Marketing children’s products without advertising to kids takes finesse & balancing parents’ desires

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Source: iStock
Source: iStock

Related tags Marketing Packaged facts

Anyone who has shopped with children knows they heavily influence grocery purchases, but with advertising directly to kids frowned upon by many adults, children’s food and beverage manufacturers must embrace less direct strategies that balance what parents and offspring want.

“Kids most definitely influence shopping behavior of their parents, with more than 36% of parents saying their children have a significant impact on the brands they choose,”​ according to a new report from Packaged Facts​, which also found 26% of parents learn about new products as a request from their child. 

But capitalizing on children’s influence to drive sales takes careful finesse given “a substantial 38.6% [of parents] believe that advertising to children is wrong,”​ according to Packaged Facts.

It warns that this is particularly true of parents with children younger than 2 years of age who are 18% more likely to frown on advertising to kids. As children age, parents are less concerned about advertising geared toward their children, the report adds.

The rub, however, is parents of toddlers also are more likely than those of older teenagers to agree that advertising helps them choose products for their children and are more likely to remember advertising products, the consumer research firm adds.

With this in mind, manufacturers of children’s products should be directed at parents and leverage the features and benefits parents and children deem most important for kids’ food, Packaged Facts recommends.

5 most important product features

At the top of the list of the most important attributes of children’s food is nutritional value, which 46% of parents told Packaged Facts was the No. 1 influencer of their purchases.

As a result, “companies or brands dedicated to eliminating or reducing unhealthful ingredients will find a strong following of parents, particularly parents of the Boomer generation with kids aged 6-11,”​ the report notes.

“Hidden veggies are also a way to create a healthy/nutritional halo while aligning with parents in the fight to make eating fruits/veggies more fun for kids,”​ it adds. This strategy also appeals to millennial parents who desire functional foods.

The second most influential factor for purchasing children’s products is a child’s enjoyment of the food (32%), followed closely by kid-friendly flavors (32%), Packaged Facts notes.

Manufacturers can cater to this “fun factor”​ through character licensing, bite-sized or fun shapes or playability, such as dips and mix-ins, the report says.

The fourth most cited influential factor for purchases is whether the food can be enjoyed by parents and children alike, according to a third of parents surveyed by Packaged Facts. This becomes more important with families with older children, it adds.

“Finally, price rounds out the top five influencers, with 31% of parents saying it’s one of the most important factors influencing their choice of foods for kids,”​ Packaged Facts notes.

In-store strategies resonate with children

Beyond these five influencers, in-store displays are the most effective strategy to educate parents about new kids’ food products, according to proprietary research conducted by Packaged Facts.

“Product placement is one of the most pervasive and effective marketing strategies. Considering that the average supermarket stocks between 30,000 to 50,000 items, shoppers are unable to pay attention to the vast majority of the products in the store,”​ according to the report.

It adds: “In store sample and television advertising also achieve strong results, with 38% and 37% penetration respectively. Sampling is particularly effective for parents who worry about accommodating a picky child’s taste buds – allowing for a try before you buy opportunity.”

Child requests – which can be triggered by displays and sampling as well as peer influence, television and social media – also is a “mid-level information source where parents learn about new kids’ food products,”​ according to the report.

Indeed, 27.4% of parents told Packaged Facts they find it hard to resist children’s requests even for non-essential purchases.

Taken together, these strategies can help boost impulse purchases, which can lead to repeat purchases if the product also meets the five influencers most frequently cited by parents, the report concludes. 

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