Cereal Tastes Better When Box Features Cartoon Characters

Children's taste is influenced by recognizable characters and nutritional cues on packaging

TUESDAY, March 8 (HealthDay News) -- Cereal tastes better to children when its packaging features recognizable media characters, according to a study published in the March issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Matthew A. Lapierre, of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and colleagues investigated whether the presence of licensed media spokescharacters on food packaging and nutrition cues affect young children's judgment of a product's taste. Eighty children (mean age, 5.6 years) were asked to rate the taste of a "new" cereal while being exposed to a cereal box either with or without a licensed cartoon character on the package and with either a healthy or a sugary cereal name.

The researchers found that children liked the cereal significantly more when they saw a popular media character on the box compared to when they saw no character on the box. Children also preferred the cereal's taste more when they were told its name was Healthy Bits versus Sugary Bits. Among the children who tasted the cereal when it was named Healthy Bits, the taste assessment was not influenced by the presence of a character. However, when the cereal was named Sugary Bits, children's taste was especially influenced by the presence of characters on the packaging.

"The use of media characters on food packaging affects children's subjective taste assessment. Messages encouraging healthy eating may resonate with young children, but the presence of licensed characters on packaging potentially overrides children's assessments of nutritional merit," the authors write.

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