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Int J Obes (Lond). 2014 Nov;38(11):1466-9. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2014.38. Epub 2014 Mar 3.

Effects of licensed characters on children's taste and snack preferences in Guatemala, a low/middle income country.

Author information

1
1] Cardiovascular Unit of Guatemala, Guatemala [2] INCAP Comprehensive Center for the Prevention of Chronic Diseases, Guatemala.
2
Department of Social & Behavioral Sciences, Harvard School of Public Health, Cambridge, MA, USA.
3
1] Cardiovascular Unit of Guatemala, Guatemala [2] Division of Public Health Sciences, Department of Surgery, Washington University in St Louis, St Louis, MO, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Marketing of high-energy, low-nutrient foods is one of the contributing factors to the obesity-promoting environment. Licensed characters are typically used to market these foods to children because they increase brand recognition and sales, and data suggest that they affect the taste and snack preferences of children in high-income countries, but it has not yet been explored in low/middle income countries (LMICs). We sought to examine how licensed characters on food packaging influence children's taste and snack preferences in Guatemala, a LMIC.

METHODS:

One hundred twenty-one children (mean ± s.d. age, 7.4 ± 1.9 years) from four (two preschool and two elementary) public schools in Guatemala tasted three food types: potato chips, crackers and carrots. Each was presented in two identical packages, except that one had a licensed character and the other did not. Children tasted the foods (six total) in each package and answered whether they tasted the same or one tasted better. Snack preference was also evaluated.

RESULTS:

Children were significantly (P<0.001) more likely to prefer the taste of the foods inside the package with the licensed character compared with the one with no character (mean ± s.d., 0.24 ± 0.54). Most (66%) chose the food in the package with the character for a snack. Younger children (P < 0.001) were more likely to prefer the taste of the food inside the package with the character.

CONCLUSIONS:

Licensed characters on food packaging influence Guatemalan children's taste and snack preferences. Given that these characters are typically used to promote high-energy, low-nutrient foods, their influence could contribute toward overconsumption of these foods and consequently increased risk of obesity in Guatemalan children. Therefore, public health advocates, in Guatemala and elsewhere, might explore restricting the use of licensed characters on food packaging as a public health strategy.

PMID:
24583854
DOI:
10.1038/ijo.2014.38
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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