Birds Eye® Frozen Produce recently launched its Step Up To The Plate program and announced its partnership with Disney to market vegetables to kids. Through aligning Step Up To The Plate with Disney’s Magic of Healthy Living TRYathlon Road Tour, Birds Eye and Disney hope to get the message to kids on why it’s important to eat vegetables and establish a well-balanced diet from the get-go. We got the scoop from Mike Barkley, senior vice president of Birds Eye Frozen Food Division at Pinnacle Foods Group LLC, on everything from the details of the partnership, other partnerships on the horizon and what’s next in the world of marketing vegetables to kids.

Can you tell us more about the Step Up To The Plate program? Why did you choose to partner with Disney’s Magic of Healthy Living TRYathlon Road Tour?

Birds Eye executives, Step Up To The Plate markets vegetables to kids

Birds Eye executives Kristopher Corbin, Mark Schiller, Michael Barkley and Chef Michael Christensen (left to right) at The Building a Healthier Future Summit in Washington, D.C. (Johnny Bivera/Feature Photo Service for Birds Eye)

Step Up To The Plate is an initiative created and led by Birds Eye Frozen Produce to move kids to like veggies one bite at a time. As the leader in frozen produce, helping families eat more vegetables is the driving force behind everything Birds Eye does –- it’s the brand’s mission, responsibility and passion to change the way the next generation eats. Two years ago, we started marketing veggies directly to kids and we’ve learned a lot so far.

Step Up To The Plate will take a long-term view at partnering with the three biggest influences on kids today — their parents, their peers and pop culture. Working with Disney will help position veggies as fun and delicious for kids, breaking down barriers and helping them TRY new ways of enjoying them.

Today, only 10% of kids in the U.S. eat the proper amount of veggies each day, as the USDA MyPlate guidelines call for filling half the plate with fruits and veggies. That’s a big gap –- one that Step Up To the Plate aims to help close. To win, we’re going to need to think big and collaborate with like-minded organizations such as Disney. With Disney on board, Birds Eye will enlist star-powered support and wide spread reach to expose kids to new ways to enjoy veggies and position them as fun and cool. While the details for the program will be announced in the weeks to come, program elements will include a national sweepstakes, on-air and online activations, a grassroots tour, recipe ideas and more.

Are there specific produce items that will be featured the Disney partnership?

Birds Eye will promote its full line of veggie products through the Disney programming. Together, Birds Eye and Disney are exploring possibilities for new products. It is anticipated that the initiative will include a product component that will showcase Disney characters on Birds Eye packaging.

Birds Eye Research and Development Senior Director Kristopher Corbin says the key to getting kids to eat more veggies is exposing them at a young age to the veggies they are most likely to enjoy. Veggies like peas, broccoli and carrots are more approachable and kids tend to like them more often. Corbin says consumers can expect Birds Eye will continue to develop and deliver new product offerings with high kid-appeal.

What other components are there, specifically, in this partnership? Will you be working with others?

In addition to teaming up with Disney, we’re excited to be working with Melissa d’Arabian, Food Network’s host of the Picky Eaters Project and mother of four. She will be working as a brand ambassador with Birds Eye to support Step Up To The Plate and reach families around the country. She will also guide a national network of registered dietitians who will go into the homes of people across the country and work with them one-on-one to develop new ways of shopping and meal preparation that will transform picky eaters into veggie-lovers.

The Step Up To The Plate movement is about working with other like-minded organizations to get kids eating more vegetables. Therefore, additional partnerships and collaborations may be announced throughout the year. Stay tuned.

What’s next in the world of marketing veggies to kids?

We believe we can accomplish more together than alone. To move the needle on getting kids to eat more veggies, we’re going to need to continue to be bold and creative. At Birds Eye, we’re collaborating with the biggest influences on kids and taking a long term view toward packing in fun and great taste to help make mealtime easier and more enjoyable.

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