The study, with 208 8-11 year-old children occurred during lunchtime on 5 consecutive days at two locations. After selecting their lunch, children were individually offered their usual opportunity to take 1 or both of the last items: an apple and/or cookie.
On the first day, all students were offered unlabeled apples and cookies along with their regular school lunches, which served as the study's baseline. Three interventions were provided over the next 3 days: Unbranded apple and a cookie with an Elmo sticker; Apple with an Elmo sticker and an unbranded cookie; Apple with a sticker featuring an unfamiliar character and an unbranded cookie.
Result: Children were more likely to choose an apple when the Elmo icon was on it than when there was no icon (pretest control). There was no effect of the Elmo icon on the cookie. There was no effect of the unknown character icon on the apple choice compared with the pretest control.
Researchers concluded that the Elmo brand carried substantial weight in children's food choices, and may even be more powerful for healthier foods than for "indulgent, highly processed foods."