Food marketing to youth is pervasive and the foods most heavily marketed towards children are nutrient-poor and calorie-dense. In one of our studies, we gave pre-school children a choice between two snacks that were identical except for one thing: one snack was in a plain package, the other had a licensed character like Dora the Explorer on its packaging. We found that not only do children overwhelmingly choose the snack with the character, they actually say it tastes better. These findings show the powerful influence such characters have on children and suggest the need for more stringent guidelines on how characters can be used to market nutrient-poor foods to children. We have also replicated and expanded this study in Guatemala.
Sports-Related Food Marketing
The PEACH lab is interested in understanding how food companies use sports to market their products, whether through endorsements, team sponsorships, or sports references on food packaging. In collaboration with Marie Bragg we found that food companies use these sports references to market foods of poor nutritional quality and children are more likely to see commercials for these products than adults.