Some good news for the marketers of companies producing snack
foods that contain some sweets and may not be considered the healthiest for
kids: Mom is actually saying "yes" more often than you think.
That's at least according to a U.S. Kids and
Nutrition white paper, with results of a survey of kids and parents
conducted by research company KidSay and The Marketing Store Worldwide.
The survey found that "according to moms, it is not
realistic to eliminate all unhealthy food" from their children's diet. And moms
"accept that kids (and themselves) are always going to eat some less healthy
foods." In the white paper on the survey's results, it continues, "these
foods are too ubiquitous, convenient and good tasting. So one of the primary
messages moms strive to teach their kids is balance."
The white paper goes on to say that "most moms view some
less healthy items as serving an important role as a treat that makes both
themselves and their kids happy."
Says one mom quoted in the report, "Sure, I could serve my
kids just water and milk. But when you pull out the juice boxes, it's all
smiles. The important thing is that they don't have them every day."
The report continues: "Moms strive to position less healthy
foods or beverages as special treats that are to be enjoyed -- while moderating
when, where and how often kids consume them. The bottom line for moms is -- getting
children to embrace healthy eating is viewed as a long-term effort that is best
achieved by focusing on incremental improvements. Instead of setting absolute
goals, moms say they set smaller, more achievable goals."
For example, one mom says, "I'm just working on them
drinking more water than juice."
While the report doesn't make any recommendations about particular
snack foods, it's easy to conclude that parents are open to them on a limited
basis and that if marketers continue to work toward cutting back on sugar
content and market them through parents and not kids, they have a good chance
of maintaining solid sales. If parents aren't totally opposed to snacks in
their kid's diet, there is always a chance that marketers could reach them with
the right products and ad campaigns.
The study also finds that kids and their parents often agree
on many things related to eating habits, although kids' perceptions of what is
healthy may be different than their folks' perceptions. The survey found that
about 50% of kids polled rate themselves "pretty good" on healthy eating. About
25% rate themselves "okay" and 20% rate themselves excellent. Only about 5%
rate themselves as not very good.
To most kids, eating healthy means eating lots of fruits and
vegetables and limiting foods such as sweets or chips. But as one eight-year-old
girl is quoted as saying, "You can't eat just fruits and vegetables all of the
time." The study finds that many kids do realize that snack fare at parties, e.g.
sweets, chips and pizza, is not considered the healthiest.
Interestingly, most moms rate their kids as healthy eaters.
The survey finds that 50% believe their kids are "pretty good" at eating
healthy. Another 25% rate their kids as "okay" eaters, 15% rate their kids as excellent
when it comes to healthy eating and only 10% says they're children are not
healthy eaters. Those percentages almost mirror what the kids perceive.
When moms do attempt to get their children to eat healthier,
it does include more fruits and vegetables and fewer snacks, plus more water
and less soda and fewer fried foods.
While moms are buying more organic food, they are not
totally sold on it. Only about a third of moms of kids 5-7 say they are buying
more organic food this year than last.
The survey also measured the "coolness" factor of eating
healthy. Among kids 8-11 surveyed, 80% said they think it is "cool" to eat
healthy, compared to 5% who said it is "uncool." The 80% is up from 59% in a
similar survey in 2004, while the 5% is down from 19% in 2004.
Dieting, on the other hand, was thought to be "uncool" by
39%, compared to 33% who think it's "cool."
Among foods kids 8-11 consider cool are fruit (82%), candy
(81%), chips (79%), healthy drinks (58%), healthy snacks (57%), granola bars
(51%), yogurt (48%), vegetables (47%), vitamins (43%) and energy bars (36%).
What is the favorite snack of 8-11 year olds? The survey
found, Cheez-Its (7%), generic chips (6%), Goldfish (6%), Lay's chips (5%) and fruit
(5%) topping the list.
When kids 8-11 go into a grocery store, what food item do
they most want to get? Fruit (13%), candy (11%), ice cream (10%), chips (7%), and
Maybe one of the most surprising pieces of data in the white
paper -- other than the idea that eight-year-olds would say they prefer fruit
over, say ice cream -- states that while 98% of moms say they would most want
their kids to learn about nutrition from their parents, and 79% of moms say
they would like their kids to learn about it from their teachers, the third
most favored source is from television (45%), which is ahead of doctors or
other health professionals (39%).
While there's no word on it in the survey, chances are still
good that moms want you to keep your elbows off the table, not talk with your
mouth full and not text while eating. Oh yes: and call home more.