WATCH: Tweens... what they want, why they’re so influential, and what that means for food brands

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags tweens Food for kids Mondelez International Ruckus & Co smoothies

Tweens... aged between nine and 12, they're not young kids anymore, but they're not teens either, so how food and beverage brands reach them (and their parents/guardians), and what's the best way to engage with this age cohort via influencers and social media?

To explore this topic in more detail and to give you a taste of some of the issues we'll be exploring in our upcoming FOOD FOR KIDS online series​, ​Laura Shulman at Food Future Stategies​ (a PR consultancy focused on the food & beverage industry) has put together a virtual panel, comprising:

Antara Kobayashi,​ ​ a clinical counselor and mother of Eien Kobayashi,​ a professional dancer and influencer​ ​with more than 14,000 Instagram followers. Eien began working in the LA dance and acting world when he was nine, appearing in dance competitions; TV shows such as Dead To Me, America's Got Talent and Lip Sync Battle Shorties; and music videos for Eminem and Blink 182.  

Tiffany Tasker,​ business development director at SuperAwesome​, ​a kidtech company that ensures that digital engagement with children is safe, private, and compliant with new laws such as COPPA, GDPR-K, CCPA and others.

Shannon Neumann​, associate director, SnackFutures Innovation (Mondelēz International’s innovation and venture hub), which recently launched the Ruckus & Co​ ​brand of frozen smoothies, which targets tweens.  

The panel provides different perspectives on tween culture today; what tweens are interested in, how they use social media, the rise in influencers, what it takes to get, and keep, their attention – as well as the increasing rules and nuances there are to engaging with these young adults in a safe and transparent way.

Nuemann shares her experiences in launching a brand for tweens, and how Ruckus & Co has worked with influencers such as Eien to spread the word. Read more about Ruckus & Co HERE​.

Laura Shulman panel on tweens
Antara Kobayashi (top left), Eien Kobayashi (top right), Shannon Neumann (bottom left), Tiffany Tasker (bottom right), and Laura Shulman (center)
Eien​ Kobayashi is a professional dancer and influencer​ ​​with more than 14,000 Instagram followers

FOOD FOR KIDS... what are you feeding yours?

What does the ‘new normal’ look like for families and does this present new opportunities for brands targeting children of all ages, who are now spending much more time at home?

Join the conversation at the third FOOD FOR KIDS summit​,​ an online series (five events over five weeks) virtually bringing together stakeholders from across the industry to present and discuss what kids are eating, how habits and diets have changed, and how brands can deliver affordable, nutritious products that kids want to eat, and parents can feel good about buying.  

Checkout the speakers HERE​ and the program below, and register here​:

FOOD FOR KIDS week #1 (Weds Oct 21, 10am PT): The consumer panel


We open FOOD FOR KIDS with a presentation from David Lemley, ​​founder at Retail Voodoo​, who is going to explore: ​

  • How to appeal to parents for specific cohorts/age groups including: babies, tots, kids, tweens and teens.
  • How to understand how each cohort/age group influences purchase decisions and repurchases.
  • How to understand the brand/product stretch and breaking points for each age group
  • How to use this information to develop your brand and brand communications to help drive trial, velocity, and raving fans

We’ll then bring together our consumer panel - a group of parents from across the country - for a lively video discussion exploring some pain points they experience when it comes to feeding their kids.

FOOD FOR KIDS week #2 (Weds Oct 28, 10am PT): Kids and the plant-based trend​ ​​ 


Plant-based meat, dairy and egg products are gaining traction, from the next generation of burgers and nuggets to oat milk lattes.

But are these just for adults? Where is the opportunity in plant-based for kids, from a new generation of ‘hybrid’ products combining meat and plants, to new plant-based milks with added protein and DHA?

This session opens with a short presentation from Kyle Gaan, research analyst at The Good Food Institute​,​ who is going to share some insights into kids and the plant-based trend, before we have our main panel discussion featuring:

  • Adam Lowry​​, co-founder and co-CEO, Ripple Foods​​ 
  • Kristie Middleton​​, VP business development, Rebellyous Foods​​
  • Hema Reddy ​​founder and CEO, Crafty Counter (Wundernuggets) ​​
  • Marlena Hidlay, ​early life nutrition segment lead, DSM North America
  • Mark Fahlin,​ business development manager, Cargill

The session closes with a presentation from Marlena Hidlay at DSM, entitled 'Plant-Based and Power Packed Kids,' exploring the market opportunity for plant-based foods for kids, nutrient gaps, and what parents are looking for.

FOOD FOR KIDS week #3 (Weds Nov 4, 10am PT): Kids’ beverage trends​  ​​


Kids are drinking less milk and juice as they get older, but what are they drinking instead, and is it good for them? How do parents evaluate what types of drinks are good for kids? What are parents looking for on food labels?  Our expert panel will look at how best to position kids’ beverage brands, and explore:

  • What are young children drinking vs what should they be drinking?
  • What’s the sweet spot for sugar levels in beverages that kids enjoy, and parents can feel good about?
  • What flavors do kids like?
  • What’s the size of the kids’ beverage market and what’s happening in the category?
  • Nutrition and formulation: What are parents looking for and avoiding in beverages targeting children?
  • Marketing and branding: How do you position a kids’ beverage brand?   


  • Danny Stepper,​ CEO and co-founder, LA. Libations
  • Melanie Kahn​​, founder, Poppilu​​ 
  • Billy Bosch, ​founder and CEO, Iconic Protein  ​​
  • Brinjal Patel, c​onsumer insights manager for refreshment beverages, Kraft Heinz (Creative Roots)  ​​
  • Jennifer Pomeranz​​, assistant professor, Department of Public Health Policy and Management, New York University  ​

FOOD FOR KIDS week #4 (Weds Nov 11, 10am PT). Meet the trailblazers!​​

2020 trailblazers

The three winners​ of FoodNavigator-USA’s annual trailblazers challenge (CHUM Fruit Bites, Good Feeling (Go Well), and Mission MightyMe) will present their kid-focused innovations for feedback on their products, branding, go-to-market strategies and business models from our expert panel:

  • Jon Sebastiani​​, founder and CEO, Sonoma Brands​​; founder, KRAVE Jerky  ​​
  • Brad Barnhorn​​, board member and advisor, growth stage food & beverage companies 
  • Mark Rampolla​​, partner, Powerplant Ventures​​; founder, ZICO Coconut Water ​​

Liz Crawford will then moderate a session with Jon, Mark and Brad exploring the investment landscape for emerging brands, and where they see some white space in the kids’ food category.

FOOD FOR KIDS week #5 (Weds Nov 18, 10am PT): Meeting children’s nutritional needs, from foods to supplements​  


What key nutrients do kids need from the first 1,000 days (conception to two years) to early childhood and the teen years, and what nutritional gaps should caretakers consider? What is the most effective way to meet children's nutritional needs -- is it through supplements, fortified food or threats that they can't watch TV until they eat their broccoli? How do the diets of expecting and breastfeeding women impact children, and what can they do to set kids up for a healthy future? 

  • Erin Quann, PhD, RD, ​head of medical affairs, Nestlé Nutrition/Gerber ​​
  • Dr Shelley Balanko​, senior vice president, The Hartman Group 
  • Dr Jennifer Harris​​, senior research advisor, Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity​​
  • Natasha Bonhomme,​ director, Expecting Health
  • Eric Ciappio, ​technical sales manager, IFF Health
  • Dr Sonia Hartunian-Sowa​, director of nutrition, science and advocacy, DSM North America

FOOD FOR KIDS is sponsored by: ​​DSM, IFF Health, Cargill, Curion, and Sweegen. Register HERE​ 


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