Despite everything we teach kids about not judging a book by it’s cover, kids judge food immediately based on its’ appearance.
A recent study published in the journal Appetite, found that children ate more fruit when it was designed into a colorful hedgehog decoration rather than the same fruit that was served plainly in cubes.
This isn’t news to marketers who have been using attractive packaging, toys and cartoon characters to market to children for years. Think of Ronald McDonald, the Trix bunny and Toucan Sam. These cartoon characters are aimed at pushing low-nutritional food to 3 to 5 year old children.
But, young children aren’t doing the shopping, so how does this work? In one word: nagging. A study published in the August issue of Journal of Children and Media found that product packaging, cartoon characters and exposure to commercials are three main contributors to children nagging their parents for these unhealthy foods.
But food manufacturers and fast food chains are now feeling the pressure to abandon their cartoonish mascots, given the media attention on the alarming increase in childhood-obesity. One iconic mascot has recently been ‘dethroned’ as his title as King of burgers. This week Burger King retired their King mascot from their advertising campaign.
This move could work out great for parents who are trying to get their kids to eat healthier. As the junk food bandits go into hiding, parents can use the same technique that marketers are been using for years on your own healthy cooking. Create your own healthy eating superheros and characters.
I’m not an artist, but I just played around with a few simple techniques to transform fiber-filled brown rice, olives and low-fat cheese into “Little Red Riding Hood.” I simply steamed brown rice in my rice cooker and added a bit of red food coloring to dye it pink. Using an ice cream scooper, I formed a small ball and gave her olive eyes, cheese and salami flower ‘bow’, salami hat and cheese mouth. Normally my daughter wouldn’t be thrilled with brown rice for lunch, but when she saw “Little Red Riding Hood” she couldn’t wait to gobble her up, just like the Big Bad Wolf.
Do you have any “marketing” techniques you use with your kids to get them to eat healthier? I’d love to hear from you!