by Marion Nestle
Oct 25 2010

Happy Halloween: UNICEF-Canada partners with Cadbury

A Canadian reader, Professor Amir Attaran of the Law and Medicine Faculties at the University of Ottawa, has just discovered UNICEF-Canada’s Halloween partnership with Cadbury:

I was not made cheery this morning when at the grocery store, I found UNICEF’s name and logo plastered all over the packages of Halloween candy.  On closer investigation, UNICEF Canada have struck a three-year partnership with Cadbury (this is the final year) where UNICEF lends its name and logo to advertising some 4 million packages of Cadbury candies each year.  In exchange, Cadbury donated some money ($500k) to UNICEF for schools in Africa.

The UNICEF Cadbury “Schoolhouse Project” (now closed) collected donations from Canadian communities for children in Africa.

UNICEF continues to collect funds for such purposes and has declared October 31 as National UNICEF Day.

Remember UNICEF’s orange trick-or-treat boxes? They helped make October 31 National UNICEF Day – and taught scores of Canadians that they can make a vital difference around the world. Today, it’s easier than ever to have an impact on the lives of the world’s most vulnerable children.

But UNICEF-Canada is aggressively seeking donations from corporate partners, apparently with little regard for what they sell.

Invest in the world’s children today to make a world of difference tomorrow. On behalf of UNICEF Canada, we invite you to involve your organization in a rewarding partnership and unique business opportunity. UNICEF Canada designs exclusive customized initiatives that achieve real, measurable business results while meeting your humanitarian goals.

Enhance your brand, drive sales, increase revenues. UNICEF delivers….We have built direct relationships with governments, businesses and community leaders in every jurisdiction where UNICEF is present.

No other aid organization engenders greater trust. None has greater impact.

Make us part of your business strategy and join us in building a better world for children. For your bottom line, for the sake of our children and for the future of our world, there is no better investment.

As I keep saying, you cannot make this stuff up.

Candy?  Or, UNICEF’s other Canadian partners such as Pizza Nova?

I know the argument: It’s Halloween and kids will eat candy anyway, so why not make some money from it.  This is the same argument used to promote sales of junk food in vending machines in U.S. schools.

But should UNICEF-Canada be doing this?  Canadians: how about doing some serious talking about this embarrassing partnership.

Addition, October 26:  Here’s what Cadbury gets for its $500,000 donation:

A cornerstone of the partnership is the dedication of significant space on approximately 4.3 million boxes and bags of mini-treats each year to raise awareness about UNICEF and the Schools for Africa programme. Cadbury Adams will also use point of purchase displays, flyers, advertising and the Web to promote the programme and its toll-free number.

  • I have two observations about this:

    1. Hey, the Girl Scouts are selling cookies that have trans fats in them…oops.

    2. Here’s one (there are many) example of a food company that donates to breast cancer … however, its products are junk food. People tell me that this is called pinkwashing –

    When it comes to giving and accepting money, all bets are off.

    Ken Leebow

  • This is especially appalling since Cadbury (now a subsidiary of Kraft) is very low ranked for chocolate companies who support free trade and do not source their chocolate from plantations where child slave labor is used.

    Cadbury Milk Bars (in the UK) were widely lauded as being the first mainstream fair trade bar, but when I looked at the grocery store last week (US), it didn’t have a fair trade stamp and it said “distributed by Hershey’s”. Hershey’s has manufactured Cadbury’s in the US for over 20 years – and Hershey’s says they are too big to know or do anything about child slavery in the chocolate business.

    Way to pick ’em, UNICEF.

  • Dragan

    When I trick-or-treated for UNICEF most people would give us both a donation and candy, though I realize at one point children were supposed to ask to only get the donation, so in many people’s minds candy and UNICEF are already linked. I realize this doesn’t make it more ok, but it also seems a bit like it’s not a particularly new thing to be worried about.

  • Yes, it’s true. We Canadians are just as guilty as other countries in our charitable and health organizations taking inappropriate corporate pay-offs…err, I mean donations. Health Canada regularly gives kids Boston Pizza gift certificates, the Dietitians of Canada (our version of the ADA) is funded in part by McDonalds, the Canadian Sugar Institute, Coke, Pepsi and others. The mixed messaging is unintegral and confusing to consumers.

    Our advertising billboards have been awash with pinkwashing this month – how the powers that be at FritoLay and PepsiCo can possibly look themselves in the mirror knowing that they are simultaneously manufacturing products that promote obesity and thus cancer while donating to cancer charities is beyond comprehension.

    It is time to do something! I started by writing a letter to the Dietitians of Canada this afternoon.

  • Bobby

    As canadians, we’ve learned many things from out American masters, and selling out to corporations is right at the top of the list. So sorry to disappoint you. Anyway, gotta go cut some trees and haul in some water before everything freezes for the winter.

  • Subvert

    As a kid, did you ever play the game where you spin ’round and ’round so much that you get disoriented and don’t know up/left/right/down? The same idea applies here. Throw so many useless messages and promotions at people that they have no idea what’s real, true and right anymore. I must say though, at least in Canada a few people might know what UNICEF is…

    @ Rachel – yes, Canada has long gone the way of corporatocracy in some regards, and follows well in the footsteps of its big brother to the south. We’re all in this together- woopee!

  • Anthro


    I very much like your analogy. It does make one’s head spin to even try to take in all the “spin” they spew.

  • Cathy Richards

    @Ken — thankfully, the Girl Scouts of America and of Canada have now switched to trans fat free cookies.

    Canada, btw, only switched last year. Until then their responses to my annual letter about trans was downright flippant.

    Trans free now, but its still cookies. Teaching girls how to raise money by selling cookies. Cause it’s easy! There’s a value system that’s important to learn.

    The Boy Scouts of Canada fundraise with apples when they’re in season. Now that’s a value system I can support.

  • Devil’s Advocate

    I do not think that the argument is necessarily that kids will eat candy regardless but rather that there are kids in Africa who need money for schools and helping Cadbury sell its eggs is an easy and effective way to raise money for those kids.

    The health risks of gorging on Halloween candy aside, I do not think that it is fair to demonize UNICEF for playing the game. UNICEF relies on corporate donations to fund its projects, and you can’t look a gift horse in the mouth. If an “evil” company wants to give money to an organization that is working against it, where is the harm in that? You could argue that it is the principle of the matter and that UNICEF has no business interacting with these companies at all except for spitting in their eye at every opportunity, but in the real world such high and mighty principles aren’t always financially practical.

  • Michelle G.

    To “Devil’s Advocate” — When you say that UNICEF “can’t look a gift horse in the mouth”, and that UNICEF should take money even if an “evil” company wants to offer it, would you extend that reasoning to a tobacco company? Would you be OK to see packs of cigarettes advertised with a UNICEF logo? Or let’s say California legalizes marijuana in its referendum next week: would you be OK with UNICEF branding on joints?

    If your answer to my questions is “no”, then your reasoning was lousy to begin with, and that’s a gift horse with cavities you’re staring at, buddy.

  • Money! Money! Money Making money at ANY cost…just no ethics, and there are too many of them now as Rachel stated. Be independent, get directly involved with poor communities, it is very rewarding and more valuable than just giving donations….
    By the way a 40 year rural community in Mexico, has no money and yet manage to survive. They are self-sustainable, even candy is occasionally made on premises using the wonderful honey produced in their land. There are many others in many other places of the world. Money is never a problem for those of us who always live in financial crisis…but somehow manage to survive, and abroad is even less expensive

  • Unicef let itself being used for creating new markets for sick making food industries. Big pharma is the next in line.