Would you rather eat “carrots” or “crunchy yummy carrots”? Or, if you’re a youngster, “X-Ray Vision Carrots”? Kids seem to have an aversion to eating vegetables, but can this be changed? Previous work conducted by Wansink et al., in 2005 revealed that sensory perceptions of descriptive foods are better than plain dishes with no fancy descriptors. But can children be influenced to prefer vegetables using this same approach? To find out, researchers Brian Wansink, David Just, Collin Payne, and Matthew Klinger conducted a couple of studies to explore whether a simple change such as using attractive names would influence kid’s consumption of vegetables.
Name that food!
In the first study, plain old carrots were transformed into “X-ray Vision Carrots.” 147 students ranging from 8-11 years old from 5 ethnically and economically diverse schools participated in tasting the cool new foods. Lunchroom menus were the same except that carrots were added on three consecutive days. On the first and last days, carrots remained unnamed. On the second day, the carrots were served as either “X-ray Vision Carrots” or “Food of the Day.” Although the amount of carrots selected was not impacted by the 3 different naming conditions the amount eaten was very much so. By changing the carrots to “X-ray vision carrots”, a whopping 66% were eaten, far greater than the 32% eaten when labeled “Food of the Day” and 35% eaten when unnamed. The success of the changes is stupendous, and the fun, low cost nature of the change makes it all the more enticing.
20/20 Interview Clip
In the second study, carrots became “X-Ray vision carrots,” broccoli did a hulk like morph into “Power Punch Broccoli” along with “Tiny Tasty Tree Tops” and “Silly Dilly Green Beans” replaced regular old green beans to give them more pizzazz. Researchers looked at food sales over two months in two neighboring NYC suburban schools. For the first month, both schools offered unnamed food items, while on the second month carrots, broccoli and green beans were given the more attractive names, only in one of the schools (the treatment school.) Of the 1,552 students involved 47.8% attended the treatment school. The results were outstanding: vegetable purchases went up by 99% in the treatment school, while in the other school vegetable sales declined by 16%!
These results demonstrate that using attractive names for healthy foods increases kid’s selection and consumption of these foods and that an attractive name intervention is robust, effective and scalable at little or no cost. Very importantly, these studies confirm that using attractive names to make foods sound more appealing works on individuals across all age levels!