6 teaspoons of sugar.

Juice Drink Vs. 100% Juice

When developing our new Sugar Bites campaign, we had a lot of discussion about juice. To start with, what’s the difference between juice drinks and 100% juice?

Juice drinks are beverages that do not contain 100% fruit juice and are loaded with added sugar and unnecessary calories. They have little to no nutritional value. On the label, look for drinks called juice drinks, fruit drinks, cocktail, beverage, or punch. Continue reading

Sugar Bites is Back!

Our Sugar Bites campaign is back. And this time we’re taking a bite out of sugary juice drinks:



Why sugary juice drinks?

Most parents already know that soda isn’t good for young children, but deceptive marketing tactics trick them into believing juice drinks are a healthy alternative. They’re not. Most popular children’s juice drinks contain little fruit, unnecessary calories, and loads of sugar. Eight ounces of soda and eight ounces of apple juice both have 27 or more grams of sugar (that’s over 6 teaspoons!). Continue reading

Sugar Bites Results

SugarBites9x12-01According to a new survey, parents are more likely to serve their children water or milk instead of sugary drinks after seeing our Sugar Bites campaign.

In October, we conducted on-the-street interviews with 99 parents with children birth to age five to assess the reach and impact of our Sugar Bite campaign. The interviews were conducted in English and Spanish and took place in Concord, San Pablo, and Richmond.

Most of the parents surveyed had seen the ads at least three to four times in places including transit shelters, BART, or convenience stores. When asked about the campaign’s ads, which were designed to elicit visceral reactions from parents to protect their kids from these harmful products, participants responded as follows:

  • 95% felt the campaign was memorable
  • 90% felt the campaign was convincing
  • 84% reported being affected/highly affected by the campaign
  • 83% said they agreed/strongly agreed with the message in the ads

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Sugar Bites Highlights


Support for Sugar Bites from CSPI!

The first phase of our Sugar Bites campaign is winding down and so far we’ve made quite an impresssion.

The purpose of Sugar Bites, which we launched in May with Healthy and Active Before 5, is to inform parents about the dangerous health effects of sugary drink consumption and encourage them to serve their toddlers and preschoolers water instead.

Our bilingual campaign consisted of ads displayed on local bus shelters, BART stations, check-cashing facilities, and 50 convenience stores located in Bay Point, Concord, Pittsburg, Richmond, and San Pablo, the new website, and distribution of 40,000 brochures throughout the county.

Phase I of our campaign may almost be over, but that doesn’t mean we’re done.  A study released last week reinforces why our Sugar Bites message is so important.  The study revealed that daily consumption of sugary drinks, such as soda, juice drinks, and sport drinks, leads to obesity in preschool-age children.

The following day, the CDC released encouraging data showing a slight decline in obesity rates among low-income preschoolers – the first decline in decades.  California’s rate decreased from 17.3% to 16.8%.  While the CDC couldn’t say for sure why rates are declining, some possibilities include higher breastfeeding rates and new WIC policies which no longer allow the inclusion of juice in infant food packages.

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