A new study published in the journal, "Pediatrics" the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics provides empirical evidence that popular cartoon characters influence children's preference for foods.
In the study 40 children aged 4 to 6 years old were given two identical samples of food and asked which one the liked better. One sample had a sticker of either Shrek, Dora the Explorer, or Scooby Doo.
The children were asked to taste test graham crackers, gummy fruit snacks, and carrots in three different trials. Then they indicated which tasted better as well as which on they would choose to consume as a snack.
The researchers found that the addition of the cartoon character sticker to a food package influenced their choice of snack. There was a statistically significant preference for those foods with stickers although the effect was weaker in the carrots than for the graham crackers or the gummy fruit snacks.
Many popular cartoon characters are utilized to market for a variety of packaged foods, many of which are calorie rich while nutrient poor. With the incidence of childhood obesity doubling since the 1970's, consumption of "empty calories" is an increasing concern. Also, using cartoon characters to market healthier foods is an intriguing possibility.
The authors concluded that the empirical evidence from this study suggests that the use of cartoon characters to market foods to children should be regulated.
You can read this entire study at: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/126/1/88.