LAS VEGAS — Only 18% of parents say their kids regularly eat three or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day, while 38% say their children eat two servings a day, and 43% admit their kids eat one or less. These figures were among the findings of a new research study by The Perishables Group unveiled here during the “Secrets that Sell Produce to Kids and Motivate Moms” session at the United Fresh Produce Association's 2008 show.
After detailing the results of the survey, moderator Steve Lutz, executive vice president of The Perishables Group, led a panel discussion on marketing produce to children, along with Heidi McIntyre, executive director of Produce for Kids, the sponsor of the study; Dawn Ciccone, senior director of consumer products at PBS Kids; Wendy McManus, director of marketing for the National Mango Board; and Scott Owens, vice president of sales and marketing for Paramount Citrus.
“Kids' eating habits are formed at a very early age,” said McIntyre. “And we've got 25 million kids in America ages 2-19 that are overweight or at risk of becoming overweight.”
McIntyre said the problem is that most kids are getting an average of 3.9 servings of foods high in fat and sugar each day, while they're eating fewer healthy foods like fruits and vegetables.
The study — which involved surveying 1,000 parents online and 500 in supermarkets, then analyzing their responses in conjunction with POS and ACNielsen Homescan data — revealed that bananas, apples, grapes, strawberries, other berries and citrus were the fruits that these parents most frequently purchased for their kids, while potatoes, baby carrots, tomatoes, lettuce, salads and corn were the most frequently purchased vegetables.
Fruits tend to be purchased as snacks for school lunches, while vegetables are most likely to be purchased for dinner. Seventy percent of respondents said they buy certain produce items specifically because their kids ask for it or like it, and 40% said they regularly purchase some produce just for their children, regardless.
Surprisingly, nearly two-thirds of parents said they do not regularly buy fresh-cut fruit for their kids. Instead, vegetables — led by baby carrots, cut broccoli and vegetable medleys — were the most popular fresh-cut items.
Parents seemed split on the new trend of targeting kids with cartoon characters on produce packaging. Half of parents said that these characters and messages would not affect their purchase decisions, while another 27% said they would avoid purchasing produce labeled with cartoon characters. By comparison, 28% said that characters promoting healthy eating habits were a good influence and might cause them to make a purchase. The most preferred cartoon messengers were from Nickelodeon, Disney and PBS Kids.
Ciccone noted that PBS Kids recognized TV characters' influence as role models for today's children, and noted that 80% of PBS Kids' signature shows now feature dedicated episodes about health, physical fitness and nutrition. And, notably, Cookie Monster, the beloved Sesame Street character, now eats cookies only on special occasions, and prefers broccoli for regular snacking.
of parents in a recent survey said they buy produce items that their kids like or ask for.
Source: The Perishables Group: ”Secrets That Sell Produce to Kids and Motivate Moms”