Would you buy your child Disney-branded produce? Let’s be real — you probably would if it meant he or she would be more likely to eat a fresh fruit or veggie. So keep an eye out — Dole Food Co. announced last week that it is launching co-branded fresh produce featuring Disney, Pixar, Star Wars and Marvel characters.
Those without little kids may roll their eyes at the craven money-grab on display from Dole, but those of us with little kids are probably more likely to say, “Hey, if it works…” I don’t personally understand why my 4-year-old has such strong feelings about me purchasing Frozen or Avengers-branded yogurt for him, but he also doesn’t understand why I have such a fondness for reading the newspaper and being left alone on Sundays. We all have our weird preferences.
In case you haven’t taken a close look at grocery shelves in the last few years, there has been a shift in terms of which foods are directly marketed to kids via cartoon and movie characters. Recently, I interviewed Ellen Wartella, who directs Northwestern University’s Center on Media and Human Development, where she studies social policy, media studies, psychology and child development. She recently worked on a study that examined whether the 13 companies that took part in the 2011 Children's Food & Beverage Advertising Initiative adhered to their promise to advertise only foods that meet FDA standards for healthy foods. Wartella says, “Basically, they kept to their pledges.” She notes that while food companies still market to kids (kids know they can get their Happy Meal at McDonald’s) they at least do it in a more roundabout way than by deploying beloved characters to entice kids to eat fries.
Sure, in a perfect world I would prefer it if my children just ate their vegetables because they were diligent children who would rather eat some perfectly sautéed Brussels sprouts instead of a PB&J. But this is not a perfect world, and if Mickey Mouse is going to help me get some veggies in my kids, I’m fine with that.
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