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Five trends in kids' snacking

Parents don't want unhealthy ingredients in granola bars, and they're asking for more protein in everything else


From math class to after-school soccer, kids’ days are filled up. No wonder children snack as much as they do. The average Canuck kid age six to 12 devours 4.2 snacks per day, mostly to fill hunger gaps between breakfast, lunch and dinner.

A few stats: three is the peak age for snacking, says Joel Gregoire, Toronto-based industry analyst at NPD Group. Up to age 12, moms have the biggest influence on kids’ snacks. Fruit is the key snack for kids two to seven, dropping off as kids get older. The most popular snacks for children overall: yogurt, cookies and snack bars.

“Moms tend to have a set lunch box of five items,” says Logan Chambers, senior marketing manager at PepsiCo Canada. Classic choices include an apple, mini-carrots and mini- yogurt, a snack bar and a treat, such as a cookie.

But the snacking category evolves quickly and often, notes Gregoire, which points to the growing influence that on-trend fads, such as those outlined below, have on snacking decisions.

Raise the bar

The quintessential grab- and-go snack still has appeal. Volume growth last year was 2%, according to Euromonitor. But the research firm notes changes in buying behaviour. Parents want natural and low-sugar bars, a trend that’s pushing traditional fruit bars off the radar. “Consumers are looking at the overall ingredient content. Just having added fibre or added protein is not enough; the overall content needs to be healthier and nutritiously better,” says Euromonitor’s Svetlana Uduslivaia. Likewise, focus groups done by Quaker find moms want snack bars that contain calcium (in yogurt bars) while doing away with peanuts, says Chambers.

More mini-meals

Today’s parents want substantive snacks that fill kids up so they don’t turn to sweets. “We see snack occasions becoming more complex as some consumers opt to eat more mini-meals throughout the day as a replacement for three square meals plus snacks,” observes Kathy Perrotta, VP at Ipsos in Toronto. One new example is Bistro Bowl Wrap Kits from Ready Pac Meals. Each bowl contains all the ingredients (soft tortillas, chicken, lettuce, cheese, olives, sauce) for on-the-go wraps.

Protein power

“Parents are really focused on protein, or more so the lack of protein, their children consume,” says Vancouver dietitian Kristen Yarker. “This is especially the case for teenagers where the mother’s influence on eating habits is not as great when it comes to snacking, so are looking for convenient solutions.” Yogurt is a big protein driver for parents, but other protein products are hitting the market. For example, Protinis, a range from Maple Leaf that combines chicken strips with add-ons, such as dried cranberries or apples, hit the market this spring.

Beyond “no peanuts”

Eight in 10 schools are pea- nut-free zones, as are a large number of homes these days. But parents know that peanuts are a good way to get protein into their kids’ diets, so they’re looking for alternatives. Granola bars can help. With the launch of its granola bar line, Lunch Box from Nature Valley, Catherine Jackson at General Mills, says that active label-reading parents are looking for all-in- one options. “Parents do not want to buy just peanut-free bars, and then another line to get fibre and another to get protein. They want it all in one,” she says.

Slurpin’ snacks

Parents are concerned about hidden sugar in beverages such as fruit juices, says B.C. dietitian Abby Langer. Schools now direct parents to only buy juice boxes labelled 100% fruit or vegetable juice. “Obviously, water is the best choice,” she says. But kids can find plain water boring next to other beverages. Enter MiO, a liquid water enhancer from Kraft that gives plain water more taste. Likewise, flavoured milk, especially chocolate, is hitting the right note as well, thanks to its association with sports recovery. Milk2Go by Saputo (a 2014 Product of the Year winner) is billed as a healthy sports-drink alternative. For kids today, snacking doesn’t have to come in a bar or cracker. Thirst quenchers can be a snack, too.

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