Children represent about one-third of the 7.4 billion global population that is estimated to reach more than 9 billion by 2050. Of the 325 million people living in the United States, children aged 0 to 17 years are 73.8 million strong, and that demographic is expected to grow to 80 million by 2050 with increasing racial diversity, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Although U.S. adults outnumber their smaller counterparts nearly 4-to-1, kids have a lot of influence on household grocery purchases. In fact, 43 percent of households with children spend more than $150 each week on groceries, compared to 16.1 percent of households without kids, according to the 2016 “Kids Food and Beverage Market in the U.S., 8th Edition" report from Packaged Facts.
While kids are seeking foods that appeal to their taste buds, parents are increasingly looking for products they feel good about feeding their families. As calls grow louder for healthier kids’ food and beverages, brand holders are turning to product developers to design better-for-you products that not only give kids what they want, but feed their growing bodies.
Developing products that effectively appeal to children is more difficult than it sounds. The kids’ food and beverage market is particularly challenging because industry players must market to both the end users (the child) and the purchaser (the parent or caregiver). To that end, understanding trends and factors that influence kids’ food purchases can provide industry players with strategies to better position their companies and brands within the market.
Critical Need for Healthier Options
Childhood obesity is a growing epidemic in the United States, affecting more than 30 percent of children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) contends childhood obesity has more than tripled since 1980, and about one in five children ages 6 to 19 years is obese.
Childhood obesity has immediate and long-term impacts on physical, social and emotional health. According to the CDC, obese children are at higher risk for having other chronic health conditions and diseases that impact physical health such as asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, type 2 diabetes, and risk factors for heart disease. Further, obese kids are bullied and teased more than their normal weight peers and are more likely to suffer from social isolation, depression and lower self-esteem. In the long term, childhood obesity also is associated with having obesity as an adult, which is linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and several types of cancer.
While many factors contribute to increases in obesity, children’s poor diets play a significant role. Top sources of calories in children’s diets include desserts, dairy, pizza, snacks, confectionery and sugary beverages such as soda, juice and sports drinks. Moreover, children consume too many calories from added sugars, fats, sodium and refined grains. Conversely, kids are consuming too little whole grain, vegetables, fruits, milk and healthy oils, and falling short on important nutrients such as fiber, potassium, vitamin D and calcium.
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) emphasize eating a variety of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, assorted lean protein foods, and low-fat and fat-free dairy products. It also limits eating foods and beverages with added sugars, solid fats or sodium. Additionally, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends children aged 6 years or older do at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
As noted in the Packaged Facts report, health providers, government and media have brought significant attention to this trend, and industry players are doing their part through new product development of healthier kid-friendly foods and beverages.
One way industry players are providing healthier kid-friendly food and beverage products is through the stealth health movement—hiding servings of fruits and vegetables in kid-friendly foods like pastas, pizzas, breads, smoothies and desserts—while still retaining kid appeal and boosting nutrient values. This trend has emerged in product development in nearly every market segment of kids’ food and beverages, noted Packaged Facts. Furthermore, healthier children’s products are being tapped through the real food movement, which incorporates health, animal welfare, social justice and environmental sustainability—buzzwords that fit under this umbrella are “clean," “local," “green" or “slow," as well as “fair" and “organic."
Want to understand the factors affecting the children’s nutrition market and the opportunities that poses for new product development? Join us for the Children’s Nutrition: The Next Gen Panel on Wednesday, Sept. 27, at SupplySide West 2017.