© Tetra Pak
More than a third of parents in the UK ‘feel guilty’ that they don’t provide healthy enough food for their children to take to school, according to new research commissioned by packaging company Tetra Pak.
One in four parents find it difficult to choose healthy food for their child’s lunchbox, according to the survey, while 36% said they often choose convenience over health when making purchasing decisions. Parents are more susceptible to so-called ‘pester power’ than ever before, with 52% saying that their child decides what food and drink is included in their lunchbox – and half of respondents also saying that their child is influenced by the contents of their friends’ lunchboxes.
The findings come at a time when more than a third of British children leave primary school at the age of 11 either overweight or obese.
The research, conducted by independent agency Opinium on behalf of Tetra Pak, surveyed 1,000 parents with primary school-aged children in the UK.
Tetra Pak North-West Europe managing director Stefan Fageräng said: “While the UK government’s School Food Standards ensure that school-provided lunches are healthy, there is little guidance available for parents creating healthy lunchboxes. They face a daily challenge in selecting nutritious, healthy and filling items for their children, and more than half of those surveyed think that there should be more guidance on how to provide healthy food and drink in lunchboxes.”
Fageräng called on the food industry to work more closely with government and schools to support parents in making the right nutritional choices for their children.
He argued that greater guidance can be established around the importance of using each of the different food groups, the need for hydration, as well as what foods parents should avoid buying for their children on a regular basis.
Fageräng continued: “Our research has found that parents would like to make healthier choices when shopping for lunchboxes, and that there are clear opportunities for retailers and producers to support parents in making these decisions. Over 60% of parents said that they would find a dedicated lunchbox aisle or section in a supermarket helpful in making healthy decisions, and implementing this would go a long way towards meeting parents’ desire for convenience, variety, and good nutrition for their kids.
“Lunch clubs, breakfast clubs, after-school activities and even the national curriculum should all be used to teach children about healthy nutrition, so that children can pass this message on and better influence what their parents purchase for them in future.”
Tetra Pak worked with London-based nutritionist Kyri Shiamtanis on the research, and Shiamtanis supported Tetra Pak’s calls about the importance of food education.
“It is vital that we teach children about nutrition at an early age, and that they learn how their diet can support them in achieving success throughout life,” he said. “As Tetra Pak’s research shows, parents are often influenced by what their children want to eat, so children need to be supported to make healthier choices. More than half of parents said that they often try to choose healthy items for their child’s lunchbox, before realising that the product is not as healthy as they first thought.”
Tetra Pak added that food and drink manufacturers have an opportunity to better support parents in making healthier choices, with almost one in ten consumers saying they do not fully understand what on-pack nutritional information means.
There is scope for manufacturers to improve the clarity of their nutrition labelling and improve the breadth of their portfolios to make it easier for parents to find a varied and healthy meal for their children, the firm said.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019