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Even so, children are still a niche audience within the food and drink market.
Children are still a niche audience within the food and drink market. Innova Market Insights data indicate that just 2.5% of U.S. food and drink launches in the 12 months ending April 2018 targeted children. Many products widely consumed by children are instead marketed with a more general family-friendly positioning.
Sectors with the most developed children’s markets include impulse-type purchases such as chocolate and confectionery, savory snacks, ice cream, and soft drinks, as well as a wide range of products mainly bought as planned purchases during the regular family shopping trip, including fresh dairy products, cereal and fruit snacks, and bakery products.
While children do buy some products for themselves, the majority are still bought by parents for children, although with input from the younger generation regarding the choice of products and brands. Both generations need to be satisfied to achieve repeat purchasing and ongoing market development.
While children’s preferences tend to focus on flavors, colors, character-driven marketing, and what their friends are consuming, most parents’ overriding interest is healthfulness, with clean label, “free from,” and “low” and “light” (particularly sugar reduction) key areas.
Outside of food and drinks, we are also seeing activity in children’s products in areas such as dietary supplements and oral care, where kid-focused products continue to be of key interest to parents.
U.S. consumers are probably the most likely to use supplements to fill perceived gaps in their own diets and their family’s diets. This has ensured a strong role for supplementation in children’s diets, with a particular focus on general health, immunity, closing potential dietary/nutritional gaps, and boosting cognitive development.
The U.S. has traditionally had a strong level of interest in using dietary supplements and has the largest and most developed market in the world. Dietary supplement launches specifically targeting children make up just under 5% of total U.S. supplement launches. There has been a focus in recent years on improving methods of delivery and making products more appealing to children, although the final purchasing decision still generally remains with the parent.
Products for children are increasingly focusing on drinkable, chewable, and gummy options, enhanced with child-friendly flavors, colors, and bright packaging graphics and character marketing, including media-licensed characters. Parental appeal tends to focus on the range of vitamins/minerals and other ingredients included in a product, the health claims used, and added benefits such as sugar-free and GMO-free.
The recent launch of Nutrilife Brainiums DHA dietary supplements illustrates many of these features. The supplements come in the form of gummies, in strawberry and fruit punch flavors, and feature a bee character and are marketed as natural and non-GMO omega-3 supplements to support brain health.
The use of indulgent flavors is illustrated by Good Day Chocolate supplements for children, which include such versions as Multivitamin (vitamin A, B6, B12, C, D, E, folate, and biotin), Probiotic (with Sabinsa Corp.’s (East Windsor, NJ) LactoSpore Bacillus coagulans, MTCC 5856, probiotic strain for digestive health), Sleep (with melatonin), and Calm (with chamomile and theanine). All products are made with fair trade chocolate and are free of GMOs, artificial flavors, and high-fructose corn syrup.
Meanwhile, Church & Dwight’s Lil’ Critters, claimed to be the leading U.S. gummy vitamin brand, relaunched its Gummy Vites product with a new package and twice the level of vitamin D and lutein of the previous version. Other additions to the range include Probiotic with prebiotics for digestive health, a “Despicable Me”/”Minions” branded complete multivitamin, and Immune C + Zinc and Echinacea for immune support.
Children are also a key target market in oral care, with more products being launched in this increasingly competitive space. According to Innova Market Insights data, the percentage of children-centric launches (for ages 5-12 years) in oral care rose from 8% of global oral care launches in the second half of 2016 to 12% of global oral care launches in the second half of 2017.
Children’s oral care products tend to feature flavors such as fruity, strawberry, and bubble gum. These were three of the top five flavors used for global launches in the second half of 2017. They also tend to feature bright graphics and characters, often ones licensed from TV and film releases. Parent buy-in, meanwhile, is achieved through the use of natural, sugar free, and tooth friendly claims, with products often featuring alternative sweeteners such as xylitol.
Recent launches include Act Kids Anticavity Fluoride Toothpaste with a fruit punch flavor and a tube featuring Batman, as well as Orajel Anticavity Fluoride Toothpaste in a Bubble Berry flavor featuring Disney Princesses and in a Berry Divine flavor featuring Nickelodeon’s “Shimmer & Shine” characters.
It’s not just toothpaste products, either. Children are also increasingly seeing mouthwash targeted at them, featuring flavors such as bubble gum and tutti frutti, and licensed characters such as Disney Princesses and The Secret Life of Pets.
Photo: Each piece of Good Day Chocolate’s Probiotic chocolate supplement pieces for kids provides 1 billion CFU of Sabinsa Corp.’s (East Windsor, NJ) LactoSpore Bacillus coagulans, MTCC 5856, probiotic strain.