Noelle McElhatton
Noelle McElhatton
A view from Noelle McElhatton

Editor's Comment: Kids' health needs NPD agenda

Innovation is the lifeblood of brands. Without it, a brand - or, indeed, a whole sector - will find itself washed up on the shores of irrelevance.

Right now, innovation is a particularly relevant watchword for the makers of food and drink products aimed at children.

One imagines that with the change of government, with 'big nanny' replaced by Big Society, these companies could breath easier.

Fat chance. The snack industry is back on the naughty step with a recent study concluding that feeding toddlers processed foods not only adds to their waistlines, but also reduces their IQ. Lobbyists for healthy eating could hardly ask for tastier ammunition.

Providing children with a healthy diet is not a passing fashion, so if brands put their heads in the sand and hope that Jamie Oliver and his foodie chums will suddenly go the way of an X Factor contestant, they are sorely mistaken.

They have to take a more sustainable approach to reinventing products. Innocent, for example, reports a 30% increase in sales of its Kids Smoothies compared with this time last year. However, more 'mainstream' snack manufacturers are struggling to develop products that will pass muster with Ofcom and the Department of Health.

This suggests that for the likes of, say, PepsiCo, a more radical response is required. For the increasingly regulated UK market, it is no longer enough simply to reduce the level of fat, salt and sugar in their products.

We have, after all, witnessed plenty of successful NPD in wholesome snacks and drinks for adults, and there is no reason why the principles applied to health-conscious grown-ups cannot also be applied to marketing kids' snacks.

Walkers 'naked vegetable' crisps, anyone?