Children are attracted to foods by triggers including flavours, textures, shapes and packaging, as well as cartoon characters and play elements. An important demographic for food manufacturers, between 9 and 12 percent of Western Europe’s population is made up of 5-to-12 year olds, with country-to-country differences.
But in the future manufacturers need to pay more attention than even to the contrasting triggers for parents, which are largely governed by a product’s health credentials, according to the new edition of Leatherhead Food Research’s report Children’s Food and Drinks in Europe: A guide to markets, products and innovation.
As incidence of child obesity is on the up there is greater attention to what children are eating. Major strategies for targeting parents include ‘naturalness’ – that is, foods with artificial additives removed and organic foods – and the addition of more vitamins and minerals.
Functional ingredients, such as omega-3, are also attracting attention, as are products with less salt and saturated fat in some product categories.
The market for child-specific foods in the major European markets (UK, France, German, Spain and Italy) is worth just shy of €428m, Leatherhead says.
Moreover, children are becoming more savvy to health messages aimed at them, according to the research.
This means that they, too, will be on the look out for foods that are tasty and healthy, Leatherhead expects.
It is not just adults who are wooed by convenient foods that can be eaten on the go or reheated in the microwave. The new report suggests that more convenient quick-cook items could become hits with kids, as they look for a quick feed in a gap in their busy schedules.
On-to-go snacks that are high in fat, sugar and salt have been connected to rising incidence of childhood obesity.
In 2006 32 per cent of kids aged 5 to 13 were estimated to be overweight or obese. That figure was expected to rise to 35 per cent by 2011.