Influence of Licensed Characters on Children's Taste and Snack Preferences

Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511, USA.
PEDIATRICS (Impact Factor: 5.47). 07/2010; 126(1):88-93. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2009-3433
Source: PubMed


The goal was to study how popular licensed cartoon characters appearing on food packaging affect young children's taste and snack preferences.
Forty 4- to 6-year-old children tasted 3 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 2 foods tasted the same or one tasted better. Children then selected which of the food items they would prefer to eat for a snack.
Children significantly preferred the taste of foods that had popular cartoon characters on the packaging, compared with the same foods without characters. The majority of children selected the food sample with a licensed character on it for their snack, but the effects were weaker for carrots than for gummy fruit snacks and graham crackers.
Branding food packages with licensed characters substantially influences young children's taste preferences and snack selection and does so most strongly for energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods. These findings suggest that the use of licensed characters to advertise junk food to children should be restricted.

Full-text preview

Available from:
  • Source
    • "hat constitutes appropriate behavior ( Zizzo , 2010 ) , several steps were taken to prevent this bias . Product samples were randomly ordered , and children did not receive feedback about their selections . Further , demand effects are expected to be much lower in children as their ability to understand persuasive intents is lower than in adults ( Roberto et al . , 2010 ) . Finally , one would expect that demand effects are less visible in effort provision tasks compared to self - reported data , such as pleasantness ratings ( Mogg et al . , 2003 ; Steffens , 2004 ) . However , we obtained similar results for both measures . Future research is also needed to describe the specific mechanisms by which ca"
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Food marketing research shows that child-directed marketing cues have pronounced effects on food preferences and consumption, but are most often placed on products with low nutritional quality. Effects of child-directed marketing strategies for healthy food products remain to be studied in more detail. Previous research suggests that effort provision explains additional variance in food choice. This study investigated the effects of packaging cues on explicit preferences and effort provision for healthy food items in elementary school children. Each of 179 children rated three, objectively identical, recommended yogurt-cereal-fruit snacks presented with different packaging cues. Packaging cues included a plain label, a label focusing on health aspects of the product, and a label that additionally included unknown cartoon characters. The children were asked to state the subjective taste-pleasantness of the respective food items. We also used a novel approach to measure effort provision for food items in children, namely handgrip strength. Results show that packaging cues significantly induce a taste-placebo effect in 88% of the children, i.e., differences in taste ratings for objectively identical products. Taste ratings were highest for the child-directed product that included cartoon characters. Also, applied effort to receive the child-directed product was significantly higher. Our results confirm the positive effect of child-directed marketing strategies also for healthy snack food products. Using handgrip strength as a measure to determine the amount of effort children are willing to provide for a product may explain additional variance in food choice and might prove to be a promising additional research tool for field studies and the assessment of public policy interventions.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2015 · Frontiers in Psychology
  • Source
    • "'Less healthy' 'cereals for kids' products carried a much higher percentage (72%) of promotional characters than 'healthy' 'cereals for kids', especially cartoons and/or company owned characters. These findings are consistent with other studies which have found promotional characters being used on packages for 'less healthy' products targeted to children (Hebden et al., 2011; Roberto et al., 2010). Studies have found that food companies use strategies with visual appeal to attract children and build brand loyalty by frequently using children's favourite characters (Neeley & Schumann, 2004; Page, Montgomery, Ponder, & Richard, 2008). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Breakfast cereals substantially contribute to daily energy and nutrient intakes among children. In New Zealand, new regulations are being implemented to restrict nutrition and health claims to products that meet certain 'healthy' criteria. This study investigated the difference in nutritional quality, labelling and promotion between 'healthy' and 'less healthy' breakfast cereals, and between breakfast cereals intended for children compared with other breakfast cereals on the New Zealand market. The cross-sectional data collection involved taking pictures of the nutrition information panel (NIP) and front-of pack (FOP) for all breakfast cereals (n = 247) at two major supermarkets in Auckland in 2013. A nutrient profiling tool was used to classify products into 'healthy/less healthy'. In total 26% of cereals did not meet the 'healthy' criteria. 'Less healthy' cereals were significantly higher in energy density, sugar and sodium content and lower in protein and fibre content compared with 'healthy' cereals. Significantly more nutrition claims (75%) and health claims (89%) featured on 'healthy' compared with 'less healthy' cereals. On the 'less healthy' cereals, nutrition claims (65%) were more predominant than health claims (17%). Of the 52 products displaying promotional characters, 48% were for 'cereals for kids', and of those, 72% featured on 'less healthy' cereals. In conclusion, most breakfast cereals met the 'healthy' criteria; however, 'cereals for kids' were 'less healthy' and displayed more promotional characters than other cereal categories. Policy recommendations include: food composition targets set or endorsed by government, strengthening and enforcing current regulations on health and nutrition claims, considering the application of nutrient profiling for nutrition claims in addition to health claims, introducing an interpretative FoP labelling system and restricting the use of promotional characters on 'less healthy' breakfast cereals.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2014 · Appetite
  • Source
    • "Advertising characters are a prominent fixture in children's advertising, and people often identify with them and develop strong affective attachments to them (Acuff and Reiher 1997; Connell 2013; Garretson and Burton 2005; Moore and Lutz 2000). Recent findings show that the presence of an advertising character can even cause children to judge a food as tastier (LaPierre, Vaala, and Linebarger 2011; Roberto et al. 2010). Given that approximately half of all advertising directed to children in the United States promotes food and that the vast majority of food advertising to children is for high-calorie foods with limited nutritional value, such as sodas, candy, presweetened breakfast cereals, and fast food (Brownell and Horgen 2004; Gantz et al. 2007), advertising effects that persist into adulthood may directly affect public health. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Previous research has found that children incrementally learn how to cope with advertising as they age. The current research investigates whether these developmental constraints in advertising knowledge at time of exposure have enduring consequences. Results from four experimental studies show that childhood exposure to advertisements can lead to resilient biased product evaluations that persist into adulthood. Study 1 demonstrates that positive affect toward ad-related stimuli encountered in childhood mediates the relationship between childhood advertising exposure and biased evaluations for products associated with childhood (but not adulthood) advertising. Study 2 demonstrates stronger biases when participants are exposed to childhood advertising cues relative to childhood consumption cues. Studies 3 and 4 show that even when ability and motivation to correct bias are high, lingering positive affect toward childhood ad-related stimuli is a motivational deterrent to correct biased product evaluations. Study 4 also shows that biased product evaluations can transfer to line extensions.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2014 · Journal of Consumer Research
Show more