Food trucks have become ubiquitous on street corners across the U.S. and in some other territories since at least the mid-2010s. As a result, they have emerged as a frequent element within children’s storytelling—including both food-centric and non-food-centric TV shows, books, games, and movies—as well as a common theme in kids’ consumer products, especially toys.
- Lego: Monkie Kid is one of Lego’s new proprietary themes, introduced first in China in May 2020, then in the U.S., Canada, Germany, and Japan this fall on Amazon Kids+ and Prime Video. The content is based on the traditional Chinese legend of the Monkey King and the Journey to the West, which is the basis of many entertainment productions made in that country. The launch of an animated series in the U.S. last month is being followed by a line of Lego playsets. One is Pigsy’s Food Truck, featuring the character Pigsy, who owns a noodle shop and is part of Monkie Kid’s team.
- WildBrain’s new iteration of Strawberry Shortcake is a 2D-animated series on YouTube, Berry in the Big City, in which Strawberry Shortcake and her friends run a New York food truck selling baked goods. There will also be 3D-animated specials, a game in Roblox, events, music content, and consumer products for kids aged 3-6. Moose Toys is the master toy licensee, with food trucks likely to be in the mix; other licensees are on board to date for books and a variety of foods.
- Cookie Monster’s Foodie Truck is a series of five-minute segments within Sesame Street in which Cookie Monster and Gonger find the foods they need by taking the truck to the source, such as to an orchard or pasta factory. Some of Sesame Workshop’s existing Sesame licensees make Foodie Truck products, including Mega Bloks and Hasbro’s Playskool division, each offering a different food truck toy. Other partners range from Random House and Lerner for books to Hallmark for ornaments.
- Sanrio’s Cinnamoroll, introduced in 2001, is a shy but friendly puppy who serves as the mascot of Café Cinnamon and has the ability to fly. Licensee Tomica markets a fanciful miniature food truck in the likeness of Cinnamoroll, complete with the character’s big ears and cinnamon roll-like curly tail. The product is sold mainly in Japan.
- Barbie has added food truck proprietor to her long list of occupations, most recently with Mattel’s Fresh’n’ Fun Food Truck playset, released in 2020. The toy company has also offered a camper/food truck as part of its Power Wheels ride-on vehicle line.
- Playmobil: The Movie launched globally in 2019 and did not do well in theatrical release in the U.S., but it remains available for streaming on Amazon Prime. The plot centers on a girl and her brother who are transported to the Playmobil World. While there, they befriend Del, a food truck driver who assists them in their adventures. At the time, Playmobil released nine playsets tied to the film, one of which was Del’s Food Truck. The product remains available through select outlets, including Amazon in the U.S. and through the Playmobil e-commerce sites in the U.K. and Germany.
- One of the Peppa Pig playsets available from Hasbro, owner of Peppa producer eOne, is an ice cream truck. In season six of the Peppa Pig animated series, one episode has Peppa and her father making ice cream with Mr. Labrador after his ice cream van runs out.
- Hello Kitty lends her name and likeness to a food truck playset from Jada Toys, which also has produced a similar product for Ryan’s World and sells two models of Volkswagen food truck in its Majorette collectible figure line. Sanrio once licensed Ballard Pacific for a Hello Kitty ride-on food truck play center as well. It also operates real-life food trucks selling Hello Kitty-branded treats as part of its line of Hello Kitty Cafés.
As these examples show, not all food truck-related products are connected to kids’ content that specifically centers on foods, healthy eating, and/or cooking, although some are certainly capitalizing on this growing trend. (Read our recent post here). Food trucks have become a familiar sight to kids and therefore a relatable occupation for characters in any type of content, whether it is an action-adventure or a slice of everyday life. Furthermore, food trucks offer many layers of play value, from pretend cooking to retail role play to vehicle fun. No wonder toy companies are so involved in this trend, both as content providers and as marketers of licensed and non-licensed consumer products.