No two families are alike – and every family takes a variety of different paths to their food choices.
Here is a quick list of the most common paths to meal and snack consumption, according to the latest research conducted at Symrise. Our survey team examined the snacking habits of kids aged 6 to 12, from a variety of ethnographic groups. We discovered that these kids (and their parents) arrive at meal and snack choices for a wide range of reasons, including the following.
Hearty breakfast on the go
Many families lack the time to prepare home-cooked breakfasts during the week. This is why many parents turn to breakfast sandwiches (frozen or from fast-food restaurants), oatmeal, and ready-to-bake pastries in the morning.
Protein-heavy snacks often need to be kept cold (e.g., meats and dairy) or are not allowed at school (e.g., nuts). Families are solving this problem by adding cheese or milk to carb-heavy meals, or by packing cured meats in children’s lunches.
Breakfast any time
Children love the savory flavors of breakfast foods like eggs, bacon and sausage. Moreover, there is often a “good-for-you” halo that seems to surround the most important meal of the day. A growing number of families are serving breakfast foods for dinner or are heating up breakfast meats to serve as snacks.
Dinner any time
Dinner is known for savory flavors and for the opportunity it affords to supply children with well-balanced nutrition. Many families now serve dinner foods throughout the day – whether packing them in lunches, heating up small dinners as afternoon snacks, or creating new combinations of dinner foods like pasta, vegetables and rice.
Snacks with love
Many mothers use food as a way to express their love for their children – but do not always have time to prepare their trademark treats. Consequently, they frequently turn to snack mixes, granola bars, small-batch desserts, and ready-to-bake cookies for after-school snacks.
Many children like fruit – and mothers love that it is healthy. But fruit is often expensive and seasonal. For fruit-loving families, it is easy to keep fruit juice and dried fruits in the kitchen, or to turn to fruit-flavored snacks for flavor on the go.
Athletes need “pick-me-up” foods to get them ready to play and to recover after a game. Parents come prepared with sports beverages and protein bars, along with healthy, hydrating snacks like fresh fruit.
Sweets offer surprise, mystery and interactivity like no other category of snacks. But these foods can lead to serious battles, as they are often unhealthy. Many parents have found a remedy by turning to sweets with alternative recipes – carob instead of chocolate, or frozen yogurt instead of ice cream.
Many mothers enjoy making baked goods for their children, but few generally have time. Thanks to baked-good mixes, prep time can be short, and children can play a role in the preparation too. Par-baked frozen or canned pastries can make the job even easier.
Children are often intrigued by the flavors and textures of “adult” foods and beverages like coffee and crème brulee. Some parents offer a compromise in the form of non-caffeinated coffee-like drinks, or child-sized portions of “fancy” desserts.
Spicy flavors do not necessarily scare children away. As they age through their elementary-school years – and especially into junior high – many pick up a taste for jalapeño flavoring, hot sauce, wasabi, and other ingredients that challenge their palates.
Today’s children are more in touch with the wider world than ever before – through TV and the internet, and through the increasingly wide range of fusion restaurants in their own cities. Specialty grocery stores even offer pre-made international meals, so parents can easily introduce them to the table.
A family’s path to a meal or snack can result in a table set with familiar favorites, an adventure to a new restaurant, a comforting treat, an energizing pick-me-up, or anything in between. And when foods are packaged to correspond to the right path, they stand a much better chance of getting purchased along the way.