Food and drink makers need balance between style and substance to capture a slice of the growing market for teen-targeted products, Mintel tells FoodNavigator-USA.com in the first of a series of exclusive articles contributed by global market research firms.
"No one understands me" goes the lament of teenagers around the world. This familiar cry has registered with at least one group, which has taken the call for attention to heart. Realizing that teenagers remain an untapped market for tailored food and drink products, many food manufacturers have started launching products designed specifically for the teen consumer.
Across the globe, Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) observes a burgeoning trend towards teen-centric food and drink marketed via teen-friendly advertising.
These customized new products attempt to attract teenagers the way that sugar-coated cereals attract children or 'light' dessert products attract dieting adults. They single out the teen, making him or her feel unique and desirable and therefore, making him or her crave the product that brings on those feelings.
This movement towards teen-focused advertising in food and drink seems wise. Teenagers represent approximately 25 million citizens in the US alone, making them a substantial part of the population.
But marketers want them for more than just their demographic size; around the globe, teens are obsessed with trends. They often hold firm opinions on what they will or will not do, eat or say, and manufacturers lucky enough to catch them can look forward to dedicated customers who will sing their products' praises to friends and family.
Additionally, many teens influence what their parents purchase at the grocery store. In a 2006 consumer survey by Mintel, over 80 percent of US teens reported helping their parents choose grocery items at least some of the time.
For their influence, their fervent beliefs and their mere numbers, food and drink manufacturers around the globe want to secure the teen consumer as a purchaser and follower.
Food and beverage companies targeting teens often market their products with packaging and branding that strikes a chord with teen culture. Tending towards bold styles and specific overtones, Mintel GNPD shows many new food and drink products unapologetically marketed toward teens.
In Brazil, Perfetti Van Melle's Mentos Teens candy targets them explicitly with its bold product name and bright, colorful packaging. Likewise, Chengdu Geeronic Food reinforces the youth credentials of its Jumping Dragon fruit candy in China by packaging it in an orange bag depicting an attractive, trendy teenage girl.
Some brands take it a step further, using designer labels to zero in on the more fashionable teenager. In the US, Coca-Cola launched Von Dutch energy drink in the latter part of 2005. Packaged in a hip camouflage can, the product - named after the trendy, teen-friendly fashion label Von Dutch - markets for stylish males and females younger than the average energy drinker.
Character merchandizing, which permeates food and drink marketing for pre-teens, tends to drop off in products aimed at teenagers. Instead, companies focus on franchises with serious teen appeal, such as Pop Idol in the Netherlands. Bolletje's Idols Biscuits play on the TV show's hype by retailing with collectable pictures of competing singers. The crunchy, chocolate-backed biscuits also feature the imprint, 'Idols.'
Other companies position their products as teen-appropriate by connecting with key aspects of teen culture. In Argentina, PepsiCo expanded its Snacks Pep Cool Bocaditos range with a four cheese Hip Hop variety. This snack appeals to teenagers' musical tastes as well as their inclination for extreme, innovative flavors.
While style rather than substance appears to be the norm for teen branding in food and drink, Mintel GNPD also shows movement towards more practical new product development.
During an average day, teens have many occasions to select and prepare their own food, including the unique after-school period. In fact, Mintel's 2006 survey of US teens reveals that over three-quarters prepare their own meals at home. This makes them an enticing market for convenience foods and many new products offer everything needed to prepare a single-serving meal with ease and confidence.
In the UK, Masterfoods launched My Dolmio, a range of microwaveable pasta and sauce combos that allow teens to prepare their own meals while their parents are out. Ready to eat in just 45 seconds, My Dolmio products are low in fat, low in sugar and free from artificial colors, flavors and preservatives.
General Mills likewise offers Microwave Singles as an extension of its popular Hamburger Helper brand in the US. The all-in-one pouch product contains everything hungry teens need to prepare a warm, hearty snack or meal for themselves in just five minutes.
Beyond making food preparation more convenient for teens, some manufacturers look to offer them better nutrition. In line with escalated global interest in healthy living, Mintel GNPD shows new food and drink launches designed specifically for active teens.
In Germany, Adelholzener Alpenquellen's Active Fresh Orange and Starfruit water comprises mineral water, juice and vitamins. Through both its name and its healthy contents, it markets for healthy, athletic young people.
Dutch company Bolletje's Sport Repen Soft Cake Bars likewise boast wholesome ingredients, claiming a raisin filling, added B vitamins and iron. The bars are targeted at sports fans aged 12-20, with each box depicting a well-known sports star to lure in active teens and fans.
As food and drink manufacturers continue trying to tap into the needs and desires of teenage consumers, Mintel expects to see substantial teen-centric product development globally. Creating true synergy across product and marketing strategies - in essence, merging substance with style - will undoubtedly lead to the most successful products for teens.