For parents deciding what goes in their kids’ cereal bowls, health star ratings lose to colours say researchers from the University of Technology, Sydney.
The findings could have important implications for helping to address child obesity.
The study found while parents are interested in star ratings indicating a cereal’s nutritional value, the colour in the breakfast bowl has final sway.
“Parents will use health star ratings as much as features like price, product claims, cartoons and other imagery when they make cereal choices,” says Associate Professor Paul Burke.
“The colour of the product, however, trumps them all.
“Consumers were more likely to reject a product because it was artificial looking in terms of being blue, green, pink and purple.
“On the other hand, they chose a product just because it was yellowish like other cereals or brown like bran in colour.”
The study also found reliance on star ratings was lower among parents of children with fussier eating habits, and among parents who had concerns about their child’s weight.
The Australian government introduced a Health Star Rating (HSR) system in 2014 to help consumers identify healthier options within a product category and several companies have since adopted this voluntary system
In Australia, one-in-five children aged between four and 18 is overweight or obese.
“One cause is poor eating habits, with two-thirds of Australian children exceeding recommended sugar intakes and four-fifths exceeding recommended saturated fat intakes,” said study co-author Dr Georgina Russell.
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