In Europe, healthy eating is no longer motivated simply by self-interest. Family welfare has become the overriding concern, and children have become the real driving force behind the health trend.
Children take up between 15 and 20 percent of the population in countries across Europe, and are increasingly influential in informing purchasing choices.
Parents are increasingly aware that early dietary habits can have a dramatic impact on long-term health, while busy parents have to deal with youngsters who are bombarded by TV adverts.
An opportunity and a threat
This situation presents food companies with both an opportunity and a threat. Clever marketing can appeal to both the health concerns of the parent and the imagination of the child. But bad marketing can turn both groups off.
"The key driver for kids is that they want control," said Bryan Urbick, CEO and president of the Consumer Knowledge Center UK.
"They want to be in charge. Products they can't open or that they need permission for are no good."
But the problem, Urbick told delegates at the Vitafoods conference in Geneva, is that kids are also afraid of new foods. The rating of familiarity and liking is highly correlated. Kids, he said, will always revert to familiarity.
"It is proven, however, that exposure to foods increases liking, and that liking by peers increases liking." This therefore is something that food firms should take into account when it comes to marketing a new product.
When it comes to marketing something healthy, the problem of appealing to kids is compounded. As neophobes, in the words of Urbick, children are especially sensitive to trying new foods that are marketing as being good for them.
For as we all know, what's good for you doesn't taste too good when you are a kid.
Kids vs. parents
This presents the food firm with a problem. How do you appeal to both the child and the responsible parent?
Urbick gave the example of a recent advert for omega-3-fortified milk. The advert showed fish being poured out of a milk carton onto cereal – a visual image clearly designed to reinforce the link in the parent's mind between milk and the added natural goodness of omega-3.
The idea presumably was also to suggest that this was an easy way to get kids to consume omega-3 in a taste-free way. But according to Urbick, many kids missed this message; they just saw the image of slimy fish coming out of a milk carton and never went further than this visual image.
'All about familiarity'
"It is all about familiarity," he said. "And for functional foods, using trusted brands is one way of achieving this. But be careful about over-promising."
The number one challenge therefore remains overcoming the concept that something that is good for you equals yuck. Urbick reinforced his opinion several times that the key is familiarity.
"Show kids liking the product you are marketing," he said. "This takes away their fear."
Newsfeed: Decision News Media