The Problem with Marketing Foods to Kids

Earlier this week I posted here about a California county's efforts to prohibit fast food restaurants from using toys to market unhealthy foods to kids. Today, thanks to a write-up on the blog of Slow Food USA, I've learned that a new study by the Yale Rudd Center reveals that kids claim to prefer the taste of foods whose packaging portrays familiar characters.

This concept is not necessarily new, or surprising. Back in 2006, I wrote a magazine article about using TV characters to market food to kids. At that time, the Institute of Medicine was advocating "a multipronged approach" to curbing the practice, and asked the government to provide incentives for the marketing of healthier foods instead. Some companies did follow suit.

Fast forward 4 years, and where are we? According to the new study, reported in the journal Pediatrics, kids significantly prefer the taste of branded foods, especially junk foods. The study's conclusion: "Branding food packages with licensed characters substantially influences young children's taste preferences and snack selection and does so most strongly for energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods. These findings suggest that the use of licensed characters to advertise junk food to children should be restricted."

So, we're back where we started—we just now have more evidence to support an already widely held claim. Where we'll be on this issue in another 4 years is anyone's guess.


How do you feel about feeding your kids branded foods? Chime in below!

Like this? Read these!
- Transform Your Kid from Picky Eater to Food Adventurer!
- The Daily Feed: Run Around First, Eat Second
- The Daily Feed: The Perpetual Kids' Snack Attack
- Listing Calories on Fast-Food Menus Cuts Kids' Intake

Cheryl Sternman Rule is a widely-published food writer and the voice behind the blog 5 Second Rule. Read all of Cheryl's iVillage posts here.

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