Marketing is responsible for kids developing unhealthy food habits, but this advertisement tool can also work to encourage children to eat healthily. Scientists have studied the impact of healthy food marketing in a New York school district and found that these tactics make kids go to the salad bar.
The study was published in the journal Pediatrics on Tuesday and concluded that branded marketing tactics nearly triple the likelihood of children choosing vegetables at lunch.
The researcher’s goal was to measure the impact that daily exposure to branded vegetables characters had on boys and girls when selecting vegetables in elementary schools. From a large urban school district, ten elementary schools participated in the study, and these schools were randomly assigned to a control condition or as part of 1 of the three treatment conditions. The first conditions consisted in vinyl banner displaying vegetable characters that were portrayed in the salad bar. The second one showed short television segments with health education delivered by vegetable characters and the third condition was a combination of the vinyl banners and television segments.
The control group experimented no marketing interventions
During the study 22,206 were observed over a 6-week-period, evaluating the number of boys and girls taking vegetables from the school’s salad bar.
First Lady Michelle Obama started the Let’s Move initiative in 2010, which intends to improve healthy diets in America’s children. She was part of the marketing campaign that introduced the Super Sprowtz, a superhero team made by super strong Brian Broccoli, Colby Carrot, super stretchy Sam Spinach, super smart Erica Eggplant, Miki Mushroom, Suzie Sweet Pea and others.
The study found that almost 100 percent more students took vegetable from the salad bar while the banners were displayed, and the combination of the banners and the television segments resulted in 239 percent of kids eating vegetables.
Before the banners, 12 percent of the children ate vegetables at lunch in school, but after the exposure to the banners, about 24 percent of students did.
In general, before the marketing campaign only 10 percent of students took vegetables and after the banners and videos, 34 percent of them did.
What was surprising for Andrew Hanks, assistant professor of human sciences at Ohio State University and lead author of the study, was that the TV segments along were not useful. They did not have a significant impact on students’ eating behaviors.
The research concluded that banners were more efficient when influencing children to eat vegetables from the salad bar. They were effective alone and when they were used with the TV segments. The TVs had to be placed where space and electricity were available. Scientists said the banners were located right at the point of selection, which explains why they were more influential.
Andrew Hanks stated that if elementary schools nationwide used marketing strategies, children’s nutrition at lunch will most likely improve. He added that marketing could have powerful effects on food choices.