Disney has shown foresight in targeting healthier options including water, smoothies, juice drinks, fresh milk and fresh and dried fruit bars.

The media giant dominates character licensing and has plenty up its sleeve for the coming year, including plans to add both cereals and ready meals to its character licence menu.

One of its partners, confectionery company Bon Bon Buddies, is taking kids' character sweets down a healthier route with the launch of a range of bars called Fruity Splitz.

The soft, chewy products, made with 65% fruit and low in fat and salt, contain only 42 calories in each 12g bar. Winnie the Pooh appears on an apple & raspberry combination, Scooby-Doo adorns the fruit salad flavour, while Disney Princess is on a mango & passionfruit line. One of the Bratz dolls is also getting in on the act on a mixed berry variant.

"There is focus on achieving healthier products where possible and, as producers of confectionery and biscuits, this is important to us," says Martin Sutherland, sales and marketing director.

"We aim to develop products that are portion controlled and, where possible, we look to use real fruit pulps or juice in our candy ranges, and to reduce salts and fats in our biscuits portfolio."

Elsewhere, Bio-Synergy has teamed up with Marvel Comics for a three-strong range of bars fronted by the likes of Spider-Man, Captain America, Wolverine and the Human Torch. Launched into Sainsbury's, the offerings are made with no artificial flavours, colours, preservatives or processed sugars, and each 30g bar is equal to one portion of fruit.

One sector which has embraced character licensing is homebaking, and in particular cake kits. Chris White, MD at cake ingredients company Fiddes Payne, says: "The market for cake kits is growing. There has been a plethora of licensed cake kits recently and there are signs of rationalisation in favour of really big names like Disney. This will increase total sector sales as a consequence."

Fiddes Payne last month launched its first range of Disney cup cake kits with Winnie the Pooh and Disney Princess. "The power of the Disney franchise is overwhelming, with Mickey and Friends achieving $5.8bn and Winnie the Pooh $5.6bn in global retail sales," says White, who says initial interest from the trade in his kits has been "extraordinary".

Disney Consumer Products says emerging opportunities will include newer faces, including Little Einsteins and Disney Fairies. The company is also launching more than 2,000 Little Mermaid products in celebration of the film's first release of a platinum two-disk DVD.n