In an effort to raise awareness about how junk food companies purposefully target children with their packaging and advertising, the Irish Heart Foundation and Fresh The Good Food Market partnered together in a unique campaign to encourage healthy eating habits.

The problem with marketing food to kids

According to a recent study from Cornell University, many children’s cereal boxes are designed to specifically attract young gazes. Not only do these boxes often feature endearing cartoon characters with cheesy smiles, but there’s actually a science behind how they peer out of the box. Their eyes usually tilt down at a 9.67 degree angle, so that from their perch on the grocery store shelf, they appear to be looking directly into little kids’ eyes. Once their gazes meet, only parents with the strongest of wills can resist the pleading that ensues, and inevitably that box of cereal finds its way into the kitchen cupboard.

Up against such daunting forces, the chances of encouraging healthy eating may seem slim – even hopeless. How could common vegetables ever hope to rival the vibrant colors and enticing grins of sugar cereal characters?

Enter the Irish Heart Foundation and Fresh The Good Food Market.

Any food can be fun

With the help of creative agency Rothco, the Irish Heart Foundation recently partnered with a Fresh The Good Food Market store where they pasted “edible eyes” on 50% of the fruits and vegetables in their produce department for one day. They tracked all the purchases and discovered that total sales rose 10% compared to previous days, with 81% of all fruits and vegetables sold having edible eyes. The Foundation is now running ads about the experiment online to help people realize that eating healthy can be fun too.

When asked about the concept behind the experimental campaign, Helena O’Donnell, Stop Targeting Kids campaign manager for the Irish Heart Foundation, shared:

“We know marketing tactics such as emotional engagement, cartoon characters, and fun competitions influence children’s eating behaviours. With more than 20% of children in Ireland living with childhood overweight [sic] and obesity, it’s time we flipped these marketing tactics on their heads and called out unhealthy food marketing to children. This innovative approach in associating positive emotions with healthy food will help influence children’s health and eating behaviours both now and into their futures.”