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Pundit’s Mailbag —
Disney’s Response To ‘Disconnect’

We’ve been running a few “first person” observations regarding the Disney foodservice operations, based on a Pundit family vacation to Walt Disney World. We discussed how the change in the “default option” from French Fries to produce worked out for the Pundit family here, and we dealt with what struck us as an oddity that during a special evening event at which free bags of fresh-cut apple slices were distributed, the bags being used weren’t labeled with the Disney characters, although Disney has a produce industry licensing venture that includes fresh-cut apples. We called that piece Disney Disconnect, and we received a letter from Disney regarding the article:

I am the Produce Sourcing Specialist for Disney Park and Resorts. I was forwarded a copy of your January 3, 2007, edition of Perishable Pundit by one of my colleagues. I would like to clarify and address a few items mentioned in the article “Disney Disconnect.”

Your article states, “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.” Please know that for the past several months, The Disney Company Parks and Resorts Division has been working with Disney Consumer Products to identify well-balanced product lines that could be used in the foodservice operations in our Theme Parks, similar to the Imagination Farms Sliced Apples from Crunch Pak. I am confident that future visits will yield evidence of this on-going partnership, as we roll out more well-balanced product lines in the future.

In reference to your visit on the last day of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, it is true that the apple slices being given away were a Chiquita product. But for all other previous evenings (17 of the 18 nights of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party), we served over 75,000 bags of the Imagination Farms Sliced Apples from Crunch Pak.

The reason for the change on the last evening was that, due to the popular demand for the sliced apples, we needed to supplement (quickly) with a local vendor for the last evening to meet our Guests’ expectations. Based on the excellent response for the sliced apples at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, we are also working with Imagination Farms to develop other single-serve produce products for use in our theme park operations.

The Walt Disney World Co. is excited about our new well-balanced menu initiative and the options and choices it will offer to our Guests. We look forward to developing new menu concepts that will continue to meet and exceed our Guests’ culinary expectations, including The Disney Garden brand.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond and clarify.

— Cecil Kennedy
Produce Sourcing Specialist

We appreciate Cecil’s taking the time to write. When we do these types of “first person” observations, we intentionally do not call for broader perspective because we are trying to illustrate the experience of an individual consumer walking in on that day. We do the same thing with retail stores as in our visit to opening weekend at two Wal-Mart stores, which we chronicled here. We have many friends at Wal-Mart, could have called for all kinds of explanations, but consumers don’t do that.

Equally, part of the “Magic” at the “Magic Kingdom” is that the ice cream bars have Mickey Mouse ears and the apple packets have Disney characters on them. Our article accurately recounted that the children there during the Pundit family visit got a little less “magic” than what they were supposed to.

Doubtless there are reasons for this and Cecil explains these clearly. Yet, the important thing is that when a family is at Walt Disney World or Disneyland or one of the other Disney theme parks, cruise lines and hotels, those children don’t care that Mickey Mouse is “usually” at the theme park; they want him there to take a picture with them.

We are, of course, very happy now to add broader perspective, and it is great to know that Disney is committed to working to build programs such as the Disney Garden brand and to working with the companies that actually produce the Disney Garden product such as Crunch Pak.

Out-of-stocks are a big problem in the produce industry and syncing the ordering process with the supply process is a crucial dilemma for produce firms all across the country. Many large buyers, such as Wal-Mart, list specific percentages of out-of-stocks that will be tolerated on each commodity. If a vendor has too many out-of-stocks, they can lose their position as a supplier.

Many companies have established forward-distribution facilities specifically to make sure that customers are never out of stock.

When the Pundit was a little boy, he was taken by his parents to the New York World’s Fair, which really was Disney’s big move to the East. The memories of riding the boat in It’s a Small World and riding the Carousel of Progress resonate still.

The Pundit’s parents took us down to Walt Disney World from New York shortly after it opened. We didn’t have hotel reservations, couldn’t find a hotel room, and Dad was just about to call his Florida citrus suppliers to beg for help when we found a room at a flea bag motel named Marie’s. There was a mouse, and it wasn’t Mickey, that ran across our room in the middle of the night.

Yet, there really was something magical about the place and to the Prevor children, it really was “The Happiest Place on Earth.” So it is fortunate that an organization that so influences children has taken on a project to encourage children to eat more healthful foods.

We just have to get that out-of-stock situation under control.

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