This paper aims to examine the perceptions of the visual packaging of snacks and nutrition knowledge among preschool children. Packages serve as persuasive media at the point of purchase.
In this paper 13 interviews with four-year-olds were conducted. Children sorted seven snacks that implied fruit into categories based on perceptions of fun, taste, parent’s choice and “nutrition”. Children also drew trees with food that would make them healthy or not healthy.
Children attended to the package elements more than the product. All children selected the character fruit snack as their preferred choice; however, perceptions for fun and taste varied among snacks. Perceptions of healthiness showed evidence of heuristics (e.g. sugar = bad; fruit = good). Some children were able to understand that their parents’ choices may be different from their own.
Because of the small sample size, it is not possible to generalize results to all children. Children seemed to understand that the character may not convey “healthy” or “taste”, but they still chose the snack with a character.
Children as young as four can understand nutrition heuristics and may/may not use those heuristics in product preferences.
Children may be able to reason about their own preferences and others’ preferences at a preoperational stage of development.
Previous research indicates that older children are attracted by characters. The findings show that younger children also prefer characters but may be capable of disentangling the various associations of “characters”.
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