Birds Eye Spending Millions To Entice Kids To Eat Their Vegetables – Will It Work?

by Bettina Elias Siegel on July 6, 2012

Somehow I missed the news back in May, reported on again in today’s New York Times Business section, about a partnership between the Birds Eye frozen vegetable company and Nickelodeon to encourage kids to eat more vegetables.  As originally reported by Obamafoodorama:

Birds Eye said it will spend a minimum of $2 million in 2012, 2013 and 2014 on its veggie promotion campaign. . . .  Birds Eye also pledged over three years to distribute 50 million coupons for products that meet these guidelines, offering a 50% reduction in price for qualifying products.

birds eye gen vegToday’s Times report describes the roll-out this coming Monday of several aspects of the initiative in connection with the popular iCarly program:

The brand is starting a recipe contest, “iCarly iCook with Birds Eye,” for children to develop offbeat vegetable recipes. In an online-only video that will be introduced on the Nickelodeon Web site on Monday, Jennette McCurdy, who stars on the show, encourages viewers to “create your own wacky veggie dish” for the contest.

Also beginning Monday, commercials on Nickelodeon will demonstrate the sort of offbeat dishes they seek, including the “veggie sundae,” a scoop each of carrots, cauliflower and broccoli in a banana split dish, each scoop topped with a cherry.

Viewers will submit recipes, hoping they’ll be featured on an “iCarly” episode. The effort, which also includes print, in-store and digital advertising, will be promoted through the Facebook and Twitter accounts of both iCarly and Nickelodeon.

With American children bombarded annually by close to $2 billion of advertising for generally unhealthy foods and beverages, I can only be supportive of this effort.   But I do wonder if the recipe contest, in particular, will actually encourage children to eat more vegetables, as opposed to just making crazy concoctions with them and sending in the photos to Nickelodeon.  The Times reports that:

commercials on Nickelodeon will demonstrate the sort of offbeat dishes they seek, including the “veggie sundae,” a scoop each of carrots, cauliflower and broccoli in a banana split dish, each scoop topped with a cherry.

No one loves vegetables more than I do (I’d choose them over fruit, any day, and I sometimes eat them for breakfast) but even I am totally turned off by the iCarly “veggie sundae.”  Take a look.

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

shira July 6, 2012 at 8:23 am

How did they make the veggies stick together like that? Gross.

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Bettina Elias Siegel July 6, 2012 at 8:57 am

I know! Is it that the veggies are so mushy?

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EdT. July 6, 2012 at 9:20 am

Frozen vegetables that have been steamed dang near to oblivion – mushy? (That was a rhetorical question, of course.)

~EdT.

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EdT. July 6, 2012 at 9:18 am

OK, I’ll admit: I would likely not be a fan of the “veggie sunday” – the thought of topping scoops of frozen veggies which have been steamed with a maraschino cherry is sorta stomach-turning. HOWEVER – I like the idea of challenging the kids to think about vegetables in new ways! Sure, there will be some #EPICFAILs, but (1) they are thinking about vegetables, and (b) they are creating – and so they aren’t depending on the folks at the local Micky D’s for their nutritional requirements. (OK, this does assume they actually eat the stuff – but one can be optimistic, can’t one?)

~EdT.

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june July 6, 2012 at 10:12 am

Okay, yeah, that Sunday is not appealing – I wish they had shown stuff kids make AND want to eat. But still, I applaud the idea.

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Jinni July 6, 2012 at 10:55 am

Are the ads going to pair vegetables with a bunch of their unhealthier products? http://www.pinnaclefoods.com/About+Pinnacle+Foods/Our+Brands

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mommm!!! July 6, 2012 at 11:46 am

Yeah the veggie sundae is gross. Those carrots look like really old mac n cheese. My son always scoffs at this kind of thing. And what’s with the cherry? Why can’t they just present food as actual food? It would be nice if they pandered to kids futures as culinary whizzes rather than trying to turn everything into a carnival concoction. Kids see right through this, by the way. I think the focus should be elevating kids palates rather than trying to fake them out. It just pushes them farther way in my opinion.

They should take a cue from Sam Stern. He has a cookbook titled Cooking Up A Storm he put out as a teenager. My son loves that cookbook. No veggies sundaes in there.

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Bridget July 7, 2012 at 12:36 pm

The idea of the veggie sundae is good. The reality of the veggie sundae is GROSS!!!!!!

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aubrey July 8, 2012 at 11:51 am

” With American children bombarded annually by close to $2 billion of advertising for generally unhealthy foods and beverages, I can only be supportive of this effort. But I do wonder if the recipe contest, in particular, will actually encourage children to eat more vegetables… ” — BES
_____

” I can assure you that the food industry would not be spending $2 billion dollars on advertising to children if they were not quite certain that such advertising stimulates demand… ”

– BES (27 June)

/\

… so really no problem then — we ‘know’ that slick advertising aimed at kids absolutely causes kids to demand & consume a lot more of whatever product is advertised.

Therefore, BirdsEye just needs to tweak the veggie-advertising campaign and invest more money in it — Broccoli-for-Breakfast will be irresistible to gazillions of impressionable kids.

There’s no chance of failure in an aggressive BirdsEye veggie-for-kids advertising campaign… because manufacturers of sugary cereals & unhealthy foods/snacks have conclusively demonstrated the effectiveness of kid-targeted-advertising as kid-mind-control.

Or not ?

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mommm!!! July 8, 2012 at 2:01 pm

OK…here’s how this plays out….

Birdseye is actually just one product of a food conglomerate, of which all the other product lines are garbage foods. So they take their ONE healthy product and couple it with a popular tweeny bopper show to get the kids to submit their info when they submit the recipe. It’s all a scam. Once they info on all these kids, they can better track what ELSE these kids like or get their parents to buy or whatever. That’s why their only spending two million. That’s how much their willing to spend to track this sampling of kids on their other products. Consumer tracking is what it’s all about. That’s why you end up with “veggie sundae”. blech.

Marketers actually have child marketing down to a science of how to get kids to nag more effectively. I recall an interview recently in a documentary I watched that discussed this exact same thing….I can’t remember the name…lemme look it up….

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mommm!!! July 8, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Ok the documentary was titled The Corporation. The bit that pertains to this very discussion is about half way through.

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Mel July 9, 2012 at 10:37 am

Audrey makes a good point. If we argue advertising to kids causes them uncontrollably to eat “junk food” we must then argue advertising to kids will cause them uncontrollably to eat vegetables (or anything else we choose to advertise). Any other argument exposes hypocrisy in the angry mommy agenda.

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Bettina Elias Siegel July 9, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Mel and Audrey: Hmmm… Well, first of all, my post was questioning the efficacy of the contest per se, which seems to be promoting the creation of dishes no one would really eat.

Secondly, do you really feel my statements are so radically inconsistent when, on the one hand, we have $2 million a year spent by one company to promote vegetables versus, literally ONE BILLION THOUSAND times that much spent by numerous industry players to promote sugary cereals, sodas, fast food and the like? Should we also overlook the fact that all of us (kids and adults alike) are biologically hard wired to prefer sugary, fatty and salty foods over broccoli and green beans?

But as for the basic principle, I do stand by my belief about the power of advertising over this vulnerable population. If we turned the tables and spent $2 billion annually promoting vegetable consumption, replete with the same video games, web sites, beloved cartoon characters, celebrities and sports figures, and if at the same time we proportionally reduced the advertising dollars spent on fast food, sugary cereals and the rest to the current levels spent on fruit and vegetable promotion (i.e, pocket change) do you have any doubt that vegetable consumption among this age group would rise significantly?

Finally, Mel, sexist and, frankly, obnoxious terms like “angry mommy agenda” are not welcome here under my comments policy. I would never disparage or dismiss your views, however strongly I might disagree with them, by calling you an “angry daddy” and I expect the same respect from my readers.

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andrea July 9, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Respect must be earned Bettina, and always subject to being lost through posturing and prevarication. You “would never disparage”…when you don’t hesitate to disparage Birdseye or BPI/”pink slime”. You’re pretty full of yourself, sister. When you’ve earned respect you’ll get it. Until then you’ll get what you’ve worked so hard to deserve.

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Bettina Elias Siegel July 9, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Whoa, there, Andrea – all this hostility because I wrote that this vegetable contest might not achieve its intended goal? Really? If you find this blog so full of “posturing and prevarication,” it does raise the question of why you’re here.

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Lindy July 9, 2012 at 7:44 pm

Uh….$2 billion is 1000 times larger than $2 million…not “literally ONE BILLION” times larger. Sure, 1000 times larger is one hell of a big difference but the sheer magnitude of your little arithmetic error puts the hyperbole to your rant. Doesn’t exactly inspire confidence or command respect either.

I think we should be using schools to teach kids science and MATH so they might have half a chance of becoming intelligent honest functional citizens. If we succeed in educating kids I suspect they will be able to figure out how to eat without being nannied day and night by scientific illiterates.

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Bettina Elias Siegel July 9, 2012 at 9:12 pm

My whopping math error doesn’t “put the hyperbole to [my] rant,” but it does remind me (a) why it’s never a good idea to respond to a comment on my phone while handling other tasks and (b) why I chose law school and writing over any career involving math.

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EdT. July 10, 2012 at 6:37 am

I don’t know about the schools where you come from, but in these here parts our young-uns get started on their cipherin’ lessons right early.

~EdT.

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Bettina Elias Siegel July 10, 2012 at 7:51 am
mommm!!! July 10, 2012 at 10:11 am

Actually, Lindy, one of the many reasons children have a hard time learning anything is because of poor nutrition. A food system that perpetuates products that are severely lacking in nutrition isn’t helping anyone learn anything.

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verbagetruck July 11, 2012 at 1:56 am

See this Washington Post article on the shortage of jobs for newly minted scientists despite our continued push to produce them: http://wapo.st/Nl8lrt

The push to educate in science and math is an easy suggestion for handling the U.S.’s struggle to compete in the international economy, but, like the influence of our corporation-driven food culture, it is more complicated than it seems.

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EdT. July 10, 2012 at 6:32 am

Probably not. Broccoli (and other vegetables) in their natural state lack one of the key ingredients that gives an immense boost to the desirability of those sugar-laden cereals, soft drinks, and other foodstuffs: the afore-mentioned sugar, commonly found in the slightly more concentrated form known as HFCS. Vegetables tend to hit the palates of most children wrong, for a reason: the “yucky taste” of most plant matter is one of their primary defensive mechanisms against predators (which makes sense, since they are pretty much rooted to one spot [pun intended].) Which is also why we, as parents, tend to have to teach our children to eat the stuff. Fruit, OTOH, is sweet for a reason: by making itself attractive to critters like birds and small children, the fruit increases the chance that the seeds it carries will spread, helping the plant to survive. And then the makers of HFCS concentrate the sweetness, and plop 30-second sound bites for the stuff all over the teevees, which helps ensure that they thrive.

So, you see, there is a limit to the Big Lie Theory. East is not West, Purple is not Orange, and no amount of attention from Madison Avenue’s finest will make it otherwise.

On the flip side, Bird Eye’s efforts in this regard may just help to offset the barrage of EAT YOUR BOWL OF CHOCOLATEY GOOP! and DRINK MOAR SODAZ!! that the little ones are exposed to on a daily basis a little. And that can’t help but be a Good Thing.

Note: while I personally don’t think the Veggie Sundae will ever make any Top 100 list, I do applaud the concept of inviting the kids to get creative, in a culinary way, and under proper supervision, with veg. Because play is one of the natural ways that children learn, and it also gets them active in the process.

~EdT.

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mommm!!! July 10, 2012 at 10:04 am

Contests, Raffles, Cook Offs, Sign Up For Your Free Whoseewhatsit……all old marketing ploys. It’s no different here. I love that everyone is like “yay Birdseye!” lol! So old ploys are still working. LOL!

On an equally funny (to me) sidenote….. trying to make veggies reminiscent of desserts reminds me of the prudishness to which people can apply to body parts. I raised my child with proper and anatomically correct names for things, when one day he came home from preschool informing me that one of his “certain things” was actually called a “peanut”. Of course that led to a big fight with the preschool teacher who taught him that and it was, of course, corrected.
Because…..it is in fact NOT a peanut. And vegetables are not ice cream folks, no matter how many cherries you put on them.

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EdT. July 11, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Again, I am trying to avoid getting hung up on the specifics (e.g. the “veggie sundae”) – my laudatory comments are directed toward the concept of (1) letting children “play with their food”, and (b) focusing their creativity on vegetable matter. Maybe I have watched too much “Top Chef”, “MasterChef”, and “CHOPPED!” – but I very much support the whole “get creative” means of learning (of course, maybe that is because I am also a “hands-on” type of learner.)

~EdT.

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avery July 12, 2012 at 6:19 pm

” But as for the basic principle, I do stand by my belief about the power of advertising over this vulnerable population. If we turned the tables and spent $2 billion annually promoting vegetable consumption, replete with the same video games, web sites, beloved cartoon characters, celebrities and sports figures, and if at the same time we proportionally reduced the advertising dollars spent on fast food, sugary cereals and the rest to the current levels spent on fruit and vegetable promotion (i.e, pocket change) do you have any doubt that vegetable consumption among this age group would rise significantly ? ” –BES

/\

Maybe there’s a way to turn those tables ?

Simply adopt proven commercial advertising techniques with large amounts of existing, dedicated government funds.

The Federal government now spends well over $1 Billion every year directly on “nutrition education programs”. That ain’t pocket change… but it is a form of basic advertising trying to persuade people to eat better.

Unfortunately, the effectiveness of these Federal programs has been consistently terrible over the years. An Associated-Press review of 57 such programs found mostly failure. Just four showed any real success in changing the way kids eat – or any promise as tools against childhood obesity.

So the money is there– it’s just being wasted. Just need to convince Federal bureaucrats about the ‘power of advertising’.

They can hire the same slick advertising firms as the cereal companies do, but promote fruits/veggies/etc instead of junk-food. Note also that government public-service type info/announcements typically get ‘free’ TV/radio airtime … so government money has a big leverage effect in advertising.

And there’s a lot more Federal $$ available for healthy-advertising than that mere $1Billion. This year the GAO identified $62.5 BILLION in 18 duplicative Federal domestic food & nutrition programs that’s being wasted — not hard to reach that $2 Billion benchmark for commercial junk-food advertising, with that much Federal money available now.

Money ain’t the problem — it’s smarts.

If that BES “basic principle” is correct about the power-of-advertising — the path to success is clear and attainable.

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