Why is no-one marketing healthy food for our children?
It’s 6pm on a Tuesday. Your child turns on the TV, opens up YouTube, logs into Facebook or sends a SnapChat, and they’re exposed to junk food advertising. Crisps, sugary drinks and chocolate treats, all presented through well thought out, multi-million pound marketing campaigns.
The next day, you walk, catch a bus or drive to school and you both see bus stop ads, social content and hear radio ads that reaffirm the messaging. Marketing unhealthy food to kids (and you) is a self-regulated industry, and there are plenty of loopholes. The question is - why aren’t we seeing any healthy kids food brands advertising as well?
Selling junk food to children is a piece of cake
It’s easy to market high sugar, salt and fat content foods, not only do kids crave them, but the parents do too. As adults, we’ve been exposed to unhealthy foods all of our lives, it just feels normal to have them in the house. This is why coming up with a healthy food product that both parents and kids will enjoy, and then getting the backing to run expensive marketing, is a lot trickier.
Spending on junk food advertising in the UK is nearly 30 times what the government spends on promoting healthy eating.
It’s not bad news though, there are healthy brands out there pushing products on us and our kids, just not typically through TV, radio, print or billboards. They’re more niche, with lower budgets and laser targeted spends - usually through social.
Which healthy kids food brands are marketing well?
Yeo Valley is an established, family-owned yogurt brand. It has successfully launched and marketed a line of organic bio live yogurts aimed at children, called Little Yeos. They’re high in protein, with no added sugar and contain fruit purée.
Marketing routes: TV, Youtube, social
The baby and toddler food company of choice for middle-class parents on the go, Ella’s Kitchen was one of the first to the ‘premium pouch’ market. Their recipes are organic, their packaging is exciting and their approach to food marketing is making healthy food fun, tasty and cool.
Marketing routes: Parenting websites, social
A premium, organic baby food brand producing pouch meals made from 100% natural organic ingredients.
Marketing routes: Sponsorships, initiatives, YouTube, social
As the name suggests, Organix only uses organic ingredients and backs it up with a 'no junk' promise.
Marketing routes: Celebrity-backed online campaign, YouTube, social
Fronted by children’s cookbook author, Annabel Karmel, this brand offers low-in-salt, chilled toddler meals, focused on good ingredients and recipes.
Marketing routes: Books, Instagram, YouTube, social
Taking candy from a baby just isn’t that easy
The reality is, almost all of these brands rely on pull marketing, not push, because they don't have the budgets for mainstream marketing. They’ve done the hard work, got the deals with supermarkets (who themselves are responding to a customer desire for healthier kids foods), and are in the right place at the right time with a guilt-free meal when parents are thinking about feeding their kids.
Traditional ‘big spend’ marketing just isn’t an option for these guys, they’re all new to the food market, and their customer base is small (but growing). They’re also part of a new industry, prior to this, healthy foods marketing meant trying to make broccoli look sexy. As these modern brands develop and attitudes shift through generations, they will spend more on marketing, but right now, they’re still breaking through in an incredibly tough industry.
Taking healthier food brands to the next level
To see wholesale change quickly, we’ll need the old-guard to step up, and catch up. Mars, Nestle, Kraft and General Mills are still stuck in a sugary, salty, fatty product mix (apart from when marketing health foods to adults). In order to drive the kids food market forward, they need to innovate away from their current offerings.
The big four food brands have the power to help kids feel that they’re not missing out by choosing healthy food. They have the marketing skills and budgets to make healthier foods exciting - the future for their business, and our kids, relies on it. And while the former will probably more of a catalyst than the latter, change is change.