Sesame Street will promote fruits and vegetables in retail stores over the next two years in an agreement that offers the marketing star power of Muppet characters free of charge in hopes of boosting consumption among children and their parents.
The agreement joins the nonprofit Sesame Workshop, Produce Marketing Association and Partnership for a Healthier America, and gives produce marketers the use of the Sesame Street brand without a licensing fee. What characters will be involved haven’t been finalized, but the program could start as early as mid-2014. The agreement was announcement at the White House Oct. 30.
The deal applies only to retail sales, but both PMA members and non-members are eligible. PMA members will have a lower administrative fee for the application to use the characters, said Bryan Silbermann, president and chief executive office of PMA. Those fees haven’t been set yet, he said.
First lady Michelle Obama painted a picture of what the agreement could look like in retail stores.
“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,” first lady Michelle Obama said at the event. “Imagine what it will be like to have our kids begging us to buy them fruits and vegetables instead of cookies, candy and chips,” she said.
The first licensing of produce companies is expected by the end of the first quarter of 2014, Silbermann said, which will be followed by a two-year royalty-free period.
Over the next 120 days, a PMA task force led by Todd Putnam, chief marketing officer for Bolthouse Farms, Bakersfield, Calif., will work on the partnership details. Silbermann said the group will work with Sesame Workshop on the licensing agreement to spell out how the characters will be used, and help with creation of an online toolkit.
Beatrice Chow, a spokeswoman for Sesame Workshop, said the group has had licensing agreements with produce companies but there are no current agreements.
Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the California Avocado Commission and immediate past chairwoman of PMA’s board of directors, attended the White House event with Silbermann.
“I was struck by the clarity of purpose in the announcement,” she said. “To witness the Let’s Move team, the first lady’s enthusiasm and passion and then to see the commitment from Sesame Street, to see their desire to collaborate with the produce industry to really effect change.”
“The nicest thing about it is that we have a great opportunity to do what we have talked about for so long, and that is to impact child obesity and affect future health by making sure that fruits and vegetables are consumed as they should be,” she said.
DeLyser said she believes the industry will see Sesame Street characters used in social media, stickers, packaging, cartons and websites.
Silbermann said he was approached in August through some discussions that Jeff Dunn, chief executive office for Bolthouse, was having with Sam Kass, senior policy adviser on nutrition for the first lady.
Silbermann said Dunn, Kass and Obama discussed how more children could be motivated to increase consumption with mainstream marketing techniques. White House officials then asked for Silbermann’s input.
Sesame Workshop was enthusiastic about the idea. Dunn asked Silbermann if PMA would participate.
“Why wouldn’t we?” he said.