Junk food manufacturers have great allies in the ad game – cartoon characters. A study shows that kids generally prefer food that has been packaged in such lovable characters as Dora the Explorer and Shrek, so much so that when asked which food tastes better, most of them will pick the one wrapped in Shrek over the one in unadorned packaging – even if they are basically eating the same thing – as shared in a feature on CNN.
Serving as lead author in the study is Christina Roberto, M.S., a doctoral student at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University. She says: “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.”
This is the first such study that looks into how the use of cartoon characters on the marketing of food products influence the food choices of the children they are meant to persuade, despite the fact that cartoon characters have long made appearances on food packages.
The study involved a sample test population composed of 40 children aged 4 to 6. The researchers presented the children with the following paired samples: graham crackers, gummy fruit snacks and baby carrots. Each pair looked identical and was packaged in the same manner, except that one of the samples had a sticker of Dora or Shrek on it.
From this sample between 50 to 55 percent of the children said that the food in the sticker-adorned package tasted better, while 73 to 85 percent said they would prefer the one with the sticker on the package as a snack. The percentage varied with each food.