Cartoon Characters Sway Kids’ Choices

The latest study reveals kids’ gravitate toward foods with cartoon characters on the packaging. No kidding? Really? Cartoon characters on food packages influence kids’ food choices. WOW, such insight.

We love studies, don’t we? Every day there is a new study about kids and food. The latest study is from Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University. They found a causal relationship between licensed characters on food packaging and children’s taste and snack preferences.

My goodness, I don’t think we really needed a study for that, do you?

If cartoon characters didn’t sell products, then advertisers wouldn’t use them. Parents won’t be surprised to learn that children significantly prefer the taste of junk foods branded with licensed cartoon characters on the packaging, compared with the same foods without characters.

Researchers found kids, like Madison, prefer foods with cartoon characters on the packaging.

In the study, children between the ages of 4- and 6-years old tasted three pairs of identical foods (graham crackers, gummy fruit snacks and carrots) presented in packages either with or without a popular cartoon character. Children tasted both food items in each pair and indicated whether the two tasted the same, or if one tasted better. Children then selected which of the foods they would prefer to eat for a snack.

Again the results were predictable, indicating that children were considerably more likely to prefer the taste of the low-nutrient, high-energy (translate that to sugary) foods such as gummy fruit snacks when a licensed cartoon character appeared on the package.

The difference in preference was not significant for carrots. Not much of a surprise here either. The character-branded items influenced kids when it comes to junk foods, but not so much for whole foods. Interesting, character-branded items don’t help influence kids with whole foods. Parents need to teach their children how to enjoy whole foods. That’s what Baby Bites: Transforming a Picky Eater into a Healthy Eater is all about.

The researchers conclude their the findings suggest a need for regulation to curtail the use of licensed characters in the marketing of low-nutrient, high-energy foods, say the researchers. Another regulation. Another law, we don’t need.

How about letting parents raise their own kids. What if parents refuse to purchase food items with cartoon characters? How about it if parents curtailed the purchase of junk foods as well? Why not limit the amount of TV kids watch? How about recording kids programming and speed through the commercials! What if parents (gasp) said “no.”

We vote with our dollars and you can bet if sales go down, that would stop the advertisers from using licensed characters on their products, for sure!

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