The summer holidays have just begun, and while for kids the break may seem like an eternity, for retailers it means six weeks to prepare for what should be lucrative back-to-school sales.

Big on parents’ shopping lists is lunchbox items, and what goes into them is coming under increasing scrutiny by parents, schools and even the government.

MPs are examining ways to tackle the increase in overweight or obese children and earlier this year government launched a white paper consultation on public health. Minister of state for children and families Sarah Teather also tasked the School Food Trust to draw up nutritional guidelines for nurseries and children’s centres. “Getting children to eat healthy food early on is vital,” she says.


That’s how many children’s lunchboxes are prepared in British homes every day

“Quite rightly, parents don’t want their child fed junk food and nurseries play a key role in developing good eating habits.”

Reacting to concerns, big-name manufacturers are reformulating their products so that parents can feel reassured that their kids are eating healthily.

PepsiCo recently announced that it has reduced salt levels across the Walkers Crisps range by 10%. This was one of the company’s pledges outlined in its 2010 UK Health Report and Walkers now contain 55% less salt than they did in 2005.

PepsiCo isn’t the only major manufacturer to focus on salt levels. Dairylea has cut the salt content across its cheese spreads and slices range by 25%.

Class of 2011

When it comes to selling soft drinks for the back-to-school market, retailers are focusing on pricemarked packs (PMPs) and value for money in order to ensure success. 

A survey of independent retailers, conducted by Vimto Soft Drinks, revealed that 33% of independent store owners favour PMPs and pocket money products when looking to get the most out of the category. 

The survey also highlighted the importance that retailers place on the back-to-school category, with 74% of respondents stocking products that cater for this market. 

While PMPs and affordable products for schoolchildren were top of the list, the majority of those surveyed chose ‘most popular flavours’ as the least important factor when choosing stock. 

Vimto Soft Drinks head of marketing Neil Gibson says that the survey highlighted the fact that retailers recognise the importance of balancing health and value. “This survey shows that independent retailers are making some good decisions about their target audience for this important occasion for purchase by ensuring their offering appeals to a younger audience with limited spend. 

“It’s also interesting to see the importance put on providing healthier options for schoolchildren and this could be linked to the popularity of fruit flavoured water and juice drinks such as the Panda range, which contains no added sugar, no artificial colours or flavours and no aspartame.”

Steve Mounty, director of convenience and distributive at Kraft Foods UK, explains the move: “We want to help parents choose a cheese spread that brings back memories of simple childhood pleasures,” he says. “By reducing the salt in Dairylea, we hope to reassure them that they’re giving their kids something they can enjoy as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

“Dairylea will be talking to mums in 2011, with high-profile campaigns we hope will bring more people to the brand as well as demonstrating new benefits to loyal customers,” he states.

As well as addressing health concerns, Kraft is looking at reducing its environmental impact by reducing the packaging on Dairylea Dunkers and Philadelphia Snack by 20%.

“With customers more aware of the impact their choices make on the environment, we wanted to make sure they could still enjoy their favourite snacks without compromising on packaging waste,” adds Mounty. “The changes will help retailers make the most of growing customer demand, with packaging waste the second most important environmental concern for consumers after climate change.”

Dairy Crest group brand manager Gemma Baggaley says that the kids’ cheese snacking sector is in need of an overhaul. “Although category growth is currently at 3.9%, kids’ cheese snacking has suffered an image problem in recent years with some existing branded offers being perceived by mums to be processed and unnatural,” she says. “Kids want something cool, fun and portable, with plenty of variety that tastes delicious.”

In order to turn this market around, Dairy Crest has unveiled what it deems the most important kids’ cheese snacking launch in the past decade. Chedds are made from 100% real mild Cheddar with no added colours, flavours and preservatives and are available in three variants: Cheese & Toasties; Nibbles; and Bricks.

Chedds will be supported by a £3m marketing campaign including television adverts, social media initiatives and in-store activities. 

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