Viewpoints

Can You Tell Me How to Get to Vegetable Street?

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Usually marketing food products to kids isn’t exactly popular.

With the CDC reporting the childhood obesity epidemic tripling over the last 30 years, no one wants to see children drinking more sugary drinks or eating more fast food.

But, a new initiative plans to fight fire with fire. Or more accurately, fight the barrage of unhealthy food marketing with healthy food marketing.

Michelle Obama announced last week that the Sesame Workshop, Produce Marketing Association and the Partnership for a Healthier America are teaming up to help level the playing field for fruits and vegetables.

Starting later in 2014, PMA’s growers, suppliers and retailers will be able to use Sesame Street characters, free of cost, to promote fruits and veggies. The licensing agreement is for two years.

“Just imagine what will happen when we take our kids to the grocery store, and they see Elmo and Rosita and the other Sesame Street Muppets they love up and down the produce aisle,” said Michelle Obama, according to a release.


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“Imagine what it will be like to have our kids begging us to buy them fruits and vegetables instead of cookies, candy and chips.”

The groups have cited Cornell University research that showed children were more likely to pick the healthy choice if there was an Elmo sticker attached. Whether this experiment will pan out in the real world remains to be seen.

New York University professor Marion Nestle said in a blog post that she has mixed feelings about this campaign since she has been against any type of marketing to kids, but that she is keeping an open mind.

“If kids eat more healthfully for the next couple of years as a result of this campaign, it will be hard to do anything but applaud it,” wrote Nestle. 

Read more: Sesame Street Characters to Help Promote Produce

A Politco story last week called attention to the first lady’s willingness to work with large food industry groups and corporations. Some Politico sources accused Michelle Obama of lacking proper government transparancy and getting too cozy with big businesses, while others applauded her ability to get the food industry to self-regulate at a fast pace.

One thing is for sure, this latest partnership shows that the produce industry is willing to step up its game when it comes to introducing the younger generation to fruits and vegetables.

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Julie Gallagher

Julie Gallagher’s delicious foray into coverage of the food industry was purely accidental. With a background in technology, she joined Supermarket News as associate editor of its Technology...

Mark Hamstra

Mark Hamstra is the content director of Supermarket News covering events and trends in food retailing. Mark joined SN in 2001 as the editor of the Nonfoods section, became the editor of the Retail/...
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