If Shrek or Dora the Explorer ate their vegetables, would kids eat them,
too? Little has been done to determine if food companies that use
character licensing (placing the image of a popular movie or TV
character on product packaging to make it more appealing), affect the
eating habits of children.
In the study, “Influence of Licensed Characters on Children’s Taste and Snack Preferences,” published in the
July print issue of Pediatrics (published online June 21), 40 children
ages 4 to 6 tasted three pairs of identical foods (graham crackers,
gummy fruit and carrots) in packages either with or without a popular
cartoon character. The kids thought the graham crackers and gummy fruit
snacks tasted significantly better when characters appeared on the package,
but the effect was not quite significant for carrots. Study authors
suggest that we should be restricting the use of licensed characters on
junk foods first, rather than putting them on healthy foods
simultaneously. However, for all three snacks, when kids were asked
which they would prefer for a snack, they overwhelmingly chose the snack
with a character, suggesting the characters influence their decision
even if there is no difference in taste.
The American Academy of
Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians,
pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists
dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children,
adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.