Show: April 17, 2011:
Checkup: How Kids Choose Cereal
The next time youíre at the supermarket, take a stroll down the cereal aisle, and youíll notice that nearly all kidsí cereals have have some sort of mascot or character on the box. And you may wonder: why is that?
"When you put a character on something in a forced choice scenario, children will choose the character. And theyíll also say it tastes better."
Thatís Matthew Lapierre, a grad student in communication at the University of Pennsylvania. He did an experiment involving 80 kids to see how cartoon characters on boxes of cereal affected how much they liked the cereal. Some of the boxes kids ate from featured characters from the movie Happy Feet, others didnít. And some boxes were labeled Healthy Bits, other Sugar Bits.
"And we asked them how much they liked the cereal after tasting it, and what we found was that when there was a character on the box the kids said they enjoyed it more. And when the name was Healthy Bits the kids enjoyed the taste more."
Whatís interesting here is that the kids liked Healthy Bits a lot, whether or not there was a character on the box. But when it came to Sugar Bits, the kids only liked it if the box had a character. So what does this mean?
"Even when I was a kid, there was some hesitancy about eating sugary foods. But these subtle marketing cues like characters on the box has the potential to override these assessments of the products."
So even though kids understand that too much sugar isnít healthy, those cartoon characters on the boxes draw them in like moths to flame. Being aware of the power of this kind of packaging can help parents steer their kids towards healthier choices.