But it's a challenge that Danone North America has set out to meet with its new Silk Kids Almondmilk Yogurt Alternative, launching in select retailers this month.
There is “huge, huge, huge consumer interest in plant-based. And, in fact, a friend recently asked me about plant-based options for her daughter who wants to go vegetarian. So, I think we are going to see a ton more” interest in the space in the coming years, said Frances Largeman-Roth, a registered dietitian, mother of three and author.
But, she also warned, many products currently available are not formulated with children's nutrition in mind, and if children are used to consuming animal-products, such as dairy, the switch to plant-based will require an adjustment.
“If kids have been eating dairy-based yogurt, they will see a difference in plant-based yogurt. It looks different. It is not that bright white color. It can often be beige or tan and the texture is a little different. It has a different mouth feel,” she said.
She recommends that children or parents making the switch to plant-based yogurt add fruit, and that they ensure the option they buy has the same or similar nutritional profile as a dairy-based option in terms of protein, calcium, vitamin D and texture.
'If kids have been eating dairy based yogurt, they will see a difference in plant-based yogurt'
Danone’s new Silk Kids Almondmilk Yogurt Alternative checks these boxes and more, making it an easy option for parents seeking plant-based options for their children, according to Amanda Blechman, a registered dietitian with Danone North America, who along with Largeman-Roth and other experts unveiled the new line at the company’s Little Bites, Big Impact virtual round table Dec. 10.
“When the look or feel or taste of the food is other than what they are expecting, it can be so off-putting to a child,” Blechman agreed, noting this has been a significant barrier for plant-based products for children broadly.
“We really saw the opportunity to innovate and start to build a platform for children’s plant-based nutrition that can deliver the nutrition parents are looking for, but with the taste that kids love. So that is why we are really excited about the launch of our new Silk Kids Almondmilk Yogurt Alternative, which tastes incredible and has the calcium and vitamin D and really important nutrients that parents are looking for on behalf of their children,” she said.
She added the new line is also free from peanut, gluten and lactose and is GMO-project verified, which expands its appeal to families with food intolerances and that look for key certifications.
To help the product appeal to children, Blechman said Danone made it in three kid-friendly flavors: Strawberry, Mixed Berry and Apple Cinnamon. It also comes in smaller 4 ounce cups, “which is a great size for little hands,” she said, adding the package also has fun facts to entertain children.
Beyond the packaging, the new line is specially-formulated for children by reducing the sugar by 25% -- a callout that likely will gain importance later this year when the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans is published with an expected recommendation to reduce added sugar from 10% of the diet to just 6%.
“We think children will love these, and we believe they will help improve acceptance of new plant-based options for children” going forward, Blechman added.
In addition to announcing the new product line, the expert panel gathered by Danone also touted the company’s efforts to make nutritious food more readily available to children as the pandemic continues to disrupt traditional schedules at school, where many children are provided not only an education but nutrition as well.
The company announced it is donating more than $100,000 in Silk, Horizon Organic and Danimals products to the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York to help ensure children in the community have access to nutritious food even when school is not in service.
Do children like oatmilk and Beyond Burgers? Research* shows that US families with children over-index for plant-based milk and yogurt sales and that parents of children under 18 are more likely to think that plant-based proteins are healthier than animal-based proteins.
FOOD FOR KIDS WEBINAR ON DEMAND: Kids and the plant-based trend
Is there an untapped opportunity for plant-based brands to reach families with kids, or even develop products and brands specifically targeting children?
Do parents expect plant-based products for children to have extra vitamins or protein? And is price holding this market back?
- Kyle Gaan, research analyst at the Good Food Institute, who will present 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.