Children are becoming more aware of environmental issues from an earlier age, offering food and drinks manufacturers a chance to directly target them with ethical products, according to a new report.
Young people are learning about environmental issues at school and therefore, ethical claims on packaging should be made in such a way to attract them as well as parents, said the Business Insights report called Ethical and Wellness Food and Drinks for Kids.
Issues such as global warming and the depletion of renewable sources has led consumers to be more concerned with the source and disposal of products and parents are passing their concerns on to their children.
At the same time kids’ purchasing power appears to be increasing as the amount of pocket money received by US children, aged five-to-nine, rose from $4.2 per week in 2001 to $8.2 in 2006.
Meanwhile status has also become more important as children are becoming more brand conscious from a younger age and “demanding more gourmet and exotic ingredients”.
The report, by Natasha Horton, an analyst in Business Insights’ Consumer Goods division, said: “Parents are the dominant food purchasers for a shorter time as kids begin to gain more independence and assert their purchasing power from a younger age.
“Marketers are appealing to parents by printing clear and bold health and ethical claims on the packaging of kids food and drinks. However, these products also need to appeal to kids.
“With kids getting older younger there may be an opportunity for food and drink manufacturers to also target kids with health and ethical claims as they begin to become more aware of green issues and more concerned with status from a younger age.”
A growing market
In the US there will be 20.8 million 5-9 year olds by 2011, compared with 19.6m in 2006.
The study found that the main drivers for parents when purchasing ethical food and drinks for their children were environmental, food quality and food safety.
It said that increasing awareness of environmental concerns, such as animal welfare, means parents are purchasing these products to feel they are doing good and are pushing these ideals onto their children.
The clear ethical claims which food and drinks manufacturers target parents with on their packaging include organic and ‘free-from’.
Globally, products with organic claims took the largest share (60.1 percent) of ethical food and drinks geared towards children which were launched in 2008. This compared to 46.1 percent in 2005.
Non-GM and locally sourced food and drinks for kids also increased their share.
A recent Packaged Facts report called The Kids and Tweens Market estimated that parents spend a total of $65bn annually on food for kids, a figure based on data from the US Department of Agriculture.
It said that both children and their parents have become increasingly interested in protecting the environment and “eco-friendly products have begun to take hold in the kids market” as well as healthy foods.
However, in some cases the legitimacy of eco claims on products has been called into question.
Solitaire Townsend, chief executive of Futerra, a UK-based sustainability communications agency, said that it is almost impossible to get 100 per cent sustainable, ethical, fair trade or organic ingredients into a product.
She told FoodNavigator.com that if the main element of a foodstuff is sustainably and ethically sourced – and is third-party accredited – then it is fine to talk about it on product packs and marketing materials.
An example of this would be the cocoa in a chocolate bar or in a chocolate cake.
But if the product is a chilli source, on the other hand, and the chocolate is one tiny part of the formulation, then the chocolate’s sustainable credentials have no place on the pack or in marketing materials that influence purchasing decisions.