It seems that the Jamie Oliver generation is taking the health message on board. As a result, it is not just mothers who are telling children to drink more nutritionally sound products - the children are asking for them.

Claire Witt, brand manager at Panda, says: "This is something we're seeing for the first time - children are sometimes more aware of the health issue than parents."

The change in attitude is being compounded by the actions of other role models children see on television such as sports stars and celebrities. "The fact they are often seen drinking water has made water quite trendy," Witt says. "Celebrities drink it, so children do not see it as a negative thing."

Children have also assimilated another message that was previously targeted at adults, adds Witt - the pleasure of more exotic flavours. Children can be as keen as grown-ups to try new and different fruit tastes.

Nevertheless, in children's drinks, health is the major driver. The difference is that the message is backed by the weight of law. Last May, new regulations banned a raft of drinks from schools. Coca-Cola is an obvious victim of this legislation, but is complying in spirit as well as to the letter. Jason Hood, head of marketing at Coca-Cola Enterprises, says: "We have a strong self-regulation position and have quickly responded to changes in the school rules for vending machines by removing all products that do not comply with the government's new rules from direct supply to schools and schools caterers - ir-respective of whether they were to be served at lunch or during non-lunch periods."

The battle for hearts and minds goes deeper than this, though. Witt says the magic phrase to be included on any packaging to make the product inside attractive to parents is 'no added sugar'. But she also notes the balance that has to be struck between what parents find acceptable and what children will actually drink.

The balance means more juice in juice-based products and fewer additives of any kind. Witt points to Panda's range of juice and children's water drinks.

The effectiveness of such a recipe was shown in March when Tropicana Go! was awarded second place in the Best New Children's Drink category in the international Beverage Innovation Awards.

Italian soft drinks product Yoga Primo Nettare came first, with Innocent Smoothies for Kids third. Tropicana Go! is 70% juice and 30% water with no added sugar and no

artificial sweeteners, flavours, colours or preservatives.

David Patmore, marketing director at Princes Soft Drinks, believes the health message is here for the long term. As with others in the industry, he thinks that consumers - and mothers in particular - will continue to buy products based on their perceived nutritional value.

"Mothers do not simply want children's drinks with added vitamin C or anything that they feel has been artificially introduced to the product. The decline of Sunny D is a clear example of this. What they are looking for is purity and natural ingredients, hence the rise in popularity of juices and smoothies as lunchbox alternatives."

Yoghurt drinks are also finding favour with youngsters and mothers, thanks to their health credentials. More parents are looking for products that meet their children's nutritional needs.

Milkshake brand Yazoo recently ventured into yoghurt drinks with Yazoo Yogo in summer berry flavour as brand owner Campina looks to growing consumer demand for healthier drink options.

It follows the likes of Rachel's Organic, Munch Bunch Drinky+ and Petits Filous Plus into the category.

The other piece of legislation affecting this market is the recent introduction of a ban by Ofcom on TV advertising of so-called HFSS (high fat, salt, sugar) products.

Among the beneficiaries are smoothie companies. Innocent is building on its enormous success with the launch of its fourth children's recipe in July and its first TV advertising campaign for its children's drinks in June. Like all smoothie manufacturers, Innocent is unaffected by regulations preventing the advertising of junk food to children. And its branding appears to tie in particularly well with parents and children alike.

Innocent has teamed up with school catering company Scolarest to deliver its products direct to canteens. But all the drinks companies in the sector agree that finding products acceptable to schools will drive NPD.

The degree to which children's drinks will be affected by the publication of Guideline Daily Amounts on packaging will become apparent as companies start to roll out the scheme. Manufacturers are agreed, though, that it will only compound and reinforce existing trends. Whether this voluntary scheme, or the recent spate of legislation, will affect the alarming growth in childhood obesity remains to be seen, but Melanie Leech, FDF director general, believes: "This complex issue needs a broad and long-term approach. While the industry will abide by the new rules, it will continue to look at the wider issue of encouraging people to lead healthier lifestyles." n