Scaling Success: eat brighter!™ Campaign Featuring Sesame Street Characters
According to Kathy Means, Vice President of Demand Creation and Consumer Affairs for the Produce Marketing Association (PMA), the future is “about getting kids started on the right foot. If we can get kids eating more produce, they’ll grow up with a taste for it and we won’t have to turn them around when they’re 60.” To accomplish this goal, PMA teamed up with Sesame Workshop, the organization behind Sesame Street, to create the eat brighter!™ campaign. Using the beloved furry friends of Sesame Street to market fruits and vegetables, this campaign combines good-for-you food and the feel-good emotions that Elmo, Big Bird, and their pals inspire.
Since it launched in 2014, the eat brighter!™ campaign has been joined by 46 suppliers, nine retailers (representing 596 stores), and 11 promotional organizations. Means said the campaign covers stores nationwide, reaching well beyond stores with licensing agreements because any retailer can carry products that are labeled with the eat brighter!™ stickers and packaging through participating suppliers. The program includes labeling for 85 different kinds of fresh fruits and 70 fresh-cut or whole vegetables grown throughout the world and marketed across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
Sesame Workshop and PMA were so excited about the overall success of the eat brighter!™ campaign—which has boosted suppliers’ sales of fresh fruits and veggies between two to five percent—they extended the campaign to 2021.
The influence of eat brighter!™ reaches beyond retail settings to make other environments healthier, including Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) clinics in Atlanta, where the mothers of young children can go for nutrition education support. WIC provides food and nutrition assistance to low-income women who are pregnant, nursing, or raising children under the age of five. That support includes vouchers for healthier foods often lacking in the diets of children who live in low-income households, such as whole grain breads and fresh fruits and vegetables. Women often drop out of the program after their babies no longer need formula, or they simply fail to pick up or use the vouchers.
A 2017 report found that one reason women dropped out of the WIC program was their perception of the clinical environment, which is where eat brighter!™ comes in.
Enter Elmo, Big Bird, Ernie, and Bert, all holding apples, bananas, and baskets of fresh fruits and veggies. From window clings at the clinic check-in counter to posters in the play room and on the doors of every nutritionist, mothers and children are greeted by Sesame Street characters with positive messages about good nutrition.
“The kids are usually excited to see them,” said Freda Mitchem, RDN, LD, Nutrition Services Director for District 4 of the Georgia Department of Public Health, where the clinics are located. “It’s eye-catching to them.”
“We see the campaign as a huge promotion, giving us some backup to encourage fruit and vegetable consumption,” said Mitchem. Mitchem hopes the Sesame Street characters will reinforce the messages of clinic staff to use produce vouchers. “Having visuals of mainstream characters connects with them. We have seen that. We know those images are influential.”
“If this campaign works,” Kathy Means of PMA said, “perhaps we can talk to WIC clinics nationwide about doing this.”
Mitchem said other clinics within her district are already asking to join the eat brighter!™ campaign. “Nutrition Managers are seeing the difference and they are requesting to join. They want the campaign to roll over to their other sites because of the positive outcomes we’re seeing.”
After implementing the campaign in retailers and WIC clinics, eat brighter!™ will be used in a new alliance between two PHA partners: the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) and PMA. The goal is to encourage convenience stores to use eat brighter!™ to promote fresh fruit and vegetable sales. “Just like with the WIC efforts, we want to meet consumers where they are, and they are buying a lot of food in more than 150,000 U.S. convenience stores that serve 160 million customers daily,” said Means.