Kids' snacks try for healthier option

By Catherine Boal

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cent, Lay's, Nutrition, Snack foods, Uk

In the wake of UK government concerns over childhood obesity and
pressure from health watchdogs, crisp manufacturers have been
pursuing healthier alternatives to kid-friendly brands.

Earlier this year, the leader in the children's snack market - UK crisp manufacturer, Walkers - launched their second product marketed for kids.

The crisp giant, who owns 50 per cent of the market share and produces four of the eight top crisp brands in the UK, recently introduced 'Cheese Heads' - a product designed for children that boasts 70 per cent less saturated fat than generic crisps and claims to be free from artificial flavourings, colours and preservatives.

Cheese Heads are available in cheese and cheese and onion flavour and were backed by an advertising campaign costing £3.5m (€5m) in February.

Walkers, who are owned by the firm PepsiCo, originally tested the market last year with the introduction of the first child-focused crisp, 'Potato Heads', based on a character from the children's animated film Toy Story.

Potato Heads are brightly packaged crisps cooked in high oleic sunflower oil, containing 70 per cent less saturated fat and free from artificial flavours, colours and preservatives. The company claim that the products contain on average 33 per cent less fat than standard Walkers crisps.

Marketing manager Nicky Seal said: "There is not a specific crisp on the market for kids and many parents are becoming increasingly aware about the health and nutrition of their children, but recognise kids still want to eat tasty, fun snacks."

Walkers, who also own the Monster Munch brand, have found that their efforts to provide healthy fare for children are being duplicated throughout the industry.

A move which may prove cost-effective given that children's snack food made up 46 per cent of the total snack food market last year and sales grew to £480m (€693), a 28% rise in five years.

According to market analysts, Mintel: "The main trend for new product development [in the year 2004-2005] has been the reduction of fat, salt and sugar content in children's snacks."

While Walkers may have led the way in introducing the first children-specific products, other brands, marketed for adults, still enjoy a following with young consumers.

KP, a subdivision of the UK company United Biscuits (UB), own Britain's second largest crisp brand, Hula Hoops, which appeal to kids because of their unique gimmick - a 3D cylindrical shape.

This year, product formulation was altered to render the crisp healthier, cutting their content of saturated fat by half and reducing sodium levels.

In addition, self-seasoning was introduced with the 'Shake 2 Flava' and 'Shake 2 Salt' ranges which allowed consumers to moderate their own intake of salt and flavourings.

KP also own the Skips and Mini Cheddar brands, both of which are popular with young consumers and these too have been undergoing a health overhaul in the past year.

Saturated fat has been reduced by 30 per cent on Mini Cheddars and 40 per cent on its sub-brand, Crinklys - a baked alternative to crisps. The original variety of Mini Cheddars now contains 10 per cent less salt and is free from artificial colours and the synthetic flavour enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG).

Skips, claim to be less than 100 calories per pack and contain no MSGs. Last year, the 'Skip's promise' was launched to advertise the product as a healthier option.

Related topics: Ingredients, Health

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