Sweet treats struggle for packed lunch place

By Sarah Hills

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Chocolate confectionery market Nutrition Uk

Confectionery manufacturers need to boost the appeal and nutritional value of their products to earn a place in the school lunchbox as parents focus on healthy eating, according to new research from Mintel.

Chocolate and chocolate biscuit count-lines are struggling and restrictions on advertising mean that the kids sector, which is one of the chocolate confectionery market’s target groups, has become more difficult to reach, said the report called “Children's Packed Lunches - UK - December 2008”​.

Meanwhile, over the past year the Government in the UK has put growing pressure on schools to advise parents on what should go into a child's lunchboxes

This has created so called ‘banned’ categories such as confectionery and crisps and the report said that these products “need to enhance their appeal and nutritional value to regain their place in the lunchbox”.

Mintel’s figures show that an estimated 1.52bn lunches were eaten at school in 2008 in the UK and just under half of all schoolchildren always have a packed lunch.

At the same time parental responsibility for buying and packing their children’s school lunch is key and eight out of ten parents pack healthy foods, such as fruit or vegetables, in their child’s lunchbox.

The report said that parental preference for healthier snacks, a rejection of character merchandising and declining numbers in the core five 14-year-old market have all hit chocolate and chocolate biscuit sales in the children’s sector.

However, despite government guidelines restricting the presence of confectionery and several savoury snacks in schools, nine out of ten parents pack a mix of healthy food and ​treats.

Confectionery sales

Figures from the analyst for the total market value of product areas associated with children’s lunchboxes showed that the chocolate confectionery category increased 13.9 per cent between 2006 and 2008 and is now worth an estimated £2,225m.

Sweet spreads also increased 1.6 per cent in value during the same time period to an estimated £257m in 2008.

Mintel said: “Parents are thinking more carefully about the foods they feed their children and there is heightened awareness of tooth decay arising from excessive consumption of sugary foods.

“Penetration of jam has fallen marginally among children aged 7-10 years and mothers may be avoiding jam for health reasons.

“Honey, on the other hand, benefits from being seen as naturally healthy.”

In all sectors, growth in sales was credited to different trends such as the five-a-day message (more fresh and dried fruit, fruit juice and fruit juice drinks), natural products such as additive-free, added nutrients such as calcium or Omega 3, packable formats and convenience.

Other factors are also influencing purchase decisions, including brand ethics, and “a number of companies marketing kids-oriented products are trumpeting their support of good causes” ​as a means of differentiating themselves.

One example is Mars is participating in two programmes to support cocoa farmers in Africa.

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