Packaging changes may help parents make healthier beverage choices for children

December 21, 2022 – Parents are heavily influenced by packaging when choosing beverages to buy for their children, according to a recent study led by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

In a randomized clinical trial of more than 5,000 parents of young children, participants were asked to choose a fruit drink for their child. Many opted for drinks that, while containing high amounts of sugar, had healthy-looking labels with pictures of fresh fruit or claims of a day’s worth of vitamin C per serving. However, participants were less likely to choose the same beverages when the packaging was swapped for warning labels about sugar content.

The study, published October 13, 2022 in JAMA Network Open, was led by Aviva Musicus, postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Nutrition.

A December 12 Boston Globe article about the study noted that it can be difficult to tell the difference between fruit juice and a fruit-flavored sugary drink simply by looking at a container’s front label.

Children ages two to eight get 11% of the added sugar they consume from fruit-flavored drinks, according to the study. Adding sugar-content warnings or removing front-of-package health claims and imagery could help busy parents make healthier choices, the researchers noted.

Read the Boston Globe article: Buyer beware: 100% vitamin C claims on fruit drinks may obscure high sugar content but entice parents, study finds