To validate what we were hearing qualitatively, and to uncover new findings, we conducted a 30-minute online survey of more than 3,600 moms of kids ages 2-14. The sample included both African Americans and Hispanics. Because we know that they often find themselves making trade-offs "in the moment," we asked about both their ideals and the "real" for their kids across four eating occasions: breakfast, lunch, after-school snack and dinner.
Not surprisingly, their first priority is food that's healthy: 86% rank "healthy and nutritious" as the most important characteristics, while 82% say food should "establish good eating habits" and 80% say cite food that "fills the child up." However, just after health, they told us that characteristics that delight their kids, such as taste and foods kids love are as important to them as ever.
Even though they make the final decision about the food that gets into their homes, almost all moms are influenced by their kids or by taking their kids' preferences into account.
Perhaps more interesting was not that they are seeking a balance of nutrition and fun, but how they defined these two factors. We asked them to rate the importance of a wide variety of benefits and attributes related to nutrition, and we found that they were not as interested in sophisticated ingredients as they were some basic, simple benefits like "fresh" and "balanced nutrition."
They give mid-level ratings to some traditionally important nutrients like calcium, protein, etc. while they rate more trendy nutrients like Omega-3 and choline at the bottom of their priority list. At the end of the day, moms are seeking a more authentic form of health, linked very closely to the food.
When it comes to "kid delight," findings show that they also want foods to deliver on more than just fleeting fun. While they reported that shapes and characters that their kids love were not a driver of their food choices, they really prioritize food that makes their children feel genuinely good about themselves and that increase their enjoyment of the eating experience itself.
Differences by occasion validated what we've known for a long time about the different need states and requirements at different meals. For example, breakfast is a rushed time, and dinner is still (perhaps more ideally than really) a time for family to get together and discuss their day.
But how close are they able to get to their ideal? Results indicate that moms face real challenges, and thus, marketers have a real opportunity to fulfill their unmet needs. Ideally, they are looking for the best for their kids, but it doesn't always work that way: 86% say they "ideally" want lunch to be nutritious and healthy, and 82% say they want it to establish healthy eating habits for their kids.
But the "typical" is a different story, with 66% saying they want provide something for lunch that their kids will eat without supervision. Also, 65% want there to be a taste their kids will love. While we traditionally think of the after-school snack as a kid-owned occasion, 59% of moms admitted that they look for snack items that can appeal to the whole family.
So, for marketers, it's important to message to their ideal, and ensure that you're considering their reality in the packaging and product form that you provide.
These findings indicate a shift in the way moms think about food choices. Ten years ago, they prioritized convenience and kid fun. Today, they are looking for more authentically healthy and enjoyable food -- and are looking to make kids appreciate eating, not just the packaging or promotions surrounding their food.
Rather than just focusing on the here and now, they are acutely aware that the decisions they make today shape their kids' eating habits and overall health for the long-term. And the good news for marketers is that they are willing to reward brands that help them get closer to this ideal.