Moms everywhere struggle to get healthy food into their kids. We cook Jessica Seinfeld’s cakes baked with smash cauliflower and create clever names for celery/peanut butter/raisins combos. We make our fruit look like holiday stars and smily faces. Parents have looked to marketing to help them get their children to eat healthy food for as long as kids have refused to eat it. And, it works.
In a new study published by Pediatrics, Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs (BEN Center) researchers demonstrate the influence that marketing can have on kids’ food choices. In this six-week study, researchers decorated salad bars with vinyl banners depicting fun fruit and vegetable characters in 10 elementary schools across the country. In addition to the banner, researchers also placed a TV screen within close proximity to the salad bar and played education videos of the same animated fruit and vegetables while the children chose their meals. The study found that in schools where the banner was in place, 90% more children chose to eat salad than without the banner in place. In schools where the banner was in place and the video was running simultaneously, 239% more children chose to eat salad.
These results clearly demonstrate the powerful influence that marketing can have on kids’ food choices. So while big conglomerates are busy wooing our children with Tony the Tiger and the Trix Rabbit, care givers and educators have ammunition to fight back with their own benevolent broccoli and playful peppers, evening the playing field of how we shape our children’s perception of good, and fun, food.
To learn more about this study, see Cornell Food and Brand Lab’s video, An Upside of Marketing Food to Children.