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Cartoon Characters Make Food Taste Better

Cartoon Characters Make Food Taste Better

Cartoon characters on food packages influence children’s perception of taste.

In an experimental study, eighty children were shown professionally created cereal boxes and asked to rate the cereal. Some cereal boxes had licensed cartoon characters on the box and some didn’t. Some cereals were given a healthy-sounding name and some a surgary-sounding name.

Children who were shown cereal from boxes with popular cartoon characters said they liked the cereal more than those who were shown boxes without the cartoon characters.

More children preferred the cereal named “Healthy Bits” than “Sugar Bits,” but the presence of a cartoon character was more influential for children who were told the cereal was named Sugar Bits.

The study, reported on in the March issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, concludes that messages encouraging healthy eating resonates with young children, but use of media characters on food packaging affects the subjective taste assessment of children.

“The use of trade (e.g. Ronald McDonald) and licensed (e.g. Shrek) spokescharacters is a popular marketing practice in child-directed products because the presence of these figures helps children identify and remember the associated product,” the authors wrote.

The visual cue of a popular cartoon character or logo may then be associated with the information presented in the advertisement.

It should come as no surprise that kids are attracted to popular cartoon characters. That’s why advertisers tie food products to licensed characters from movies and television, playing on the vulnerabilities of children. Unfortunately, these tie-ins often promote unhealthy, high-fat, high-sugar, high-salt products.

We parents aren’t supposed to be so easily persuaded, but childhood obesity rates would indicate otherwise. If we would choose to harness the power of cartoon characters to educate children about healthier foods, we’d really be on to something.

Improve Eating Habits with Mental Imagery
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Study Source: Arch Pediatr Adoles Med. 2011;165[3]:229-234


Read more: Children, Conscious Consumer, Diet & Nutrition, Do Good, Family, General Health, Health, News & Issues, Smart Shopping, , , ,

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Ann Pietrangelo

Ann Pietrangelo is the author of No More Secs! Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Multiple Sclerosis and Catch That Look: Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Triple-Negative Breast Cancer. She is a freelance writer and member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo


+ add your own
3:07PM PDT on Aug 6, 2013


7:09AM PDT on May 31, 2011


12:00PM PDT on May 26, 2011

maybe putting a cut out of a character on healthy products will help them eat more.

3:36PM PDT on May 1, 2011


7:08AM PDT on Mar 23, 2011

This is NOT a new phenomena in marketing, folks! Even before TV, radio & comic books had ads that targeted kids. I know bc I was one of them. Back then parents still felt justified in their authority to tell their children emphatically, unequivocably, "NO!" And, we did not whine & whinge back too much, LOL! Do your kids a huge favor, step up and be the parent. They have enough friends their own age, they need you to guide & teach. Only you can fulfill this necessary parenting role.

2:18AM PDT on Mar 23, 2011

i was told Brussels spouts was dolly cabbage and my daughter used to eat them when we name them bungles. as if you think about it all vegetable have dull names and need changing for exciting names. any ideas?

3:11PM PDT on Mar 20, 2011

yea that is true .thanks

10:53AM PDT on Mar 19, 2011

Interesting study!

10:12AM PDT on Mar 19, 2011

I saw this study put into action on a daily show and was totally amazed at the results!! Kiddies, overwhelming, chose the "cartoon" cereal over plain wrapped container ,actually saying it tasted better, even though it was exactly same product. If it makes kids eat healthier ,I am all for it;as long as the price doesn't soar.If the cost was to rise,I'd stick my own cartoon on the box!!

10:04PM PDT on Mar 16, 2011

As for cartoon characters being used to promote healthy foods, it is not cheap to start a promotion and this may not even work, so businesses have to think carefully about what they would get in return for their investment.

When I was younger there wasn't all of this hype with cartoon characters to sell food, but I did watch Bugs Bunny and Popeye, neither of which made me want to eats carrots and spinach, companies know that children feel this way, so it doesn't really give them much incentive to invest loads of money into something that will probably fail.

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