GHQ: Catering to Kids
By Suzanne Vita Palazzo
Through special arrangement, what follows is an excerpt of a current article from Grocery Headquarters magazine, presented here for discussion.
While there has been no shortage of media attention devoted to the rising obesity rates plaguing Americans, many people have overlooked a key segment within this dangerously overweight demographic – the nation’s children. According to a study recently released by Information Resources, Inc. (IRI) entitled Healthy Kids Report: Understanding the Role of Better-for-You Products in Kid-Driven Food and Beverage Categories, 50 percent of children in the United States will be overweight by 2010.
“The magnitude of how big this is really struck me,” said Sean Seitzinger, vice president and leader of the center for retail innovation at IRI.
The escalating child obesity rate has spurred the need for a market that offers kid-friendly products that can assist parents in their struggle to maintain their children’s weight at healthy levels.
Insiders say the grocery industry is not responding to this consumer need with enough speed and efficiency to meet the demand. “If there were a prize for the market segment most overlooked by food marketers, the winner, without a doubt, would be adolescents,” said Dr. Richard J. George, professor of food marketing at St. Joseph’s University.
If there is a shortage of kid-themed wellness products, it may be ending. According to the IRI study, better-for-you products have grown a total of 31 percent across kid-driven categories, versus just 7 percent across mainstream products.
Enter the opportunity for retailers to become resources for consumers, all the while boosting their bottom lines. With increased media attention and legislation banning some products from school lunches, parents are not only more aware of healthy options for their kids, they appear willing to trade up for an item that is perceived as a better-for-you option.
Experts concur that an untapped opportunity exists with private label wellness products for kids. “In general, about 95 percent of the time, private label is lacking in this solution area,” said Mr. Seitzinger. “So for retailers that really want to innovate, I think there’s an opportunity for them to let their premium branded solutions in private label help define what the answer is, and not just because it’s a good thing to do, but because it’s an economically good thing to do.”
Regardless of the approach, observers agree that retailers have the chance to gain incremental sales and customer loyalty by making children’s health a priority, a seemingly simple step that many have so far failed to take. Said Mr. Seitzinger: “I think real leadership in this space is really about retailers either driving manufacturers to be more effective in how they innovate as a community, or to step up and deliver on their own from a private label perspective.”
Discussion Questions: Do you agree that retailers, particularly grocers, have failed to make children’s health a marketing priority? Where do you see
opportunities for retailers to succeed in the area of child health and nutrition?