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Students ages 6 to 12 consume 4.1 snack-oriented convenience foods daily, in and out of school, and teens 13 to 17 consume 3.8 snacks daily, according to The NPD Group’s “SnackTrack” research, which finds that 90 percent of school snacks are brought from home.
The most popular school snacks, whether eaten at lunch or at snack time, vary by age group, and often the variation is due to the presence or lack of parental influence. In the case of 6- to 12-year-olds, an age when parents often choose the foods and beverages their children eat, fresh fruit, fruit cups/applesauce, potato chips, meal kits and yogurt are the top school snacks.
Teens, who tend to make their own food choices, include gum, fresh fruit, potato chips, chocolate bars/candy bars and granola bars among their most popular school snacks. For both age groups, sandwiches are still the reigning school lunch entrée and are included in two-thirds of school brown bag lunches, reports NPD’s “National Eating Trends,” which tracks daily all aspects of U.S. consumers’ eating behaviors.
“Snack foods are increasingly becoming a part of the lunch bag carried by children to school, just like snack foods are becoming part of main meals for all of us,” said Harry Balzer, NPD chief industry analyst and author of “Eating Patterns in America.” “The bottom line is that we don’t want to prepare foods more often. We don’t even want to make more sandwiches for our kid’s lunch bag, even though sandwiches are still the number one lunch bag item carried by a kid. Instead we are loading the kids’ lunch bag with easy-to-prepare snack products to be eaten at lunchtime.”