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Sesame Street to Waive Licensing Fee So Muppets Can Sell Fruits and Veggies

sesame streetIf you weren’t already in love with Sesame Workshop (Mitt Romney), you should be now. Yesterday, First Lady Michelle Obama announced on behalf of the non-profit that it “will let the produce industry use Elmo, Big Bird and Sesame Street’s other furry characters free of charge to market fruits and veggies to kids,” the AP reports. “Under the arrangement, Sesame Workshop is waiving the licensing fee for its Muppet characters for two years.”

This is such incredible news. As you’ve likely noticed, junk food marketers have been using cartoon characters for years on everything from high-sugar cereals to kid-friendly (but not necessarily healthy) snack foods in order to entice parents to buy these items for their children. A 2010 study showed that “Fifty percent of children say that food from a package decorated with a cartoon celebrity such as Shrek tastes better than the same exact food from a plain package …. and when given a choice, the vast majority of kids pick the food from the cartoon-adorned package as a snack.” So this means that not only will kids be more likely to want fruits and vegetables adorned with the faces of their favorite Sesame Street characters, they’re likely to think the produce tastes as good as it actually does.

A study published last fall and cited by Mrs. Obama during her announcement echoes a similar finding. The AP says, “Cornell University researchers gave more than 200 boys and girls ages 8 to 11 the choice of eating an apple, a cookie or both. Most kids went for the cookie. Asked to choose again after researchers put Elmo stickers on the apples, nearly double the number of kids chose the fruit.” The First Lady told journalists, “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. Imagine what it will be like to have our kids begging us to buy them fruits and vegetables instead of cookies, candy and chips.”

I was so moved when I heard this news, because I know licensing is a major source of revenue for Sesame Workshop, which partners with companies like Earth’s Best and other healthy brands. The executive vice president and chief marketing officer of the organization, Sherrie Westin, says “it’s too early to say how much revenue would be lost,” but “it would be a shame” not to use the Muppets for this great cause. What a delicious irony: using Cookie Monster to sell fruit.

Image: Sesame Workshop

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