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University of Delaware researcher using zoo animals to get kids eating healthier

By Mallory Simon [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


Rabbits, tigers and toucans have been helping cereal companies move product for years. Now, a University of Delaware researcher is hoping to use that clever marketing strategy to get kids eating healthier.

Allison Karpyn is an assistant professor at UD who teamed up with the Brandywine Zoo for the project. She started last summer by offering kids a choice of fried food or produce at a booth inside the zoo.       

“What we do is we put the animal characters next to the produce item and we took it away. Then we put them next to it and we took it away. And what we found from that is that when the animal character was with the produce item, kids were 66 percent more likely to select that item," Karpyn said.  

Her research entered a new phase in June. Now, the animals appear next to produce selections on the zoo cafeteria’s menu board every other week. At the end of summer she’ll analyze whether sales for the healthy food items increased while the animals were next to them.

The animals include an iguana, a golden lion tamarin, a capybara and a macaw.  

If successful, Karpyn plans to expand the project to school cafeterias and grocery stores.


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