Globally, the snacking sector benefitted from habits developed during the COVID-19 pandemic and its related lockdowns.
In India, the children’s snacking market in particular has been seeing significant growth, with parents increasingly seeing children-targeted snacks as a convenient yet important part of their diets – with the caveat that no compromise is made on the health, nutrition and food safety aspects.
“Here in India we have definitely seen that the importance of snacking has been going up, and as mothers the occasions and frequency of providing these snacks to the kids has also been increasing,” kids’ snacks brand Snack-A-Doodle Co-Founder Simer Dhall told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“This was accelerated by COVID-19, and became very apparent in 2021 [amidst all the lockdowns] – initially mothers here have always looked at snacks as a 5pm thing previously, but after that these became increasingly important as a food that was easy and convenient to give to our children any time of the day.
“It’s really common to see children, like my own son for example on a Saturday when he’s off from school wanting a snack at 11am, 3pm, 6pm and this was exacerbated by everyone being stuck at home and basically wanting to constantly eat – so much so that the snacking culture essentially became habit for both parents and kids.”
Dhall emphasized that the most important thing to consider for children’s snacks is not just the convenience for the parents but also the food safety factor for the children, particularly in a market like India which has had more than its fair share of food safety scares.
“This is why one of the main selling points of our products is to be safe, both in terms of allergen risks but also additives – so we have committed to being gluten-free, not adding any processed sugar, not adding artificial coloring, not using nuts and so on,” said Dhall.
“The no nuts part is quite important here as there is a rising trend of allergies locally, so much so that some schools have even banned the presence of nut-containing food products on the premises, so we have gone in line with those policies.”
Major challenges in children’s snacks
When it comes to getting healthy children’s snacks out to the masses though, Dhall highlighted that some challenges still remain in terms of many parents’ awareness with regards to what is healthy and what is not, which is concerning as this could lead to long-term consequences for the child.
“It is extremely important to educate all parents with regard to healthier products and the importance of health and nutrition – looking at the numbers, India is one of the largest countries in terms of childhood obesity,” she said.
“So educating the parents on how necessary it is to start healthy eating and healthy snacking at an early age so that later on the child gets used to that -and is not always indulging in junk food – is very crucial.”
Dhall’s partner and fellow Co-Founder Radhieka Pandeya concurred, and added pricing as an additional challenge the firm has been facing.
“Some consumers are not used to buying snacks for the somewhat higher pricing we have due to our more nutrient-dense products, and will ask say why our pricing is much higher than general trade local cookies,” she said.
“That is a very common question and a very difficult one, and explaining it, at least in a market like India, has been a big challenge for us, but it does boil back down to education.”
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