Retailers in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. turn to Mickey Mouse to help build private-label sales
Sobeys has tapped into the magic of Disney with a new co-branded food line that boasts Mickey Burgers, Princess Pasta Pals and other kid-friendly products.
It's all part of Compliments Junior Disney, a new line from the Stellarton, Nova Scotia-based retailer/distributor and Disney Consumer Products. CJD is available across Canada at Sobeys and its IGA Extra, IGA, Foodland and Price Chopper stores.
Each product package features a Disney character such as Mickey Mouse, Buzz Lightyear or Mr. Incredible. Along with the burgers and pasta, selections include Yum on a Bun frozen chicken burgers, Alpha-Taters mashed potato letters and Pic-Mix dried fruit snack mix.
The seven-month-old CJD line is one of several new exclusive food retail deals from Disney Consumer Products, the business segment of The Walt Disney Co. that extends the Disney brand to merchandise.
Along with giving Kroger Co. market exclusivity for its Old Yeller and Aristocats pet food, Disney aligned with Kroger in 2006 for Disney Magic Selections — food, beverage and personal care items available exclusively at Kroger-owned stores. The line has since grown to 200 items and includes yogurt tubes, waffles, pizza and cereal, all featuring Disney characters on the package. It's carried at 2,500 Kroger-owned grocery stores, including Ralph's, Food 4 Less and Fry's.
Disney is continuing the momentum not only with Sobeys' CJD, but also with a new food assortment co-branded with U.K. retailer Tesco.
When Sobeys was looking to add a kids' tier to its highly regarded Compliments private label, it knew the products had to be fun, high-quality and healthy, according to Sobeys consumer marketing and product brands vice president Scott Cooper. After thoroughly researching all its options, the retailer realized that aligning with Disney would help it meet all three objectives.
“The power of the Disney brand is unmatched globally,” Cooper told SN.
Geared to kids ages 3-12, CJD currently offers 100 products that have no artificial flavors, artificial colors or hydrogenated oils.
Sobeys is using four icons on packaging to explain the nutritional attributes of the product inside. For instance, a pair of eyes on the package means the product contains Vitamin A, which helps develop and maintain night vision; a picture of teeth means there's phosphorus or vitamin D; and an image of bones means there's calcium.
“We're hoping the icons will create a dialogue between moms and kids about the roles of healthy foods in the diet,” said Cooper.
More than 75% of the assortment contains Canada's Health Check symbol, meaning these products have been evaluated by Heart and Stroke Foundation dietitians and meet the program's nutrient criteria for healthy choices based on Canada's Food Guide.
Sobeys considered developing its own nutrition-rating program for CJD, but decided that Health Check would be more appropriate.
“The Health Check designation brought third-party scrutiny and credibility to the program,” Cooper said.
The Health Check symbol appears on about 1,500 products in Canada. While most of these are national brands, several private labels, such as Canada Safeway's Eating Right brand, are also included.
Health Check officials worked with Sobeys and Disney to evaluate the products and select which ones would carry the logo, said Health Check spokeswoman Danielle Cote.
Along with being nutritious, the CJD line is positioned as fun. All products feature Disney characters on the package.
One of Sobeys' key learnings from Disney is the importance of incorporating shapes and Disney characters into the food itself, said Cooper. For instance, the Mickey burgers are in the shape of Mickey's head, while Alpha-Taters look like letters.
“We learned it's important to bring the properties of the [Disney] characters to life on the product itself,” he said.
Product packaging features images of, and/or games featuring, the Disney characters.
Like Sobeys' CJD line, items in the Tesco-Disney line have no artificial flavors, no artificial colors and no added trans fats. All items conform to nutritional guidelines that limit calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar and sodium.
Selections include yogurt, breakfast cereal and fruit juice.
“At Tesco we are determined to help our customers make healthier choices for their family,” Tesco chilled foods director Kari Daniels said in a statement. “This relationship with Disney will offer parents an easy way to make healthier eating fun.” Tesco did not respond to SN's requests for additional comment.
About 30 products are currently on store shelves, with another 70 rolling out over the next 12 months across the U.K. and Ireland, according to Sandra van Vreedendaal, spokeswoman for Disney Consumer Products/Europe. It is unclear if Tesco plans to merchandise the line in its U.S. units.
“We see a good business opportunity here, as we believe that parents are looking for new food choices that will help them to manage a healthier diet for their children,” said van Vreedendaal. “Disney is committed to giving parents food choices they can approve of while at the same time exciting their kids. This deal with Tesco gives us the opportunity to use the power of our brand to positively influence kids' food choices.”
Disney's Sobeys and Tesco alliances come a year after the entertainment giant announced a major new initiative aimed at promoting healthier foods to children. Under the effort, Disney said it would associate its brands with more nutritionally balanced foods. The food policy limits the use of the company name and its characters to only those kid-focused products that meet specific guidelines, including limits on calories, fat, saturated fat and sugar. Disney also made nutritional changes in the meals served to children at its park and resort restaurants.
“Parents around the world clearly want help in achieving a healthier lifestyle for their families, and we are happy to be their partner in reaching that important goal,” Disney senior vice president Jennifer Anopolsky said in a statement.
While the Disney brand is widely accessible in general merchandise, the new supermarket deals demonstrate the company's growing interest in the food side of the business, said Jim Wisner, president of Wisner Marketing Group, Libertyville, Ill.
“Disney is looking at ways to extend its brand in a way that will be complementary and provide an ongoing revenue stream,” he said.
By tapping into the Disney brand, Kroger, Sobeys and Tesco benefit by building exposure of their private labels. Wisner said this is critical at a time when a Wisner Marketing study shows that about 60% of shoppers believe private label is the same regardless of which retailer it comes from. “These agreements allow retailers to create products that are truly unique,” he said.
Likewise, Disney benefits because it gets wide distribution of healthy kids' foods, said Tom Stephens, founder of Brand Strategy Consultants in New York, Ontario.
“It is extending the reach of its brands by very careful strategic alliances with major retailers,” Stephens said.
But Stephens doesn't think Disney will blanket the U.S., Canada or the U.K. with similar deals.
“I doubt that either Kroger or Sobeys would have entered into an agreement that would have allowed a lot of competitive, similar products to be available elsewhere,” he said. “By signing with [Sobeys and Kroger], Disney gets national U.S. and Canadian coverage.”
Private Label Pixie Dust
STELLARTON, Nova Scotia — Geared to children ages 3-12, Compliments Junior Disney from Sobeys is a 100-item food and beverage line featuring Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse and the Incredibles.
The better-for-you assortment contains no artificial colors, flavors or added hydrogenated oils. About 75% have Canada's Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check symbol.
Following are some of the products offered, along with recent prices (Canadian):
- Pasta Pals, 500 gram (17.7 ounce) bag, $1.99
- Granola bars, 10 count, 2/$5
- Yum on a Bun chicken burgers, 8 count, $7.99
- Cool-it fudge bars, 12 count, $3.99