Apr 04, 2014 • By

Our response to an absurd cereal study

When should companies respond to poor research – and pseudo-science?

It’s a difficult question. Sometimes it’s best to just let stuff go. Then again, sometimes it’s not.

So this one is getting a response — because it’s absurd.

Researchers at Cornell University recently published this:

“In a study of 65 cereals in 10 different grocery stores, Cornell researchers found that cereals marketed to kids are placed half as high on supermarket shelves as adult cereals – the average height for children’s cereal boxes is 23 inches versus 48 inches for adult cereal.  A second key finding from the same study is that the average angle of the gaze of cereal spokes-characters on cereal boxes marketed to kids is downward at a 9.6 degree angle whereas spokes-characters on adult cereal look almost straight ahead.”

Really Cornell?  I mean… we’ve never noticed – and we’re a cereal company.

So we did a quick study of our own.

We searched “Trix Cereal Box” in Google images. Go ahead. I suggest you do your own search. You’ll see more variations than these researchers apparently did. You’ll see that the Trix Rabbit looks in pretty much every direction. Up. Left. Right. Straight ahead. He even has his eyes closed on a couple. He does look down on occasion, but do you notice what he seems to be looking at? That’s right – AT THE BOWL OF CEREAL PICTURED ON THE BOX. Because he loves Trix.  I think that’s been well established.


Did these “researchers” not consider – that the Rabbit might be looking at the cereal? Or did the idea of Googling “Trix cereal box” not occur to them?

We know Dr. Wansink’s work. He’s done some very interesting research. This is not his best.

For example, the study supposedly found that the average shelf placement was 23 inches, and the average height of the supposedly downward looking gaze would therefore be 20.21 inches. Their data.

So we looked up –on Google – the average age that a child walks. Did you know three out of four children walk at around 13 months? We didn’t. We then looked up the average height of a 13-month old.  It’s around 30 inches tall.

If this research was in any way meaningful – which it’s not – these supposedly downward looking characters would be looking below eye level of the youngest kids possible.

Unless mom is dragging the kid on the floor. Or the kid is duck-walking.

An average four-year old is about 40 inches tall. A supposedly downward gazing character would be looking at what exactly? The kid’s belt?

The whole notion is absurd – and it would be laughable, if it didn’t also receive mainstream news coverage. Which it did.

Now take a look at the graphic Cornell included.

It was copyrighted, and therefore apparently drawn by the researchers themselves, so it’s clearly an attempt to illustrate their insights.

You’ll see that the Trix Rabbit is pictured. Guess where his eyes are looking on the box depicted.


Guess where they likely found that image? I’m guessing Google.

Perhaps Cornell would like to retract.

P.S. Take one more look at the Cornell graphic.  Mr. T cereal disappeared, I think, in the early 1980s. That guy on the bottom shelf? It may be C3PO. Now that’s cutting edge research.