Manufacturers are tackling the conundrum that it is one thing to have virtuous intentions for lunchboxes, but quite another to get children to actually eat healthy lines put in them

Sending your kids off to school with a lunchbox full of healthy goodies doesn’t actually mean they’ll eat them when they get there.
Claire Nuttall, director of consumer brands at brand agency Dragon, says: “For mums there is always a question of getting the balance right between giving kids something they would like to eat and enjoy versus being healthy and doing the right thing.
“It really shouldn’t be so hard for mums to decipher which products and brands really are good for their kids with regard to sugar content, fat content and so on.
“The whole lunchbox category needs to be cleaned up to help busy mothers rather than hinder their healthy food choices.”
With many mums working full time too, convenience is the key - they want to be able to give their kids a healthy lunch but they haven’t got hours to prepare it.
Says Nuttall: “Convenience is key - size, resealability, packaging and the stay-fresh aspect are paramount to all busy mums.
“Many mums today simply do not have enough time to live by their ideals.
“The people behind Frubes and Capri-sun talk about storing their products in the freezer then putting them in the lunchbox to keep other items fresh till lunchtime. This is a real bonus - a simple idea that’s appealing to both mums and kids.”
The idea of using frozen products to keep lunchboxes
at the optimum temperatures has been expanded on by homewares company CellarDine. It has developed fruit-shaped pods for lunchboxes called Fruit Chillers. They are frozen and then placed in with the food. Not only do they keep the food cool, they are designed to encourage children to eat more fruit and veg.
There is also huge peer pressure for kids in relation to what they’re eating and drinking. Says Nuttall: “Food and drink are just as much accessories as clothing and toys for some age groups.
“We should look and learn about what cues and language connect with these age groups and then transfer the thinking to very simple and naturally healthy food and drink categories. Brand owners need to ask the question - what makes certain foods and drink ‘cool’ to be seen with and from this starting point create solutions that win instant acceptance in the playground.”
One brand that definitely seems to have ‘playground acceptance’ is Kerry Foods’ Cheestrings, the number one brand in the £183m cheese snacks market.
The peelable stringy cheese may be fun to eat, but at the same time it delivers strong nutritional credentials via calcium, protein and fat, to build healthy teeth and bones.
Cheestrings are popular with six to 12-year-olds but they’re not quite credible enough for older kids, which is
why Kerry Foods has added Cheestrings Max to the range.
Max is claimed to be ‘strong on taste and style’ and comes in two varieties: Outrageously Oniony and Seriously Spicy.
Kraft Foods is changing the marketing of its Dairylea range to drive forward the message that Dairylea is the ‘powerbrand’ for calcium for children. The marketing campaign kicked off with a redesign and continues with television advertising to remind mothers that a child’s bone strength is largely determined up until the age of 17, and that Dairylea provides children with an effective source of calcium.
In addition, 1.2 million copies of Dairylea Active, a
magazine for mothers, will be distributed to homes across the UK.
Another way of giving products playground acceptance is to plaster them with cartoon characters. Noddy appears on a new range of organic fromage frais from Highgrove Foods.
And Uniq Prepared Foods has a new St Ivel Kids’ Balamory fromage frais with one of the lowest sugar content in the kids’ sector. Then of course there’s the old ‘disguise’ trick - offering kids something that has unseen added benefits. Warburtons’ All In One bread range does that because it looks like any other white loaf. It is a white loaf, but one that delivers the fibre and wheatgerm goodness of a wholemeal loaf, together with a low Glycemic Index, which gives kids longer-lasting energy.
Warburtons says many parents are livening up their children’s lunchboxes by swapping bread for rolls. And the bagel is also gaining pace as part of the lunchbox mix.
Mr Bagels has just launched Mini Bagels especially for children’s lunchboxes.
They are low in fat and high in protein.