While standing in the grocery store with my five-year-old niece perusing the fruit snacks, I reached for the fun fruit shapes and she started to shriek.
“No! No, Aunt Jenny. I want Spongebob.”
To which I replied, “These are little fruits, strawberries and oranges. They are really yummy.”
“No, they’re not. Spongebob is yummy.”
And there was no convincing her that Spongebob fruit snacks tasted exactly the same as the fruit shaped goodies, even though they were made by the same company.
Which coincides with a recent study Yale University conducted on how popular film and television cartoon characters on the package tend to influence a child’s mindset about how the food is going to taste. The study featured children between ages 4 and 6, with each child presented with two items from three different groups (carrots, graham crackers and gummi fruit snacks,) one in plain packaging and the other in a cartoon character package.
52% of the children in the study claimed the food in the cartoon character packaging tasted better than the same item in plain packaging, according to findings published in the Pediatrics journal.
With advertisers targeting kids with popular, recognizable characters, it’s no small wonder there are so many grocery store aisle tantrums. I wonder how many of the children in the study came from families that limited or didn’t allow television watching. Future studies in this same vein are planned to test how much impact characters like Frosted Flakes Tony the Tiger have over the choices children make. I’m interested to see if there’s much of a difference, and have a feeling there won’t be if the plainer packaged material features and equally interesting, unknown animal.