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Cartoon Branding Affects Kids' Cereal Choice, Regardless of Taste
Date:3/8/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, March 7 (HealthDay News) -- Children prefer cereals that feature popular media characters such as Shrek on the package, regardless of how they taste, researchers say.

"This tells us what we've probably already guessed: that young children are going to be more likely to enjoy their cereal if it has one of their favorite characters on it," said Keri Gans, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and author of the forthcoming book, The Small Change Diet.

Gans was not involved with the new study, which is published in the March issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

But the good news is that when there is no licensed cartoon character featured on the box, kids prefer a cereal whose name suggests healthy eating rather than sugar consumption.

"Trade characters are used to help young children remember and identify products. They're a visual cue," said study co-author Sarah Vaala, a doctoral candidate at the Annenberg School for Communications at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

And those characters are usually found on foods with more dubious nutritional value.

A study out of Yale University that was released last June found that the branding of American food product packaging with characters such as Dora the Explorer drives preschoolers to choose higher-calorie, less healthful foods over more nutritious options.

"Kids transfer their favorable attitudes for that character to the product and want to buy it more," Vaala said. "We wanted to know if that transfer extended to the actual taste of a food product, whether putting these friendly, well-known characters on products subconsciously influences their judgment of the product."

After scouring supermarkets for cereals that were "sweet, but not too sweet [6 to 9 grams of sugar], not widely available and not advertised on TV," the re
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