There has been a shift in what’s inside children’s lunchboxes, and it’s a shift for the better, according to a survey by Kantar Worldpanel. Healthier options such as fruit and fromage frais are on the rise, while the number of British schoolkids eating crisps for lunch has more than halved.
The market research company compared the contents of 10,000 five to 15-year olds’ lunchboxes this year and in 2000.
Crisps used to be the most popular lunchbox item, second only to sandwiches – but now they have been relegated to fifth place.
Fruit has risen to second place (41.5%) – up from third – while fromage frais, which did not appear in the top five at all fifteen years ago, was now the third most popular item.
Kantar analyst, Elliot Barnard, said that the introduction of free school meals for all UK school children in reception, year one and year two, had meant a 22% decline in packed lunches, estimated to be costing the market as much as £199 million (€272 m).
But despite this fall, he said it was still a dynamic market. “While there’s still a strong demand for the family favourites, competition among brands and retailers for a share of the lunchbox market is more heated than ever before,” he said.
Barnard attributed the shift towards healthier choices to high profile campaigns to get children eating more healthily.
“Shows like Jamie’s School Dinners and the subsequent ‘Feed Me Better’ campaign haven’t just had an impact on what’s served in the canteen as these healthy initiatives have resonated with parents across the board.”
But are manufacturers getting right in their bid to create healthy snacks for kids?
Earlier this year campaign group Action on Sugar spoke out against seemingly healthy kids' snacks made from fruit. Some brands were pulled up for containing as much as 81 g of sugar per 100 g, while Haribo Starmix confectionery contained 47 g of sugar per 100 g.
Katharine Jenner, campaign director at Action on Sugar, said: "Parents find it hard enough to know what 'healthy' is without food manufacturers confusing matters with misleading claims."
Meanwhile a survey conducted last year by Organic, which produces food for babies and toddlers, found that less than 10% of mums trusted the food industry to make safe and healthy food for children - a belief that was backed up by a study published in the journal Public Health Nutrition, which found that a significant number of foods marketed to children were higher in sugar, fat and salt than foods marketed to adults.
Children are leading the way in Britain's obesity crisis, with more than 20% of children in the UK (one in five) entering school overweight or obese, according to government statistics