Apparently it’s the end of an era, as Disney moves on from their Snack Line dedicated to Allergies and Lifestyle Alternatives.
Originally, Disney had several items in their Gluten Free and Allergy Friendly line. These items were all labeled under the “Snacks with Character” brand and available inside the Rarks and the Resorts. While their were changes in brands available, one things was true… the Snack Line was developed intentionally for those of use with Food Allergies, Gluten Free needs and other lifestyle needs.
This Snack Line was an easy and safe option in a world of Disney where cross contact and “May contains” are the norm. You could grab Cookies or Snacks that you knew were clearly labeled with ingredients and facilities.
While Disney has continued to improve on facility and may contain labeling for their snack lines, most options available in their Standard Snack lines are not Gluten Free and have varying levels of Allergy Safety. All of the HouseMade Confectionary Items contain significant cross contact- making them unsafe for the majority of the Allergy and Gluten Free Community.
A Slow Decline in Product Availability of the Snacks with Character Line
In late 2021 we noticed that several items were no longer available, this shortage grew till only the Lemon and Chocolate Chip Cookies were available in mid 2022.
MouseEarMemories reported back in January of 2021 that the Allergy Enjoy Life Brand snack line was becoming hard to find, before it vanished off the shelves by February 2021. Several locations still had the price tabs up through the fall, but as of the 2021 holiday season, many of those price indicators have been replaced and the shelves covered up with other items.
For those familiar (and those not) the line included several options by Enjoy Life Brand. There was Disney Brand and Allergy Safe Chocolate Bars, Cookies and Breakfast Ovals. You can see all of the previously available Enjoy Life options, but note that most of them are no longer found in any of the American Disney locations including Disney Cruise Line.
Now we have credible reports that the Snacks with Character line is being completely discontinued- no longer providing Gluten Free and Allergy Friendly options.
Several of the other options, like the Chips and Cinnamon Swirls remained on the shelves, until they too disappeared from circulation in mid and late 2022.
Now, the two holdouts, The Lemon and The Chocolate Chip Cookies have been holding down the fort in the Parks and Resorts for the last year as the only Gluten Free option in the Snacks with Character Line.
I’ve watched these Cookies get shuffled around, since I always check on them everytime I head to the Parks. I was hopefully that this was a temporary Supply Chain disruption, but this week I learned that the Shipments for the Cookies have stopped with no news on when they will return. This is the exact playbook that Disney implemented with the other Snacks with Characters Options. When discussing with several Managers at various Shops about the return of the Snacks with Character options, I was told that ‘we are not sure if or when the Snacks with Character Line will return’.
While we understand business decisions, we also know that Disney could choose to stock 3rd party options in the parks and resorts- something they are VERY slow to implement.
We know the demand is there, nearly 1 in 10 people in the World avoid Gluten or a top 9 Allergen. Disney knows this because they have an extensive Allergy menu program in place and a dedicated Special Diets department.
Reasons why Disney might have canceled the Snacks with Character line
Part of the discontinuation was likely do to Enjoy Life foods discontinuing the miniature Chocolate Chip cookies. They announced the cookie discontinuation in late 2022, almost two years after the Mini Cookies disappeared in the parks. These were a flagship item offered under the Disney Snacks with Character Line, and a best seller. It’s possible that with the discontinuation, that the partnership was no longer viable.
Another part of the discontinuation was likely the end (or failure to renew) Food Contracts, likely related to Budget Decisions. The Snacks with Character line debuted in 2015.
In their press release, Disney stated that ‘to create these treats, Disney Theme Park Merchandise teamed up with well-known specialty suppliers such as Ocean Spray, Enjoy Life Foods, Way Better Snacks and WOW Baking Company. Several of the dietary needs addressed in the new assortment products include gluten-free, nut-free, and other allergy-friendly products.’
These were well received by Disney Guests and Cast Members, who all appreciated a safe option to recommend to Visitors. This allowed Guests to have a safe option that they could quickly and easily grab in the Parks and Resorts without having to bring in lots of Snacks and Coordinate Delivery or Pickup from a Grocery Store.
Originally the Snacks with Character Line was supposed to be available at several Disney Locations, including DisneyLand, Disney Cruise Line and Aulani. This is curious since a few options are still available at Disneyland, but were never stocked on the new Disney Wish Cruise that debuted in Summer 2022.
More reports are coming out about the Cost Cutting Measures planned for 2023 before Bob Chapek was removed as CEO. It would surprise no one if Disney cut an allergy friendly line in 2022 thinking that it would go unnoticed.
My personal opinion is that the Line was cut as a Budget measures. The Line had recently been rebranded, debuting in 2021, and was well received by the community at large as an Allergy and Gluten Free alternative to all of the unsafe traditional treats available in the parks. It makes sense then that Disney cut the line even after rebranding for Budget Reasons.
Regardless of the explanation, we hope Disney reconsiders prepackaged safe options for their Gluten Free and Allergy Guests! It was delightful to give my gluten free kids a safe snack with Mickey on the front. Even third party options available in the Parks would be widely helpful for guests looking for a quick snack who are have a special diet need like Gluten Free, Food Allergies, and those who are vegan, vegetarian and plant based.