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Navigating the $23bn children’s food & beverage market

By Maggie Hennessy , 21-Feb-2014
Last updated on 21-Feb-2014 at 15:14 GMT

Growth of kids food and beverage sales is actually outpacing that of the total market, up 4.4% from 2012-2013 compared to 2.9% overall in the same categories, according to sales data from IRI-tracked FDMx channels.
Growth of kids food and beverage sales is actually outpacing that of the total market, up 4.4% from 2012-2013 compared to 2.9% overall in the same categories, according to sales data from IRI-tracked FDMx channels.

It’s no secret that children are an important target group for food and beverage manufacturers, as this $23bn segment accounts for roughly 4% of the overall US food and beverage market (worth $639bn), according to Packaged Facts. 

Not only do marketers want to capitalize on the age group in which consumers develop lifelong dietary habits and brand loyalty, but they also must appeal to the attention-seeking, tech-savvy Millennial mom.

For the report, titled “The Kids Food and Beverage Market in the U.S., 7th Edition,” Packaged Facts based the current market size on seven retail food and beverage categories in which marketers have a strong tendency to target kids: dairy products, snacks, frozen food, beverages, cereal, shelf-stable meals and produce. Taste alone is not sufficient to qualify a product as being for kids, Packaged Facts says. The product must meet at least one other criterion: nutrition or entertainment.

Kids F&B market outpacing growth of conventional products

The number of players entering the kids food and beverage market is growing, as manufacturers find new ways to adapt their product lines to appeal to kids. According to Packaged Facts, the overall market value for food and beverage products in the above-mentioned seven categories as tracked by IRI in FDMx (Food, Drug, and Mass Merchandiser excluding Walmart) exceeded $87.3 billion in the 52 weeks ending Sept. 8, 2013, a 2.9% increase compared to previous period sales data. On the other hand, kids food and beverage products in these same categories are estimated to be worth more than $11.6 billion in 2013 in IRI-tracked FDMx channels—or roughly 13% of the FDMx sales for these seven categories.

Based on these figures, growth of kids food and beverage sales is actually outpacing that of the total market, up 4.4% from 2012-2013 compared to 2.9% overall in the same categories, as Packaged Facts noted.

Under-9 segment key for establishing lifelong dietary habits

Despite that the US population increased 1.5% between 2010 and 2012 (reaching 313 million), the child population slipped by 0.5% during the period (reaching 73 million for 0- to17-year-olds), reflecting declining birth rates. “This could be detrimental to the market as it means the number of end users is dwindling as competition intensifies,” according to the executive summary.

The 2012 child population was fairly evenly split among the youngest consumers (aged under 5), 5-9 year olds, and 10-14 year olds. Children under age 9 are an especially influential demographic for marketers, as life-long dietary habits are established during this time period and brand loyalty begins. Not only that, but Sprinkle notes that today’s kids are more marketing savvy and nutritionally conscious than any previous generation.

Yet an equally important demographic driving the kids F&B segment is Millennial moms. Indeed, the population in prime child-rearing years, aged 25-44, represented 10% of the total US population in 2012. The children of Baby Boomers, the Millennial generation of parents benefited from their parents’ affluence and have also been influenced by the Boomer parenting style, which focuses on building confidence through participation rather than winning.

“As a result, the Millennial generation continues to seek out the spotlight and revel in attention,” the authors wrote. “This is why social media has become such an integral component to their lives—with constant recognition by friends and instant gratification at their fingertips.”

Keeping it real

Millennials were raised on the Internet, email and instant messaging. They were early adopters of Facebook and social networking in their teen years, which has carried over into their adulthood. Indeed, keeping up with this generation of early adopters of new technology and social media is a significant challenge for marketers, as they quick to embrace new social media channels (evidenced by the explosive growth of Pinterest and Instagram).

Thus, F&B marketers not only need to have a presence on social media—they also must strive to engage Millennial moms with relevant, authentic dialogue to keep them loyal and spreading the word to their social circle. 

“To increase relevancy, marketers should consider keeping communications short and easy to understand; offer timesaving tips and products that ‘do good’ for the family; and underscore these efforts by being authentic in both brand and product positioning,” wrote the authors. 

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