Parents spend an average of £7.90 per week, per child, on items for school lunches. Nikki Allen finds out three ways you can prepare for the back-to-school period.

Nutritious Starts

More families are eating breakfast than in recent years, with 600,000 fewer people skipping their morning meal last year compared to 2015.

This means there’s a great opportunity for retailers to cash in on breakfasts as the summer holidays come to a close.

When it comes to a quick and easy family breakfast before school, cereals are still the mainstay of the market. Cereals make up 62% of your shoppers’ breakfasts and the big brands have kept shoppers loyal by reformulating their products with less sugar.

Nestlé has committed to reducing the sugar in its breakfast cereals by 10% by the end of next year.  Gharry Eccles, UK regional vice president of Cereal Partners Worldwide, says by the end of this year, all of its cereals will also be free from artificial flavours and colours.

Concern about sugar in cereals has led to a surge in the popularity of toast in the morning. Neil Stewart, butters & spreads marketing controller at Dairy Crest, says: “Butters and spreads continue to be a hugely important part of daily life as they are consumed by more than 98% of households, and they’re enjoying a revival at breakfast.”

Nick Widdowson, Partners for Growth merchandising & creative controller, agrees that breakfast is the most popular time for butters and spreads to be consumed.

You should link your range with morning goods, like croissants, pancakes and hot cross buns to drive sales.

Think outside the lunch box

Six million children take packed lunches to school and 83% of them contain a sandwich, so you need to ensure you provide plenty of options.

“With people deciding to make more sandwiches at home, convenience retailers could seize the opportunity by ensuring they have tempting sandwich fillers and related products in stock,” says Widdowson.

lunch snacksOver the past year, more than 514 million lunchboxes have been made in the UK. After sandwiches, snacks are among the most popular lunchbox items, says Andrew Marchant, category, shopper & customer activation controller at KP Snacks. “Twenty-six per cent of lunchboxes contain crisps or other snacks such as popcorn, nuts and baked snacks,” he adds.

Health eating and the decline in sugar consumption are key trends in the category, with parents looking for healthy snacking products to replace biscuits or chocolate in lunchboxes. Georgina Edmonds, marketing manager at Nature’s Finest, says: “When schools go back, busy parents will be on the lookout for suitable, healthy products to put in their children’s lunchboxes.”

Simon Harrison, operational marketing director at Coca-Cola European Partners, owner of Capri-Sun, agrees. “Health and wellness is high on consumers’ agenda, and parents are giving more thought to the items they include than ever before,”  he says. “As well as healthy snacks, such as fruit packs and carrot sticks, it’s important retailers stock a choice of soft drinks in a variety of formats.”

When it comes to helping busy parents find what they need, cross-merchandising is key. Jonathan Summerley, Hancocks purchasing director, says retailers should introduce promotions and linked deals and also cross-merchandise products.

“Discover what parents are likely to purchase together – that might be a treat, crisps, and a soft drink, for example. This offers parents the chance to buy all the essential lunchbox snacks in one purchase,” he explains.

Cater for after school snacks

When September rolls around, retailers benefit from an increase in footfall at peak times, especially after school. This means you should stock single-serve snacks to appeal to older children walking home.

snacksNature’s Finest Georgina Edmonds says: “Stocking healthy snacks like Nature’s Finest, which have a fork included, is convenient for retailers who want to offer a nutritious product.”

Snacking is becoming more important for shoppers as they become busier. As the school run comes back, catering for parents during this period can boost sales. Kelly Gregg, Kerry Foods category controller, says: “Ninety-seven per cent of adults regularly snack throughout the day, highlighting the opportunity for cheese and meat snacks.”

Cheese snacks are growing by 4% in volume and value. Jo Huergo, Cathedral City marketing controller, says: “We believe a significant opportunity lies in driving cheese as a credible, nutritious alternative to traditional sweet and savoury afterschool snacks such as crisps, nuts, chocolate countlines and cereal bars.”

Traditional sweet treats still have a place in your stores, though – especially low-sugar options: “Sugar free sweets are a real hit with parents – our Kingsway sugar-free lollies perform particularly well as they keep both parents and children happy,” says Summerley.

Retailer View

“We want to be a store at the heart of our local community, and we have links with the local primary school, so we go the extra mile to stock everything shoppers need for school lunches.

“September is an important time of year to let customers know what’s on offer.

“Soft drinks, food to go and our bakery range, which includes fresh bread, rolls and pastries, all do well for both packed lunches and after-school snacks.

“Last year we gave away a healthy school lunch to 300 school children for free as part of celebrations for our refit.

“We will use Spar’s back to school PoS as we approach the end of the holidays to raise awareness of what we have in store.”

Karen Stubbs
Spar Pinchbeck,
Lincolnshire