Is the way to a kid’s heart through his stomach? Both food manufacturers and toycos seem to think so. Food-based toys are on an upswing, growing by 15% in 2002, according to industry tracker the NPD Group. And both The Campbell Soup Company and McDonald’s are taking advantage of the increased interest by splashing their well-known monikers across new kids merchandise categories.
McDonald’s plans to relaunch its late-1980s McKids brand in Q4 with new toys (Hasbro and Mattel), apparel, footwear, books and videos. McKids clothing has been selling in Wal-Mart since 1997, and McDonald’s corporate communications director Lisa Howard says sales have been solid enough to convince the company to bring all of its kids merchandise under the brand umbrella.
A four-year deal inked in January with Toronto, Canada’s Spin Master Toys will yield new McDonald’s food play SKUs every spring and Christmas. In June, the toyco shipped more than a million units of its McFlurry Maker (US$24.99).
Meanwhile, soup king Campbell’s is gearing up for an equally ambitious foray into the toy market over the next year. Stacey Wescott-Kitsch, the company’s senior manager of corporate licensing, says Campbell’s will roll out a line of 15 toy food items in November, featuring a full range of Campbell’s brands (US$7.99 to US$14.99 per assortment). The company is also waiting for safety approval on its Q4-launching Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Snack Maker, which lets kids make pancakes, cookies and cakes.
The line will be expanded in 2004 to encompass learning toys like card & skill games and arts & craft kits. Central to the push will be a cluster of kid-sized cooking utensils such as pot-holders, aprons and scaled-down spatulas and spoons. ‘The number of parents who cook with their kids is definitely on the rise – we’re seeing more kid-targeted cookbooks on the market these days – and that’s a trend we want to follow or lead if we can,’ says Wescott-Kitsch.