Consumers may be saying one thing and doing another when it comes to choosing healthy snacks for themselves, but they often are vigilant when it comes to what they serve their kids.
Parents know they have the greatest control over what their younger children eat—once they hit elementary school, kids have more opportunity to make their own selections.
“Parents are willing to spend a bit more for healthier products while they can still have influence, and they are laying the groundwork for their children’s palate and nutritional habits,” said Melissa Abbott, trends and culinary insights manager with The Hartman Group. Abbott said processed foods aren’t as attractive to parents as fruits and vegetables.
Favorite healthy snacks among kids ages 6 to 11 years
|Fruit snacks (e.g., roll-ups, strips)||52|
|Yogurt or yogurt drinks||48|
|String cheese or sliced cheese||46|
|Nutritional snacks (e.g., cereal, granola bars)||42|
|Snack mixes (e.g., nut and raisin mix)||25|
Research from Mintel International showed that fresh fruit remains the most commonly eaten healthy snack among children ages 6 to 11 years. Fruit snacks, yogurt and cheese are each eaten by about half of the children in this age group, according to Mintel’s research.
That doesn’t mean parents don’t serve processed snacks to children—even toddlers. “Parents are looking for healthy products, but they also want easy solutions. And there’s not too much out there. It’s a huge opportunity for manufacturers,” Abbott said.
Minimally processed packaged snacks that also are natural or organic are more likely to win parental approval, Abbott said.
“Consumers of our baby products were finding organic options thinned out as their little one graduated into finger foods and snacks. We wanted to bring something new to the space,” said Katie Sobel, marketing manager at The Nest Collective, which markets Plum Organics Tots portable, organic Fruity Fingerfuls dried fruit and grain bites, and Berry Fiddlesticks fruit and grain snack sticks. The snacks, which retail for around $3.39, are targeted to 1- to 3-year-olds.
The company is not alone. The toddler snack segment has been seeing some action with healthy products packaged in convenient containers. Gerber Graduates Puffs, snacks made from puffed grains, real veggies and real fruit, and Graduates Yogurt Melts, made from real yogurt and fruit, brought healthy choices in resealable canisters and pouches to the mass market, but they no longer are the only players in the space.
“Convenience is a huge thing in this segment,” said Zak Normandin, founder of Peterborough, N.H.-based Little Duck Organics. The brand recently launched three varieties of freeze-dried fruit in resealable pouches. “There are times when fresh food just isn’t an option, so this is the next best thing,” Normandin said. “Moms can throw it in a diaper bag or take them on the go.”