Results yield clear advice for marketers looking to design programs promoting better eating habits among kids.

CHICAGO, IL November 5, 2012 – Today, nearly one in three U.S. children are overweight with 15% considered obese. This growing epidemic has prompted food companies to get involved by subjecting themselves to self-imposed marketing regulations and launching family-directed advertising and promotional initiatives. A new U.S. study of kids 5 to 11 years old conducted by KidSay and The Marketing Store Worldwide (TMSW) identifies key insights and strategies marketers can employ in their efforts.

“There’s been a lot written about kids and nutrition, but it’s been written almost entirely from the perspective of educators, academics and moms. We’ve heard little from the kids themselves,” says Terence Burke, VP Research – Editor KidSay Trend Tracker. “For marketers to effectively reach this audience, it is critical to understand them in terms of their attitudes, their behaviors and their knowledge.”

The new study has many key findings that will improve marketers’ efforts to promote better eating habits among kids. Among them are:

Kids see themselves as “healthy eaters”. This is true across gender and age. Roughly two-thirds of tweens (8-11) say they are “excellent” or “pretty good” when it comes to healthy eating. Very few kids say they are “not very good”. Moms agree with more than 75% rating their kid’s eating habits positively.

Eating healthy has become cool. Within the past decade, there’s been a dramatic shift in kids’ attitudes towards “healthy eating”. The vast majority (80%) now think it’s “cool”, up significantly from 59% in 2004. Correspondingly, very few (5%) now view it as “uncool”, as opposed to 19% in 2004.

Most of kids’ favorite foods are “less healthy”.  Fruit is one exception. In fact, across a variety of questions about their “favorite foods”, the ratio of healthy to unhealthy foods tended to be 2:3 or lower (2 healthy to 3 unhealthy).

Kids are confused about how healthy their food and beverages are. During focus groups kids were asked to sort 43 products into three groups: healthy, not healthy, and unsure. Kids had a clear understanding of some food categories as healthy or unhealthy (milk, water, fruits, vegetables), but many (including grains, proteins and “kid foods”) are less clear.

Nutritional education is not motivating for kids. Education alone will not be enough to stem the tide of childhood obesity. Marketers and parents need to employ strategies to further drive kid demand and consumption of healthier options. This is evident not only in our qualitative research, but is also reinforced by the fact that, despite aggressive educational efforts, America’s kids are getting unhealthier by the year.

“Based on our conversations with kids and moms, we identified specific strategies that both moms and food companies can use to help drive kids’ demand for healthier food and beverages,” says Renee Weber, vice president of consumer strategy and research at The Marketing Store. “Our goal was to present effective and long-lasting approaches that go beyond the typical tactics of celebrity endorsements and prizes.”

Three strategies for food and beverage marketers emerge.

Insights gleaned from The Marketing Store’s and KidSay’s qualitative research point to three powerful strategies that marketers should employ to encourage kids to demand the healthier options: Nudge, Camouflage, and Play.

Strategy One: “Nudge”
The Nudge strategy involves structuring kids’ environments to make healthier foods/beverages more salient. The underlying premise is that kids tend to be attracted to and select items that are visually prominent or the ones that are most convenient. Grocery stores that position pre-sweetened cereals at a child’s eye level and food manufacturers that package their products in vivid colors or with a cool promotion are using nudge. Fast food restaurants that provide fruit as a default in their kids’ meals are also using nudge.

Strategy Two: “Camouflage”

The Camouflage strategy usually involves “hiding” a healthy food (that kids don’t like) within another food (that kids do like). Mixing spinach into a fruit smoothie or pureed carrots into spaghetti sauce are examples of camouflage. One retail product that has successfully leveraged this strategy has been V8’s V-Fusion, which mixes vegetable juice in with fruit juice. Another variation involves coupling a disliked healthy food with another food or sauce that kids do like. One example is Earthbound Farm Dippin’ Doubles Carrots & Ranch Dip Organic, which co-packs baby carrots with Ranch Dip.

Strategy Three: “Play”
The Play strategy involves bringing play into food. Kids are driven to play and look for opportunities to do so. Food and beverage marketers can effectively leverage this desire to play to motivate kids to choose healthier foods. Fruit roll-ups let kids play with it by unrolling it, twisting it or punching out shapes. String cheese lets kids pull it apart into pieces and eat it like “worms”. Play can also be provided through the packaging. GoGurt incorporates the fun of squeezing yogurt out of a tube, reading jokes/trivia, and sometimes pretending the tube is a snake or a light saber.

The research leverages both KidSay’s Tracking methodology as well as extensive qualitative research among kids 5-15 years old, their moms and teachers. Most of the research was conducted in mid-2012, except for quantitative trend data that dates back to 2004.  An executive summary of the research can be obtained at or

About KidSay

KidSay is a full service research company whose Trend Tracker reports are used by many of the world's leading companies. By providing frequent quantitative updates on kids/tweens (10 reports a year, 6000+ respondents) coupled with qualitative insights, KidSay's Trend Trackers have become a vital tool in understanding the rapidly changing world of kids. Plus, KidSay supports education by providing funds for scholarships and enrichment programs to schools in their network. Established in 1993, KidSay is based in the Kansas City area with field offices in New York.

About The Marketing Store Worldwide

As one of the largest brand activation agencies in the world, The Marketing Store Worldwide delivers tangible interactions that engage people, influence purchase and build brands. Its approach, "Inspiration: Applied" - delivers inspirations that compel people to act within flawlessly executed programs that drive consumer behavior. Areas of expertise include: youth & family marketing, CRM, loyalty, shopper marketing, digital, direct, and consumer promotions. The Marketing Store specializes in creating and sustaining high-value customer relationships for clients such as Coca-Cola, McDonald's, L'Oreal, and Nissan. The Marketing Store Worldwide has offices across the globe in 12 countries and is part of the HAVI Group, a privately held company headquartered just outside Chicago. Follow @marketingstore on Twitter or visit

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Contact: Liane Adduci