Market food to your kids: It works!

Food marketers know that ads have an enormous influence on kids. As I explained in an earlier post, researchers have found that TV food marketing has more influence on children than their parents.

But why not try marketing healthy food to kids? That’s what the French do. And American researchers have recently rediscovered what the French have known for centuries: marketing works. Brian Wansink, a Cornell University professor, has tested the links between food marketing and kids’ eating behaviors. School cafeterias are one of the places where he does his research. He has found that giving a food item a more appealing name (like “fresh spring zucchini”) can help improve sales—by up to 25%. And there are lots of other marketing gimmicks that help as well. Placing fruit at the end of the line-up (by the cashier), in a spot normally reserved for junk food purchases like cookies, can increase fruit sales by up to 70%. Placing fruit and vegetables in more attractive bowls, moving the salad bar into the path of kids walking into the line-up, and giving kids trays (where they can put all of these harder-to-carry fresh items) all work too.

Why not try marketing food to your kids at home? Give dishes fun names, use unusual serving containers (the ‘muffin dip tray’ is one of my favorites), or make things fun (the vegetable ‘happy face platter’ always works well at our place). Research shows that when children choose to eat something, they’ll eat more of it. So my favorite tactic is to offer them healthy choices: “Broccoli or spinach?” “Tomatoes or red peppers?”

And remember, don’t give up. Some kids have to taste things more than a dozen before they agree to actually eat them.

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