Who teaches your children which foods to choose? You? Or Dora?
It probably won’t surprise you that the cartoon characters have more sway than you do. But it may surprise you to know just how much.
A new study says that 50 percent of children say that food products with animated characters on the packaging tastes better than the same exact food without the characters. And when allowed to choose, the vast majority of the children choose the package with the cartoons.
This might not be such a bad thing if the beloved characters’ images were only affixed to carrots, tomatoes and pears. But in many cases, they’re represented on food with little or no nutritional value.
Shrek is selling your kids junk food.
Characters are nothing new in the grocery aisles. Cereal boxes have been adorned with them for decades. But Captain Crunch doesn’t also have a Saturday morning cartoon series. The Lucky Charms dude doesn’t have a feature film. And Snap, Crackle and Pop limit their fundraising efforts to Rice Krispies – they don’t have toys or a clothing line that they’re also trying to pitch.
"Parents may not set out to buy unhealthy products," says the lead author of the study, Christina Roberto, M.S., a doctoral student at Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, in New Haven, Connecticut. "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 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."
From ABC News:
Forty children from the New Haven, Conn., area were asked to do a taste test of gummy fruit snacks, graham crackers and baby carrots.