If you wanted to sell something to my oldest daughter the easiest thing to do would be slap one of her favorite cartoon characters on it – I’d recommend Dora the Explorer or perhaps a few of the 101 Dalmatians for my almost-4-year-old.
So it comes as little surprise that researchers from Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity found that “branding food packages with licensed characters substantially influences young children’s taste preferences and snack selection.”
The researchers had 40 children between four and six years of age taste three pairs of identical foods – graham crackers, gummy fruit snacks, and carrots. The different snacks were presented in packaging with or without popular cartoon characters. The kids tasted each pair and indicated which tasted better – the one with the cartoon or the unbranded one. Most selected the food sample with a cartoon character on the packaging.
Now if you, like me, had the idea that you could slap a Dora sticker on some healthy snacks and get your kid to dig in – the study found that the effects were weaker for carrots compared to the graham crackers and gummy fruit.
The researchers concluded their study published online in the medical journal Pediatrics that their “findings suggest that the use of licensed characters to advertise junk food to children should be restricted.”
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