The print and packaging geek in me loves a wander around a foreign supermarket, taking in the different packaging, branding and POS materials.
One thing that really caught my eye in Spain this month was a novel approach to promoting bottled water to children. Right across the range of brands, the 33cl ‘on-the-go’ bottles had tie-ups with popular films or cartoons. Font Vella crossed the gender divide with ranges featuring characters from Star Wars and Beauty and the Beast; Nestlé water bottles featured characters from Ice Age.
On holiday my teen would usually make a beeline for the fizzy drinks aisle and I would be badgered into buying cans of pop. Instead, he filled the trolley with Darth Vader, Stormtroopers, Chewbacca and Yoda. For my committed Star Wars fan these are no mere plastic water bottles, but precious collectables which he insisted on bringing home to the UK and has been refilling every day to take to school.
Setting arguments about the rights and wrongs of single-use plastic water bottles aside, I was delighted to see this type of on-pack promotion being used to drive purchase and consumption of a healthy product.
The World Health Organisation estimates that the number of obese Europeans has more than tripled since the 1980s, and that around 1 in 3 children aged six to nine old years is overweight or obese, with the south of Europe having the highest number of overweight children. (Source: eufic.org)
In the face of this public health time-bomb, brand owners and retailers, along with parents and schools, have a fundamental role to play in steering children towards healthy food and drink choices that may encourage good, life-long dietary habits.
Imagine the potential if healthy cereals, lean meats, fruit and vegetables were to be advertised in this way, in contrast to the current retail landscape – in the UK at least – where promotions like this mainly attract kids to sugar-laden cereals and processed foods high in saturated fats and salt.
Some retailers are undoubtedly making very positive steps. Tesco’s free Fruit for Kids initiative has apparently distributed 20 million pieces of free fruit since its launch in July 2016, for example. But there is a great deal more to be done if we are not to see a continued rise on the already alarming figures regarding incidence of Type 2 diabetes in children, a disease previously associated almost exclusively with the over 40s.
Perhaps government and industry could look collaboratively at how packaging and instore promotions can be used as part of a broader strategy to divert children’s attention away from the products that may harm their health, and towards those that are more likely to positively enhance their well-being.