Young children prefer food with the McDonald's brand
August 06, 2007
by FoodBusinessNews.net Staff
STANFORD, CALIF. — According to research done by the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, children ages three to five prefer the taste of McDonald’s brand food compared with unmarked brands.
"Kids don’t just ask for food from McDonald’s," said Thomas Robinson, M.D., director of the Center for Healthy Weight at Packard Children’s and associate professor of pediatrics and medicine at the School of Medicine. "They actually believe that the chicken nugget they think is from McDonald’s tastes better than an identical, unbranded nugget."
The study tested 63 children between three and five who were enrolled in different Head Start centers in San Mateo County, Calif. The children tasted chicken nuggets, a hamburger, french fries, baby carrots and milk. The chicken nuggets, hamburger and french fries were from McDonald’s and the carrots and milk were from a grocery story. The samples were divided into identical portions with one wrapped in a McDonald’s wrapper or placed in a McDonald’s bag while the other was in similar wrapping without a McDonald’s logo.
The children were then asked to taste and to decide if the samples tasted the same or if one tasted better. With all the foods except the hamburger, the children responded more often that the sample in McDonald’s packaging tasted better, even though they were all the same.
"We found that kids with more TV’s in their homes and those who eat at McDonald’s more frequently were even more likely to prefer the food in the McDonald’s wrapper," Mr. Robinson said. "This is a company that knows what they are doing. Nobody else spends as much to advertise their fast-food products to children."
It is estimated that McDonald’s spends more than $1 billion a year on U.S. advertising. Mr. Robinson and the other researchers chose to study McDonald’s because it is the largest fast-food advertiser in the U.S.
Mr. Robinson also said marketing doesn’t just occur on TV ads and isn’t exclusive to McDonald’s. Children seeing co-branded toys from other companies or a parent’s preference for a brand may have a significant effect as well. He also said parents aren’t completely to blame for giving into children’s desires to go to McDonald’s.
"Parents don’t choose for their children to be exposed to this type of marketing," Mr. Robinson said. "Parents have a very difficult job. It may seem easier to give in to their child’s plea to go to McDonald’s than to give in to the many other hundreds of requests they get during a day."