Published: March 2016

ID #: 1082

Publisher: Healthy Eating Research

Authors: Kraak VI and Story M

See more related research


This issue brief examines the evidence on how food, beverage, restaurant, and entertainment companies have used brand mascots and cartoon media characters to influence children’s diet and health. Brand mascots and media characters represent a broad range of human or fictional kid-friendly animals or animated objects used by companies to market their products. Many of these products are high in added sugars, salt, and fat that contribute to poor diet quality and unhealthy weight gain. While progress has been made by some companies, significant opportunities for improvement still exist. The evidence in the issue brief is based on the findings of two publications that reviewed and evaluated the scientific literature on these topics from 2000 to 2015. The papers also highlight how food, beverage, and restaurant industry leaders can be held accountable for their marketing practices and respond to appeals from parents, public health experts, and consumer groups to strengthen voluntary commitments to ensure that brand mascots and media characters are used responsibly to promote only healthy food and beverage products to children ages 14 and younger.

Related Research

April 2015

An Accountability Evaluation for the Industry’s Responsible Use of Brand Mascots and Licensed Media Characters to Market a Healthy Diet to American Children

This study explored diverse stakeholders’ accountability expectations and actions for industry policies and practices that used cartoon brand mascots and media characters to market foods and beverages to American children. A companion paper examined how media characters may influence diet-related outcomes for children younger than 12 years. Investigators used a four-step accountability framework to identify More

February 2015

Influence of Food Companies’ Brand Mascots and Entertainment Companies’ Cartoon Media Characters on Children’s Diet and Health: A Systematic Review and Research Needs

This paper examines the influence of cartoon brand mascots and media characters on diet-related cognitive, behavioral, and health outcomes for children ages 2 to 11 through a review of 11 experimental studies published between 2004 and 2014. Researchers categorized results into outcomes such as character or brand recognition, taste or snack preference, food choice, and More

July 2022

Reducing Student Exposure to Digital Food and Beverage Marketing

Digital marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children and adolescents is pervasive and undermines healthy eating. During the COVID-19 pandemic, students’ time spent online for both recreation and school using educational technology doubled from 3.8 to 7.7 hours per day for 12- to13-year-olds, and racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities widened with children of color More