From Playground to Boardroom: The Challenge to Bridge Nutrition and Taste in Kids’ Lunchbox Snacking

From Playground to Boardroom: The Challenge to Bridge Nutrition and Taste in Kids’ Lunchbox Snacking


When purchasing snacks to include in the lunchbox of your children, how much do you think of the ingredients inside? Are attributes such as artificial colouring, preservatives, levels of sugar and fat content important criteria in your decision making process? What about snacks that contain whole grain, protein, calcium and fibre?

Lunchbox snacking presents the ultimate dilemma. Parents want to provide their children with healthy options, but recognise that ‘child appeal’ is still important. As such, finding ways to bridge the gap between nutrition, taste and portability is the key to both retailers and manufacturers winning in this space.

These are the results revealed by The Nielsen Lunchbox Snacking Index, an exclusive study recently carried out for our clients, highlighting the key growth drivers and opportunities in the kids’ lunchbox snacking category. The analysis, from our Homescan Shopper Panel, included a range of ‘kid specific’ products across a number of segments including: biscuits, fresh fruit (kids pre-packed), snack foods, breakfast cereal, dried fruit, cheese, flavoured milk, yoghurt and yoghurt drinks, canned fruit/fruit snacks, wrapped health snacks.

As parents aspire to healthier eating for their children, we have seen a major shift in them looking for healthy alternatives rather than just buying ‘what the kids like.’ The biggest drivers of growth over the past year have come from kids’ yoghurt (sales up by +14%) and cheese snacks (+7%). Collectively, these segments account for more than half (57%) the growth of total Lunchbox Snacking in the last 12 months.

And despite having a relatively small presence, kids’ pre-packed fresh fruit has doubled its share to now represent 4% of sales – contributing a notable 39% of the category’s total growth dollars.

These emerging growth drivers have come at the expense of more traditional packaged snacking items including chips, muesli bars, savoury biscuits and popcorn – all of which recorded a decline in annual sales over the past year.

Key Australian retailers have been quick to follow the consumer’s lead on this health movement. The growing foothold of Private Label options in kids’ lunchbox snacking has squeezed the performance of the top three branded manufacturers in this category. These top players have only secured 9% of the category’s growth despite accounting for 41% of lunchbox snacking sales. Smaller players with more niche offerings are also winning in this space.

Ingredients for success: How do we win in kids’ lunchbox snacking?

So where will the growth come from in the upcoming years? The changing dynamics of this category suggest that snack products that offer a winning hybrid of nutrition and ‘child appeal’ will break through the clutter.

Other opportunities for both retailers and manufacturers to consider include:

  • Weekend Trade: The study found that weekend trade activation is the biggest opportunity for kids’ lunchbox snacking, with the strongest over-index in sales occurring on Sundays. 
  • Focus on Families: Unsurprisingly, $3 in every $4 spent on this category comes from families. In particular, families with the oldest child aged under 6 are the strongest target, currently representing 49% of category growth. This suggests there are opportunities to further explore snacking options for pre-schoolers and toddlers who are also consuming these products

A better understanding of consumer demand and the need states that drive demographic profile preferences will help manufacturers crack the code on the right portfolio balance of ‘treats’ versus healthy. By providing products that consumers want and need in this category, manufacturers and retailers stand to build market share and grow sales, increasing the odds of success in this ultra-competitive landscape.