Why These Fruit Snacks Packets Are So Terrible

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:

Animated Fruit snacks_1

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:

Animated Fruit snacks_2

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.

  • shuart24

    I think you have the relationship between animation and merchandise backwards. Merchandise is not a luxury to improve the craft, it’s a necessity that makes studio animation possible in the first place. Animated films are major money losers by themselves. A hit animated film might be able to break even once production, advertising and distribution costs are accounted for.

    For animation, we’re talking about one film released every 1-2 years. The average Hollywood Studio releases 10-15 movies every year with a fraction of the personnel and cost. Theater and DVD sales don’t even come close to recouping the costs of production, advertising, and distribution. That’s why it’s very difficult for new studios to enter the animation game. It’s so much more labor intensive and costly than any other form of movie making.

    Merchandise is what turns a money-loser into a profit making machine. Without it, there wouldn’t be an animation business. Period. I’m sure that the ones produced as a labor of love would still be around but they would be infrequent. So, yes, fruit snacks improve the quality of the craft by giving the studios the money needed to create the animation in the first place. And how does merchandise contribute to the craft anyway? I wasn’t aware that animators got their inspiration from cereal boxes. The Adventure Time merchandise only seems more high minded because their demographic is too old for cartoon characters on their food.

    And besides I strongly debate the idea of children being consumers because they don’t have money and they don’t make purchases. Their parents do. Kids don’t understand nutrition information and don’t care about it. Most parents know that fruit snacks don’t have nutrition and that’s not why they buy it. In most households, they are a bribe or a treat. Having worked at an after school program, nothing made kids listen like threatening to take away their fruit snacks. Thus most of the focus is on the drawings on the front because parents don’t care about the contents. Kids just enjoy playing with the characters before they eat them. In the end this also builds up brand loyalty to the animation company improving their revenue regardless of their product.

    • http://animationanomaly.com/ Charles Kenny

      “And how does merchandise contribute to the craft anyway? I wasn’t aware that animators got their inspiration from cereal boxes.”

      It isn’t so much for the sake of the animators as it is for the public. Merchandise quality can have an affect on their perception of what animation is. Crappy merchandise won’t do much good, but great merchandise can improve the ordinary public’s view of animated output. Fruit shapes fall somewhere towards the latter.

      Kids don’t understand nutrition information

      They might not understand it, but they sure do know the differences between what’s healthy for them and what isn’t.

      In the end this also builds up brand loyalty to the animation company improving their revenue regardless of their product.

      In the end this also builds up brand loyalty to the animation company improving their revenue regardless of their product.

      Well of course it does! But that doesn’t mean they’re required to put out products like fruit shapes. They could use any food. Heck, they have Donald Duck orange juice. Why can’t they create more [healthy] products like that?

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