Despite parents being the purchasers, snack producers can’t get caught up in adult preferences when making children's snacks because the end users — the children — hold a significant amount of purchasing power. According to Packaged Facts, 55% of parents said their children’s preferences are very important to them. Ninety-one per cent said they buy a new product their child asks for some of the time, and 20% said they almost always do.

But what makes up a snack that children reach for?

“Coming up with a kale-quinoa cookie is probably not going to work,” Mr. Lempert said. “The parents might get excited about it, but you’ve got to separate the adult trends from the kid trends to have a successful product.”

He added companies should take a page from yogurt’s playbook.

“There’s probably about 10 different kids’ yogurts out there,” he said. “They have cool packaging — sometimes with cartoon characters and sometimes not — and it’s really been the flavors that have excited the kids. Experiment with flavor combinations that kids like.”

For youngsters, it’s less about the label and more about the shape, color and flavors of the product. At first glance, they are also drawn to packaging that tells them the snack is going to be an adventure. This could be done through themed characters or bright colors.

Kind Snacks kept children’s preferences at the forefront of the Kind Kids line by creating bars with a chewier texture compared with its regular bars. The snack also incorporates dynamic packaging with animated young superhero characters to teach heroism through kindness. The design stands out on the shelves, and the snack is sold in child-friendly flavors such as chocolate chip, peanut butter chocolate chip and honey oat. 

Frito-Lay, Plano, Texas, also rolled out a new line this summer called Imag!ne, which includes star-shaped crisps in yogurt with fruit and cheese flavors. The snack’s branding encourages exploration and imagination with packaging that uses bright, solid colors to offset the white clouds that play off the thought bubble concept.

“The product itself is relatively easy to color and make into shapes and things like that,” Mr. Lempert said. “The hard part is, again, that outer package being able to communicate to the parents the attributes they’re looking for and not turn off the kids.”

While packaging designs are key, web presentation and design are especially important now that many families shop online. Companies should provide a child-friendly and engaging experience, whether that’s done through online games, videos, stories explaining the brand’s characters or other interactive experiences. Snack producers should give families the opportunity to get to know them, Mr. Lempert said, which will
increase loyalty.

Kind For Kids

Another big test for bakers and snack producers is making a product that has the power of loyalty. In 2018, the population of people under the age of 18 is 73.8 million and 22.4% of the total U.S. population and, since this number isn’t expected to have a significant increase, Packaged Facts suggested creating a relationship with children earlier and retaining it through their teenage years to realize full market potential.

“The problem is that kids have a very short attention span,” Mr. Lempert explained. “The challenge for the bakery is, ‘What can we create that has sustaining power and is not just a flash in a pan?’ I think that’s frankly why we don’t see a lot of innovation, or as much as I’d like to see, in this area because if you miss, you could go out of business.”

What might save companies — and part of what intrigues them — is the segment’s gray area: These snacks aren’t exclusive to children. Whether at a quick- or full-service restaurant, there’s often at least one adult in a group attempting to order off the child’s menu … or at least doing some wishful thinking. Kid snacking can relate to all ages.

Fun shapes, crazy colors and cartoon characters don’t stop teenagers, parents and other family members from purchasing children’s products. Some people might even prefer the smaller portions, texture and flavors this category offers. This incentivizes producers to innovate product lines that reach the entire family and beyond in addition to meeting children’s preferences.

“The most effective marketers will leverage honed strategies to increase the connection with the core family market without alienating the childless household,” Packaged Facts reported.