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By Barbara Grondin Francella
NORWALK, Conn. -- Moms' first priority when buying food for their kids is making sure it is "healthy and nutritious," but nearly all are influenced by their kids' preferences, according to "The Mom Study," research on moms' and kids' relationship to the foods they eat and the brands they buy, conducted by Just Kid Inc. (JKI).
"We've noticed that moms' criteria for her kids seemed to be shifting from what they were 10 years ago," said Amy Henry, JKI's managing director of research and strategy.
Ten years ago, moms gave a higher priority to convenience and the element of fun. "Today, moms are looking for more authentically healthy and enjoyable food—and are looking to make kids appreciate eating, not just the packaging or promotions surrounding their food," Henry said. "Rather than just focusing on the here and now, moms are acutely aware that the decisions she makes today shape her kids' eating habits and overall health for the long-term. And the good news for marketers is that she's willing to reward brands that help her get closer to this ideal."
Marketers in the c-store space have a big opportunity to offer healthy, nutritious foods, that will also delight kids, Henry told CSNews Online. "They should think about what prepackaged fresh options that moms want to give kids, in terms of nutrition, but also give kids' happiness and emotional satisfaction. We're seeing moms want to give kids products that are more from the farm, than the factory."
When it comes to "kid delight," findings showed moms wanted foods to deliver on more than just fleeting fun. They reported shapes and characters kids love were not a driver of her food choices. Moms prioritize food by whether or not it makes their child feel genuinely good about themselves, and increases their enjoyment of the eating experience itself.
JKI conducted 30-minute online surveys among more than 3,600 moms of kids ages 2 to 14 years old. Moms were asked about breakfast, lunch, after-school snacks and dinner. The study assessed the relevance of more than 90 food benefits and 60 product categories at each of these occasions.
"Differences by occasion validated what we've known for a long time about the different need states and requirements at different meals," Henry said. "Breakfast is a rushed time, and dinner is still—perhaps more ideally than really—a time for family to get together and discuss their day."
But results indicate moms face real challenges in meeting their ideal, giving marketers an opportunity to fulfill those unmet needs. According to the survey results, 86 percent of moms ideally want lunch to be nutritious and healthy; 82 percent said they want it to establish healthy eating habits for their kids.
"But the typical lunch is a different story, with 66 percent of moms saying they want provide something for lunch that their kid will eat without supervision," Henry said. "Also, 65 percent of moms want for there to be a taste their kids will love."
For food on the go, marketers could distinguish themselves by offering snacks that feel closer to "real food," rather away from processing, she told CSNews Online. "That is where moms are ideally going. But keep in mind, especially today, those options have to offer a value. They still have to be easy to eat and a good value for the money."
Of all the moms surveyed, 86 percent ranked "healthy and nutritious" as the most important characteristics of an ideal food, while 82 percent said "establishes good eating habits" and 80 percent said "fills the child up."
After health, moms said "taste" and "foods kids love," are as important as ever. While the women said they make the final decision about the food they buy, 96 percent admitted to being influenced by their kids or taking their kids' preferences into account.
While most consumers think of after-school snacking as a kid-owned occasion, 59 percent of moms said that they look for snack items that appeal to the whole family.
When the women were asked to rate a variety of benefits and attributes related to nutrition, JKI found the moms were not as interested in sophisticated ingredients as they were some basic, simple benefits like "fresh" and "balanced nutrition." They gave mid-level ratings to some traditionally important nutrients, such as calcium and protein, while they rated more trendy nutrients like Omega-3s and choline at the bottom of their priority list. At the end of the day, the moms sought a more authentic form of health, linked very closely to the food.