Now that grower-shippers and retailers know how to get to Sesame Street, the question is how many will go there?

The Produce Marketing Association rolled out its much-anticipated Sesame Street toolkit March 31, giving companies a road map that spells out how marketers can take advantage of a two-year opportunity to use the Sesame Workshop’s popular characters without paying royalties.

Todd Putnam, chief marketing officer of Bakersfield, Calif.-based Bolthouse Farms and chairman of PMA’s Sesame Street Initiative task force, said April 1 that companies already were going online to check out the toolkit.

Meg Miller, PMA public relations director, said that as companies sign on to use the characters, they will be listed on the website as supporters of the new Eat Bright campaign.

Putnam said he expects to see Sesame Street characters showing up in produce departments by late summer — just in time for back-to-school promotions. First, companies will have to decide just how to use the characters, which primarily appeal to preschool-aged children and their parents.

Putnam said Bolthouse doesn’t yet have specific plans for Eat Bright.

“We’re looking at opportunities across a range of products,” he said.

Those possibilities, he said, could be as simple as branding packaging with Big Bird and friends or something as complex as a special merchandise offer.

“You could have a promotion where if a consumer buys a certain number of bags of carrots they get a Sesame Street backpack,” he said. “We’re looking at a variety of options.”

What happens, Putnam was asked, if competing grower-shippers are interested in using the characters to promote their similar products?

“We’ve had conversations with Grimmway Farms,” he said. “I expect they’ll come in at some point. We clearly think of them as competitors. But If I’m at Walmart or some other retail store and there are 30 produce growers using the characters, I have a fundamental belief that all boats rise. I have to think, it’s all good.”

The bottom line, he said, is to get more Americans eating healthy.

“Seventy percent of the health care costs in the United States are lifestyle related,” he said. “A lot of that comes back to how we eat and how we consume fruits and vegetables. We have to figure out new and innovative ways to get people to eat healthier. Sesame Street is one plank in a multi-year movement to get people to eat healthier. It’s the right thing to do. We are an industry that gets healthier as consumers get healthier. It’s good business.”

Retailers are taking note, he said.

“We’ve had conversations with national retailers, and you can feel the energy,” he said. “Based on the depth of conversations, it feels like a real movement. It’s exciting.”