Sesame Street licenses Chef Boyardee pasta line for kids

The producers of tv's Sesame Street children's program have licensed a food product for the first time, a move Chef Boyardee is using to fill a niche in its canned pasta line-up and hopes to exploit in other product segments in...

The producers of tv’s Sesame Street children’s program have licensed a food product for the first time, a move Chef Boyardee is using to fill a niche in its canned pasta line-up and hopes to exploit in other product segments in future.

Mark Ruppel, new product manager for Canadian Home Products, maker of Chef Boyardee pasta, says the company’s new Sesame Street Pasta from Chef Boyardee is targetted at children aged one to five.

Ruppel says that age group had not been specifically addressed previously, explaining Chef Boyardee’s various pasta lines are generally prepared for children aged six and older, and teenagers.

Ruppel says Sesame Street Pasta will be distinguished from other canned pastas through a marketing strategy that caters to the concerns of nutritionally aware parents.

‘One of the key things is the change in consumer trends over the last few years, with parents being a little bit more knowledgeable and conscious about nutrition,’ Ruppel says.

‘What we wanted to do was cater to those needs,’ he says.

According to Ruppel, Sesame Street Pasta has no monosodium glutamate or preservatives, and has less than half the sodium of other canned pastas, something he calls ‘a key product attribute.’

As well as filling a niche in its lineup, Ruppel says Sesame Street Pasta is also designed to attract new users and keep them loyal to the franchise for a lot longer.

‘The idea [was,] get the children in, give them something that parents can feel comfortable serving, and let them move on through the Chef franchise, or into other canned pasta products,’ he says.

Chef Boyardee went after Sesame Street, says Ruppel, because of its high awareness among children and adults.

The tv show is the most widely watched children’s series in the history of the medium – and, because the company wanted a program that would last and play a positive role among children.

Sesame Street, from the Children’s Television Workshop, has been on u.s. tv for 25 years, and on Canadian screens for 18 years.

Ruppel says Chef Boyardee expects the new pasta to steal share from the competition.

And, that could mean trouble for Chef Boyardee’s principal competitors, the Heinz and Libby’s brands, since the market is softening a bit.

Neilsen Marketing Research, in Markham, Ont., where Canadian Home Products also has its headquarters, says the canned pasta market is worth $76.4 million a year, with the children’s segment of ‘shaped pasta’ taking 47.1% of that.

But, Nielsen says the dollar volume of the canned pasta category is down 3% from this time last year, adding the dollar volume for the children’s part of it is down 5% from last year.

Ruppel says advertising for the Sesame Street pasta is directed at women 18-35 with children at home, with Chef Boyardee’s 30-second tv spot, ‘The Invisible Friends,’ due for a second national airing beginning Oct. 31 for four weeks.

The spot also ran for four weeks beginning Sept. 12.

Ruppel says a print campaign using Today’s Parent and Canadian Living magazines is planned for the first week of December, and additional tv advertising is slated for next year.

He says because Children’s Television Workshop is highly protective of Sesame Street’s integrity, 90% of the children who eat Chef Boyardee’s new entry will not see the tv advertising for it because it is aired after 8 p.m.

He says Chef Boyardee does not expect its competitors to start advertising against Sesame Street Pasta, adding, they have taken the ‘price road,’ something Chef Boyardee will not copy.

The suggested retail price of the licensed pasta is $1.69 for a 425-gram can.

The new line has Big Bird and Elmo pasta shapes in tomato and meat sauce, Bert and Ernie shapes with mini-meatballs in tomato sauce, and Big Bird and Cookie Monster shapes in tomato sauce.

Ruppel says the Chef Boyardee spot was ‘co-shot’ for the Canadian and u.s. markets using creative from Chef Boyardee’s u.s. agency, Young & Rubicam in New York.

French-language creative for the Quebec market was provided by Canadian Home Product’s Canadian agency, Leo Burnett of Toronto.

Print creative also comes from y&r in New York, with adaptation by Leo Burnett.

Ruppel says American Home Food Products, the New Jersey parent of Canadian Home Products, pursued Children’s Television Workshop for eight years before the Sesame Street producer gave the go-ahead to the licensed pasta.

However, other ventures between the Children’s Television Workshop and American Home Food Products may make the licensing wait worthwhile.

Ruppel says the food manufacturer’s contract with the Sesame Street producer gives it options on other Sesame Street licensed items, and the rights to use the show’s characters in other product categories as well.