When Disney announced the release of Mickey Mouse-branded eggs a couple months back, Treehugger’s Lloyd Alter wrote:
“Sometimes I think that the world is becoming more sane, that people are beginning to understand where food comes from, and that marketing to children is becoming a little less respectable. Then I see Disney branded eggs and wonder what is going on here.”
Though he likely meant more than less respectable, the idea of Disney-branded eggs seemed utterly preposterous to Alter.
Unfortunately, it looks like the idea wasn’t so preposterous to others. When Popeye emerged in the 1920s, Big Money reported a couple weeks back, sales of spinach rose by over 30%. These days, Disney is hoping that Mickey Mouse can do that for eggs. And Zac Efron for avocados.
This isn’t the first attempt by Disney, who is the world’s largest licensor, to brand produce. They first announced the Disney Garden, a partnerhsip between Imagination Farms and the Kroger Grocery Chain. With an initial offering of 100 products that included Disney branded fruits, veggies, yogurt, and milk among other things, sales of the Disney Garden product line grew 70% in 2008.
Initially wanting to distance itself from childhood obesity controversy, it seems now that the company has found a way to capitalize on one of the few sectors that has been least affected by the economic downturn–food and grocery. According to the Big Money article, “Besides the promotional boost, Disney earns back royalties on each unit sold. And, because of the Disney appeal, more units tend to sell. Sometimes it’s a lot more: Bagged-apple sales went up 47 percent during a High School Musical promotion at Winn Dixie.”
I find it hard to be anything but ambivalent about this. On one hand, Disney, being one of the largest and well-known name brands out there, has an incredible power to help educate kids about eating better. And it goes farther than just eating a banana–beit with Hannah Montana’s face on it–instead of an Oreo, but to eat food that is produced sustainability, organically, and ideally locally. And it seems like Disney gave it a shot, offering kids to enter a code they find on their product to see which organic farm their fruit or veggie came from.
But as most of us are more than familiar with, organic doesn’t always equate to what’s best , and many large-scale organic producers do not address the issues of sustainable agriculture or local food systems.
On the other hand, Disney has caused other companies to follow suit in terms of what they put their brands on. Discovery Kids announced a similar produce-marketing initiative in 2007, and in the same year, Nickelodeon vowed to end licensing of its characters on unhealthy foods by early 2009.
Readers: What do you think? Is this an effort for a big corporate giant to commercialize anything it can get its hands on, or is this a moment where a company like Disney is embracing the role it plays on influencing the decisions on millions of America’s youth, and actually trying to make a difference?
Photo Source: Disney’s High School Musical