07/02/2017

Infant Food - Are you designing for the new generation?

By Nellie Veltman

Why design and innovation in the infant food sector is more important than ever.

Designing natural taste cues, premiumisation and convenience – the infant food sector provides a host of exciting brand design challenges and is driving more brand innovation opportunities than ever.

2016 saw sales in the baby food sector up by £18.6m and a 7.6% increase in volumes. These statistics are not driven by birth-rate, which was actually down by 0.5% in 2016, but driven by sales of healthier, premium dishes. Understandably, for parents, only the best will do.

Feeding our young babies and children is an arena about as emotionally charged as they come. Mealtimes will throw parents into states of joyful highs, anxiety-ridden frustrations and everything else in-between. This is a field where differing advice and ‘helpful’ to-do’s and not-to-do’s are constant. Nutrients and natural ingredients of course take centre stage, which often comes at odds with the pressing need for convenience for time poor parents. In consideration of all these factors, the infant food sector provides a huge wealth of design, product development and innovation opportunity. 

Designing quality and convenience

With longer working hours and more families working full time, parents often find their ability to plate up ‘proper’ infant snacks and meals is compromised. This tension provides areas of rich opportunity for brands to innovate and communicate from. Products or services that help parents to save time while elevating meal times to highly nutritious, engaging experiences gain a loyal following. Consider Hello Fresh’s Family Boxes that have built advocacy through making parents the hero. These curated boxes of groceries are home delivered with instructions for crowd-pleasing recipes; low on spice and high on nourishment, they are a guaranteed hit at the dinner table. Hello Fresh spares customers the (often tedious) shopping trip with child in tow, meaning less stress and more time to enjoy creating together in the kitchen.

We are also keeping a keen eye on the snacking sector. As infant meal occasions proliferate, there is growing demand for the next generation of convenience brands. To best serve these needs, brands must facilitate an interactive approach to preparing food, eating and mealtimes more broadly – allowing carers and children to feel connected to their food and encouraging learning through eating together.

Designing nutritious natural taste cues

Catherine Gazzoli, owner of organic baby food brand Piccolo comments that the Piccolo brand design has a subtle look compared to many bigger brands’ “shinier” aesthetics. Piccolo uses hand-illustrated watercolours to showcase ingredients in an innocent but informative way that also celebrates the brands natural provenance. Piccolo makes the case that brands need to use design to celebrate the pleasure of food in its most natural, nutritious state. The use of colour and texture can be harnessed in a way that doesn’t suggest ‘fast or fake food’. Brands must lead the way in helping parents make ‘good’ and informed food choices. Design and tone of voice can assist through educating consumers about ingredients in a non heavy-handed way that provides useful nutrient information. Design has the opportunity to bring to life the delight and pleasure that parents aim for at meal times.

For this new generation of eaters, who need the best nutritious ingredients and the time and occasions to learn how to enjoy real food, brands must play an integral role. 

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