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)

    Abstract

    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
    Volume19
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2020

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