(May 7, 2:08 p.m.) LAS VEGAS — Produce marketers today have their eyes set on an unconventional market segment — the under-10 crowd.
There are 41 million children in the U.S. who influence $146 billion of expenditures, and more than $40 million in direct buying power, according to a survey conducted by The Perishables Group, West Dundee, Ill.
Steve Lutz, executive vice president of The Perishables Group, moderated a discussion on children’s eating habits May 5 during United Fresh Marketplace.
The panel announced the results of a national research study commissioned by the Reidsville, Ga.-based Produce for Kids organization that examined children’s eating habits and parents’ produce purchases for their children.
According to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, 25 million children ages 2-19 are overweight or at risk of becoming overweight, said panel member Heidi McIntyre, Produce for Kids’ marketing director. Overweight kids are more likely to become overweight adults, McIntyre said.
“This is the first generation that is not expected to outlive its parents,” she said.
Children’s eating habits are formed in early childhood and will persist throughout their lives, McIntyre said. She said kids aged 6-12 are eating more than three times the recommended serving amount of fat and sweets, and only half of the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
The Perishables Group study confirmed that children influence parents’ purchases at the grocery store. Seventy percent of parents surveyed said they buy fresh produce because their children like it and ask for it. Forty percent said they purchase some produce specifically for their children to eat.
Only 18% of parents said their children eat three or more servings of produce every day. Nearly half of the survey respondents — 43% — said their kids eat only one serving or less.
Lutz said surveys have found that sales spike when packaging featuring cartoon characters is first introduced, but then sales will decrease over time.
When asked about cartoon characters and produce, half of the parents surveyed said that featuring cartoon characters on packaging would not affect their purchase decision, and 27% said they would not buy produce if it had a character on the packaging. Twenty-eight percent of parents said having characters that promoted healthy eating might cause them to buy, and said they would most like to see Nickelodeon, Disney and PBS Kids characters on packaging for fruits and vegetables.