This is How Marketing Vegetables Could Help Kids Eat Healthier

This is How Marketing Vegetables Could Help Kids Eat Healthier

Marketing products to kids is taboo. But what if sneaky, marketing techniques—cartoons, bright colors, cute characters—were used for good? Like for marketing vegetables?

Meet the Sprowtz

Enter Super Sprowtz: a superhero gang of large puppeted vegetables. The group travels throughout the country and talks about vegetables’ awesome (super) powers.

The veggie crew is colorful and crazy. All the Sprowtz have fun names, too: Sammy Spinach, Oliver Onion, Colby Carrot, and Suzy Sweet Pea. The Sprowtz are led by Roger, a superhero trainer. He helps his veggie friends develop their superpowers.

In addition to performing live, the characters also appear in videos that feature stars, such as Shaquille O’Neal. Most videos also feature slightly modified pop songs.

“One video has all the characters singing and dancing to the tune of Beyoncé’s ‘Put a Ring On It’,” NPR reports.

“The revamped chorus? “If you’d like to eat healthy, put a veggie on it.”

The study

Do kids respond to this type of marketing? David Just, a behavioral economist at Cornell University, wanted to find out.

To test the Sprowtz’ abilities, Just and his colleagues brought the vegetable superheroes to a number of elementary school cafeterias for kids ranging from Kindergarten through fifth grade.

“In three participating schools, the researchers showed the Super Sprowtz videos on TVs in the cafeterias near the salad bar,” NPR reports.

“In two schools, they festooned the salad bar with a large vinyl banner showing the brightly colored veggie heroes. In three additional schools, the cafeteria featured both the videos and the salad bar banner, while two other schools had neither the videos nor the banner and served as a controls for the experiment.”

Does marketing vegetables get results?

Students in schools with just the banner took almost twice as many servings of vegetables as kids in control schools. The students in schools with the banner and video messages placed three times as many vegetables on their plates. But the schools that only showed videos didn’t notice a significant increase in how much veggies kids served themselves, NPR adds.

This research could help schools convince kids to eat healthier lunches—a notoriously hard thing to sell.

“I think doing something like this, certainly you can target entire schools,” Christina Economos, a childhood nutrition researcher at Tufts University, says.

Economos adds that schools should add an educational component to these programs because even though traditional nutritional education is boring, it works.

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Image of Super Sprowtz via Facebook