Superheroes Rescue Healthy Food, Too
Food and drink manufacturers figured it out long ago. Stick pictures of kids’ favorite characters — or games or prizes — on packs of your product and you will sell more.
What could be simpler or more obvious? And while manufacturers have been using this strategy for years, researchers at Cornell University insist the same approach can work for marketing — wait for it — healthy fruit and vegetables.
Stores may see vegetables as boring and not make much effort to spell out their benefits, but there is now evidence pointing towards the value of being proactive.
As long ago as 2005, Cornell’s team found that "sensory perceptions of descriptive foods are better than plain dishes with no fancy descriptors." Plain old carrots became more popular when renamed "crunchy yummy carrots." Performance soared to super levels as "X-Ray Vision Carrots."
Trying out plain versus exciting names on 147 children ages eight through 11 in "five ethnically and economically diverse schools" resulted in 66 percent eating the X-Ray Vision carrots as opposed to 32 percent eating those labeled "food of the day" or 35 percent eating unlabeled carrots.
A second study added "Power Punch Broccoli," "Tiny Tasty Tree Tops" and "Silly Dilly Green Beans." This time, the team studied food sales in two neighboring NYC suburban schools, with the catchy titles added at one school during the second month.
Researchers described the results of the first study as stupendous, emphasizing that "the fun, low cost nature of the change makes it all the more enticing." In the second study, results were likewise said to be "outstanding." Vegetable purchases grew 99 percent in the treatment school, while in the non-treatment school vegetable sales declined 16 percent.
One similar but unscientific effort was started by a Florida couple and their family physician who invented a superhero with powers derived from eating vegetables. Books featuring Mitch Spinach are aimed at three to 10-year-olds, but no evidence is available about Mitch’s impact being anything other than entertaining.
Cornell’s study, summarized by British industry magazine, The Grocer, will be published by Preventive Medicine in full under the title Attractive Names Sustain Increased Vegetable Intake in Schools.
- Kids are suckers for ‘superhero’ fruit and veg – The Grocer
- What’s in a name? – Catchy vegetable names increase affinity for greens – Cornell University Food and Brand Lab
- Super hero inspires kids to eat their veggies – CBS Miami
Can something as simple as clever marketing be the answer to getting kids to eat vegetables and other healthy food? Would the same technique work for adults?