We’ve all seen children asking their parents to buy them something in a grocery store – some politely and others more persistently – or rejecting healthy options mom may like with a resounding “no.”  But how much effect does their behavior really have on what goes into the cart? In the portion-pack beverage category, the answer is “quite a lot” according to research conducted by Tetra Pak.

Whether it’s a grade-schooler tugging on mom’s skirt or a toddler stretching and pointing from their perch in the grocery cart, kids tend to get what they want when it comes to beverages they’ll be expected to drink, says the research. And the numbers are impressive:  interviews with nearly 500 shoppers show that almost 80% of all purchases are influenced by kid requests, and a full 55% of planned purchases are specifically made by child requests. And when children are along on the shopping trip – as they are about 60% of the time – they are more likely not only express an opinion, but get their way. Only 20% of shoppers say their buying decisions have nothing to do with what their children want.

And kids today may be even more opinionated and persistent than their predecessors, market researchers say. Today’s American toddlers-to-teens are known as Gen Z, a demographic that includes 61.2 million youth 14-and-under, according to U.S. Census figures.  While kids at the older end of this spectrum often buy their own beverages, parents make the choice for those at the other end. And as a whole, this is a “purposefully rebellious” generation of digital natives, whose sedentary pastimes have also marked them as the most unhealthy and overweight generation, according to The Intelligence Group’s “Cassandra Report: Gen Z.”

But savvy brand marketing can persuade moms – who decide what goes in the cart – while still appealing to kids by keeping these points in mind.

  • Differentiate by flavor:  After portability and convenience, flavor is the strongest consideration cited by shoppers in the children’s beverage aisle, named by 60% of survey respondents. With flavored waters for kids moving up in this category, including coconut water, kids are poised to be accepting of evermore-sophisticated offerings when it comes to taste.
  • Add nutritional benefits: Nutrition is increasing in importance – now ranking just behind flavor in the decision-making matrix for children’s beverages with just about half of all moms scanning beverage labels. They tend to be looking for lower-sugar, vitamin-rich drinks.
  • Explore novel shapes: Unusual shapes can help a package stand out in a crowded aisle. For instance, the Tetra Classic Aseptic has a highly unusual tetrahedron shape that has a proven track record in other countries as a magnet for children.
  • Target your age market: What appeals to a toddler is very likely going to turn off a grade school or middle school child, so it is important to consider age when creating package designs. Segment, where possible, to capture maximum market share, or strive for a “sweet spot” with images or graphics that offer the widest appeal.
  • Remember characters are key: Younger children in particular are drawn to packaging that features a character they can identify, as chronicled in a recent Yale research study published in the journal Pediatrics. Of course, movie and television characters appeal, but successful campaigns have been built around internally developed “brand icons” as well, such as Tony the Tiger, the emblem of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes. More broadly, exciting graphics and intriguing shapes attract kids’ attention and stimulate their interest.
  • Maximize the billboard effect: Shoppers spend on average 27 seconds making a decision in this aisle, according to our research, which makes shelf appeal incredibly important in capturing relatively disengaged consumers. Create packaging that offers a bold, consumer-facing billboard on the shelf.

All of these elements—taste, nutrition and inspired packaging and design play into the purchase decision and each can be a powerful motivator for kids. Responsible manufacturers know their packaging can be a force for good to help moms help kids make the healthy choice.

Kids beverage

packaging considerations when shoppingSuley Muratoglu, vice president, Marketing & Product Management, Tetra Pak Inc. U.S & Canada, currently runs the company’s presence in core categories, including dairy, beverage and food. Tetra Pak (tetrapakusa.com) is the world's leading food processing and packaging solutions company.