Disney’s Potentially Game Changing Nutrition Initiative

Mickey Mouse Nutrition Label

Yesterday in Washington DC, Robert Iger, Chairman of the Walt Disney Company, and First Lady Michelle Obama announced a new initiative in the uphill battle against childhood obesity.

For starters, Disney is upping the nutrition standards for food served at its theme parks. Secondly, the company will now require advertisers on kids’ shows on Disney Channel and ABC (yes, Disney owns ABC) to abide by a minimal nutrition level in order to qualify products. Out with Pop Tarts, Lunchables, and Capri Sun.

The new nutrition standards will only take effect in 2015 due to “existing contracts” with advertising partners.

What you need to know:

Advertising of junk food to children is no less than a crime. Unfortunately it is sanctioned by government and corporations because it drives billions of dollars of business to all parties involved (food manufacturers, grocers, and the entertainment industry). All attempts at regulation, or even voluntary self regulation, have pretty much failed.

After all, the business model of TV is based on advertising dollars. And the food companies that have the most to spend are those that make the worst food for kids (and adults too). This is partly due to the high profit margin on empty calorie products (Juice drinks are just water, government subsidized high fructose corn syrup, and fake colors and flavors).

Disney’s sheer size and leadership position could create a chain reaction where its competitors will  feel compelled to catch up. The standards proposed by Disney (in collaborations with experts in nutrition) are not perfect, but certainly a step in the right direction. Disney published its nutrition guidelines online.

The company has also introduced a nutrition seal of approval – “Good for you, fun too!”. Because consumers don’t have enough confusing information on food packages.

Overall, this is a positive announcement. Let’s see Disney follow through on its announcements. A lot can happen between an announcement and the actual implementation 36 months later.

What’s your take on Disney’s move? PR or real change?

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  • Kat Allen

    PR or real change? I think it is a bit of both. I was happy to hear their announcement yesterday, but disappointed that the changes won’t take effect until 2015, but better late than never. I think they have seen the writing on the wall as of late and realize that this is the direction parents want to go for their children’s sake. And when you think of Disney, you think of children, so they have to seem to be doing more when it comes to kids health, after all, it is the parents who are footing the bill when you visit Disney or buy their crap. I am hoping this is the beginning of the wave of change!

  • GabeT

    I can fianally give a small round of applause to one of the largest companies on the planet! Money and business run everything. Not the government or any other stupid politician. Change has to come through power and power comes through which companies like Disney have. Its nice to see that they are finally taking a step in the right direction to use that power for positive change. 2015 is better late than never..Sadly. many people these days still oblivious to how serious the health crisis is or they just don’t care. This will hopefully wake some people up and show that somethings need tp change.

    • Gabet347

      Power comes through money*

  • Britastina

    There will be a whole host of detractors saying that this isn’t enough, not soon enough, not honest enough.  Phooey!!  This is tides changing.  This is a not-so-subtle message to parents, children and corporations that what we have been doing is criminal.  People like Jamie Oliver are not cranks.  Food choices make a difference.  I hope that this decision moves more people, educates more people, and helps food companies rethink their business model.  GO LOCAL/SMALL FARMERS!!!  You now have a toe-hold.  Do something with it.  There are millions of us out here willing to fight for you and the right to eat real food.  Mothers and fathers now know that not all corporations hate their children.  Wait a minute, I may have gone too far.  At least there is a teensy bit of hope.

  • Suzielouwho

    Not to be a skeptic, but I thought Disney gave up advertising to kids on TV long ago (which they say in their press release).  Don’t they only have something like $7m in ad $$.  That’s nothing.  How will that drive others to change?   Maybe I’m missing something.

    • Gerome

      What you’re missing:”…the company will now require advertisers on kids’ shows on
      Disney Channel and ABC (yes, Disney owns ABC) to abide by a minimal
      nutrition level in order to qualify products.”

      Forget that Disney is a great bell cow to encourage other companies who claim they value children’s heath to take similar steps, they own a LOT of media. They’re part of the Dow 30 industrials and are extraordinarily influential. This is major news in moving the needle.

      • Suzielouwho

        Disney only spends like $7m on advertising out of the $2billion kid total ad spend.. nothing there that is going to force any other media outlet to change their practices. The Nick execs were probably laughing their butts off yesterday.  Regarding other companies – the major food companies all participate in a program that announced standards last summer that quite frankly, aren’t that different.  Total PR play.

        • Gerome

          You are missing the point. It’s not about their ad budget, it’s about the ads their networks will accept. Sure its a smart PR move, that does not diminish the potential benefits. I also doubt that the competition is laughing. More likely they’re scrambling to explain why they didn’t make this move first.

  • Nickbball447

    I don’t believe advertising junk food is a crime. The public should be informed of the importance and components of good health, but it should not be forced upon anyone.

  • Carol

    Hopefully it will apply to their hotel restaurants and “adult food” as well. Here’s a shot of a salad (the healthiest one on the menu, trust me) at one of their Anaheim (Disneyland) hotels. There were a couple veggies under that mountain of colored tortilla strips…

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