Today’s Wall Street Journal contained a fun little article about how Shrek Forever After‘s tie-in with the Vidalia Onion Committee is getting youngsters to eat onions. The campaign, which includes in-store displays with giant inflatable Shreks and images of characters on the packaging, is being credited, at least in part, to some eight million more pounds of Vidalias being sold so far this year compared to the same period last year. “There’s no question that Shrek has driven sales at the consumer level,” says John Tumino, a sales director at Richter & Co., a Charlotte, N.C., company that supplies onions to Safeway.
I have a four-year-old at home, and she will not eat onions, Vidalia or any other. She’s not buying the “but these onions are sweet!” line. She meticulously extracts every tiny speck from her fried rice, piling them on the edge of my plate. Or flinging them on the floor. So you can color me intrigued if Shrek — whom she likes, though not as much as Donkey, who is also featured in some in-store displays — can get her to eat them. After all, it’d make my life easier if I didn’t have to worry about whether stuff had onions in it…or fight to enjoy my dinner while a certain little someone amasses a greasy heap of discards next to food I’m trying to eat.
But there’s no major nutritional value to onions, so it’s more interesting than a godsend if a movie character gets her to eat them. Broccoli, brussells sprouts, salmon, breakfast that doesn’t have to be drowned in sweeteners — now we’re talking. I know Shrek’s “ogres are like onions” spiel made this a natural tie-in, but it’s too bad Popeye has fallen out of favor. I distinctly remember spooning down a bowl of steamed spinach as a youngster, walking around the table with a flexed arm so my parents, uncles, grandparents could all feel how my muscles were getting bigger after each bite.
I think the lesson from Shrek is that massively popular movie characters might work better than characters on a TV show. Kids’ movies are first and foremost about fun, whereas (most) kids’ TV shows are primarily about teaching lessons — Elmo tries to peddle broccoli, but kids are dubious of those do-gooder Sesame Street characters, who are always trying to get you to do the right thing. So, PopWatchers, any ideas about movie characters we can get to do our bidding on some of the un-kid-friendly nutritional foods? I immediately thought Little Mermaid and fish, but I guess that just means I’m kind of a sicko… Maybe the G-Force guinea pigs could shill for carrots? Your turn.