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Disney Disconnect

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, January 3, 2007

Here at the Pundit, we’ve dealt fairly extensively with the Disney Garden here, here, here and here. And, recently word came out that Imagination Farms, which is the non-transactional produce company that markets the Disney Garden brand, was awarded the Disney Consumer Product Award by Disney Consumer Products.

Yet during the Pundit family holiday trip to Walt Disney World, it appeared that coordination between Disney foodservice operations and the licensing operation was non-existent.

Although we saw quite a bit of fresh produce, we saw none that carried the Disney Garden brand. One night we were there for the last night of a special late-night holiday event in the park, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. As part of the event and as part of its initiative to serve more healthy food, Disney provided not only free cookies and hot chocolate but also free packages of fresh-cut apple slices.

This was a big deal, a free sampling opportunity done 18 times over the entire Christmas season. It was an opportunity to get the Disney label in front of hundreds of thousands of people.

Imagination Farms has a licensee that produces fresh-cut apple slices under the Disney Garden label, Crunch Pak. But the apple slices being given away were Chiquita!

What is Disney saying to the consumer? That Chiquita quality is better? That the Chiquita price is better? That the left hand doesn’t know or care what the right hand is doing?

And don’t think the kids don’t catch it. Junior Pundit Primo, aka William, age 5, said right away, “Daddy, remember those grapes we bought with Mickey and Minnie Mouse on them? How come they aren’t on these fruits?”

Wonder what the folks at Disney want parents to answer?

To the Pundit, issues such as this illustrate the difficulty of moving large organizations on many issues, including crucial things such as food safety.

It is obvious that Disney should, whenever the logo would be seen by consumers, sell or give away Disney logoed produce. It is advertising for Disney.

The business management question is how do you make it happen?

You could order the buyers in the foodservice division to buy from Disney licensees, but then the division negotiates from a position of weakness when it comes to agreeing on a price.

And how would the buyers be able to act effectively if they received poor service or quality from a vendor?

Probably the individual food buyer at Disney gets no financial benefit if the licensing division gets more revenue. Even if there is some corporate-wide profit-sharing plan or a stock-ownership plan, the financial impact on an individual buyer of electing to buy a Disney-licensed product over another brand is infinitesimal.

So although everyone would agree that Disney should sell product with the Disney characters on it, it doesn’t happen.

This is the same dichotomy we wrote about on food safety, where all the executives at a retail organization might agree that food safety is the top priority, but the cultural and financial incentives lead to a different outcome.

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