I would suggest that this new trend, removing cartoon characters from kids’ cereal packages is a result of Yvette Waters, the registered dietitian at Northern California chain Raley’s, repositioning cereals that are high in sugars on the bottom shelves and highlighting them as high in sugar with shelf signs.
Across the pond, Lidl is removing cartoon characters from its private label cereal packaging in Great Britain by spring 2020. Cartoon-free branding will be introduced for Honey & Peanut Cornflakes, Multigrain Rings, Honey Rings, Choco Rice, Rice Snaps, Frosted Flakes, Honey Rings, Choco Shells and Cereal Cookies.
In Britain, the conversation has reached the highest levels of government, and pressure is mounting to ban products featuring cartoon characters on boxes that are high in sugar, salt or fat.
Here in the U.S., it seems like we are taking just the opposite tact as we reverse Michelle Obama’s school lunch efforts, which conclusively sowed better health outcomes.
According to a study from FMI and Rodale, 95% of parental food and beverage purchase decisions are shaped by what children say they want. Children's taste preferences often set the agenda for what the rest of the family eats.
According to a Federal Trade Commission report from 2012, the use of cartoon-based advertising accounted for almost 50% of their child-directed marketing for food companies in 2009. The total amount spent that year on food marketing for children and adolescents was $1.79 billion.
Organizations such as the American Psychological Association have called for the elimination of food product marketing directly to children. In the U.K., Action on Sugar, Action on Salt campaigners want a ban on all cartoon characters on packaging. They say more than half of 500 products using these mascots were so high in fat, sugar or salt that they cannot be advertised on children’s TV programming or London transportation.
Cartoon characters also influence the choice of parents who hope to please, or at least quiet their children, tend to select products based on the child's favorites.
There is hope and good news: Sanjay Sehgal, vice president of nutrition, health and wellness for Nestle USA, said at a panel in 2016, that everyone—from manufacturers to restaurants and consumers—needs to find solutions to make healthy food that the whole family is eating also interesting to children.
We can only hope.