Families and children could soon see Big Bird popping up on displays of broccoli, or Ernie next to a basket of apples.
In a two-year arrangement announced Wednesday by First Lady Michelle Obama and the Partnership for a Healthier America (an outgrowth of First Lady's Let's Move initiative to reduce childhood obesity), Sesame Street agreed to waive its license fee, allowing the growers, suppliers and retailers of the Produce Marketing Association to use Bert and Ernie and the rest of the gang to promote healthy produce.
As the First Lady explained, it's all about making veggies and fruit more palatable to kids. She referenced a recent study that showed that when given a choice between eating an apple and a cookie, kids obviously chose the cookie. But when an Elmo sticker was on the apple, nearly double the number of kids made the healthier choice, according to the Cornell University study.
“Just imagine what will happen when we take our kids to the grocery store, and they see Elmo and Rosita and the other Sesame Street Muppets they love up and down the produce aisle,” Obama said. “Imagine what it will be like to have our kids begging us to buy them fruits and vegetables instead of cookies, candy and chips.”
Produce marketers see the deal as closing the gap with the marketing clout of the big food companies. "Other food marketers, companies who have seemingly endless budgets enabling them to position and sell their products, especially to kids, are steep competition," said Jan DeLyser, vp of marketing for the California Avocado Commission and immediate past chairman of PMA's board of directors. "I'm thrilled to be a part of a program that will give the produce industry additional marketing opportunities for our naturally healthful products."
The deal is part of a new push by Obama to enlist private companies to voluntarily join in her effort to fight childhood obesity. In September, Obama held a summit on food marketing to children, urging companies to do more to market healthier foods to kids.