August 6, 2007 (Insidermedicine) Most North Americans are familiar with Ronald McDonald, the Big Mac, and the Happy Meal – all examples of McDonald’s successful brand marketing. Even children as young as two are influenced by clever marketing schemes.
A new study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine found that preschool children prefer the taste of foods and drinks when they are in McDonald’s packaging compared to the same food in unbranded packaging.
This is what we know about fast food marketing:
• It is widespread - more than $10 billion each year is spent marketing to US children
• The goal is to create lifelong customers
• Child-friendly foods and packages (example: Happy Meal that comes with a toy) are created to appeal specifically to children
• The fast food industry is one cause of the growing obesity epidemic
• Obesity is a risk factor in a number of chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and cancer
In the study, children aged three to five tasted food from McDonalds either presented in traditional McDonald’s wrappers or plain unbranded packaging. The foods that they were offered included a portion of a hamburger, a Chicken McNugget, McDonald’s French fries, 1% milk or apple juice, and two baby carrots.
The children were six times more likely to prefer chicken nuggets presented in McDonald’s packaging; and were three times more likely to prefer French fries in McDonald’s packaging. Preschoolers with more than one TV in their homes and children who ate McDonald’s food more often were more likely to prefer foods and drinks they thought were from McDonald’s.
Some experts recommend regulating or banning fast food advertising and promoting healthier options for young children. So parents, it is important to be aware how vulnerable your children are to fast food ads, and encourage them to make healthy food choices.
For Insidermedicine in Depth, I'm Dr. Susan Sharma.