(July 22) Right now, they like watching Nickelodeon. They think the most important thing in life is getting the newest Blues Clues book for their birthday. They enjoy the playground and Legos. Right now, their parents are supposed to make sure they eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. But in the future, will they continue eating produce?
When kids grow up, the amount of money they spend in your produce department depends on you. Don’t wait until it’s too late to catch their attention. Target kids at an early age so they grow up wanting fresh produce just as much as that Blues Clues book.

“When you target kids, you are looking to the future,” says Ray Clark, executive director of the Leafy Greens Council, St. Paul, Minn. “You are investing in your future customers and, in our case, in leafy greens.”
But the rewards from targeting children can come sooner than you think. David Lund, director of marketing at Chiquita Fresh N.A., Cincinnati, says children younger than age 18 influence about $30 billion in purchasing, and,according to the 2000 U.S. census, there are 72.3 million such children,making them an important age group to target.

Lund says retailers also have an opportunity to target kids because the amount of produce they consume is falling.

“Kids do eat fresh produce, but the problem is they don’t eat enough. In 1992, 80 percent of kids ate fresh fruit. Today, only 70 percent eat fresh fruit,” he says.
Don’t let kids fall by the wayside at your store. Coordinate efforts with your suppliers and commodity boards, and follow these seven strategies to target kids and make them lifelong eaters of produce.

1. PROMOTE WITH CHARACTERS
On Saturday mornings, kids wake up and watch their favorite cartoons. Cartoon characters get their attention, and that’s why some commodity boards and suppliers developed characters of their own like PearBear for the Pear Bureau Northwest, Milwaukie, Ore., Cali for the California Avocado Commission, Santa Ana, and Spuddy Buddy for the Idaho Potato Commission, Boise.

When conductingan event or promotion aimed at children, suppliers advise using characters like these to attract kids. The California Tomato Commission, Fresno, has a Tito costume available for retailers to use at events like store openings, says Adrienne Young, vice president of public affairs.
Suppliers also use characters on their packaging to attract kids. IN ZONE Brands Inc., Atlanta, released a drink that is 100 percent juice that started appearing in produce departments in August. The TummyTickler line is the company’s second brand of interactive beverages.

“Interactive beverages are a combination of a beverage and a toy,” says Christina Sharkey, marketing manager. “The packaging is interactive because it’s designed in the likeness of a cartoon character, and the labels feature games that engage the child.”

TummyTickler beverages, targeted toward 1- to 4-years-olds,are available in Barney characters, The Land Before Time characters and Clifford the Big Red Dog characters. Sharkey says the reusable bottle is dishwasher safe, and it has a spill-proof top.

2. ENTICE KIDS WITH COLOR

There is a reason that Crayola has been producing crayons since 1903, and that reason is children. According to the Crayola Web site, the average child in the U.S. will wear down 730 crayons by his 10th birthday, so why not encourage kids to wear those crayons down by coloring pictures of produce.

Many organizations like the National Watermelon Promotion Board, Orlando, Fla., have coloring books or coloring sheets available on their Web sites that you can print off and pass out in stores. Consider holding a coloring contest to get kids excited about produce.

Young says Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Bentonville, Ark., held a national children’s coloring contest in conjunction with the California Tomato Commission three years ago. The stores passed out Tito coloring sheets and the grand-prize winner received a trip to the San Diego Zoo.

“It boosted the awareness of tomatoes among younger kids,” Young says.

The Produce for Better Health Foundation, Wilmington, Del., has plans to work with color, too. Amy Bielicki, director of marketing, says PBH is developing a new marketing and communications strategy for 5 a Day around eating a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables.

The color strategy, scheduled for launch this fall, will focus on sharing with kids a variety of fruits and vegetables to provide excitement and entice them with new tastes, textures and colors.

3. ENCOURAGE ATHLETICS

When it comes to getting kids’ attention, try using sports. Young children enjoy athletics and often look up to athletes.Safeway Inc., Pleasanton, Calif., used famous soccer athletes to inspire kids to eat healthy during its Safeway Eat Like a Champion program that was launched in February. The program was designedto reach more than 600,000 elementary school children at nearly 1,750 schools across the U.S. and Canada.

Such membersof the U.S. and Canadian soccer teams as Mia Hamm and Eddie Pope were featured on bookmarks, trading cards and recipe cards with their favorite healthy recipes, and the cards were given free to children at schools and retail stores. The special-edition recipe books with 40 quick and healthy recipes were sold at Safeway stores. Bielicki says the 1,700 stores that participated in the program each adopted an elementary school for the program.
The Leafy Greens Council also uses sports to attract kids. Clark says the organization’s nine Cruciferous Crusaders characters were designed around a baseball theme. The Crusaders like Spinachraptor and Collardile each play a different position, and there are baseball cards featuring each Crusader for kids to trade and collect.

4. PARTNER WITH SCHOOLS

Kids spend the majority of their time in school, so work with the educational system to target kids and promote nutrition.

Teach kids about a variety of produce items and specialties, especially items their parents might not consume on a regular basis, by offering store tours or field trips to your grocery department. Amy Myrdal, the Oakland, Calif.-based nutrition communications manager for Westlake Village, Calif.-based Dole Fresh Fruit Co., says the company provides a 2½-hour workshop teachingretailers about how to work with young schoolchildren and get kids into the stores.
Myrdal says the workshops are designed for groups of about 50 retailers and produce managers at a time, similar to regional training, and all participants leave with a handbook. Training materials also are available on Dole’s Web site, www.dole5aday.com.
Retailers also can bring the produce department to schools. Myrdal says that through an adopt-a-school program, retailers donate produce and staff time to teaching kids about produce nutrition.

“We can provide information to retailers about schools in their local areas that are using 5 a Day materials so they know what schools to contact,” Myrdal says.

Dole also has produced an educational CD-ROM that has gone to 100,000 teachers in more than 34,000 schools.

You don’t have to look to large organizations for help targeting kids. Your local government offices might have a few suggestions. In Iowa, a county extension agent started a program called Produce Bingo. On the office’s Web site, retailers can print off bingo cards that require kids to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables as well as perform specific exercises and healthy activities. Myrdal says the extension office started the program by giving the bingo cards to kids in school with a prize for children who completed the card.

“It was a way to use the child to drive family produce consumption. If you can get the kids excited about eating produce, they will try to get their parents to eat more healthfully,” Myrdal says.

5. ATTRACT KIDS AT THE POINT OF SALE
Shelf-talkers, signs, brochures and recipe cards are ways you can target kids through your point-of-sale materials, but there are a few key things to keep in mind if using this strategy.

Although it might seem obvious, remember that kids are smaller than adults. Lund at Chiquita says POS materials targeted toward kids should be placed at their eye level. He recommends keeping product at a lower level as well, because if kids can see the sign and the base of the display but no product, then you are not marketing to kids. One type of sign Chiquita suggests using when targeting kids is the floor graphic.

“Kids in particular notice floor graphics,” Lund says. “They catch their attention and get them to walk over to a display.”

Second, remember that not all kids you might want to target can read, so the signs need to attract their attention with more than words.

“If you are requiring kids to read to know about produce and nutrition, then you are targeting kids ages 8 and up,” Lund says.

Don’t just entice kids to the display. Make them want to cook whatever produce item it is you are promoting. The California Tomato Commission developed a new “Kids Get Cooking” brochure in June containing easy recipes for kids to make in the kitchen that also piquetheir interest like Lady Bug Salad made out of tomatoes.

You also could ask kids what types of recipes they like by either holding your own recipe contest or participating in Dole’s 5 a Day recipe contest.

“We want kids to submit their favorite healthy fruit or vegetable recipe, and the winner gets a $10,000 savings bond,” Myrdal says.
The contest was launched in mid-June and will run through Nov. 15.

6. TEACH THROUGH TECHNOLOGY

These days, kids grow up using a mouse and keypad, so consider using your Web site to drive produce consumption among kids.

Many commodity boards and suppliers provide a kids’ section or kids’ pageon their Web site. Myrdal says Dole’s Web site averages more than 60,000 unique visitors a month and about 40 percent of the traffic is kids to the kids’ section of the site. Kids can play educational games on the site, but it’s also a place for them to work on school assignments because it contains a reference center, a fruit and vegetable encyclopedia and nutrition facts. She says the site is a way for Dole to target kids around the world.

Kids can find math quizzes, science lessons and word finds on the National Watermelon Promotion Board’s Web site, www.watermelon.org. Samantha Winters, director of communications, says the board plans to update the Web site this fall by adding a new watermelon character.

“We want him to be our ambassador to kids,” Winters says.

7. REACH OUT TO THE COMMUNITY

Targeting kids might also mean targeting parents through promotions or events that help children in their local communities.

This summer, Vidalia Growers Inc., Cobbtown, Ga., developed the Produce for Kids campaign co-sponsored by Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A. Inc., Coral Gables, Fla.; Fresh Express Inc., Salinas, Calif.; and Naturally Fresh Salad Dressings of Eastern Foods Inc., Atlanta. Heidi McIntyre, marketing consultant with McIntyre Marketing, Orlando, says the Atlanta division of the Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. was the first retailer to feature the campaign. The company’s 210 stores in the Southeast participated in the event.

During Produce for Kids, the sponsors made donations to Produce for Kids based on the amount of product shipped to the retailers. That money was then donated to Children’s Miracle Network hospitals in the area of the retailers.

“When consumers buy this produce, they know the money will go back to their local hospital,” she says.

McIntyre says the campaign ran through July 6, and the goal for Produce for Kids was $100,000.

“We feel we have a responsibility to give back to the community that supports our stores,” says Anet Granger, consumer affairs manager.

Kroger has a history of supporting children’s education and children’s wellness. Granger says Kroger has donated about $15 million to children’s education and about $500,000 a year to children’s hospitals in the past 10 years.
Kroger also has a Kroger’s Commitment Cash program in whichcards are passed out to local schools and each time the school’s community purchases $75,000 in sales, Kroger gives the school $500.