How Kids Influence Food-Related Purchases

A Nickelodeon Kids and Family GPS study takes a look at family dynamics surrounding kids and food, with a focus on breakfast.

What are family dynamics like when it comes to kids and food—and specifically breakfast consumption?

Nickelodeon Kids and Family GPS conducted an online survey to understand the food attitudes of kids and their parents in Europe and Australia. The study targeted children 6 to 12 and their parents in 6 countries (UK, France, Spain, Italy, Germany and Australia).

Here are key findings from that project:

Most kids feel their parents take their opinions about food seriously. Parents really listen to what they have to say when it comes to food, according to 80% of kids. Food ranked behind toys (90%) and clothes/footwear (88%). Parents take kids’ opinions less seriously for larger purchases like cars, mobile phones, and electronics.

Most parents feel that kids influence their food purchases. Nearly 90% of parents (87%) say they’re open to influence from their kids when it comes to food—comparable to toys (89%) and clothes/footwear (85%). Parents are also receptive, but to a slightly lesser degree, to their kids’ influence regarding restaurants (74%) and computer games (71%).

Kids have the most autonomy at breakfast. For 85% of kids, breakfast is the meal that kids choose always or most of the time—much higher than lunch (48%) and dinner (45%).

Cereal is the most popular breakfast food among European kids. Nearly 6 in 10 kids surveyed eat cereal for breakfast—more than fruit juice (46%), toast (44%), yogurt (35%) and fruit (33%). At the individual country level, cereal was the top choice in the UK, France, Spain and Italy. However, in Germany, fruit ranked highest and in Australia toast was #1.

Kids choose their favorite cereal based on taste. By a long shot, being tasty is what drives kids’ cereal preferences—far more than being healthy (28%), fun to eat (28%), cool (20%) or having gifts in the box (13%). Across countries, chocolate cereals are kids’ top choice.

Parents want to buy healthy foods—but they’d appreciate some guidance. Virtually all parents (95%) feel it’s very important that their family eat healthily. But making the right choices isn’t easy. Over 8 in 10 feel there should be more guidance on the nutritional value of children’s food, and 6 in 10 believe that food labels are complicated. Because 80% of parents think it’s important that food products be fun for kids to consume, there is an opportunity to combine fun and clearly-marked nutritional qualities.

The supermarket is where kids most often ask for purchases—and receive them. Nearly all parents (96%) say their kids ask for things at the grocery store—more than at clothing stores (85%), electronics stores (82%), convenience stores (82%), and shoe stores (79%). The supermarket is also where kids’ requests are most often granted, with 21% of parents saying they always buy what their kids ask for when shopping there—significantly more than other types of stores, where 12% or less of parents always fulfill their kids’ requests.

More than half of parents say TV ads guide their food purchases. Overall, 54% of parents find TV ads helpful in deciding which food products to buy. In the countries surveyed, parents are most receptive to food advertising in Spain (63%) and the UK (59%), and least receptive in Germany (42%).