WEST CHICAGO, Ill., May 9, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, The Jel Sert Company and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary's University unveiled the full findings from the first systematic study of gender and race representations for leading U.S. product mascots, showing a two-to-one ratio of male to female representation, with female mascots and mascots of color more likely to be represented as negative stereotypes. Leading the way in addressing the disparity, The Jel Sert Company partnered with the Institute to achieve gender balance in its iconic Otter Pops characters, adding three new female otters and one male otter to its newly launched coconut water ice pop line, creating gender parity across the brand.
This first-ever study surveyed the 500 best-selling consumer product categories, identifying 1,096 products with mascot character representations—from humans and humanoids, to animals and other creatures—across grocery, household and personal care products. Results show that one-in-four female mascots are presented as negative gender stereotypes. Nearly one-in-ten female mascots are shown as wearing sexually revealing clothing, while less than 1% of male mascots wear revealing clothing. Female mascots are more likely to be shown as partially nude than male mascots. When it comes to race, people of color (Latin, Black, Native American/Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Asian and Middle Eastern) constitute 38% of the U.S. population, but only 15.2% of mascots.
"We felt it was important to examine mascots for consumer goods because that area had never been extensively researched before, and mascots are a significant influence in kids' lives, similar to popular characters in TV and Film," said Geena Davis. "We were proud to partner with The Jel Sert Company as they took an incredible step forward in gender balancing their Otter Pops characters. We hope that the findings from this study will inspire other brands to evaluate the impact that mascots have on children and consumers and make positive changes toward equal and positive gender representation."
Dr. Caroline Heldman, Associate Professor at Occidental College in Los Angeles, California, conducted the study. The full report is available at http://otterpops.com/genderequality.
"Since its creation in 1969, the Otter Pops brand has been ahead of the curve with 30% of its characters being female. As a family owned business focused on creating products that bring people together, it was important to us that we increase that number to 50%," said Ken Wegner, President of The Jel Sert Company. "We were incredibly inspired by the work of The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and thrilled to partner with them to implement this study. The results show a clear need for our industry to correct course and create mascots that truly represent our consumers. We encourage our colleagues in the food and beverage industry to examine the use and impact of their current brand mascots and consider the benefits of creating more diverse characters."
In addition to the development of the four new characters, the brand has updated the backstories of the original six in an effort to make them fun, relatable, and aspirational, while furthering the theme of "otternational" diversity. Instead of looking to an advertising agency to create the new gender balanced Otter Pop characters, The Jel Sert Company enlisted the expertise of award-winning children's media creator Obie Scott Wade, whose credits include creating Paul Frank's series Julius & Friends, SheZow, and writing for shows including Kuukuu Harajuku, Baby Looney Tunes, and We're Lalaloopsy. The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media also consulted on the development of the characters.
"A powerful story is a great thing but a strong character can live in an infinite number of stories, forever," said Obie Scott Wade. "The new characters are empowered, diverse, and promote STEAM education. Each is endemic to a region where wild otters live. We have Cosmic Coconut, a Florida river otter, who dreams-up new technologies for exploring the cosmos, while the bilingual DJ Tropicool, a California sea otter, uses his computer coding skills and artistic talent to create and share innovative musical experiences. Anita Fruit Punch is a professional athlete and a role model for fairness who hails from Southeast Asia and speaks three languages, and Major Mango is a female urban otter from the Chicago River who represents courage and strength."
Acquired by The Jel Sert Company in 1996, the Otter Pops brand continues to hold its place as the number one ice pop on the West Coast. The newly launched Otter Pops coconut water features a smooth sorbet texture in flavors like mango, fruit punch, pineapple and coconut. The ice pops are made with 100% pure coconut water and are available nationwide. Consumers are encouraged to join the conversation and help seize this otter-tunity to spread the message of gender equality by using #OttersGoEqual and tagging someone in their life who inspires them.
About The Jel Sert Company
The Jel Sert Company is a family owned business that's been at the forefront of innovation in the food and beverage industry since 1926. For nearly a century, generations of families have enjoyed Jel Sert's products, which include dessert mixes, drink mixes, ready to drink beverages and freezer bars. The Jel Sert Company's products are exclusively made in West Chicago, Illinois, with over 1,000 employees sharing the company's passion for creating high quality, high value products. For more information, visit www.jelsert.com
About the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media:
Founded by Academy Award®-winning actor Geena Davis, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary's University is the only research-based organization working directly with media and entertainment companies with cutting-edge research, education and advocacy programs to dramatically improve how girls and women are reflected in media targeting children 11 and under. For more information, visit: www.seejane.org.
SOURCE The Jel Sert Company