(UPDATED COVERAGE June 7) The Walt Disney Co. is putting extra bite in its nutrition guidelines by requiring foods and beverages advertised on its broadcast networks to meet those standards by 2015.
Whether the change is sufficient to inspire fresh produce advertising on the networks is unclear, but licensees like Crunch Pak and Ready Pac Foods welcomed the move and said they’d consider ads.
First lady Michelle Obama joined Disney chief executive officer Robert Iger as he outlined the policy shift June 5 in Washington, D.C.
“Disney is doing what no major media company has ever done before in the U.S., and what I hope every company will do going forward,” Obama said in a news release. “This is a major American company — a global brand — that is literally changing the way it does business so that our kids can lead healthier lives.”
The guidelines, launched in 2006, target foods high in saturated fat, sodium and sugar.
In fresh produce, product launches scheduled for August include Ready Pac’s line of 10 Disney-themed salads and snacks for children, and Crunch Pak’s Flavorz sliced apples. Naturipe Farms LLC rolled out a Disney version of its Berry Quick blueberry snacks in the spring.
Tony Freytag, director of marketing for Cashmere, Wash.-based Crunch Pak, welcomed the new Disney policy.
“When we design and innovate products, we have to fall within certain guidelines,” he said. “This seems like a logical extension.”
“We’ve participated in numerous Disney events, but we’ve never been in a position to advertise directly to consumers,” Freytag said. “It’s part of what we’re considering as we move forward, and not just with Disney. With product in more than 15,000 retail stores across the country, it makes sense. If you’re regional, it doesn’t.”
Disney’s radio station offers advantages and would be price competitive for Crunch Pak to consider, Freytag said.
“We haven’t looked at the TV side of it,” he said. “It would probably be price prohibitive for us at this point. But we’re looking at all channels as far as consumer advertising.”
Less than 20% of Crunch Pak’s business is Disney related. But the partnership can benefit the rest of the product line, Freytag said.
“Whether you’re talking about Disney TV or online, there’s a great deal of mom involvement,” he said. “We could commingle a kid-specific product like Foodles with our Dipperz or a 14-ounce bag to a certain degree and not look like it’s disconnected. That’s one of the benefits of being co-branded with Disney.”
Tristan Simpson, director of marketing at Irwindale, Calif.-based Ready Pac Foods, also supported Disney’s move.
“We’re pleased to see them take that stance on delivering healthy messaging for children,” Simpson said. “That’s the whole premise for our initiative to launch products with a company like Disney.”
Advertising decisions are a separate matter for Ready Pac.
“Beyond Disney, what we look at is how to maximize our spend,” she said. “It’s much more expensive to do broadcast than digital. But we’re open to it.”
‘Mickey Check’ icon
The new Disney policy includes some provisions that take effect sooner, according to spokeswoman Michelle Bergman. For example, a “Mickey Check” icon that singles out nutritious items will appear on licensed products and in other venues by the end of 2012.
Since 2006, Disney Consumer Products has sold more than two billion servings of licensed fruits and vegetables in North America. Now 85% of all U.S. licensed products meet Disney’s nutrition guidelines, and the company plans to further reduce sugar and sodium.
The ad restrictions apply to Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney Junior, Radio Disney and Disney-owned online sites for children.
Elizabeth Pivonka, president of Produce for Better Health Foundation, attended the announcement in Washington, D.C.
“(The standards) are a perfect complement and support mechanism to the recommendation to make half the plate fruits and vegetables, whether fresh, frozen, canned, dried or 100% fruit or vegetable juice,” Pivonka said in a news release.
Lawrence Soler, chief executive officer of the Partnership for a Healthier America, also welcomed the new Disney policy.
“While there is much more to do, (the) announcement is a testament to the important role the private sector plays in making the healthy choice the easy choice for busy parents and families,” Soler said in a news release. “We hope this commitment will inspire others to adopt similar standards so that together, we can bring an end to the childhood obesity crisis.”