Chester the Cheetah bids his final adiós to Mexico this week.
The cartoon cheetah that has symbolized the Cheetos snack on its packaging and in TV commercials since the mid-1980s will no longer appear on packaging in Mexico, in compliance with a law passed in 2018 aimed at informing consumers about unhealthy foods and beverages and restricting how such items are marketed toward children.
In October 2018, when the regulations were passed, Katia Yetzani García of the nonprofit El Poder del Consumidor said they were based on the Pan American Health Organization’s statement that such marketing toward children takes advantage of their inexperience with advertising.
The secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Angel Gurría, said last year that “the incidence of overweight and obesity among the Mexican population has reached alarming levels,” with about 73% of Mexicans considered overweight. Childhood obesity, he said, has doubled from 7.5% in 1996 to 15% in 2016.
Chester is being replaced on Cheetos packages with a more generic letter “C” that nevertheless incorporates elements of the character that will be reminiscent to those familiar with it.
The law banning Chester and other cartoon characters began taking effect last October when the packaging of food and beverage items high in sugar, salt, fats or calories started displaying uniform seals in large, striking black-and-white lettering announcing that they contained excessive levels.
The upcoming ban — on cartoon characters, drawings, and celebrity images on packaging — applies to foods and beverages that qualify for at least one of these government seals. It does not become obligatory for manufacturers until April, when other famous characters like Tony the Tiger — and Mexican packaging cartoon superstars like Rey Carlos V (a candy bar image), Melvin the Elephant (Choco-Krispies), and the gansito (a goose character featured on a popular snack cake packaging) will also disappear from Mexico’s store shelves.
Mexico is not the first country in Latin America to get rid of cartoon mascots on unhealthy foods. Chile passed a similar law in 2015 against the packaging or advertising of foods high in calories, fat, salt, or sugar that uses “hooks” directed at minors under 14. As a result, most cereals and other “junk foods” in the country have packaging free of such imagery.
Chester Cheetah was created for an ad agency in the United States in 1986 by Brad Morgan, whose voice was briefly featured in the original U.S. animated commercials. A Saturday morning cartoon around the character planned by the Fox network in the 1990s, Yo, It’s the Chester Cheetah Show, was scrapped after groups like the Action for Children’s Television raised strong objections to it as an insidious marketing tool directed at children.
Source: El Universal (sp)