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The chance for royalty-free use of Sesame Street characters in produce marketing finds widely varying levels of industry enthusiasm.
But he said the generic-themed opportunity of the PMA-Sesame Street partnership isn’t as appealing as an exclusive relationship.
“To be honest with you, doing generic advertising and generic marketing where everybody can participate doesn’t make any sense to me,” Pepperl said. “Generic marketing is not going to help us as individual marketers become better companies.”
Even with an option to allow companies to have a distinctive, custom message may not be enough, he said.
“When it is a free-for-all, then how much is the controlled messaging really going to separate?” he said. “You still have these strong characters that are gong to make it generic, and you are not going to overcome that by putting different colored bows on them or something.”
Pepperl also said the “Sesame Street” demographic is limited. Some produce items, like cherries with pits or citrus, don’t really have much appeal to very young kids, he said.
“There are some food challenges for that age group and it really aims at a young demographic, probably too narrow,” he said.
The baby carrot team at Bolthouse Farms is interested and excited about the opportunity, said Todd Putman, chief marketing officer of Bakersfield, Calif.-based Bolthouse Farms and chairman of the PMA Sesame Street Initiative task force.
“The idea of being able to put a Sesame Street set of characters on baby carrots for effectively no cost out of their budget is a big deal,” he said.
Putman said Bolthouse is working on ways to do that nationally and with individual retailers.
Because the use of the “Sesame Street” characters is effectively free, Dick Spezzano, owner of Spezzano Consulting Service, Monrovia, Calif., said he believes retailers will buy into the program. A normal licensing fee may cost shippers — and their retail customers — from about 20 cents to 50 cents or more per carton, Spezzano said.
Though “Sesame Street” characters appeal to a younger crowd, Spezzano said that audience is influential. Moms will respond to requests from kids to buy produce.
The appeal of the characters on both packaged produce and bulk will be good for sales and consumption, he said.
Whether retailers would extend the “Sesame Street” promotion to private-label produce is an open question, he said.
The Sesame Street campaign will be as successful as the industry wants it to be, said John Bailey, executive director for Top 10 Produce, Salinas, Calif.
“If the industry as a whole decides that it is going to be our theme, and everyone does it, it will help everyone,’ he said. “This is a huge opportunity on an national level, but the industry as a whole needs to embrace it as a whole for the opportunity to be realized.”
Tony Freytag, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Cashmere, Wash.-based Crunch Pak LLC,, said the company uses Disney and Marvel characters on the company’s value-added packs.
“Because of our relationship with Disney and Marvel, we are not anticipating making any changes because it doesn’t really fit in our marketing plans,” he said.
Traditional Disney characters appeal to kids up to about age 6, he said, while Marvel characters can extend the appeal to boys and girls from 6-11 years old.