According to a white paper published by The Kerry Group (Mayfield, OH), titled “Child’s Play: Closing the Innovation Gap in Kids Beverages,” there is a great deal of opportunity in the children’s beverage space, and it makes the case for using functional ingredients to drive sales. While children are key consumers of beverages such as sodas, fruit juices, water, and sports drinks, relatively little product development in the category targets the needs of children. For example, Kerry cites research from Mintel which shows that only 5% of water and 6% of juice launches between December 2012 and November 2017 were aimed at children.
This is a missed opportunity because households with children spend more money on groceries. According to a Packaged Facts survey 43% of households with children spend more than $150 weekly on groceries compared to 16% in households without kids. Parents are also the gatekeepers for the products their children consume, and this means they are seeking products that are healthier, more natural, and lower in sugar for their children. For example, juices are very popular among kids, having been consumed by 94% of children between 6-11 years of age in 2016. However, pure fruit juices are naturally high in sugar, which may be a turn off for parents. For this reason, functional claims on juices can be useful for encouraging purchases.
According to research by Mintel cited in the white paper, 46% of juice drinkers in the U.S. show an interest in juices with added health benefits such as vitamins, and in 2017, and 15% of all juices launched in Europe featured functional claims compared to 10% in 2013. This is particularly true for parents, 83% of which claim that their choice of product purchases are influenced by how they will affect the health and wellbeing of their children. Immune health is one function relevant to the needs of parents and their children. This is important for avoiding illness, so that children don’t miss school, and so parents aren’t inconvenienced by having to stay home from work. However, says the white paper, only 2% of children’s food and drink products launched globally between 2012 and 2017 included immune health claims.
Wellmune, a patented proprietary baker’s yeast beta 1,3/1,6 glucan, is just one example of a functional immune health ingredient that can help manufactures capture this consumer population. For example, studies of Wellmune have shown that children taking the ingredient had six fewer sick days in 12 weeks compared to those who did not take Wellmune1. Another study showed that subjects consuming a beverage-based formula with Wellmune has significantly fewer symptoms of acute respiratory infections, and shorter duration of illness2.
Fortification of foods and beverages with functional ingredients has been an ongoing trend within the natural products industry, with gut health being a popular functional benefit that can be found on products. However, it appears that there is a gap in product development and innovation in beverages targeting children, which is a profitable target consumer because parents are increasingly interested in healthy options that their children will enjoy. Manufacturers should seize the opportunity to find efficacious functional ingredients they can use to fortify beverages that fill a need in the marketplace.
1. Meng F et al. “Baker’s yeast beta-glucan decreases episodes of common childhood illness in 1 to 4 year old children during cold season in china.” Journal of Nutrition and Food Science, vol. 6, no. 4 (2016)
2. Li F el al. “Follow-up formula consumption in 3- to 4-year-olds and respiratory infections: an RCT.” Pediatrics, vol. 133, no. 6 (2014)