No doubt you’ve seen them in almost every grocery store in the country. They’ve been around for years, and they are relentlessly targeted at everyone younger than their teens. Yes, they are the fruit snacks emblazoned with many a popular animated character. Here’s a photo I took at the local shop, your’s is no doubt similar:
Marvelous looking aren’t they? /sarcasm
The Problem With Fruit Snacks Packets
The packets, as can clearly be seen, are designed to maximise the amount of space that is devoted to animated characters. Barely 10% is given over to describing what is actually in them. Personally, this blogger had no idea what they contained until he picked up a packet and carefully read it. It’s possible that that’s simply because I didn’t grow up in the States, and thus wasn’t subject to such marketing when I was in the target demographic, but how may parents would be in the same boat?
The presence of animated characters on products is not new by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s still a bit concerning that they occupy so much space. In essence, they are not so much selling the product as selling themselves.
You’ll notice that all the boxes contain the exact same products; there’s no difference between a Perry the Platypus and a Spiderman packet. So who’s that designed to trick?
Why They’re Bad
They’re Not Made Of Nice Things
It’s easy to nitpick such merchandise. They’re sugary, not particularly natural (read the ingredients) and are often passed of as being healthy because they contain ‘fruit juice’. That doesn’t stop people defending them, but on a wholly nutritional level, these snacks are far from ideal
They Prey On The Least Informed Consumers
OK, yes, kids have been targeted for decades, but in comparison, the EU and other countries place strict limits on all merchandise aimed at kids, and they still manage to sell. These fruit snacks do next to nothing to inform the kids what’s actually inside beyond pictures of the shapes of the snacks!
That’s not to argue that they should feature a laundry list of what they do contain, but rather that they attempt to inform kids about what they’re buying. Kids are stupid; that’s not being rude, but it is the truth when it comes to these kinds of things. They don’t read the ingredients, they don’t even realise they are having the wool pulled over their eyes in such a ham-fisted manner. All they know is that their favourite character is on the cover and there’s a tasty treat inside.
They Do Next To Nothing For Animation Itself
Thinking about this on a higher plane for a minute; shouldn’t merchandise for animated properties actually do something to feed back to the source material? I mean in a way besides just revenue or viewership. Sales of these packets above surely keep their respective shows in the minds of parents and kids, but do they actually improve the quality of the shows?
I’m thinking here in terms of how merchandise can provide feedback to studios and help them improve their output. Adventure Time is a good example; plenty of their merchandise features obscure characters that earned a repeat performance on the show. To consider a contrasting example; it’s doubtful this Legend of Korra dog bowl made for a bigger role for Naga.
Food and drink merchandise is difficult to manufacture and sell, but it is hard to believe that in the 21st century, studios rely on the same kinds of techniques that were first pioneered in the 1950s! Surely they can come up with a better (and healthier) alternative to fruit snacks. The grapes were a start, but they were marketed in the wrong way. Smarter thinking in this area is needed. The results will justify the effort involved.
Putting Things In Perspective
Finally, just to put things into perspective, here’s a shot of the entire shelf where the fruit snacks are placed:
Notice that they higher up products appeal more to adults while the lower ones appeal to children. Both kinds of products are at the appropriate eye height for their targeted customer. That’s what grocery store psychology in action.