Healthy packed lunch trend drives development

By Sarah Hills

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition Mintel

New standards for food in schools is driving innovation in lunchbox-friendly products as parents heed official messages about healthy eating, according to the latest research from Mintel.

Products that offer convenience, that can be eaten on-the-go and fit the all-natural category are offering opportunities for development for lunchbox food and drink players, said the report called “Children's Packed Lunches - UK - December 2008”.

Over the past year the Government in the UK has put growing pressure on schools to advise parents on what should go into a child's lunchboxes.

Mintel’s research found that although parents are not happy about the intervention, it appears to have had “a positive effect on their choices for packed lunches”​.

It has also given rise to opportunities in the food industry, which were highlighted in the report.

Emmanuelle Bouvier, senior consumer analyst at Mintel, said: "Although parents may resent Governmental healthy eating guidelines, our research does suggest that they do work and that they have changed people's habits for the better."

The report said that the five-a-day fruit and vegetables campaign was a “key driver in product development for the children's lunch market”​.

It added that underpinning the marketing message for a large number of fruit and vegetable-based products are “lunchbox fuel”​ and “great for school”​ recommendations.

Also “portability and packability”​ were particularly important to the lunchbox market.

In addition Mintel said: “Formats that meet consumers’ needs for convenience and eating on-the-go - for example individually-wrapped cakes or snack-size dried fruit - are thriving.”

Meanwhile the increased link between ‘all natural’ claims and a products’ suitability for children “highlights a major avenue of development for key food and drink markets”​.

Likewise, concerns about sugar and a ban on artificial sweeteners in schools has provided further motivation for juice drink brands to adapt and push the natural low-sugar trend in children’s drinks.

Market value

Mintel figures for the total market value of product areas associated with children’s lunchboxes showed that the cake bars and individually-wrapped cakes sector increased 21.6 per cent between 2006 and 2008 and is now worth an estimated £767m.

Cereal bars increased 15.9 per cent in value during the same time period to an estimated £313m in 2008, and yoghurt rose 12.1 per cent to £1,566m.

Government recommendations

In 2008, The School Food Trust (part of the Government's Department for Children, Schools and Families) recommended its Packed Lunch Policy, which requires head teachers to draw up healthy lunchbox policies to highlight what makes a nutritional packed lunch.

The study of 532 parents or legal guardians of children aged four to 16, showed that in 2006, 66 per cent of mums said that they tried to give their children a mixture of healthy food and treats.

Now, 86 per cent of parents feel that they are achieving this balance while just ten per cent claim their children are not eating the healthy lunch they pack for them.

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