Colorful cravings: the power of packaging on children's food selections

In a recent study published in the Food Quality and Preference Journal, scientists examined the influence of food product packaging color and size of item sets on children’s consumer choices.

Study: Color and Abundance: Influencing ChildrenStudy: Color and Abundance: Influencing Children's Food Choices. Image Credit: 1000Words/


Research indicates that consumers are strongly influenced by food product packaging in various aspects, and studies among very young infants also reported a preference for sets containing a greater number of items.

Studies indicated that infants pay more attention to larger piles having larger amounts of a product, irrespective of the type of product, and this preference could be valuable from a survival standpoint.

Furthermore, determining whether the preference for larger sets applies even if children are allowed to choose only one item would indicate whether abundance bias influences consumer choices.

Additionally, the color of the food packaging has also been thought to influence taste, with black color for chocolate bars making consumers expect bitterness, and various other such examples. It is believed that the association between color and taste has an evolutionary basis going back to ancestral humans.

While it is known that children are strongly influenced by surface cues or dominant perceptions such as size and color, the influence of color on food preferences in children has not been extensively studied.

About the study

In the present study, the researchers examined the impact of item set size and food product packaging color on the choices made by children. Children’s preference for larger sets was also tested under the condition that irrespective of the size of the set or pile, they were allowed to select only one item.

The researchers hypothesized that children would pick an item from the larger pile instead of the smaller one, both containing identical items.

In terms of color choices, the influence of packaging color on children’s consumer choices was tested using red and green food packages, and the researchers hypothesized that red made the product appear more attractive, and therefore red packages would be chosen more than green packages.

The influence of a combination of package colors and pile sizes was also tested, and the hypothesis was that the red packages would be chosen more often over the green ones when the red packages were offered in larger piles than the green ones, as compared to when the red packages were offered in smaller piles than the green ones.

The three hypotheses were tested over three experiments. The experiments included children from grades three to six, and each participant was included in only one of the three experiments and allowed to select only one item to take.

For the experiments involving pile sizes, the left and right-side presentations were counterbalanced to avoid bias. The chosen item was given to the children as a reward for their participation in the study.


The results confirmed an abundance bias where children selected items from the larger pile even if the larger and smaller piles consisted of identical items and the children were allowed to take away only one item.

Color was also found to influence the decision-making process in children with red packages being preferred more over the green ones.

Additionally, children preferred red packages over green ones more often if the red ones were presented in a larger pile than the green ones as compared to situations where the pile of red packages was smaller than the pile of green ones. This indicated a moderation effect.

These results were observed even though the children were allowed to take away only one item, suggesting that abundance was one of the major influences in consumer choices, regardless of personal benefit.

Furthermore, the effect of the set size was stronger on younger children and decreased with the age of the children, which was observed when the younger had a stronger preference for choosing an item from the larger pile.

The experiment on the influence of color on food choices reported that despite being informed that the red and green packages both contained identical items of food and drink, more children chose the red packages over the green ones, suggesting that the red color was presumably associated with a more pleasant taste.


Overall, the results indicated that abundance bias and color both influenced the consumer choices made by children about food products, in which larger sets and brighter colors such as red were preferred over smaller sets and colors such as green.

Additionally, a moderation effect was also observed where set size and color had an additive effect.

These choices were made although the children were allowed to take only one item and were informed that the items of different colors had identical contents. These findings highlight the role of marketing strategies in influencing food choices in children.

Journal reference:
Dr. Chinta Sidharthan

Written by

Dr. Chinta Sidharthan

Chinta Sidharthan is a writer based in Bangalore, India. Her academic background is in evolutionary biology and genetics, and she has extensive experience in scientific research, teaching, science writing, and herpetology. Chinta holds a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the Indian Institute of Science and is passionate about science education, writing, animals, wildlife, and conservation. For her doctoral research, she explored the origins and diversification of blindsnakes in India, as a part of which she did extensive fieldwork in the jungles of southern India. She has received the Canadian Governor General’s bronze medal and Bangalore University gold medal for academic excellence and published her research in high-impact journals.


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