Food and drink have lost sight of the ‘desire’

The children’s food and drink market in Europe is undergoing its first major change in recent years in response to growing concerns about childhood obesity (MW March 31). There is evidence of products being launched with deliberately added parent appeal and an apparent change in direction for some companies towards teenage-focused brands.

The implication is that this is a viable route, a response to shifting parental attitudes and a way of targeting an audience responsible for its own product decisions. However, while these decisions may be “market making”, there is no real insight driving them, and many manufacturers are left looking to marketers for post-rationalisation.

Manufacturers are demonstrating that they are aware of growing concerns over healthy eating, but are launching products without defining the actual need or desire. What is also evident is that while there has been a breakdown of some of the traditional age barriers in society, companies within the food and drink market are showing little understanding of this and are taking what is fundamentally a huge leap of faith with new products.

For example, Tango has made a recent departure from its traditional Tango soft drink brand with the introduction of a “Fruit Fling” variant, specifically promoted to the teen market. Teenagers are unlikely to want to buy the same product or brand that their mother or younger siblings would buy; therefore taking a brand traditionally marketed at children, altering it and then pushing it out as a brand for teenagers doesn’t work.

Teenagers will rebel against structures that are considered “normal” and from a marketing point of view require greater insight and understanding. The current approach to product development, apparent across much of the industry, has been seen before and has failed. The only real success has been in the alcohol sector with the introduction of alcopops, but the difference is that this extension tapped into an existing desire.

Steve Mattey

Partner and co-founder


London WC1

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