A new cricket tournament designed to appeal to children and families has been criticised by health campaigners for its snack food sponsorship.

Each team in The Hundred, a new format from the England and Wales Cricket Board, features a KP Snacks logo.

An anti-obesity group said brands such as KP wanted junk food to “take centre stage in children’s minds”.

England cricketer Kate Cross said she hoped the competition would inspire children to be active.

The tournament, which begins in July 2020, is intended to attract new audiences to cricket with a rapid-fire format where each team faces just 100 balls.

‘Family entertainment’

Featuring men’s and women’s teams from Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham, Southampton and two in London – based at Lord’s and the Oval – it will be screened on Sky Sports and the BBC.

Tom Harrison, chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket board, told the BBC earlier this year that it would be “positioned as family entertainment” and aimed at “young people, sporty families and diverse communities”.

But after the teams, players and kits were unveiled on Thursday, anti-obesity campaigners criticised the KP Snacks branding on the teams’ shirts, promoting foods such as Hula Hoops, Skips, McCoy’s crisps and Butterkist popcorn.

Caroline Cerny at the Obesity Health Alliance, which represents dozens of health charities, said: “Junk food brands sponsorship of popular sporting events is just another way they make sure their unhealthy products take centre stage in children’s minds.”

She said the “relentless exposure” to junk food marketing influences children’s food choices and how much they eat.

Tam Fry, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said snack food companies argued their products could be eaten as part of a balanced diet “but children don’t know what a balanced diet is”.

He said the high salt content of junk food was an increasing concern, with some children as young as 10 now at risk of heart problems due to their salt intake.

The criticism comes after new rules were introduced to prevent companies advertising food and drinks which are high in fat, salt and sugar to under-16s.

Several companies have seen their advertising banned, but the rules only apply to TV and online adverts.

The ECB declined to comment, but when the sponsorship was first announced in July, commercial director Rob Calder said: “We’re thrilled to be partnering with KP Snacks to help grow the game of cricket and get families active.”

Healthier choices

Kate Cross, the England and Lancashire player who will play for Manchester Originals in The Hundred, told BBC Breakfast there had been “negativity” over the sponsorship on social media.

But she said: “For us it’s about inspiring kids to pick up a bat and ball and get involved in exercise. As a professional sports person, you know you can have a balanced lifestyle, there can be a bit of both.”

The sponsorship money was crucial to giving the women’s sport a greater platform and allowing more women to go professional, she said.

Asked about the gender pay gap, where men will earn up to £125,000 in the month-long tournament while women only earn up to £15,000, she said it was still “very desirable” compared to other women’s teams worldwide.

A spokesman for KP Snacks said: “We believe that snacks can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise. We have partnered with The Hundred to help encourage families to get active through cricket.”

But he said the company recognised “we have a responsibility to provide people with healthier snacking choices”.

Since 2005, KP has cut salt in Hula Hoops by 42% and in some McCoy’s flavours by 25%, while 29 products in its range have 100 calories or fewer per pack, the spokesman said.