Children's favourite snacks are crisps, biscuits, cakes and confectionery but the healthy eating message is filtering through, according to a new survey.
The survey was commissioned by the UK Federation of Bakers (FoB) and Flour Advisory Bureau (FAB).
When asked to list their favourite after school snacks, school children aged 11 to 16 voted for crisps (48 per cent), chocolate/sweets (39 per cent), biscuits/cakes (32 per cent) and fizzy drinks (27 per cent).
For children aged 4 to 11 years, a similar picture emerged. Some 51 per cent preferred tucking into crisps after school, 44 per cent favoured biscuits, 40 per cent chocolates/sweets and 24 per cent fizzy drinks.
However, 32 per cent of 11 to 16 year olds and 54 per cent of 4 to 11 year olds also snack on fruit. Yogurt and smoothies were popular with 27 per cent of 11 to 16 year olds and 42 per cent of 4 to 11 year olds.
These findings suggest that the bottom line for snack manufacturers, bakers and confectioners still depends on traditional products but an appreciation of healthier alternatives by children and young people is creeping in.
The push by parents, consumers, and legislatures for the industry to provide healthier options appears to be joined by a level of acceptance of healthier snacks by children and young people.
The UK, along with some other western countries, has an alarming childhood obesity problem that is forcing society to re-evaluate British children's lifestyles and eating habits. Data issued by the UK's department of Health in February suggested that 22.9 per cent of four to five year olds were overweight or obese and 31.6 per cent of ten to 11 year olds were overweight.
In response, the bakery industry is in the midst of a major reformulation process to reduce sugar, fats and salt. A new survey of Food and Drink Federation members found that the recipes used for at least £15bn worth of foods had less fat, sugar and salt compared to 2004. Also, a further £11.5bn worth of products have been launched as 'lower in' versions.
Other survey findings
School home time is the peak snacking period for 64 per cent of British school children, followed by mid-morning and before bedtime.
One in four parents admitted that they still struggled to persuade their children to eat healthier snack foods.
Some 66 percent of 11 to 16 year olds claimed their parents know what they snack on and how much they spend, and for a third of 11 to 16 year olds this spend is £5 during an average school week. However, 20 per cent of girls in this age group claimed that they do not tell their parents what they snack on or spend.
In a statement issued by the FAB, nutritionist Fiona Hunter advised parents to "balance treats with more nutritious snack foods", and suggests that toast is the "ideal post-school snack" because it is speedy, can be served with a range of toppings and white bread is "fortified with calcium, iron and the B vitamins (niacin and thiamine) so children are receiving the nutrients they need for growth and development."
The research for 11 to 16 year olds was conducted by Consumer Analysis Limited in May 2008 by interviewing 500 British young people in this age group. The survey for 4 to 11 year olds was conducted by Opinium research in May 2008 whereby 2000 parents/carers were asked to list top after-school snacks.