Evidence Soup
How to find, use, and explain evidence.

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Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Evidence shows your kids will like vegetables if you put Shrek's face on them. (And you might, too.)

There's new evidence that Licensed Characters on Food Packaging Affect Kids’ Taste Preferences, Snack Selections. "Children significantly prefer the taste of junk foods branded with licensed cartoon characters on the packaging, compared with the same foods without characters, finds a new study from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University. The study, published in Pediatrics, shows a causal relationship between licensed characters on food packaging and children’s taste and snack preferences."

Shrek Forever After - Vidalias Forever Sweet - Wall Street Journal Okay. But here's where i disagree with the researchers: They say "Rather than advocating the use of licensed characters in the marketing of healthy foods, these findings suggest a need for regulation to curtail the use of licensed characters in the marketing of low-nutrient, high-energy foods...."

There's real-world evidence that cartoons can sell healthy stuff. The most recent Shrek movie has made people a bit crazy for the onions. Even the Wall Street JournalABC News, and Entertainment Weekly have noticed. Vidalia onion sales have been boosted by a Shrek-related marketing campaign (sounds like something dreamed up by my idol, Alton Brown). The Wall Street Journal says "The campaign, 'Shrek Forever After, Vidalias Forever Sweet,' was unveiled this spring in conjunction with the release of the flick and the start of the Vidalia season, which stretches to September. The onion association's partnership... uses the movie's characters on packaging, store displays and on a website. Through June 14, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said, farmers had shipped eight million more pounds of Vidalias than by the same date last year—though the 2010 season started two weeks later than in 2009."

I yam what I yam. This approach works for other vegetables - according to the ABC story, spinach sales rose 30% when Popeye started downing the stuff by the canful. So why shouldn't we use cartoon characters to sell good foods, rather than scold people for wanting bad stuff? Seems to me this is the better way to change behavior.

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