While they don’t offer a lot of earning potential, it’s the children in the household, not the parents, that have a hold on the family’s food purchase choices.

In a new report by market analyst Packaged Facts, researchers revealed more than a quarter of parents surveyed learn about a new product as a request from their child. Children over six in particular wield a considerable amount of purchasing power, but in reality brand loyalty is nurtured in children even younger.

“Children under age six are just as important to marketers as older children are because life-long dietary habits are established during this time period and brand loyalty begins,” says David Sprinkle, research director, Packaged Facts. “This suggests industry players should focus on product development designed to capture younger kids and gain allegiance from parents earlier to keep them involved with the brand throughout childhood.”

Ultimately the items that end up in parents’ shopping carts stem from an assortment of factors including:

-what brands or products are recognizable to the children;

-what parents deem healthiest and most nutritious for their children;

-what foods kids themselves enjoy eating;

-and, what's recommended by parents' peers either directly or through social media and online reviews.

Researchers say the importance of this second factor — what foods are perceived as healthier options for children — can't be understated. According to the “Shopping for Health 2016” report from the Food Marketing Institute and Rodale, a product’s healthfulness for children influences 91 percent of parents’ food and beverage purchases. On a related note, Packaged Facts found that nearly half (46 percent) of parents consider nutritional value as a top influencer. These findings indicate the degree to which health and diet are influencing choices within the market. Healthy innovation is emerging within every segment of the children’s food market, even among categories not typically associated with health, like sweet and salty snacks.