Natural Foods Merchandiser

Market overview: kids' snacks

Kids' snacks aren't just yummy and full of ingredients to get kids hyper; they're good for business too. Check out these stats from two market research firms: Chicago-based Mintel and Rockville, Md.-based Packaged Facts.

  • Kids and teens are heavy users of salty snacks. The Experian Simmons National Consumer Study shows that 96 percent of children aged 6-11 eat potato chips and 94 percent eat popcorn. Some 94 percent of teens aged 12-17 eat some type of salty snack. In terms of usage frequency, kids and teens are on par with adults, eating an average of 4.8 salty snacks per week.
  • Parents are a major influence on kids’ snacking habits. Nearly two-thirds of parents surveyed by Mintel say that they limit how many salty snacks their children eat and just more than half of parents are actively limiting the amount of fat and sodium their kids eat.
  • Age and gender tend to have the greatest impact on which types of snacks kids eat. Girls exhibit tendencies toward sweet snacks and healthy snack choices while older boys prefer salty and savory snacks, especially those that emulate mini-meals.
  • Cereal bars are one of the more popular snacks. In fact, 56 percent of kids say they enjoy these bars, often marketed as healthy snacks. Close inspection, however reveals they frequently contain more additives and corn syrup than fruit. This difference represents both an opportunity lost among moms who already read ingredient labels closely, and a potential backlash from moms who find out later.
  • Kids do not always base snack food decisions on taste. In fact, when kids were asked “what they really like” in a snack, 59 percent said they want snacks that have their favorite cartoon or movie character on the package. Some 48 percent said it is important that snack foods offer some sort of playability factor, such as fun shapes or the inclusion of toys or games. Just over a third look for unusual flavors in snack foods.
  • According to Mintel's Global New Products Database, of the 280 new food products launched in 2007 that target kids aged 5-12, only 40 percent represented actual new product innovation. Meanwhile, 24 percent of launches focused on packaging changes, and a third were simply line extensions or varieties. In many cases, these launches focused on seasonal shapes or the most current character- licensing property. Mintel determined that the Kellogg Co. was the leading innovator in the number of product launches for 2007.
  • Two-thirds of kids are adventurous when it comes to trying new snack foods. For makers and marketers of kids' snacks, this is both a benefit and a challenge—children will be receptive to new products, but product loyalty tends to be low as children will then move onto the newest products.
  • Some 80 percent of parents would like their children to eat better but even 40 percent of grown-ups think the taste of healthy food isn’t that appealing. Hiding nutrition-packed vegetable or fruit purees in kids’ favorite dishes like mac and cheese is one strategy gaining ground.
  • Packaged Facts estimates that U.S. sales of packaged snacks will reach $81.6 billion by 2013. Annual growth rates are edging up from 3 percent in 2009 to 4 percent by 2011. Over this period, salty and savory snacks should continue to eat away at the lead enjoyed by sweet snacks in sales.
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