As back-to-school lunch and snack promotions heat up in July, COVID-19 continues to present retailers and retail dietitians with unique challenges, as does a less-than-stellar report card on children’s eating habits, based on national survey data.
As store operations transition to normal, many parents continue to feel uneasy about in-store shopping and remain faithful to online shopping, highlighting the need for retailers to strike the right balance between in-store and digital promotions.
Almost four in 10 (39%) consumers are still concerned about COVID-19 exposure when shopping in-person at the grocery store, with parents of school-age children (under 18) more likely to be concerned about exposure than those without children in that age group, according to the 2021 Food & Health Survey from the Washington, D.C.-based International Food Information Council (IFIC).
Not surprisingly, more people in general are shopping online compared with last year, with parents of school-age kids doing so more often, according to the IFIC survey. In 2021, 20% of respondents shop online at least weekly, compared with 11% in 2020, and 42% shop online at least monthly, compared with 33% in 2020. However, nearly a third (32%) of parents with children under the age of 18 grocery shop online at least weekly, compared with 16% of respondents without children under the age of 18. (The IFIC survey was fielded in late March 2021, so expect these findings to change as vaccination rates increase and COVID-19 cases decline).
While many children are headed back to a physical classroom, some will continue learning online or in a hybrid situation, creating the need for both brown bag and at-home lunch and snack ideas. Also, as many parents get back to packing lunch for their kids, they, too, are returning to in-person work. These time-strapped parents require speedy, convenient solutions like “twofer” dinner ideas that form the basis of the next day’s packed lunch or snack.
On average, kids’ eating habits get a failing grade, according to the Healthy Eating Index, an overall measure of how dietary intakes align with key recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, based on a score of 0 to (an ideal)100. For instance, the overall diets of kids ages 5 to 8 scored 55, ages 9 to 13 scored 52, and ages 14 to 18 scored 51.
Specifically, the 2020-25 Dietary Guidelines for Americans report that kids in all three age groups fall short on getting enough vegetables, whole grains and seafood, and, especially among ages 9 to 18, fruits and dairy. All ages consume more than the recommended amounts of saturated fat, sodium and added sugars.
To counter this, team up with your retail dietitians to develop tasty, kid-friendly lunch and snack promotions that help fill nutrition gaps and minimize problematic components. Additionally, toss in an always needed refresher on food safety basics to keep packed lunches and snacks safe.