Dubai Municipality will launch the “nutrition characters” at supermarkets across the emirate at a time when 33% of children in the emirate are obese and diabetes affects 19% of its population.
From the end of July, retailers will display six characters based anthropomorphised from bananas, wheat, yoghurt, almonds, fish and broccoli. The illustrations will accompany other playful in-store activities to promote healthy eating habits.
The municipality’s food safety department will also reward retailers for their creative approach to portraying these characters. They will be judged on the number of children they reach and how they deliver the message of good nutrition.
Nancy Bhatia, of the department’s food and survey office, said the characters will represent food groups in a fun way.
"For example, the almond will be presented in a small size as to educate children that nuts can go with whatever they eat and are easy to carry for snacks.
"The banana will be placed next to yogurt to tell children that both are a great mix together."
Bhatia said the municipality intended to increase awareness about healthy eating before it implements new school nutrition guidelines, which will be introduced in all private schools in Dubai over the next academic year.
"Nutrition must start at an early age, so it becomes a lifestyle for children," said Bhatia, adding that the campaign will also indirectly guide parents into choosing healthier foods for their children’s packed lunches.
Meet the nutrition characters
Each character is designed with a different personality that kids can relate to.
Jamila the Banana: She is bursting with vitamins and minerals such as potassium and vitamin C. Sweet to taste, this fashionista tells her friends to eat one banana a day to get the fibre and energy to play their favourite sports.
Nasheet the Broccoli: A star student who provides fibre and puts kids in a great mood. Fresh and happy, he fights infection and strengthens bones. He lives with his mother, Mrs Cauliflower, and his father, Mr Cabbage
Saleem the Fish: Fresh, fast and swift, Saleem the Fish is full of protein, omega-3 and vitamin B. He helps increase memory and powers up the brain.
Ghalia the Sack of Wheat: This wholegrain is energetic and loves maths, because her benefits keep adding up. She keeps the stomach full as she's made of vitamin B, and fibre that provides energy. Brown rice, wheat bread and wheat pasta are also members Ghalia's family.
Lateef the Almond: He is a champion and the youngest of all the characters. He is full of proteins and helps learn new things faster. He is tiny enough to fit into the palm of a hand and be taken anywhere. He loves to hang out with his friends, walnut, cashew and pistachio.
Mufeed the Yoghurt: Mufeed is a geeky, handsome fella who loves computers. He is packed with proteins and calcium to help focus the mind on favourite subjects. Mufeed is Jamila's best friend.