Could better branding get kids to eat their vegetables?

A young boy holds up an orange outside a fruit and vegetable shop.

Jeremy Hobson: And now to the age-old question of how you get kids to eat broccoli.

New research from Cornell University finds it's all about branding as Sabri Ben Achour reports.

Sabri Ben-Achour: Theodore Segears has seven kids and he says it's not easy to get them to eat well.

Theodore Segears: No it's not. They wanna bag of M&M's over an apple or orange, they'll want juice over water. They sometimes get a little attitude.

Well, Cornell University professor David Just tried a little experiment on a few hundred preschoolers. He put cookies and apples in front of them at lunch time, and then got the number of kids who put an apple on their lunch tray to increase by 70 percent.

David Just: We put a little sticker of Elmo on it, the Sesame Street character.

That's it. Branding. So why don't you have Spiderman carrots and Spongebob oranges everywhere? Richard Sexton is professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UC Davis.

Richard Sexton: There's not large and powerful and branded players in those fresh fruits and vegetables, so there tends not to be the advertising.

He says it'd be tough to get a bunch of independent, small farmers to sign on to an expensive ad campaign. That's why you do find organic pizza branded with Big Bird. But for the Elmo apples, you might have to wait.

I'm Sabri Ben-Achour for Marketplace.

About the author

Sabri Ben-Achour is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the New York City bureau. He covers Wall Street, finance, and anything New York and money related.
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Branding, schmanding. Kids need to see it to believe it.

There is a show called Lazytown, out of Iceland, of all places, where the superhero only eats "sports candy"--fruits and vegetables. It's shown internationally, and I saw a statistic that said that show increased consumption of produce by 22% just in Iceland. The creator/star of the show, Magnus Sheving, received a commendation from the Icelandic government.

I know MY kids, and my friends kids, eat a lot more "sports candy" after watching that show. Especially after watching Sportacus go into sugar meltdown. On sports candy, he can run, jump, flip, somersault... after sugar, he collapses into a heap. VERY educational.

Also, Sportacus is smokin' hot, so there's a little sumpin' sumpin' for the mommies :)

Perhaps the solution is a couple packs of stickers. Seems easy enough to slap on a sticker or two while making lunch for the first grader to take to school.

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