Study Finds Kids Think Food Tastes Better if Cartoons on Packaging

Posted on June 21, 2010

A new study investigated how cartoons influence children's desire for foods when cartoons on placed on the food packaging. CNN reports that the new study has revealed that kids are influenced by food packaging.

The study found that 50% of children thought food from a package decorated with a cartoon celebrity, such as Scooby Doo, SpongeBob or Shrek, tasted better than the same food from a plain, unbranded package.

The use of TV and movie characters on food packaging is "designed to access certain feelings, memories, and associations," says Dr. Thomas Robinson, M.D., a professor of child health at the Stanford University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study. "If you associate certain products with things that are otherwise considered fun, it's going to make those products seem more desirable."

Cartoon characters tend to appear on junk food, which makes health experts even more concerned about the magnetic effect they have on kids.

The study highlights a problem for parents, especially if they shop with their children. Cartoon characters could help parents convince kids to eat healthier if they are on a bag of vegetables, but much of the cartoon advertising is found on junk food.

Christina Roberto, M.S., a doctoral student at Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, in New Haven, Connecticut, said, "Parents may not set out to buy unhealthy products. But kids can be really, really persuasive. They see them and they want them, and it gets difficult to have that battle in the grocery store."

The study was published in the the journal, Pediatrics. Boston University Nutrition Professor Joan Salge Blake explains the findings in the following video as well as the idea of placing the characters kids like on healthy foods instead.

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