By UZO NNABUIHE
“I’m loving it,” the McDonald’s slogan, seems to be holding true. A recent study shows kids between the ages of 3-5 prefer food wrapped in McDonald’s packaging. The children were offered five sample foods: chicken nuggets, hamburgers, and french fries, all from McDonalds, and baby carrots and milk, both from a grocery store.
In the study, the children got two identical samples of each food on a tray, one wrapped in McDonald’s paper and the other in generic paper.
In 4 out of 5 comparisons, the children preferred food they thought was bought from McDonald’s. Even the carrots, which aren’t available at McDonald’s, were favored. The Stanford study concluded children’s taste perceptions are influenced by branding rather than familiarity of taste or smell. University
“These taste preferences emerged despite the fact that three of the foods were from McDonald’s and only the branding was changed,” researcher Thomas Robinson said. He said his study was designed to test the overall effects of advertising and branding. Robinson wanted specifically to capture the influence of the well known McDonald’s packaging on children.
A brief survey of parents showed they are concerned about the findings, but not surprised.
“I would say that I have one (child) that would prefer the fast food and eating out over the same kind of food we could have at home; I mean I could definitely see where that would be the case,” Sheila Walker, mother of two from Richmond, Va., said.
Some parents believed it was more a cultural thing that went beyond just food and McDonald’s, but other aspects of life as well.
“I think it speaks of the culture of this age and how what we see is what appeals to us, even in regards to other things. Clothing is the same way, everything is the same way,” Kayla, mother of one from Omaha, Neb., said.
She said it bothered her because people need to see things beyond the wrapper and the outside appearance.
Grace, mother of one from Fredericksburg, Va., said the behavior exhibited by the children in the study could be attributed to human nature as well.
“People think if something is made by “Prada” that it’s going to be better. Adults do it as much as children, but I think we should deter our children from thinking that way because clothing is clothing, food is food; it doesn’t matter what it’s wrapped in,” she said.
“Moderator analysis found that children with more television sets in their homes and children who ate food from McDonald’s more often, were more likely to prefer the taste of foods/drinks if they thought they were from McDonald’s,” Thompson wrote in his report.
He said his findings suggest a need to find strategies in advertising and branding to promote more healthy eating habits in children.
When parents were presented with the idea of branding healthy foods, they were skeptical about it.
“I think it (branding) could do it, but it bothers me that what things are wrapped in, rather than the item itself, is what appeals to us,” Kayla, from Omaha Neb., said.
“How healthy is it? all they (McDonalds) have are apples and juice, it’s really not healthy. If you think that’s how you have to be with your child, if you have to trick your child into eating certain things, that’s kind of sad,” David Langley, father of one from Baltimore, Md., said.