The marketing of fruit and vegetables to children in the US is ineffective in the long term, a study has claimed. 

The study, commissioned by charity Produce for Kids, found that half of parents would not be more likely to purchase a product sponsored by a cartoon character, while 27% said they would “probably” or “definitely” not buy produce in packaging with a cartoon character on.

Moreover, all eight baby carrot and sliced apple products featuring cartoon characters that were examined in the survey showed an increase in sales when first introduced followed by longer term declines. Indeed, these items showed sales declines ranging from 8% to 67% year-on-year from 2006 to 2007.

However, the proportion of parents who would buy produce items with cartoon characters on the packaging rose from 21% to 28% if those characters were promoting healthy eating.

The survey found parents believe more creative promotions would help to increase the appeal of fresh produce, with 85% of respondents suggesting kids would respond positively to interactive and educational in-store games. A colouring or activity book was the most popular suggestion, supported by 34% of respondents, followed by an online game with popular cartoon characters, which was supported by 26% of parents.

Parents also told the researchers that in-store demos featuring healthy, kid-friendly recipes, health-oriented kids’ clubs, and sweepstakes drawings would influence them to purchase more fresh fruits and vegetables.