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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Emotional Bonding with Brand Names

Study Source: Arch Pediatr Adoles Med. 2011;165[3]:229-234


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Val M.
Val M.about a year ago


Jacksoneric J.
Jacksoneric J.about a year ago

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Terry V.
Terry V.2 years ago


jane richmond
jane richmond4 years ago


jessica w.
jessica w.4 years ago

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

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener4 years ago


Carole K.
Carole K.4 years ago

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.

wizzy wizard
wiz wi4 years ago

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?

Mayes Green
Mayes G.4 years ago

yea that is true .thanks

Justina G.
Justina Gil4 years ago

Interesting study!