Foodservice providers and food product manufacturers are increasingly adapting product offerings and marketing strategies to meet the demands of the anti-obesity lobby. By giving children’s diet control back to parents, many companies are hoping the gain in share of the family dollar will outweigh the loss of children’s spend.

In light of recent controversy surrounding the issue of childhood obesity, many companies have now responded by adding new and healthier food choices to their children’s product ranges.

Subway has become the leader within the foodservice industry in terms of adapting its products to come closer to meeting the demands of the anti-obesity lobby. Most notably, it has reduced portion size and added juice and a fruit roll-up to its meals. In addition, the toy that accompanies a child’s meal ranges from a flying disc, to a Nerf football and a golf club. All are toys that encourage outdoor activity and movement.

It is unclear, however, whether other fastfood providers could succeed with a similar strategy. Subway is a company that does not traditionally target children’s impulse spending. Indeed, it claims to have made these changes as part of its attempt to attract the whole family to its product.

Marketers of most children’s products are highly concerned with the balance of ‘dual appeal’ to both parents and kids. Subway has been able to focus on the appeal of its children’s products to parents, rather than the children themselves.

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Kraft Foods is another major industry player that is addressing the childhood obesity phenomenon by refocusing on parents and moving advertising spend away from children. Announced last year, its plans are to be implemented globally, and include capping portion sizes on single-serve packs, axing in-school marketing activity, re-thinking the products sold in school vending machines and improving the nutritional labelling.

By taking food choices away from the child and giving them back to parents, many companies hope to avoid the wrath of anti-obesity campaigners while removing themselves from the obesity attorneys’ spotlight. Whether these companies will be able to maintain sales despite a potential loss of share of children’s spend remains to be seen.

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