Breakfast Cereal Looking Down at Children

breakfast cerealFor many parents, walking down the breakfast cereal aisle with children is practically impossible due to the sugary products that catch children’s eyes easily.  A new study reveals that these products may be an eye-catcher because they are looking down at children.

Researchers from the Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab discovered that most characters found on cereal boxes that market to children tend to look downward at a 10-degree angle, making it easy to make eye-contact with a child. These breakfast cereal boxes are mostly placed on the bottom two shelves at an average height of 23 inches. According to the researchers, making sure the characters on the boxes make eye-contact with children is a way to attract them.

Healthier breakfast cereals, usually marketed to adult consumers, are mostly placed on the top two shelves in supermarkets at an average height of 54 inches. Athletes that are featured on the boxes tend to look straight forward, allowing eye-contact with adults.

Brian Wansink is a marketing professor at Cornell University and director of the Food and Brand Lab and says, “Having eye-contact with someone, even if it is a character on a box of breakfast cereal, gains the consumer’s trust and the likelihood of purchasing the product increases. This is why breakfast cereal characters are looking down at children.”

The study was divided into two parts. In the first study, 65 breakfast cereal brands and 86 characters were studied at ten supermarkets in New York and Connecticut. Researchers particularly looked at the placement of the product and its targeted audience. In the second study, 63 university students were asked to look at two versions of a Trix breakfast cereal box. On one box, the rabbit made eye-contact with the students, while the rabbit on the other box looked down. Students reported to have 16 percent more trust in the brand when the rabbit made eye-contact. Additionally, students felt 28 percent more connected to the brand by having eye-contact with the breakfast cereal’s character on the box. Some even said they liked the cereal better, compared to the product in the cereal box where the rabbit was not making eye-contact.

The industry of breakfast cereal continues to grow.  A new report released on Thursday reveals that the breakfast cereal ingredients market will be worth an estimated $755.4 million by 2019. North America dominated the market in 2013, followed by Asia-Pacific. The increasing demand for natural and nutritious foods drives the market, allowing the industry to develop new ingredients to make cereal healthier and more nutritious.

Researchers in the study,  however, say that parents may choose to not take their children into the breakfast cereal aisle to avoid having to deny a box of sugary cereal to their child, but the marketing methodology could also be used to market healthy cereals to children, according to researchers. “A breakfast cereal company that is looking to market healthy cereals to children could ensure that the characters on the boxes are looking down to make eye contact with children. This could create brand loyalty,” researchers say. The study will be published in the journal Environment & Behavior.

By Diana Herst

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