When it comes to using characters on packaging, some companies have found success in creating their own, but many partner with well-known characters children see on TV or in movies.

“Characters that children can easily relate to and connect with have proven successful with our line of kid-focused products,” said Nichole Towell, Duda Farm Fresh Foods’ director of marketing.

Companies partner with charactersThe Oviedo, Fla., company partnered with Sony Entertainment on “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” last year when the movie released and saw a significant sales lift within the stock-keeping units that used the movie assets on pack.

The promotion also included a philanthropic effort with giving back to Feeding America, which Towell said worked well.

Cindy Jewell, marketing director for Watsonville, Calif.-based California Giant Inc., said the company partnered with “Cloudy” for similar reasons.

“Our packaging during the promotional campaign featured the Cloudy (character) Barry and the Feeding America cause, encouraging our consumer followers to also support the cause and their local Second Harvest Food Bank,” Jewell said.

The movie provided a good way to spread the word about hunger and nutrition needs.

“We saw the opportunity to use a popular movie and characters to promote a cause, which was support for Feeding America,” she said.

Other companies have also seen success.

“We partner with Disney and Marvel to create products that will appeal to kids that feature entertainment companies’ beloved characters on packages of all shapes and sizes,” said Tony Freytag, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Crunch Pak, Cashmere, Wash.

“We attended the premier of the Monsters Inc. movie last summer and timed the release of our new Blue Raspberry FlavorZ to coincide with the movie release. We were really happy with the results and so was Disney,” Freytag said.

The Produce Marketing Association has taken the idea of using licensed characters to a new level.

On March 31, a tool kit guiding the royalty-free use of Sesame Street characters was launched to produce companies, said Kathy Means, vice president of government relations and public affairs for the Newark, Del.-based association.

Means said the movement includes all areas of the supply chain.

“Retailers, packaging, suppliers, growers. We want the entire supply chain to understand they can use these characters royalty-free,” she said.

Normally companies would pay expensive royalties, but after signing up for the program, there are several levels of involvement, ranging from using characters on packaging or in stores on a long-term basis, to short-term promotions, to even signing up for customized programs.

Means thinks using the well-known Sesame Street characters will be helpful.

“This is how marketing works. When kids see something familiar, even Big Bird’s eyes on celery sticks, it makes them say, ‘I like that,’” she said.

Parents and millennials are also intrigued.

“There’s a nostalgic aspect. The characters have a reach beyond what you might think. Even older folks really have a love for the brand,” Means said.