The mum dilemma

Tash Walker, partner at The Mix Research, explores the dilemma that mum faces when it comes to feeding the troop and what this means for brands today.

Mums face challenges when choosing food
Mums face challenges when choosing food

Being a good mum has always been a bit of a challenge right? Latest insight from The Mix has confirmed that this has never been more true, but also that brands have an opportunity to help mums out and in doing so, becoming a firm family favourite.

Most of us are familiar with the age-old dilemma most mums face when it comes to feeding the troops.

It is often a case of making sure that you have clean plates and no arguments, but when it comes to shopping, mums often feel under siege. It is about getting in and out as quickly as possible with a minimum of fuss, certainly no time for perusing the aisles at length.

In fact we often see as part of our accompanied shops that up to 90% of purchases are the same week in week out; this is habitual shopping at its best or worst depending on your perspective.

If you are one of the 90% chosen few each week, then this is all good news, but if you are not how do you go about getting in the trolley?

At The Mix, we believe the shopping trip is just one aspect of the problem. To uncover the opportunity we also look at the home environment, to understand the tension that mums face once they get the shopping home. 

To that end, and by spending time with mums blogging online, we have been able to identify a new trend with mums, particularly those with teenage kids - the need to please! 

With the start of secondary school, mum often feels as though her little cherub has started to fly the nest, particularly as they start making more and more food decisions of their own - from choosing school meals over lunch-boxes, to earning small bits of money to buy their own snacks. 

Kids are testing the boundaries of what they can do for themselves. The net result is that mums aren’t quite needed as much as they once were and this presents them with a dilemma and brands with an opportunity.

We have consistently seen mums adapting their behavior, becoming a little less strict and a little more willing to treat, a small way of staying needed & gleaning popularity points. This is where her current shopping behavior is letting her down. With 90% of the stuff going in the trolley being the same, week in week out, it becomes harder to treat, harder to excite and harder to stay popular.

The tension is clear:




So what is she after? She wants to know if she buys something, that it will be liked and be eaten but she also wants her family to be just a bit excited about what she is buying, (and even prompting a "thanks mum!") and as we all know from Persil’s Dirt is Good Campaign, making mums feel good about themselves counts for a lot.

So who is doing a good job of this? There are some brands cracking this tension. Maggi, in the dry recipe mixes aisle for one, is a brand experiencing fantastic growth.It offers mums that holy grail of no fuss cooking but with a hint of excitement that the family are craving. 

Equally, you can look to other brands in the quick short-cuts department for this hint of excitement - with Old El Paso doing a great job of getting the family round a table in a hands on way, surely the bonding experience mums are really craving.

From spending time with mums it is clear there are some rules that make that ‘twist’ worth the gamble:

  1. Mums want to explore with a small ‘e’. Give them language that is reassuring, (let them know it will be delicious), then tell them why it is different. 
  2. Be distinctive – all too often, most brands fade into obscurity on shelf, and so even if in hand it looks kind of interesting, if it is not seen, it won’t be in the basket.
  3. Make your brand the authentic experience of your product.  Like Old El Paso, who have come to own the yellow boxes, take an asset and really own it.  Yes own-label will eventually copy you, but you will always be the original and therefore best.
  4. Play to the insight. Think about ways of helping mums addressing this tension at home, how can your brand help mums bond with their kids, by becoming a relevant treat or providing a bit of new news at the dinner table.

Tash Walker, partner, The Mix Research