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Attractive packaging may encourage children to choose healthy foods, study

Posted:  Tuesday, June 30, 2015

When it comes to children, a favourite food mascot or a glitzy food packet is all it takes for them to choose a product. Adults on the other hand may look into the nutrition details. So how can one ensure that children choose healthy when alone? A set of German researchers found a simple way out; simply package the healthy food attractively!

A total of 179 boys and girls, aged 8 to 10 years, from primary schools participated in this interesting research project. The results of this research will be published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

The children were provided a yoghurt-fruit-cereal snack, which fulfilled nutritional requirements according to the Dortmund Research Institute for Child Nutrition (FKE) guidelines, packaged in 3 different ways. The first packaging was plain and standard; the second packaging had extra health information whereas the third packaging was attractive with cartoon characters and a catchy name.

The researchers additionally determined the children’s motivation for a snack from the 3 packs based on hand grip strength. They used a device known as a handgrip dynamometer to measure the strength with which the children squeezed their hand to receive a favoured pack. The children were also given an opportunity to taste the snack from all the 3 packs.

The results showed that the children exerted maximum hand grip strength to receive the attractively packaged snack. The best packaged snack scored well even on the taste test, with the plain and health oriented packs lagging behind. These findings indicate that merely the taste of the product was not sufficient for the children to make their choice.

"Attractively designed food packaging can tempt children to pick unhealthy foods. However, marketing effects of this type can also be used to promote healthy food products to children," suggested the researchers. The practical application of the study can be envisaged in the school canteen wherein healthy snacks such as wholegrain sandwiches and milk could be made tempting with attractive packs.

Time for manufacturer’s of healthy foods to take note of this findings!

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