Did you know that by 2026, 80% of Millennials are expected to be parents? According to Pew Research, more than 1 million Millennials became new moms in 2018. That’s a lot of babies! But, we’re so focused on what Millennials are doing to predict trends, we often forget about our youngest generations.

When considering what’s influencing toddler and infant food, there are four notable market forces. These forces are shaping what products are hitting shelves, as well as what parents are making in their kitchens.

1. Today’s Parents

What parents want is cascading into to what they want for their kids. Parents increasingly choose healthy and natural. They’re concerned about less-than, no-no’s, and offering more organic and all natural and plant-based foods. Their choices are about a lifestyle – and they see their choices in broader, better-for-the planet ways. Origins and processes are even more important than they were to their parents.

This market force manifests in market products in three key ways: childlike veganism, experimenting / playing with food, and focusing on ingredients, then nutrition.

While veganism isn’t something kids would usually choose on their own, the brightly-colored and fun packaging appeals to kids, while the ingredient statement appeals to parents. These products are ones that kids are familiar with – like bite-sized snacks and breakfast toaster pastries – so they are more willing to try the vegan version. 

Interactivity and individualism are important to today’s parents, and that shows in activities like arts and crafts and STEM projects. Food is an important link for all children, and some brands have created products for kids to explore what foods they like and dislike and how to prepare food that tailors to them – just like how their parents interact with food.

Parents have moved to avoid GMOs and artificial ingredients and seek out natural, organic, and plant-based offerings, as well as products that signal “fresh”. Moms place a priority on their kids having a balanced diet – top dietary concerns include: developing strong bones / teeth, protection from disease later in life, mental development, healthy appearance, and proper growth / physical development.


2. Functional Focus

Parents seek to incorporate the functional benefits in their food and beverage into their kids’ products. This desire will only continue to increase as consumers become more aware of what these ingredients are and their benefits.

According to Innova, the top functional benefits in baby and toddler food are: brain health, high / source of protein, digestive / gut health, eye health, and immune health. Adding functional ingredients to kids’ food can be tricky, though. Knowing the safe amount of protein, probiotics, or fiber can be challenging, but there are products on the market to satisfy these needs. Typically, beverages are the more popular way to introduce functional ingredients to kids, but there are products like yogurt and snacks that are kid-friendly enough for parents to purchase.


3. Cleaner, Simpler

The desire for clean product labels is now becoming a way of life for many consumers. Parents are purchasing more organic, “free-from”, and non-GMO foods than they were one year ago. They’re avoiding product with ingredients like artificial colors, sugar, and preservatives.

So what are parents looking for? They’re mostly concerned if their child will like the food, then consider attributes like: fresh, low-fat, and reasonable portions.

Parents see manufactured baby food as too processed and high in unnecessary additives. Brands can respond by providing a ‘transparent-as-possible’ theme to branding, packaging, and ingredient statements. Parents look for keywords like: “purest state”, “100% clean label”, “non-GMO”, or “nutritionist approved”.


4. Plant Powered

One-quarter of households with kids introduce plant-based alternatives to their kids at 1-2 years old. The most popular and widely consumed plant-based alternatives with children are those easily incorporated into the daily routine. These foods are milk, snacks, and yogurt. But it’s not all about plant-based dairy and meat products – it’s about incorporating more fruits and vegetables into kids’ diets.

For years, parents have been trying to get kids to eat more veggies. This “stealth” mode helps parents boost their children’s nutritional intake without taking away from the kids’ enjoyment of the products. But with the overlapping adult trend of plant-based meats and veggie-forward products & products, that “stealth” mode isn’t fully necessary any longer. Parents and children are more accepting now of veggie-forward products than ever before.


What’s Next in Infant Foods?

Consider the following when it’s time to innovate and develop new products for your brand, and when you’re ready, we’re here to help!

  • How can we improve wellness products that meet consumer needs but fall short on taste?
  • Where could you take an existing product and re-position it as a vegan option?
  • How could your product build a healthy halo or claim a new functional benefit?

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