Visual perceptions of snack packages among preschool children

Michelle R. Nelson, Brittany R.L. Duff, Regina Ahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose – This paper aims to examine the perceptions of the visual packaging of snacks and nutrition knowledge among preschool children. Packages serve as persuasive media at the point of purchase. Design/methodology/approach – In this paper 13 interviews with four-year-olds were conducted. Children sorted seven snacks that implied fruit into categories based on perceptions of fun, taste, parent’s choice and “nutrition”. Children also drew trees with food that would make them healthy or not healthy. Findings – Children attended to the package elements more than the product. All children selected the character fruit snack as their preferred choice; however, perceptions for fun and taste varied among snacks. Perceptions of healthiness showed evidence of heuristics (e.g. sugar = bad; fruit = good). Some children were able to understand that their parents’ choices may be different from their own. Research limitations/implications – Because of the small sample size, it is not possible to generalize results to all children. Children seemed to understand that the character may not convey “healthy” or “taste”, but they still chose the snack with a character. Practical implications – Children as young as four can understand nutrition heuristics and may/may not use those heuristics in product preferences. Social implications – Children may be able to reason about their own preferences and others’ preferences at a preoperational stage of development. Originality/value – Previous research indicates that older children are attracted by characters. The findings show that younger children also prefer characters but may be capable of disentangling the various associations of “characters”.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)385-406
Number of pages22
JournalYoung Consumers
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 16 2015


  • Characters
  • Children and food
  • Health
  • Media and children
  • Online media
  • Packaging
  • Qualitative methods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


Dive into the research topics of 'Visual perceptions of snack packages among preschool children'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this