Food marketers are at the epicenter of criticism for the unfolding obesity epidemic as societies consider banning advertising to children and taxing "junk" foods. While marketing's role in obesity is not well understood, there is clear evidence that children are regularly targeted with calorie-dense, nutrient-poor food. Much of the past research seeks to understand how marketing influences brand preference and child requests. The authors argue that understanding palate development offers new insights for discussion. Two studies consider whether a sugar/fat/salt (SFS) palate is linked to children's knowledge of food brands, experience with products, and advertising. In study 1, the authors develop a survey measure of taste preferences and find that a child's SFS palate (as reported by parents) relates significantly to children's self-reported food choices. Study 2 examines how knowledge of certain branded food and drinks is related to palate. Findings show that children with detailed mental representations of fast-food and soda brands--developed via advertising and experience--have higher scores on the SFS palate scale.
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