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?