IN what has to be a first in North America, Disney Consumer Products has entered into a direct to retail deal with the U.S.’s largest grocer Kroger that will see more than 100 Disney Magic Selections food and health & beauty products roll out at 2,400-plus outlets by year’s end. Additional SKUs will augment the line in 2007, while the initial rollout will feature fruits, breakfast foods, cheese, yogurt and snack-size fruit cups and apple sauce.
As the issue of childhood obesity continues to shape how kids licensors approach the now contentious food category, most major IP owners are seeking to lend their characters’ likenesses to healthier foodstuffs such as fruit, veggies and snacks low in fat, salt and sugar. Just this past summer, for example, Sesame Workshop expanded its promotion with Sunkist to include fresh berries. And bags of apples and pears from Yakima, Washington-based Borton & Sons along with packages of carrots and dip from Reichel Foods in Rochester, Minnesota featuring SpongeBob are heading into U.S. grocers this month as part of Nickelodeon’s expanded fruits and veg licensing effort. But leave it to the world’s largest kids consumer products company to make an equally large statement on healthy eating and break new licensing ground at the same time.
DCP executive VP of food, health and beauty Harry Dolman says the company approached Cincinnati, Ohio-based Kroger with the idea for the line. While such DTR grocery deals are new to the U.S., DCP had already executed similar programs with Carrefour in France, Spain and Italy, and Metro in Germany. The experience helped in making the arrangement with Kroger. DCP will have a hand in product development, while Kroger, which owns 42 manufacturing plants, will take care of sourcing and producing the line as it currently does with its own corporate brands. The end goal, says Dolman, is to provide food products that promote healthy eating and nutrition at price points comparable to national brands.
Consumers, of course, can expect a few Disney flourishes with the food. Along with doling out fruit in kid-sized containers suitable for lunch boxes (i.e. pre-cut apples), DCP is working to integrate character shapes into the packaging and products themselves. Hamburger patties and cheese slices resembling Mickey Mouse’s head are ready to go, and DCP director of new business development for grocery and drug channels John Honeck says packages that incorporate Pooh’s honey jar and fish products cut into sea-faring symbols like anchors are in the works. Additionally foods that come in big enough boxes, such as cereal, will have stickers, trading cards and other surprises stuffed inside.
The initial products draw on more gender-neutral characters like Mickey and Pooh, and DCP will turn to boy- and girl-identified franchises such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Disney Princess when the product line expands into the health & beauty aisle next year. This should open up more cross-promotional opportunities, but in the meantime the Disney Magic Selections brand will be getting substantial exposure on Disney.com offshoot site Healthy Kids, which is slated to launch this fall and is being set up to further educate kids about nutrition.
As for DCP’s future plans when it comes to food licensing, the company will continue to forge old-school deals with individual licensees such as the one it currently has with Indianapolis, Indiana’s Imagination Farms for fruits and vegetables. However, Dolman says DCP is actively screening its portfolio of licensees and ‘discontinuing items that we don’t think meet our health profile.’