Kids’ snacks: What are parents looking for?

Organic, low sugar, high fiber... what exactly are parents looking for when shopping for snacks for their kids? We investigate...

Welcome to Attest Investigates! In this series we use the Attest platform to test your burning questions and explore literally any topic. As a scientist, I am obsessed with experimentation, empiricism and using data to make decisions, so if you have something that needs investigating, get in touch at [email protected] – Jeremy King, CEO and Founder, Attest

When it comes to choosing snacks for our kids, parents on both sides of the pond are faced with an amazing array of choices. Healthy options aren’t always easy to spot, so how exactly do they make their buying decisions?

Focusing on the parents of children aged five and under in both the US and UK, we fired up the Attest platform to find out what snacks they buy for their kids, how much they spend, how often they make purchases and the other factors that influence their decision.

Three key takeaways were: 

  1. Quality, nutritional value and price are the most important considerations for parents. Americans are much more emphatic about these criteria than Brits. 
  2. American parents have more nuanced needs when it comes to information about ingredients, whereas Brits tend to focus on low sugar content.
  3. Brits are more reliant on in-store information about kids’ snacks, while Americans are much more influenced by online sources and social media.

You’ll find a bite-sized digest of our findings below, but if you want to tuck into the full data you can find the US survey and UK survey

Quality, nutritional value and price are key for all parents

Parents in both the US and UK rated quality, nutritional value and price—in that order—as being the top three considerations when purchasing snacks for their kids. Each of these factors was rated as either ‘important’ or ‘very important’ by the vast majority of parents, but there are some interesting contrasts between the two nations.

American parents were much more likely to answer that quality was ‘very important’ (52.0%) rather than ‘important’ (37.9%), while in Britain these options were reversed, with 37.3% of parents rating quality as ‘very important’ and saying ‘important’. Similarly, Americans attach more significance to nutritional value than Brits, with 48.5% rating this as ‘very important’ in contrast with 32.3% of Brits. 

Competitive pricing is also a big consideration for parents, scored as ‘important’ or ‘very important’ by 82.2% of Brits and 80.6% of Americans. Again, those in the US were more inclined to say that this factor was ‘very important’ (39.4% vs 28.0%).

Low sugar is high priority, but US messaging needs nuance

Nearly two-thirds (64.0%) of parents in both the US and over three-quarters (75.2%) in the UK opt for kids snacks that have a low sugar content. However, there is evidence to suggest that American parents are more ingredient—and diet—conscious than their British counterparts. 

More than 46% of US parents said that they chose snacks with added protein, compared to just 16% in the UK, while whether or not a snack was organic was important to 44.5% of Americans but just 27.8% of Brits. Added fiber was on the minds of 35.4% of US parents compared to 24.2% of parents in the UK, while three times as many Americans were interested in whether a product was vegan (18.9% vs 6.2%).

Brands should take note of the regional differences highlighted by this question when designing their packaging; while focusing on low sugar levels will resonate with British consumers, messaging for a US audience needs to hit on a wider range of themes and buying factors. 

Brits prefer in-store shopping, Americans influenced online

There was a marked difference between the frequency with which parents in the US and the UK bought snacks for their children: more than one in five (21.6%) Americans bought kids snacks every day, while far fewer (4.8%) of Brits did the same. 

British parents were more likely to buy snacks for their kids in stores (86.2% vs 71.1%), while a significant number of American parents bought from grocery delivery apps (15.8% vs 9.0% in the UK). In-store promotions are the number one way Brits gain information about kids’ snacks, at 41.2%, compared to the 27.9% who draw this information from friends and family. 

The influence of social media and online sources in this category was relatively insignificant in the UK, with a total of 21.2% of parents gathering snack-related information through these channels. In the US, nearly double the number of parents (40.6%) gain their information in this way, ahead of the 26.9% who receive information from friends and family and the 19.5% who got it through in-store promotions.

Interestingly, very few parents get their information from company websites (4.8% in the US, 2.6% in the UK) which suggests brands could do more in this area, perhaps through improved SEO or by placing scannable QR codes on packaging, for example.

There’s more data for you to chew over in the full US survey and UK survey, and if you want to find out how to satisfy your customers’ hunger then get in touch…

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Jeremy King


Jeremy founded Attest in mid-2015, following 9 years leading global teams across industries at McKinsey & Company. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, originally trained as a scientist with a focus on genetics, ecology and animal behaviour, and also helps to improve state primary schools with his charity work.

See all articles by Jeremy