Top Trends in the Children’s Food and Beverage Market

Top Trends in the Children’s Food and Beverage Market

When it comes to purchasing food, taste is the number one priority for most consumers. For parents, their children’s willingness to eat a given food is a close second. Compared to all consumers, parents are more likely to prioritize food characteristics that provide a health halo such as high protein, unsaturated fats, clean label, low sugar, and non-GMO. Parents tend to be more health-conscious and choosy about foods for their kids and themselves.

Products free from common allergens – such as nuts, dairy, and eggs – are also a high priority for parents, particularly those who have children with real or perceived allergies or intolerances. Packaged Facts’ December 2022 National Online Consumer Survey indicates that 27% of respondents with children report that they have a child with food allergies, while the number of children with food intolerances or sensitivities may be even higher.

According to Packaged Facts’ new report Children’s Food and Beverage Market: Trends and Opportunities, 2nd Edition, the retail market for children’s food and beverage products experienced average annual growth of nearly 8% from 2017 to 2022 due to new value-added product introductions, boosted grocery sales during the pandemic, and high levels of inflation that led to price increases.

Who Buys Children’s Food and Beverage Products?

Although children’s food and beverage products are marketed for kids, most of these products are purchased by their adult parents/guardians. Thus, the food preferences of parents are very important to examine. Parents also report on habits and preferences of their children, which can be used to gauge children’s perspectives.

Influence of Millennials and Women

Millennials are a key demographic in the children’s food and beverage market since they currently parent the largest share of children under age 18. Younger members of Generation X also have significant influence in this realm.

These two demographic groups tend to have preferences for more premium foods – such as organic and clean label products – so appropriate labeling is often valuable in the children’s food market.

Most food makers target these younger groups aggressively, paying particular attention to special diet trends that are more prevalent in younger generations (such as plant-based/vegan, low sugar, high protein, and gluten-free).

Better-for-you products in many diet areas are targeted at younger consumers and their children because there is more interest in special diets among these age groups.

Women are another key demographic in the market for children’s food and beverage products. In households with children, women are more likely to be the primary shoppers.

Additionally, most single-parent households are also headed by women. Thus, women’s preferences are very important to the children’s food market, since women are more likely than men to be making decisions about what products to buy for their kids.

Parents are also more likely to be in higher income groups. The financial expenses associated with having children can make some lower income consumers delay having children until they attain more income or decide not to have kids at all.

Unsurprisingly, parents are much more likely to be married, engaged, or living with a partner. Single people may not have an opportunity or desire to have a child, which they would need to raise alone when living without a partner.

Parents Turning to Online Grocery Shopping for Convenience

Before the pandemic, retailers of all types were attempting to expand online shopping options by making more items available for pickup and delivery. After COVID-19 changed consumer behavior and preferences and led to more convenience options, more people are shopping for groceries online to avoid leaving home (or at least to avoid shopping in a crowded store).

Online grocery shopping is generally driven by convenience, especially for parents. Parents are also more likely to shop for groceries online, as online grocery shopping is especially convenient for busy parents who may not have a lot of time or desire to shop in stores, particularly if they must bring young children along with them.

Purchasing fully prepared meals online – from grocery stores, restaurants, or meal delivery services – is particularly convenient for families to get meals on the table, both for themselves and their children during a hectic day.

For instance, Nurture Life is a meal delivery company that specifically targets families with children, offering meals, finger foods, and snacks for many stages of childhood – baby (3-24 months), toddler (1-4 years), children age 3-10, and children age 11-18. Each meal purports to be nutritious by focusing on organic produce, whole grains, and proteins free from antibiotics. Near the end of 2022, Good Housekeeping published reviews of meal kit and prepared meal delivery services catering to families with kids, naming Nurture Life the best overall children’s meal delivery service.

Additional analysis of the children’s food and beverage market can be found in the January 2023 Packaged Facts report Children’s Food and Beverage Market: Trends and Opportunities, 2nd Edition.

About the blogger:

Cara Rasch is a food and beverage analyst for Packaged Facts. She studies consumer and industry trends in this space and has a B.A. in economics from Allegheny College.