What about Mickey Mouse apples? High School Musical avocados?
Disney has gotten healthy to face the childhood obesity crisis head on, cutting ties with McDonald’s (you’ll notice there are no Disneyfied happy meals on your summer road trip this year) and slapping giant mouse ears on good, wholesome fare.
So, is it working? According to a look by the Washington Post, yes. When supermarket chain Winn-Dixie linked its bagged apples to High School Musical, sales spiked by forty-seven percent. The Disney Garden line is now appearing in eighteen of the top twenty mass and grocery retailers in the states, and sales grew seventy percent from 2007 to 2008.
I can admit I’ve fallen victim. My daughter needed a grab and go snack, and she saw Mickey apple slices on the shelves. She asked because they were Mickey. I bought because they were apples. With the same characters in a different aisle on sugar-packed “fruit” snacks, the real thing worked for me. We’ve also been known to pick up Princess soup because she begged for princesses, and my first introduction to Hannah Montana came in the supermarket when my daughter started shrieking about the pop star on her yogurt. Again, yogurt, much better than potato chips! Trust me – their branding is working on my impressionable three-year-old.
But I’m not sure how I feel about Disney selling health food to my kid. Is it better than peddling the junk? Sure. But does it have to be either or? I shy away from Sesame Street’s organic pasta and breastfast offerings too, because as much as we all love Cookie Monster, he’s not making me feel better about a processed box of waffles. And I’m not ready for the forecasted Mickey whole wheat chicken nuggets to replace the homemade version I make and freeze in my own kitchen.
Frankly, I’d prefer my kid make her food choices based on things like “amount of whole grains included” or “no trans-fats.” I’d like to think she’d pick up an apple because we live in New York and have raised her on some of the nation’s best apples, not because there’s a cartoon character stamped on the flesh. Ditto avocados. They’re fantastically flavorful and you can’t have guacamole (yum) withouth them – so do we really need Zac Efron’s mug to get them in my cart and on her plate?
Disney is such a powerful brand, I’m happy to see it inching back from the heart attack on a plate foodstuffs its traditionally backed. For parents who have had to measure just buying a requested item over the tantrum in the middle of the supermarket, it’s definitely good news. Trust me, been there, heard the screeching. But I can’t help wishing food would just go back to being food, no Hannah Montana, no Elmo, no Mickey. It’s why I’ve fought the organic branding too.
Because in fifteen years, she won’t be picking food because it has her favorite superhero printed on the front of the bag. She’ll just have to go with her gut, and I’d like to think it’s one filled with healthy choices.
Image: Washington Post
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