In 2014, the national Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards placed regulations on all snack foods sold in schools. Many food companies reformulated common snack food products for sale in schools, called “copycat snacks”, which look similar to nutritionally different foods sold in stores. It is possible that these snacks create consumer confusion among students. The purpose of this study was to determine if middle school students could differentiate, in taste and appearance, between school (copycat) and store versions of common snacks. Seventy-six middle school students evaluated three different food products offered in schools: Froot Loops, Rice Krispy Treats, and Doritos. Students tasted snacks in a series of triangle tests for difference, one for each snack food, including school and store versions. Students were also presented with packages, school and store versions of the same products, and asked to determine the expected taste, purchase intentions, and perceived healthfulness. Students could determine taste differences between school and store Rice Krispy Treats yet could not differentiate between Froot Loop and Dorito varieties. Students rated store versions of all three snacks with greater expected taste, higher intention to purchase, and as less healthy. While it seems product confusion concerning copycat snacks may not be severe in this sample, snack food brands are still a prominent feature in schools. It is possible that these copycat snacks can confuse students’ perceptions of healthy foods. Alternative packaging for school foods or reformation of store versions of snack foods may be viable solutions to this problem.
Appetite – Elsevier
Published: Feb 1, 2018
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