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    Retooling Healthy Marketing

    A PMA/Sesame Workshop collaboration paves the way for unparalleled opportunities for produce marketers.

    By Cathy Burns
    Sesame Street characters in the produce department can encourage healthy eating.

    Diet is the No. 1 cause of mortality and obesity issues in the United States. This is the future for our children. We could change all that if we started kids off on the right track from the beginning by influencing their eating habits.

    Recent research from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites a 43 percent drop in the obesity rate among 2- to 5-year-olds over the past decade. While this is great news, it’s the only good news: The CDC also reports that 16 percent of 2- to 19-year-olds are obese, and finds new evidence revealing that overweight or obese 3- to 5-year-old children are five times as likely to be overweight or obese as adults. Clearly, healthy habits are formed at a young age. As produce marketers, we have the power to do something about it, and we all know sophisticated, targeted marketing works.

    The Time Is Now

    A toolkit developed by the Sesame Workshop/Produce Marketing Association initiative was released to industry on March 31. This collaboration, forged by the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), which works with the private sector and PHA Honorary Chair First Lady Michelle Obama, makes way for unparalleled opportunity to differentiate fresh fruits and vegetables in the store, strengthen sales, build customer loyalty, and encourage healthier eating habits.

    The initiative applies the strength and influence of the Sesame Street brand, and characters like Big Bird, Elmo, Cookie Monster and Abby Cadabby, to promote fruit and vegetable consumption with children ages 2 to 5, and their parents and caregivers.

    The toolkit provides turnkey resources to use Sesame Street characters in media placements, in-store signage and packaging, all royalty-free. From my prior life as a supermarket leader, I know firsthand the competitive nature of the business and how differentiation is critically important. That’s why we’ve developed the toolkit with a customizable approach, allowing you to develop custom artwork and assets for your brands.

    Using Sesame Street characters in the produce department will appeal not only to children, but also to their parents. Sesame Street is a brand moms trust and children love. In fact, a Sesame Workshop survey found that 83 percent of moms have high trust in the Sesame Street brand. Out of all preschool TV programs, Sesame Street carries the highest shared viewership between children and their mothers, with more than 6 million viewers weekly, including nearly 1 million moms.

    Studies have found Sesame Street’s furry characters prove successful at influencing children’s eating decisions. We also know moms are their households’ main decision-makers at the store.

    The Sesame Workshop/PMA initiative presents a valuable opportunity to engage children and moms in a way that inspires them to choose fruits and vegetables. The tools are adaptable, similar to the Pink Ribbon campaign that can be expressed differently depending on your business.

    The potential broad reach and scalability of the program provides an opportunity for promotions and marketers of any size. Our goal is to give the produce industry a unified campaign, helping to rise above the advertising noise with a strong voice and one clear message, while boosting sales and instilling good values to build customer loyalty.

    A Fresh Change for the Future

    Today, a child in the U.S. is bombarded by thousands of advertisements over the course of a year, with fewer than 100 of them featuring fruits and vegetables. As a retail leader, you’re in a position to join the cause to increase consumption of fresh produce for the health and well-being of children all across the country.

    The Sesame Workshop/PMA initiative is just one part of a larger overall movement to increase consumer demand in fruits and vegetables. As a trade association representing the produce industry, PMA has a responsibility to find solutions that reduce barriers to consumption. Consider what part you’ll have in this movement and think about the advantages this opportunity could create for you.

    As parents, grandparents and mentors to young children, we all have the responsibility to help them grow into healthy adults. Join us in making this mission a success.

    By Cathy Burns
    • About Cathy Burns Cathy Burns is president of the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association.

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