It’s no secret the earlier a person is exposed to something; the more likely he or she is to stick with it. This is especially true when it comes to brand loyalty. In today’s world, younger consumers are becoming increasingly nutritionally conscious and aware of marketing strategies and have input on the foods their parents purchase. If food and beverage manufacturers are going to make an impact during these highly formative years (children aged nine and under), they will have to focus on more than just taste, according to market researcher Packaged Facts.

In its new report, “Kids Food and Beverage Market in the US, 7th Edition,” researchers at Packaged Facts says a product must include the nutrition children need or the entertainment they crave in addition to taste in order to qualify as a children’s product. Packaged Facts based its research on seven food and beverage categories in which marketers have a strong tendency to target kids. These categories are dairy products, snacks, frozen food, beverages, cereal, shelf-stable meals and produce.

Researchers project sales of the $25 billion children’s food and beverage market will grow to a value of almost $30 billion by 2018, driven by continued economic recovery, strong new product development and increased demand for health and wellness products suitable for growing children. The competitive landscape surrounding this segment is set to intensify, as marketers from other consumer product goods categories will look for their share of the “family” consumer dollar.

According to Packaged Facts, targeting the child demographic is largely accomplished through formulation, packaging and marketing.   However, children are the end users and not necessarily the decision-makers when it comes to product purchases. Because of this, researchers say marketing strategies must focus on gaining parent approval.

“Obtaining parent approval is most often achieved through healthy brand positioning and socially responsible efforts,” Packaged Facts says. “Brands that have a strong alignment with health are in a good position to succeed in appealing to the parent demographic. For kids' foods, it less about diet monikers like fat, calories and sodium, and more about marketing claims such as all natural, organic, gluten-free and no preservatives/additives.  Transforming such ‘healthy’ offerings into fun and interactive products creates more appeal among younger demographics while still catering to parents’ desires for good nutrition.”

More on the study can be found here.