In November 2009, two portuguese named Rui Lima Miranda and Rodrigo Carvalho created Nutri Ventures, the first children’s entertainment brand in the world to promote healthy eating. It is also the biggest animation project ever to be undertaken in Portugal.
With a total investment of 7.5 million euros and a permanent team of around 70 people, Nutri Ventures is also the first animation series to be recorded originally in the Portuguese language and then dubbed into English.
Through entertainment, the Nutri Ventures’ project aims to create a positive environment around the subject of childhood obesity in promoting healthy eating habits so that children can associate good feelings with healthy food choices, while parents are provided with a unique opportunity to influence their children’s eating habits.
Have a look at their promo video about the animated series that will be released in September 2012 in the RTP 2 Portuguese TV channel and in the Panda channel in the month after.
BestinPortugal now presents an exclusive interview with Rodrigo Carvalho, one of the two founding members of Nutri Ventures.
1. What motivated you, in the midst of challenging moments to the European economy and to the Portuguese in particular, to venture in creating a new company with a concept that has yet to give proof of its profitability? Does the entrepreneur’s credo “Where others see difficulties, I see opportunities “ apply here?
We are entrepreneurs and for us there are no right or wrong moments. This just happened to be one of the concepts we were looking at, and the one that got the most positive response and almost immediate backing. So, it was for this reason rather than a question of opportunity for investment. We’re always busy working on ideas, and at that moment everyone fell in love with this particular idea. I think probably because people are very aware that child obesity is a serious, global problem.
2. How did you come with the idea of creating Nutri Ventures?
Well, it arose because we were asked by a supermarket chain to come up with a context that would improve children’s eating habits, but that wasn’t a communication campaign because they’re not usually very effective in changing habits. Based on this, and on studies we consulted, we realized that characters and stories could help to change behaviour effectively, because then the concepts really become absorbed into the memory.
3. What are the hurdles that you have encountered in creating the company?
Given the present context, people are more reluctant to take risks and since we’re launching something totally new we don’t yet have any results to show. There are never any guarantees in business, but when you produce something totally innovative the risk is even greater. In the end it’s all about “gut feeling”.
4. You have a degree in Aerospace engineering and your partner in Business Management, and now you define yourselves as story tellers. How do you complement each other in developing a brand from scratch?
I have the ability to create and develop stories so that the concepts become really present and alive in people’s minds and my partner, Rui Lima Miranda, knows how to transform this into profitable brands. In other words, I create the emotional value and Rui creates the economic value. Without of course forgetting the Yin-Yang chemistry.
5. Just like the Portuguese Discoverers used Lisbon as a starting point to venture into the unknown, do you consider Portugal and Lisbon in particular, as an asset in serving as a launch pad for developing an international brand?
Yes. One of the main characteristics of the Portuguese is what we call desenrascanço (the ability to think on your feet ) and that’s fundamental for creating innovation. Then there’s the fact that in Lisbon the crisis means there’s a lot of manpower available at reasonable prices. And finally, as we’re a small country, we’re used to getting entertainment content from abroad, and that’s why Portugal is such a great country for testing out new universal concepts in the area of entertainment.
6. We know that children don’t worry with the calories that they intake or with the benefits of having a balanced diet. So how do you get the message across that they need to establish healthy eating habits?
Children do in fact worry about it but they can’t change their eating habits on their own. In the same way that even when adults know that smoking is bad for them in doesn’t make it any easier to quit smoking. The trick is to transform the message into a story/entertainment content without judgements and that way you can efficiently pass the message on to children.
7. Could you briefly summarize the story of the characters Theo, Ben, Lena e Nina and about what are they looking to achieve?
In a world where foods bestow super powers, an evil man – Alex Grand – has replaced them with a single industrial compound – the Genex 100. But then a group of brave kids accidentally taste a piece of bread, and they embark on an incredible adventure to discover the remaining lost foods and their Nutri Powers. These kids are Theo, Lena, Ben and Nina: the heroes of the show. They all have different personalities, which can clash when decisions get made. But it’s their differences working together that make them so invincible. Their journey will take them to distant kingdoms where the foods are secretly guarded. They will learn that only when all the foods are reunited can the forces of evil be defeated.
8. You, and your partner, Rui Miranda, were received in the White House for a meeting with the staff of the Let’s Move Organization, an initiative launched by the First Lady Michelle Obama to help solve the epidemic of childhood obesity and to put children on the path to a healthy future. Could you tell us how did you land such a high profile meeting and what was the outcome?
It happened just like everything else has happened in this project. It has to do with meeting people who fall in love with the project and see in it an effective way to help resolve this problem. In this case it was the American Ambassador in Portugal, Mr. Allan Katz, who opened the door for us. And it was great because we began establishing a basis for a partnership with Let’s Move for when the project is launched in the U.S.
9. What are your plans for development abroad? What countries are you now targeting in your expansion plans?
In 2012 we will be in Portugal, Hungary, Israel, Turkey, Mexico, Brazil and China. From 2013: the U.S. and all the other countries.
10. How can you envision reaching a global population, if different cultures have different food preferences? Do you have any examples in what changes you had to make with the characters and with the marketing, to cater different markets?
Our focus isn’t on food preferences but in changing behaviour in relation to unhealthy, fast food, which is basically the same throughout the whole world. As for the entertainment, that’s already very universal because most of it originates from the American model. Besides this, we have a series of additional contents and products which are adapted to each country. For example, we always join up with an association of nutritionists in each country whose job it is to guarantee that the contents are correctly adapted to local dietary habits.
11. You already have established some important partnerships here in Portugal. Could you describe what are they?
We joined up with the Portuguese Association of Nutritionists for them to endorse the nutritional part of the message. We have a partnership with a supermarket chain, Pingo Doce, aimed at promoting fresh, healthy food. And we are working with the Ministry for Education and Health so that the message reaches the greatest number of children and educators possible.
12. Just like Popeye the sailor was the precursor of the superheroes that dominate the world of comic books and increased the consumption of spinach in the thirties with the rise of his popularity, could we see the Nutri Ventures’ family as role models for healthier eating and the precursors to new heroes who will eat the seven food groups every day before saving the world from the malnourished villains?
Of course. But not so much role models. Above all what Nutri Ventures does is create good feelings and relate them to good food. Thus creating the opportunity to make a change in the eating habits of young children.
13. Your vision is that children ask for a “Nutri Meal” instead of Fast Food. Do you think that this objective is attainable or are you shooting for the moon so that even if you miss you’ll land among the stars?
I think that reaching for the moon is an attainable objective. If it weren’t, Man wouldn’t have gotten there … it’s not just because something is big and complex that it’s impossible. And entertainment and stories have in fact a greater power than we can imagine, that’s why we remember stories and music from our childhood and not other important things that we learned at school.
14. Any final thoughts that you would like to add?
Yes, Nutri Ventures in itself isn’t going to change anything. What it does do is attract children to the subject in an effective way, creating the opportunity for the whole world to make a change. This is the only way that this issue can be approached: with the help of everyone.