January represents a high water mark in the U.S. for adults starting new diet and exercise regimens (or at least forming resolutions to do so). And we started to experience the annual onslaught of advertising designed to capture these weight-focused consumers’ dollars from a range of food and beverage, exercise, and diet brands as soon as we rang in the New Year. Marketdata estimated that $61 billion was spent on weight loss in 2010, with healthy eating a critical focus.
Moms and dads are a critical group contributing to healthy eating and weight management spending—including influencing their whole family. The Marketing to Moms Coalition found that 73% of moms with kids under 18 report that they are changing their family’s eating to be more healthy. And, the December 2012 Restaurant Demand Tracker from Consumer Edge Insight showed that 62% of parents of children under 12 find it important that a restaurant has healthy menu choices, and at the same time, 75% of these parents also require that the restaurant’s menu has ‘kid friendly’ choices. This illustrates the familiar principle of the need to provide food choices that the child will eat while also ensuring healthy eating.
David Decker, President of Consumer Edge Insight, highlights Applebee’s as a brand that stands out in the casual dining segment for offering both ‘kid friendly’ and healthy menu choices. He says:
“Families with kids have many criteria to satisfy when they choose a restaurant. Those that are looking for a casual or family-dining restaurant that is both kid-friendly and offers healthier menu items should consider going to Applebee’s. Applebee’s joined the Kids LiveWell program earlier this year.”
And, for the parents, Applebee’s is also known for offering menu choices that make it easy for Weight Watchers members to navigate their menu with healthy options.
But what about the kids? Do they care about eating healthy? To find out the answer, we turned to KidSay Research. KidSay specializes in talking directly with kids. And what they’ve uncovered is a huge increase in kids ages 5-11 saying that healthy eating is “cool,” up from 59% in 2004 to 80% in 2012. Further, these kids see themselves as “healthy eaters,” with roughly two-thirds of tweens rating themselves as “excellent” or “pretty good” at healthy eating. One issue KidSay noted is that kids are less clear about what is ‘healthy’ (this issue is shared by many of their parents). Specifically, kids see fruits and vegetables, water and milk as healthy, but are less sure about grains, proteins and ‘kid foods.’
Bringing this together, menu icons, such as LiveWell that indicate healthy and kid-friendly choices are helpful within restaurant options. Looking at Applebee’s kids’ menu, we can see icons for the Kids LiveWell icon on the Grilled Chicken Sandwich. It’s an option that kids will identify as both palatable and healthy.
With rapidly growing numbers of children viewing healthy eating as “cool,” food brands can start to appeal to both Mom and child with healthy eating appeals. In the past, marketing campaigns have focused on helping Mom “hide” the healthy aspects of kid-friendly foods. Now it’s time to bring nutrition to light for kids with appeals highlighting both health and taste.