When it comes to food selection, families are motivated by a wide variety of desires. Different parents prioritize different food-related goals and use snacks to fill a diverse range of needs.
When we at Symrise recently performed a survey on snacking habits of kids aged 6 to 12, we found that parents fall into three basic types: solution seekers, nourishers and fillers. Each of these types focuses on different issues surrounding food, gravitates toward different attributes in the foods they choose, and exhibits strikingly unique behavior patterns during meals and snacks.
Here is how each of the three types of family approaches food choices, and what they're looking for in their snack purchases.
Every solution-seeking parent has a different perspective on food and beverages – but all solution seekers are united by one central trait: They take a cerebral approach to their food choices, putting a great deal of thought into how to keep their children happy and healthy while staying within their budgets.
While solution seekers sometimes use food as a source of comfort for their children, their top priorities are making sure every meal is filling, nutritious, and cost-effective. They eat their meals at consistent times of day and try to plan out some variety over the course of the week so they are never eating too much of any one item. They are not opposed to a little sugar and fat, within reason – but prefer these in natural form.
Most importantly, while solution-seeking parents are open to negotiation with their children, they always have final say over food choices.
For a nourishing parent, the purpose of food is to keep their children healthy. Nourishers do not have much interest in serving comfort food unless it serves a nutritious purpose. They place a high value on variety and balance in food choices – and will choose whole, fresh, and local foods as often as possible.
This approach can create some tension with children, though, because the “right” foods often do not taste as good as the “wrong” ones – nor are they as easy to prepare. What is more, nourishers have to stay vigilant about out-of-home consumption. This is especially so at school, where children may often swap snacks and end up with something less healthy than their parents packed.
For these reasons, nourishers often go the extra mile to make sure healthy foods are flavorful and attractively presented.
Parents who take the filler approach have fairly low expectations about food. They look for snacks to fill their children up and keep them occupied, without letting them grow too fat or too skinny. Throughout the day, food is something to enjoy, experiment with, and communicate through.
Of all three types of families, fillers tend to be the most open to packaged, processed and boxed foods, as well as to restaurants including fast food. They keep food stocked in the freezer and cupboards “just in case,” and are constantly heating and serving snacks on request.
For a filler family, the greatest threat is a bored palate. Filler parents are always on the lookout for exciting new foods, and their children tend to be relatively open to culinary experimentation as well.
In short, while solution seekers place a high value on foods that make life easier, better, and less expensive, nourishers want great flavors that do not compromise on health. Fillers, meanwhile, are open to anything that tastes great – with bonus points if it is healthy.