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Advisory Panel: Digging into food licensing responsibly

Given that childhood obesity is fast becoming the number-one social issue affecting the kids entertainment industry, we thought we'd check in with our Advisory Panel of consumer products experts to get a read on how licensors can pursue food & beverage licenses in a more sensitive way.
June 1, 2004

Given that childhood obesity is fast becoming the number-one social issue affecting the kids entertainment industry, we thought we’d check in with our Advisory Panel of consumer products experts to get a read on how licensors can pursue food & beverage licenses in a more sensitive way.

Nancy Bassett, Senior VP of worldwide consumer products, DIC Entertainment

‘From a licensing perspective, I’m not sure if it would move the mark at all by simply taking the position of only licensing non-fat, low-sugar, high-fiber food products. And I’m not sure that it’s necessarily fair to those kids who do exercise and eat healthily, but can only find their favorite brands and characters licensed on such foods and drinks. DIC recognizes that this is an important social issue, and as a producer and broadcaster of children’s animation, we feel a genuine responsibility to help deliver a positive message when it’s within our power to do so. To that end, we’re developing a new Strawberry Shortcake PSA campaign for the DIC Kid’s Network that focuses on good eating habits and the importance of regular exercise.’

Michael Dee, Director of intellectual property, Tell-Tale Productions

‘Looking at the past five years and the growth in awareness amongst consumers, trade and media about childhood obesity, I think that a reaction towards healthier food licensing was inevitable. I predict a noticeable shift within two years, as some existing licenses on ‘high-risk’ foods are either not renewed or are readjusted with specific guidelines to ensure their calorific content is in line with lower levels. But I don’t see that this would mean a drop in food licensing revenues over the medium- to long-term. New categories will open up – like ready-made soups for kids – and early initiatives like branded fruit and vegetables will be expanded. Licensees will have to adapt their current lines or they’ll simply get left behind.’

Sid Kaufman, Executive VP of worldwide merchandising, Nelvana

‘While it may appear that both the licensing and food & beverage industries have been slow to respond, there are many examples of rights holders who have always consistently insisted on ‘healthy product’ partners for licenses and promotions. But today, we are clearly in the midst of a revolution. Packaged goods companies are revamping their product lines, advertisers are trumpeting health-minded fare, and broadcasters are using the airwaves to encourage healthy and active living. We see opportunities in this changing market to promote our properties with the introduction of new healthy products (on-pack/in-pack) and to deliver responsible and healthy children’s programming with like-minded partners.’

Joshua Kislevitz, Senior VP of domestic licensing, United Media

‘United Media and its partners have responded to the growing child obesity concern with key licensing relationships that promote a healthier way of eating for children. More specifically, you can see this demonstrated through the Arthur and Peter Rabbit licensing programs. Arthur currently has partnerships with Annie’s Homegrown for macaroni and cheese and with Juicy Juice, whose products contain only real fruit juice and no added sugars, sweeteners, preservatives or artificial flavors. Peter Rabbit organic cereals and pasta from Buxton Foods also offer a healthier choice to the younger set.’

Cynthia Money, VP of consumer products, ShoPro Entertainment

‘We’re finding there’s an increased awareness among potential food & beverage partners of the obesity issue. QSRs, in particular, are asking that we come to the table with promo ideas that encourage physical activity in children, and I don’t think that was the case five years ago. It’s early days yet for us in this category, but we are committed to aligning with partners that are socially responsible and sensitive to the latest statistics, trends, issues and benefits of a healthy diet and active lifestyle.’

Lisa Shapiro, Managing director of entertainment, The Licensing Company

‘As an agent, our position may not seem to be consistent because our activities have to reflect the opinions of individual licensors. But one thing that we avoid with all our entertainment properties across the board is licensing vitamins because medical healthcare is such contentious ground. In general, I would say that it’s too simplistic to draw direct parallels between licensed food products and obesity, as there are many other factors to consider – primarily the role of parents. But I do feel though that we, as an industry, can work with parents on issues such as portion control.’

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