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.
The Use of Brand Mascots and Media Characters: Opportunities for Responsible Food Marketing to Children
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 … More
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 … More
Retailers and other organizations currently use a variety of nutrition standards and recommendations to guide consumers towards healthier, “Better for You”, options. This variety can be confusing to consumers. Healthy Eating Research convened a scientific advisory committee to review existing “Better-For-You” nutrition standards, and analyze their strengths and weaknesses. The … More