Chuck Robinson, Assistant Copy Chief
Chuck Robinson, Assistant Copy Chief

The shaggy costumes for workers in the produce department was sheer brilliance.

I hadn’t been shopping for a while, I guess, so all the changes they had made in support of the Eat Brighter! campaign made quite an impression on me.

I couldn’t ID which “Sesame Street” characters the workers were portraying as they went about their stocking duties, but they looked like bright orange and red shaggy puppets wearing aprons to protect the costumes.

Per the agreement the Produce Marketing Association worked out with Sesame Workshop to use “Sesame Street” characters to promote fresh produce, the costumed workers could not talk.

They were adept, however, at pantomine and also at keeping their eyes focused on their work and discouraging consumers to engage them. They were pros.

The packages were amazing too. I know Elmo, of course, from the Tickle Me Elmo craze from a few years back. Him and Cookie Monster, I know, but all the packages had one of them or the “gay” Muppet couple or the puppet Count Chocula on them.

Isn’t he on cereal too?

Every package had at least one of the characters on it, some of them more than one. It was a nicely uniform.

Abby Cadabby was on several packages too, and cleverly it was decided that Muppet characters would not be restricted to any certain commodity. I was surprised at home that a package I thought was brussels sprouts turned out to be kohlrabi.

Both are brassicas, so it’s all good.

Me with my aging eyesight, I might get confused by characters on all the packages and lose track of some of the produce items I am picking up.

Lucky for me that it wasn’t a package of durian, though maybe if I keep trying it I will learn to like durian, especially with a Muppet character on it.

The good side of having all the packages look the same with the same mix of characters on them is that I wasn’t distracted by brand names as much as before.

Sometimes I stand in the produce aisle with a stony look trying to remember which brand I prefer. Now they are all “Sesame Street” branded, and I don’t have to fret about what I am going to get. The individual brands are obscured.

One more worry off my plate, thank you.

And who doesn’t want a category to become a commodity where it doesn’t matter who supplied it? That is a lot of hassle taken out of the process for the retailer, and the suppliers can focus on cutting costs and less on top quality.

Really, feeding people is not that much different from slopping hogs, so why get hung up on brands and related issues?

It was an idyllic shopping experience. I did notice, however, a boy that seemed 8-10 years old checking out some Crunch Pak Snackers, packages of apple slices and cheese with Iron Man and his pals Spider Man and Captain America on them.

He wasn’t entranced by the the “Sesame Street” spell. At least he was checking out a produce item.

Pulling your leg

None of this has happened, of course.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my hopes for success with the “Sesame Street” tie-in for fresh produce items.

I acknowledged comments in The Packer’s coverage from Roger Pepperl, marketing director of Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers, and Tony Freytag, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Cashmere, Wash.-based Crunch Pak LLC, that “Sesame Street” didn’t fit with their marketing plans.

Still, I wrote, the “Sesame Street” promotion seems like an great extension of the Let’s Move campaign backed by first lady Michelle Obama and the Partnership for a Healthier America.

Let’s Move has been amazingly successful, I think, in raising awareness of the need to eat more healthfully and eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.

I have not changed my mind. I still hope “Sesame Street” characters can draw more little kids to heathful snacks.

Even so, I wanted to better acknowledge the concerns of of Pepperl and Freytag.

Also, I listened to and watched a 60-minute slideshow Web seminar, “Let’s get started — How to Inspire Kids to Eat Brighter!” that the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association posted to YouTube on April 22

It has a lot of useful information. However, at one point in the Web seminar, Maura Regan, senior vice president and general manager of global consumer products at Sesame Workshop, touted the efficacy of using “Sesame Street” characters to promote fresh produce by telling us a sticker of Elmo on broccoli boosted the interest of children from being on the losing side in comparison with a bar of chocolate by 78% to 22% to a 50-50 split in attraction.

Elmo boosted the children’s interest in broccoli over chocolate by 127%, she said.

Since I am in ridiculous mood, let me suggest what would happen if this Halloween I skip handing out bars of chocolate and instead hand out packs of broccoli with pictures of Elmo on them: TP’d trees in our yard for weeks and upturned flower pots.

Well, I live in a suburb, where the kids don’t mess around about Halloween candy and grownups had better not either. It is sort of “Lord of the Flies” here.

I acknowledge that those marketers not jumping onto the “Sesame Street” bandwagon have good points.

Still, I love the idea of swinging to knock one out of the ballpark. I’d like to think this might be the pitch.

What's your take? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.