September 28th, 2012
11:43 AM ET
Getting children to eat their veggies may be as simple as a good marketing strategy, says a new study.
"Marketing, when it comes to kids and food, tends to have a negative connotation," said David Just, a professor of behavioral economics at Cornell University and a co-author of the study. "What we've been doing is trying to establish whether it's possible to use marketing to get kids to eat healthier foods."
The plan? Just give vegetables catchy new names, and see what happens.
Don't like regular carrots? How about X-ray vision carrots?
Broccoli is gross? Well, can I interest you in some tiny tasty treetops?
That worked, seriously?
"One kid we met, his parents had told him to pretend he was a dinosaur eating trees," said Just, "and it actually got him to eat broccoli."
After a few small but successful experiments, Just and his co-author, noted food researcher Brian Wansink, applied the theory at local elementary schools.
"By changing the carrots to X-ray vision carrots, a whopping 66% were eaten," according to the text of the report, "far greater than the 32% eaten when labeled 'food of the day,' and 35% eaten when unnamed."
The next study took on broccoli and green beans.
"The results were outstanding: Vegetable purchases went up by 99% in the (study) school, while in the (control) school, vegetable sales declined by 16%," according to the report.
Sometimes the simple solutions are the best solutions, Just says.
"These things are just basic tools in marketing. These things are well-known by people who try to market less healthy foods to our kids," he said. "Why not use these things to get our kids to eat health foods? We've got to use every tool and trick at our disposal."
And the best part, he says: This simple name change costs absolutely nothing.
"We've reached out to about 13,000 schools thus far, but we're trying to roll this out as far as we can," he said. "We're asking anybody who will listen to us to give it a shot."
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