FOOD FOR KIDS: 'You always need to age up…’ Building engaging food & beverage brands for children

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

What's the secret to building a great kids' food & beverage brand?
What's the secret to building a great kids' food & beverage brand?

Related tags Food for kids

It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many brands get this wrong, says David Lemley at brand consultant Retail Voodoo: If you’re developing and marketing products for kids, “You always need to age up.”

Put it this way, said Lemley – who was speaking at the opening session of our FOOD FOR KIDS online series​ last week (sign up here​ to watch it on demand) – “What kids want from a food brand socially is complex … but from first grade on, kids want brands that keep them from looking like babies to their peers …

"Six-year olds want something designed for 8 or 10-year olds because they don't want to look like a baby, they don’t want to look uncool or be seen with things that represent that part of childhood... and tweens want to have things that feel like they are for teens… So you always need to age up one age-cohort.”

Top three motivations for parents

When it comes to what motivates parents, Retail Voodoo’s​ research suggested that the #1 consideration is “I feel good about my kids eating this,” ​followed by, “My kids will eat it” ​and “It is good value,” ​noted Lemley.

“This is a brand that cares about the planet” ​was right at the bottom of the list (see chart below).

This doesn’t mean parents don’t care about sustainability, he noted, just that it’s not necessarily a primary purchase driver.

When it comes to tastes and textures, familiarity is super important for younger kids, while for older kids, discovery is more important, he said.

As for slapping the word ‘kids’ on your regular brand coupled with a few cartoon characters, it generally won’t cut it, observed Lemley.

Children will accepta cartoon character with the right story, but if you just throw cartoons at them and the story is not meaningful or connecting to their life, or it’s not something they can brag about or share on Instagram, they are not going to be interested in it.”

Retail Voodoo parent purchase drivers
Source: Retail Voodoo

Cartoons for ‘kidz’?

Parents participating in the consumer panel session following Lemley’s presentation also expressed some skepticism about this kind of marketing, with Nikhil Trivedi noting, "I wish packaging for kids' food wasn't always a cartoon on a box.

“I want my kid to enjoy food for the food that it is, not for the package it's in, so we've stayed away from those individually packaged things for children.”

With kids spending more time at home and eating less on the go, some of the parents also expressed a desire for more multi-serve options for kids, with Dan Leu noting:

“It seems​ [with beverages in particular] that everything made for kids has its own plastic bottle and lid and foil cap… and there are eight in a box and there’s nothing sold in a gallon size container you can dole out into your own reusable cup.”

FFK-The Consumer Panel-2020
Mary-Ellen Shoup (top left) chairs our 2020 FOOD FOR KIDS parents panel
David Lemley (right) speaking with Elaine Watson in the first webinar in our five-part FOOD FOR KIDS virtual series

Coming up Oct 28: Kids and the plant-based trend


Are kids eating plant-based dairy and meat products? What about this new wave of hybrid products combining conventional and plant-based meat?

And do parents expect plant-based products to match the nutritional profile of animal-based products, or to improve on it?

Do kids actually like oatmilk and Beyond Burgers?  And is there an opportunity here for plant-based firms to develop specific products or brands for kids? 

Find out in part two of our FOOD FOR KIDS​ series next Wednesday (Oct 28 at 12 noon Central): Kids and the plant-based trend,​ where we’ll hear from:

  • Kyle Gaan​, research analyst at the Good Food Institute, ​who will present new research on families and the plant-based opportunity.
  • Adam Lowry​, co-founder and co-CEO at Ripple Foods​, which is best known for its pea-fueled milks but also has a range of other products from frozen desserts to protein powder to creamers.
  • Kristie Middleton​, VP business development at Rebellyous Foods, ​which makes plant-based chicken nuggets for retail and foodservice customers, including schools.
  • Hema Reddy ​founder and CEO at Crafty Counter, ​which makes plant-based Wundernuggets for kids.
  • Marlena Hidlay,​ early life nutrition segment lead at DSM North America, ​which has developed a range of new product concepts for kids.
  • Mark Fahlin, ​business development manager at Cargill​, which supplies a range of plant-based proteins and other ingredients for plant-based foods.

Click HERE​ to register or watch all of the FOOD FOR KIDS sessions on demand.

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