Clifford the Big Red Dog caused Scott Nash to pause several months ago.
There, from the front of a cereal box in MOM’s Organic Market, Clifford smiled. In the freezer section, Nash found Dora the Explorer and Boots trekking across a package of edamame. And Sesame Street character’s danced in seemingly every aisle.
Not all was A-OK for Nash, the owner of the 10-store, family-owned chain based in the Washington-Baltimore area.
So he’s booting products emblazoned with these characters and others from MOM’s shelves to rid his stores of marketing to children. Targeted characters include those licensed from books, films and TV. MOM’s once stocked products with such licensed images from Earth’s Best, Annie’s Homegrown, Apple and Eve, RW Knudsen, Peter Rabbit and Seapoint Farms.
Marketing to kids in the natural industry
“I think it’s horrible to market bad food to children; and I think it’s horrible to market good food to children,” Nash said. “They’re very susceptible. It revs them up into the world of consumerism.”
Clifford is the character that inspired the ban because he “stood out like a sore thumb in our cereal aisle.” Nash likes the brands that carry the colorful characters, but he does not believe such marketing belongs in the natural foods industry.
“It’s like you get this arms race going,” he said. “Next thing you know, someone else is doing it and then someone else is doing it and I don’t want our industry to copy the mainstream industry that way because it’s bad.”
Drawing the line
So the rules of engagement are well defined at MOM’s—it’s about character. Nash doesn’t want boring brown boxes and unimaginative products. There’s a leap from Nature’s Path drawings to Shrek and Dora, he said.
“They’re animated, there’s life to them, there’s personality to them, and that’s where we drew the line,” Nash said.
One brand owner and founder that was set for removal understands Nash’s concerns. The Very Hungry Caterpillar adorned some of Kim Walls’ Episcencial body care products until the license expired and she rebranded and this week launched the new Babytime! by Episencial packaging.
For her, the character was always about the parents, their “warm and fuzzies” connection to the hungry worm of their childhoods.
MOM’s Organic Market is phasing out the products it will no longer sell, finding organic replacements and offering customers a shopping list to help them find alternatives.
Is this something you would consider for your store? Please share your thoughts in the comments.