Ria sent along an example of something simultaneously routine and jarring. Disney princess grapes:
Thinking out loud here: By now, in the U.S., we’re used to thinking about food being branded with mascots, movie/tv show characters, and even corporate entities. When I posted about Cars– and Disney princess-themed diet snack packs, for example, it wasn’t the branding of food that interested me. But there is something unfamiliar to me about the associating of grapes with Disney. I think it has to do with the idea of processed versus “fresh” foods. In this case, Disney is marking a (genetically-modified) natural product in its natural state. This feels different than marking a brightly-colored, largely synthetic, already highly-branded foodstuff. Can Disney really claim grapes? Celery? Red peppers? To me, these are the last things in the grocery store that actually feel as if they come straight from the farmer. Now they’re taking a detour through the happiest place on earth?
Ria links the new development in branding to the obesity panic and the push for kids to eat healthier food. And she’s suspicious of the linking of corporate interests to health.
What do think? Are you as weirded out as I am? Is Ria onto something? What does it mean!? What’s next? Republican Party chicken breasts? South Park brand brown rice?Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Rachel @ Last Res0rt — April 11, 2011
If I start seeing political parties branding food, I'm headin' for the hills.
Glenn Beck™ Nuts wouldn't exactly be any better, but just saying...
Darkwing Duck — April 11, 2011
If "South Park Brown Rice" helps those guys keep producing musicals about Mormons, I'm all for it.
:D — April 11, 2011
It's almost as if they're trying to market healthy foods, like fruits and vegetables, to children.
Get the president on the line. We're going to take out these sick bastards before they can do any more harm!
On a more serious note, how can you not see this is a way for kids to eat healthier? And how are you able to spin this to a negative?
naath — April 11, 2011
They aren't proper PRINCESS grapes unless they come pre-pealed by a minion...
(on srs note - better than marketing junk at the kids right? still a bit weird)
Scapino — April 11, 2011
The Mickey-shaped "Healthy Snack" logo and the leaf-shaped Disney logo make me think this is part of a larger campaign, but some cursory Googling didn't bring me much.
I wonder if there are Disney-themed red grapes, which I always preferred as a child.
sploot — April 11, 2011
This is weird, but marketing is everywhere and if this encourages kids to eat healthier than it's not as harmful as, say, eating Princess candy bars. Agreed that this is odd but potentially more positive than negative.
I'm a bit concerned though that you felt the need to squash "Disney is marking a (genetically-modified) natural product in its natural state," into the middle of this post. Do you know what genetically modified actually equals? Time and time again this blog has posted irresponsible anti-fact rhetoric, green grapes are not genetically modified.
And if you see genetic modification as something that can only be bad, I suppose you must abhor the idea of Golden Rice, but as we all know things are not black and white, genetic modification has a time and a place, just make sure the food you're talking about is actually genetically modified.
allie — April 11, 2011
This reminds me of the "Disney Eggs" -- http://jezebel.com/#!5146148/disney-eggs-theyre-eggs-by-disney
I kept thinking, "how can eggs be Disney eggs?! Do they really come out shaped like Mickey?" And that's exactly what Jezebel thought.. ha :)
Iree — April 11, 2011
I thought this was just a way to try and make grapes more fun for children, you know, so you can buy princess grapes for your daughter's lunch instead of princess fruit snacks.
If there had been Pokemon fruit instead of Pokemon cereal and pop tarts as a kid, I bet I would have eaten it. Especially if it had come with a toy.
elly — April 11, 2011
There's research that suggests that the presence of cartoon characters on food products influences taste perception in children. So I see this as a PR move on Disney's part. Their licensed characters aren't just being used to sell fast/snack food... they're helping to sell healthy food too!
This sort of "rebranding" has been used successfully by Bolthouse Farms to market their "Baby Carrots Xtreme." So no harm, no foul, from this perspective.
The part that strikes me as weird is the "princess" part - unlike Bolthouse's approach, this isn't gender neutral. And since said princesses are "hawt," there's a disturbing hint of "diet food" about it (i.e., girls should eat healthy snacks to be beautiful). Since I work in health/fitness consulting, helping people eat better and achieve their body comp goals is the name of the game... but it's about helping them to be the best they can be, not trying to help them achieve a distorted beauty ideal.
And I second Sploot's comment... seedless grapes were created through selective breeding, they are not "genetically-modified" in the sense that the term is currently used.
mer — April 11, 2011
I'm pretty sure if the Disney company found a cure for cancer it would be boycotted and protested because Disney promotes "princesses", therefore a feminine stereotype.
Sheesh. Lighten up. Kids like Disney. Parents want kids to eat healthy. Parents buy grapes with princesses on them. Kids eat them. Everyone is happy. I fail to see what's so terrible about this.
For the record, I also saw grapes with Toy Story characters on them at my local store, so they aren't pushing gender stereotypes at all.
Tom — April 11, 2011
You might want to look around a little more and maybe you'll relax a bit once you realize that the world didn't end when Donald Duck orange juice, Popeye brand Spinach and Superman peanut butter went on sale. Decades ago.
Nora — April 11, 2011
Psh, like the Republican party would ever associate themselves with something with "breast" in the name.
Christina González — April 11, 2011
There are studies that show kids actually think that familiar branded items actually taste better than unbranded equal items. This is the result of both wanting to respond to uproar over a rise in overweight children and a way for companies to make money off of this "branded foods taste better" reaction.
Pair your fruits and veggies with a well-known brand with kid appeal and supposedly sales will come. There's also the matter of attempts to rebrand baby carrots as a sort of "junk food" with flashy packaging and marketing efforts.
Jill — April 11, 2011
What exactly are "princess" grapes anyway? Why do we need Disney to teach our kids how to eat healthy - isn't that what parents are for? And grapes? Do kids have a problem eating grapes? I've yet to meet a kid that didn't love them already - without the princess encouragement. With the gender stereotypes raging in this country, wouldn't this discourage BOYS from eating these very grapes? The larger point is not about whether it's bad or good to brand grapes but WHY it's being done in the first place. Must everything be branded and merchandized by a corporation? I'm really sick of it no matter where it's coming from and it just reinforces my belief that we need to buy local and buy seasonal!
m — April 11, 2011
I think you hit the nail on the head with Disney "claiming" the grapes. With processed food there's less of a problem with brands, because the recipes today are rather complex and it is possible to say that a company is responcible for a certain product. Claiming cradit for something that anyone can grow just doesn't seem genuinde. It's almost a self parody
Eugene — April 11, 2011
It looks like there's an actual variety of grape called "Princess" – if that's what these are, this looks more like an example of opportunism than a nascent trend.
John D — April 11, 2011
An excellent common-sense take on this story and Lisa Wade's failure to "get it" here:
AlgebraAB — April 11, 2011
How do you know these grapes are genetically-modified? Did I overlook something?
Chlorine — April 11, 2011
How about Harry Potter grapes?
I don't have the first image I saw, which was a big stack of these in a supermarket.
Not sure why it's always grapes.
MacKenzie — April 12, 2011
I think the Disney conspiracy is unlikely, and anyway baby carrots got there first:
Many fruit and veggie companies are trying to increase sales by marketing their products as snack/junk food. American consumption of fruit and veggies has steadily decreased, thereby hurting those industries.
I would not be surprised if we start seeing lots of these kinds of foods marketed toward children, and probably some of the strategies will be highly gendered. But I'm honestly not sure why grapes have adopted Disney Princesses; it seems like that could cause boys to not want to eat them for fear of being seen with a princess-y item, which would then narrow their consumer market. Perhaps we will soon see gendered grapes for boys, as well, in the form of Toy Story or Cars.
Also, this is a scholarly blog and it's frustrating to see so many condescending/rude remarks. Can't we all disagree in a polite and informed way?
Marissa — April 12, 2011
It was actually in reaction to the obesity panic. Disney had a contract with something called Imagination Farms from like 2006 to December 2010 (so the website is currently down, you can find articles on it though). The brand was called Disney Garden. I found a powerpoint from the Imagination Farms site that discussed it a little bit--
Katherine — April 12, 2011
Disney has been marketing fruit in the UK for some time now. Donut peaches come to mind! It's just a way of getting kids interested in their '5 a day' ...
Caitlin — April 12, 2011
I shop at Aldi and I've seen "Disney Garden" romaine hearts before (a link to some Disney Garden products here: http://churchbrothers.com/dg_commodities.htm).
Snap This: Disney Princess Grapes « : Crushable - Crushable gives you the celebrity news, style and scoop on the stuff you care about. — April 13, 2011
[...] [Via Sociological Images] [...]
alix — April 13, 2011
I saw several reviews of the princess grape cultivar which indicated that they are just not that good compared to other types of grapes. Maybe the distributors are branding them this way to give themselves an edge over better-tasting grapes.
#FeministFriday Week-End Linkspam « The Rambling Feminist — April 15, 2011
[...] Disney Princess Grapes? || Sociological Images [...]
hypatia — April 15, 2011
Honestly my biggest concern would be what happens when there are no more "princess" grapes or other branded fruit items. Seems to me that parents could potentially be opening themselves up to more food battles when little Suzy or Timmy now won't eat their fruit because it's not branded correctly.
What's wrong with cartoon character brand fruit? While I'll admit that it's better then branded junk food but they are taking advantage of the most vulnerable demographic. Parents! Personally I think they should have the right to buy food without having to battle their children over wanting higher-priced branded products. Marketers know who they are marketing to, they just hope that since they are in a public space, parents will give up.
Marketers also know that Princess grapes will lead to Princess Cookies and Princess Sugar Puffs and loads of Princess crap. Disney sees the perfect world as one where every little girl eats her Princess grapes by the tv watching a Princess video, in her Princess pyjamas (with her Princess undies!), before mom and dad tuck her into her Princess bed linens, read her a Princess bedtime story while she sips Princess juice from her Princess mug, and finally falls asleep between her Princess pillows to the glow of her Princess alarm clock.
To suggest that Disney doesn't see that when they pump out these products is pure naivete.
Honestly the easiest thing is just not to bring the kids to the grocery store but marketer's know most parent's don't have that luxury. You can argue that parent's have the final say and blah, blah, blah... But when it comes down to it, parents are most motivated by keeping their kids happy; it makes them easier to live with.
renee — August 27, 2011
I dislike the fact that the grapes are being marketed with something as "girly" as disney princesses. I doubt that would make it any easier to get a 5 year old boy to eat any fresh fruits or veggies.
Disney Princess flowers: coming soon to a garden near you. | Rebecca Hains — April 18, 2012
[...] further reading, see the post “Disney Princess Grapes?” on Sociological [...]
Anonymous — April 18, 2012
Now there are Disney Princess flower seed packets, too: http://rebeccahains.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/disney-princess-flowers-coming-soon-to-a-garden-near-you/
» Where the princesses are: seeds, grapes and Target. :julie kundhi — April 23, 2012
[...] everything at the grocery store, but this is the first time I’ve seen it on fresh produce. Disney Princess Grapes? by Lisa [...]
Red — August 23, 2013
Picked some up at Albertsons. They are great but no different that any other good grapes
Why ‘Princess Culture’ Is Bad For Girls | Moms — July 18, 2016
[…] represented in virtually every product category; dolls, dresses, bags and even seed packets and grapes. As a result, young girls strongly identify with princess culture, and adults assume girls […]