Vegetable Marketing: New Efforts at Targeting Children

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Some people just have a natural aversion to some (or all) vegetables. Children, in particular, have immature palates that make green vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli and spinach taste unpleasant or even bitter. The aversion to bitter and sour tastes is based in survival instinct: Many poisonous foods are bitter and sour.

It’s frustrating to a parent. I know, because I remember frustrating my mother and now experience the same frustration. For a year between ages 6 months and 18 months, she was adventurous; she wanted to try anything we seemed to enjoy. Now, however, she wants nothing to do with anything that isn't a cookie or a bean burrito.

So, I couldn’t help but chuckle when I read a report on NPR's blog The Salt about vegetable brands’ efforts to make veggies more appealing to children via new marketing efforts that target kids directly. The frozen-food giant Birds Eye is using celebrity endorsements in hopes of making vegetables cool. They signed a deal with Disney. "The collaboration will begin this summer, and execs says they'll turn to top-ranked kid and tween targeted shows and multimedia sites to help give veggies an image makeover," The Salt says.

From the story:

"We sat in a room, and we said, if we want to get kids to like vegetables, we've got to take a different approach," Mark Schiller, division president of Birds Eye (which is owned by Pinnacle Foods Group) said at this week's Partnership for a Healthier America in D.C.

Hahahahaha! First, I don’t think it will work on any kid under the age of 9 or so. Even if Sophia the First subsists on nothing but kale, my kid will still only want to eat cookies and bean burritos.

Second, if you’ve been watching this season of Portlandia, then I assume you’re getting the same mental image I am: a room full of vegetable managers at the Produce Sales Headquarters, sitting around and discussing their objectives and results.

The Brussels sprouts, beets, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower guys are each patting themselves on the back for a job well-done. Meanwhile, the guys from celery, spinach, artichokes scramble to regain market share. “How can we make Popeye popular again?” “Can’t green-bean casserole be eaten year-round?” “It’s time to find a new partner; who’s got a contact with bacon?”

If you haven’t seen the “Celery” episode of Portlandia, be sure to check it out (you can view the whole episode here).

Most of the episode is related to food and restaurants and has some great guest stars (the celery storyline continues through several segments; it’s worth it to get to the end). The episode didn't convert me, though. I still hate celery. And green bell peppers. OK, and a lot of other vegetables, too. The kid comes by it honestly, as they say.

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