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    Driving the Market for Healthy Kids Snacks

    Author weighs in on childhood obesity; offers solutions to counter trend

    By Matt Devine

    According to a USDA survey of nearly 10,000 children, twice as many kids today eat snack foods than did 20 years ago. For children younger than nine, nearly half of their recommended caloric intake comes in the form of snacks – while according to the CDC the rate of childhood obesity has more than tripled since 1980.

    Thanks to strong educational efforts by First Lady Michelle Obama, the Center for Disease Control and numerous non-profit organizations, parents today are taking this threat seriously, intent to do better and committed to providing their children with healthier snacking options. When examining their buying habits, it’s clear that they want snacking options that are delicious, nutritionally balanced, travel well and appeal to children.

    With the rise of the mom-blogger/parent blogger comes a wealth of data on what parents value when it comes to feeding their children. Recent studies support the idea that mothers, traditionally considered the primary grocery shopper for their families, are actively seeking out healthier products for their shopping carts. A recent survey by MediaPost noted that mothers are spending more time scrutinizing what goes into their child’s lunchbox, with 79 percent opting for whole grain bread over white and 82% packing fruit for their little ones.

    While parents are opting for healthier food options for their children, studies suggest that convenience is also a major factor in purchase consideration. In September of 2012 the Pew Research Center and U.S. Bureau of Labor released statistics noting that 86 percent of working mothers feel stressed and 40 percent say they “always feel rushed.” Therefore, it is no surprise that mothers are rewarding retail brands that make their lives easier by offering portion-controlled servings of healthy snacks, with 57 percent of moms opting for nutritional items that are packed in individual servings.

    With the desire and purchasing behavior suggests a major opportunity for retailers, it’s surprising to learn that the number of nutritionally conscious food products being produced for children is relatively low. According to Mintel GNPD, since 2009 the number of low/no/reduced low sugar products being launched for children has remained flat at 4%. Those launched with a lo/no/reduced fat claim come in only slightly higher at 8 percent. When examining brands that have turned their marketing efforts towards the support of healthy offerings for children, it’s no surprise to see that Annie’s, GoGo SqueeZ, Stonyfield and Funny Face Dried Cranberries continue to show strong market traction.

    While obvious factors, such as taste, marketing and packaging are also major factors when considering the success of products being produced for children, it’s clear that there is a major opportunity for retailers already producing low sugar/fat/calorie items to branch off into a healthy kids offering.

    Beyond the opportunity to capitalize on an underserved market segment, is a chance to be part of the conversation and movement that drives this country towards a healthier, more balanced way of eating. Manufacturers that position themselves within that conversation give themselves a unique advantage when appealing to retail distributors.

    Matt Devine is CMO of Decas Cranberry Products Inc. He can be reached at: [email protected].

    By Matt Devine
    • About Matt Devine

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