The impact of a cartoon character on adults perceptions of Children's breakfast cereals: A randomized experiment

Alejandra Contreras-Manzano, Alejandra Jaúregui*, Claudia Nieto, Marissa G. Hall, Jorge Vargas-Meza, James F. Thrasher, Daniel Illescas-Zárate, Simón Barquera, David Hammond

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    6 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Cartoon characters on processed food packaging increase the perception of product preference among children, but their effect among adults has rarely been examined. We evaluated the effect of a cartoon character on breakfast cereals on beliefs about buying them for children, as well as whether demographic characteristics modified this effect. Methods: An experimental study was conducted with adults from online consumer panels in Mexico (n = 3755). Participants were randomly assigned to a "cartoon" condition (n = 1789), in which they viewed a breakfast cereal box with a Minion character on the front of the package, or the "control" condition (n = 1966), in which the same cereal box was displayed with no character on the package. Participants were asked: "Is this a good cereal to buy children?" with the response options "Yes", "No", or "Don't know". Multinomial adjusted logistic models regressed responses to this question (Yes = 0, No = 1, 2 = Don't know) on experimental condition. Differences in the effect of the cartoon character across demographic characteristics were tested by introducing multiplicative interaction terms. Results: The adjusted model showed that participants in the "cartoon character" condition were 1.67 (1.45-1.94) times more likely to consider the cereal as being "Not good to buy for children" than those in the control condition (p < 0.001). This effect was smaller among parents (RRR = 1.39, 1.13-1.72) compared to those without children (RRR = 2.01, 1.63-2.47). No differences were observed in the proportion of participants answering "Don't know" across experimental groups. Conclusion: Among this sample of Mexican adults, a cereal with a cartoon character on the packaging was more often perceived as "not good to buy for children" compared to a cereal without it. This effect was smaller among parents, potentially due to children influences of parental decisions during food purchasing.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number43
    JournalNutrition Journal
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2020


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