It’s not just adult consumers shaping the food trends of today, but children as well, who are as every bit impacted by advertisements, the internet and friends as their parents who often acquiesce to their demands when shopping. According to market researcher Packaged Facts, more than a quarter of parents learn about a new product as a request from their child.

“It's the circle of retail life,” says David Sprinkle, research director, Packaged Facts. “Child demands product, parent learns about product through child, household begins using product, child ideally grows up to encourage his or her own household to use said product—at least until their own kids start making requests.”

But developing products that effectively appeal to children is more difficult than it sounds. The children’s food and beverage market is particularly challenging because industry players have to market to both the end users and the purchaser. In a recent study Packaged Facts identifies three mega trends that have, and will continue, to shape the market for foods created for and marketed to children.

The generational influence of the Millennial parent: In 2015, Millennial parents accounted for 42 percent of all households with children, making them an important segment of the parenting demographic. Additionally, this group will likely continue to represent a growing share of households with children because the Millennial generation spans nearly two decades. Millennials also comprise a larger share of lower-income households. On the surface, this would imply that Millennials are on strict budgets and that affordability is a significant purchase decision influence. While this may be true, it's also important to consider the Millennial mindset toward spending: Millennials are willing to spend extra for perceived higher quality products and services. Notably, they value transparency, authenticity, and brands that represent them and their lifestyles.

Multicultural child population continues to grow: Race/ethnicity is an important consideration for children’s food and beverage makers and marketers. Some 28 percent of white households have children living in the home. However, some 50 percent of Hispanic households have children living in the home, followed by 44 percent of black households and 40 percent of Asian households. For industry players, this means targeting households across the cultural spectrum is one way to hone marketing efforts to ensure reach of a high concentration of families.

Targeting the multicultural parent requires marketers leverage strategies in order to appeal to traditional cultural values: advertising in Spanish is an obvious example of this approach to better communicating with Hispanic parents. Marketers should also understand family values of the multicultural consumer; for example, extended families can also be tapped as potential additional purchasers for children’s food and beverage.

Focus on children’s nutrition through the stealth health and real food movements: Over the past 20 years, the marketers will continue to serve as advocates of children’s health and take necessary action to improve the nutrition and health profile of foods and beverages marketed toward children, with improved market performance as their reward.  One way industry players are providing healthier child-friendly food and beverage products is through the stealth health movement. The stealth health premise is that by hiding servings of fruits and veggies in child-friendly foods like pastas, pizzas, breads, smoothies, and desserts, that children will more easily meet daily nutrition requirements. Beyond stealth health, better-for-you food and beverage is also being tapped through the real food movement. The real food concept incorporates health, animal welfare, social justice and environmental sustainability—buzzwords that fit under this umbrella are "clean," "local," "green," or "slow," as well as "fair" and "organic."