In June 2017, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) noted that children in Northern Ireland are among Western Europe’s least healthy, with one of the key drivers of the state of children’s health in Northern Ireland (NI), according to the RCPCH, being poverty levels.

High poverty levels can make it difficult for parents to feed their children a healthy diet, with data from Mintel report Children’s Eating Habits, Ireland 2017 noting that 32% of NI parents claim that buying healthy food for their children is expensive, with consumers in lower income brackets the most likely to agree. Despite the high proportion of children in NI being overweight or obese, Mintel found that only 25% of NI parents worry about their children’s weight, pointing to NI parents perhaps being unable to recognise when their children might be struggling with their health or weight.

However, parents are trying to make healthier choices – with seven in 10 NI parents noting they encourage their children to snack on fruit and vegetables, and almost half of parents stating they cook from scratch when preparing children’s meals in order to control ingredients. However, parents of lower affluence are less likely to encourage their children to snack on fruit and vegetables and to cook their children’s meals from scratch. Overall, this points to opportunities for companies to offer a greater variety of convenience based meal and snack options that are healthy – including high levels of fruit, vegetables and other healthy types of food – to appeal to low income parents in NI. A third of NI parents noted controlling portion size was important to improving children’s health and so there is a viable opportunity for on-pack guidance on the amount of food parents should feed their children.

Furthermore, with Mintel report Healthy Eating, Ireland 2016 noting that over half of NI consumers felt there is too much conflicting information on what constitutes a healthy diet; this points to a greater need to engage with the trend of clean and clear labelling to help guide NI consumers to make healthier choices for both themselves and their children – being more direct and honest with consumers about the contents of products, and the tangible health benefits.

 

Brian O’Connor is Mintel Ireland’s Senior Consumer Analyst and Research Production Manager. Brian has worked for Mintel Ireland since 2007 and has experience across Leisure & Tourism, FMCG, Retail, Finance and Industrial sectors

 

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