DALLAS, Sept. 12 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- "Quit playing with your food!" ... "Don't blow bubbles in your milk!" What's a mother to do? After all, kids will be kids, and marketers will be marketers. For today's marketers -- indeed, for today's kids -- "play" value of new food and beverage products is the name of the game. Fun foods sell, as do drinks in cartoon containers. Green ketchup, blue soft drinks, candy packaged as part of a toy, foods that turn your tongue a crazy color -- marketing food and beverages isn't just about tasting good, it's about doing something. Buzzwords like "play packaging," "interactive," "collectible" and "entertainment value" are prominent in the trade -- kids want their cake and play with it too.
Early last year, 7-Eleven (NYSE: SE) spotted some bottled beverages sporting cartoon character heads as bottle tops. Belly-Washers, 100-percent Vitamin C fortified beverages by IN ZONE Brands, were an instant hit among the convenience giant's youngest customers and parent customers of youngsters. The Powerpuff Girls, Scooby-Doo and Jurassic Park were the first licensed cartoon characters to catch kids attention ... not to mention other product manufacturers.
Juice, juice drinks, waters -- 7-Eleven saw an opportunity and enough new products to create a special beverage section just for kids. Billed as the Cooler Fun Zone, the new beverage section in the cooler is at eye-level -- kids' eye level -- and features beverages targeted to kids (ages 1-6), 'tweens (ages 7-12) and teens (ages 13-18). Participating 7-Eleven stores will carry approximately 9-12 different beverages with names like Tummy-Tickler, Baby Buddies, Cool Topz and Fun Water.
"We're excited about introducing a special section with all these fun new products," said 7-Eleven category manager Debbie Wildrick, who shares her office with a colorful community of cartoon character heads with bottle bodies. "We're targeting various ages with different characters and bottle sizes. Elmo from Sesame Street tops a 9.5-ounce Fun Water; Clifford the Big Red Dog and friends are on Tummy Ticklers fruit juices. For older kids, we've got SpongeBob Squarepants and Jimmy Neutron on Cool Topz drinks, and The Simpsons on Belly-Washers."
Wildrick points out that these drinks appeal to more than just kids. "A lot of adults have been buying the character-top drinks, and not just for their children. They see the fun in it, and want to collect them too. In fact, the first editions of the Power Ranger and Powerpuff Girls Belly-Washers bottles, now retired, are being sold on e-Bay!"
Manufacturers and retailers have realized that kids are people too -- little people with big money. Kid consumers -- those between the ages of 6 and 11 -- spend an estimated $24 billion a year and influence an additional $188 billion. They've been called triple-dip consumers -- spending their own money, their parents money, not to mention future spending as an adult.
Sesame Street, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Warner Bros, Marvel Comics and others have jumped on the bandwagon, licensing their top characters to bottle tops. Suggested retail prices range from $.89 to $2.89. "A lot of people justify the price, because they re-use the bottle as a water bottle, or they just really like the character," Wildrick said. "It's a virtual cartoon show in the cooler door."
Belly-Washers executives were surprised themselves that convenience stores have proven the most successful outlet for their products. "7-Eleven was one of the first retailers to introduce the Belly-Washers line of interactive beverages and has been one of our biggest partners behind growing the business," said Jim Scott, CEO and co-founder of IN ZONE Brands, Inc.
Research shows that most children make their first independent purchase at a convenience store, typically purchasing a treat like candy or a beverage. "Convenience stores are kid-sized, small and compact, and easy to navigate. They first put Slurpee(R) on the map, and those kids are now buying Slurpee drinks for their own children."
About 7-Eleven, Inc.
7-Eleven, Inc. is the premier name and largest chain in the convenience retailing industry and is observing its 75th anniversary in 2002. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, 7-Eleven, Inc. operates or franchises approximately 5,800 7-Eleven(R) stores in the United States and Canada and licenses approximately 17,000 7-Eleven stores in 17 other countries and territories throughout the world. During 2001, 7-Eleven stores worldwide generated total sales of more than $31 billion. Find out more online at http://www.7-eleven.com/ .