Food tastes better to American three- to five-year-olds if it carries the Golden Arches logo of the McDonald's fast food chain, a study carried out by US researchers has shown.
Researchers from Stanford University medical school and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital in California gave a group of 63 children two samples of chicken nuggets, hamburgers, French fries, baby carrots and milk.
One sample was presented in packaging bearing the familiar McDonald's logo, while the other, which contained exactly the same food as the first, was in generic wrapping.
Not only that, but the chicken nuggets, hamburgers and fries were all from McDonald's. The carrots and milk were from a local supermarket.
The children were asked to taste both samples of the identical foods, and then to pronounce on which one was better or if the two tasted the same.
In the case of the nuggets, fries, carrots and milk, significantly more children said the McDonald's branded product was tastier, despite the fact that the foods were identical, the authors of the study said in a statement.
"The branding effect is very strong, even by only three to five years of age," Dr Thomas Robinson, director of the Center for Healthy Weight at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, and lead researcher on the project, said in a statement.
"They actually believe that the chicken nugget they think is from McDonald's tastes better than an identical, unbranded nugget," he said.
Robinson pointed to savvy marketing by McDonald's as the reason behind the kids' preferences.
"Nobody else spends as much to advertise their fast-food products to children," he said.
According to the statement, McDonald's spends more than one billion dollars a year in advertising in the United States, where studies published this year have shown that children between the ages of two and 11 see around 5,500 food advertisements a year.