Food makers' opportunity to play 'hide the veg'

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Fruit

A new survey of tricks used to get kids to eat vegetables has highlighted once again the opportunities for food manufacturers to develop healthy products that appeal to youngsters.

Children are a notoriously tricky consumer group, easily drawn by fun flavors, colors and marketing messages, but often unwilling to try new foods. Yet the early years can be crucial, not only for physical development but in developing healthy food tastes for life.

The new survey, conduced on behalf of Green Giant, General Mills’ canned sweetcorn brand, asked 3000 parents about their family mealtime experiences. One third of children were described as “fussy eaters”, ​and two thirds said their children are more fussy than they were at the same age.

Family mealtimes were said by many parents to be “stressful​” – as stressful as reverse parking, being late for work, or a trip to the dentist, according to a quarter of responses.

Parents were also wise to their kids’ tricks for disposing of unwanted food on their plates – such as flushing peas down the toilet, claiming to be full, and eating vegetables only when a dessert is promised as a reward.

The survey is being used by General Mills as a marketing hook for its sweetcorn. However it is in tune with research from other sectors of the food industry.

Earlier this year market researcher Mintel drew attention to the trend for food manufacturers to launch products for kids that are loaded with fruits and veg. The format of such products may be juice, sauce, crackers or dough – and they may be marketed just as much to parents – who buy the products – as to kids themselves.

Natural development

‘Hidden’ fruit or vegetables are often used by manufacturers in conjunction with removing additives and preservatives, as part of what the review said is the “ongoing development”​ of natural, organic food lines for children. Additive and preservative-free is the largest claim category for children’s food and beverage on Mintel’s Global New Product Database, in tune with an overall trend towards clean-label products.

“These new products are being developed against a backdrop of movement towards generally healthier, more natural and wholesome food and drink for children,” ​it said.

Full of beans

Last year, for example, Archer Daniels Midland released VegeFull, a mixture of ground beans for incorporation in bakery items like cookies and pizza crusts. The company marketed its ingredient as a good source of fiber that can also count towards daily targets for fruit and vegetable consumption.

Researchers at the US Agricultural Research Service have also come up with extruded crispy snacks made from legumes, apple and berry fruit bars that the researchers claim stay moist for up to 24 months without preservatives, and low-fat peanut flour for baked goods.

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