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    What’s on the Menu for Back to School Lunches?

    A look at the latest trends

    By Phil Dance

    The crickets sang in the grasses. They sang the song of summer's ending, a sad monotonous song.

    – E.B. White. 

    As August races on, kids are heading back to school and all the shopping and schedule adjustments that come with it.

    As parents readjust to hectic mornings filled with sleepy kids, scrambling to find missing homework and racing out the door, most stories focus on shopping trends for back to school clothes and supplies. However, food decisions should also be at the top of parents’ priorities when it comes to sending kids back to school.

    A recent Nielsen survey revealed that 64 percent of consumers are making a concerted effort to buy healthier foods. According to Google research, Americans are becoming more conscious about their food choices, seeking more information on ingredients and diet optimization. In short, they want to look and feel their very best, and are starting to realize that “functional food” is the key. This mindset is impacting not only the way the consumer eats, but also how these consumers are feeding their children.

    As the focus on health continues to rise, brands are targeting those back-to-school grocery buyers in significant ways. In an article on Instant.ly’s blog last year, they pointed out that there’s a big focus by brands on reinventing classic foods to be more suited for school lunchboxes. This includes fewer chemicals, less fat and overall healthier ingredients. While schools may simultaneously be trying to overhaul the school lunch menu to create healthful options, many parents are looking to have more control over what their children eat by sending a lunch from home that fits their lifestyle goals.

    Breakfast Crunch

    But before lunch is packed neatly into the insulated superhero lunch box, those school-aged kids need to fuel with breakfast. A meal that 74 percent of Americans still feel is the most important meal of the day according to Nielsen. But finding quick and easy items that are also healthful is a challenge for many parents. Getting the kids up and going, washed, brushed and dressed (while often getting ready for work themselves), finds parents in a time crunch when it comes to breakfast.

    So how to start the day out right? Nielsen Homescan data found that households with elementary school aged children spend 45 percent more on kid’s cereal than total U.S. households and are the primary drivers of total cereal sales in the country. But this purchase may be driven not by the actual buyer – the parent – but by a key influencer – the child. Seven in 10 parents say their kids ask for items from the cereal aisle while they are shopping for groceries. While purchases of cereal stay steady year-round, back to school time sees a rise in the purchase of eggs, yogurt, breakfast meats and toaster pastries, and the like, in order to get the most important meal of the day into their kid’s bodies before they hit the classroom.

    So as families transition back into the school year, there’s a lot more happening from a consumption standpoint than just a big rise in Crayola purchases and new shoes. Purchase habits at the grocery shelf are shifting to accommodate busy mornings, portable lunches and healthful choices that are quick and easy for both parents and their children.

    Time for pencils, books, teachers and…new grocery decisions…school’s in session!

     

    By Phil Dance
    • About Phil Dance Phil Dance is a partner at Alter Agents www.alteragents.com.

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