(Oct. 23, 5:25 p.m.) Disney theme parks and resorts have served fresh fruits and vegetables for years, but the focus on nutrition has become predominant within the past two years.

Burbank, Calif.-based The Walt Disney Co. announced its Healthy Initiatives program, which included policy changes to associate its brands and characters with a more nutritionally balanced range of foods, in October of 2006.

Because of these initiatives, fresh produce at Disney’s theme parks broke free from its fruit cart exclusivity and made its way into the quick-service and sit-down restaurants.

“It’s a longstanding history at Disneyland. It’s the story of Main Street and Adventureland and the Enchanted Tiki Room, so we’ve always had whole fruit on Main Street Fruit Carts,” said Michele Gendreau, director of concept and product development for the food and beverage division at Disneyland Resort.

Disneyland stayed true to its fruit cart roots, though, and now there is at least one, if not more, fruit cart in each “land” at the resort.

“We’ve certainly expanded the fruit carts to every land, and we’re putting two more in this year,” Gendreau said. “Everyone should have a choice of whatever they feel like. It shouldn’t be that they can only get certain things in certain lands.”

Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., is broken up in to eight “lands,” Main Street USA, Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, New Orleans Square, Critter Country and Mickey’s Toontown. Disney World in Orlando is set up similarly, although it is a larger theme park.

“We work as a segment,” Gendreau said. “Many of the initiatives have been in cooperation with Walt Disney World.”

Gendreau said the park did substantial whole fruit business in the past, but that the produce industry has made improvements that have made it easier to expand offerings.

“The industry has gotten better at doing things like mini carrots and apple slices,” Gendreau said.

The fruit carts now offer whole apples, oranges, bananas, nectarines, grapes, mangoes, peaches and pears, as well as fresh-cut pineapple, watermelon, celery, carrots, broccoli and cherry tomatoes. These fresh snack options take the center stage, while chips and candy bars have back shelf locations at most of Disney’s food stands.

In addition, the parks have expanded their options on individual commodities such as apples.

“For many years, red delicious was the primary apple,” Gendreau said. “Now, we’re certainly doing more fuji and gala, where it used to just be red or green.”

Gendreau said pineapple spears and watermelon wedges are important parts of the fresh-cut offerings. Disney parks serve pineapple wedges on a stick.

“They’re easy to walk around with,” Gendreau said. “Our parks are set up for walking food.”

New vegetable options

Fresh-cut vegetables just hit the Disney scene the last couple years, Gendreau said, and the segment is still growing. The company plans to have a carrot, celery and cherry tomato mix with white ranch dip by mid-November, along with an apple and peanut butter option.

In its current fresh-cut vegetable package, Disney is switching out broccoli for sugar snap peas.

“The produce industry is doing a great job getting those out there in retail,” Gendreau said. “That goes a long way in getting a product accepted here.”

Disneyland is also testing Foodles by Imagination Farms. The Foodles are a Mickey Mouse-shaped plate with items such carrots and celery, or just celery, in the main part of the plate, cherry tomatoes in one ear and ranch dip in the other. The second variety Disneyland is testing has celery in the main segment, peanut butter in one ear and raisins in the other.

In addition to the fruit carts, Disney has also had fruit and vegetable side dishes as the default choice for kids’ meals at the parks since 2006. Although fries are available upon request, more than 60% of the kids’ meals served in the U.S. parks are with the fruit or vegetable, Gendreau said. Salads and fruit are available as an option for adult meals, as well.

Disney also grows in its own produce in its Land Pavilion at Epcot Center in Orlando. A backstage tour called “Behind the Seeds” shows visitors how Disney grows pumpkins and watermelons in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head, how giant Cinderella pumpkins are grown and how hydroponic crops from around the world can be grown.

Disney Healthy Initiatives gives produce big role
Disney theme parks and resorts have expanded their fresh produce offerings beyond their former fruit cart exclusivity, but the carts haven’t gone away. At Disneyland Resort, for example, guests can find at least one, if not more, fruit carts in each “land” at the resort, says Michele Gendreau, director of concept and product development for the resort’s food and beverage division.

Courtesy The Walt Disney Co.