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Fast-Food Branding Affects Preschoolers' Taste Perception

Young children prefer the taste of foods and drinks in McDonald's packaging

MONDAY, Aug. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Foods and drinks contained in McDonald's packaging appeal more to preschoolers than identical foods and drinks contained in unmarked packaging, suggesting that branding has a significant effect on young children, according to a study published in the August issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Thomas N. Robinson, M.D., of the Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, Calif., and colleagues studied 63 low-income preschoolers (mean age 4.6) who tasted five pairs of identical foods and beverages in packaging from McDonald's and matched but unbranded packaging.

The researchers found that children preferred McDonald's-branded foods and drinks by wide margins: 48.3 percent versus 36.7 percent for hamburgers, 59 percent versus 18 percent for chicken nuggets, 76.7 percent versus 13.3 percent for French fries, 61.3 percent versus 21 percent for milk or apple juice, and 54.1 percent versus 23 percent for carrots.

"These results add evidence to support recommendations to regulate or ban advertising or marketing of high-calorie, low-nutrient foods and beverages, or all marketing, that is directed to young children," the authors write. "This approach has been advocated based on evidence that advertising to young children is inherently unfair because most children younger than 7 to 8 years are unable to understand the persuasive intent of advertising."

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