With nearly two billion children in the world, the kids’ meal and snack category is a very lucrative market. But it’s also very competitive. Brands need to be the healthiest, most transparent and best branded to capture parental spend.
We’ve come a long way since supermarket shelves were laden with sugar-filled, long-life jars and packets. Today’s leading kids’ snack brands are feeding young mouths with nutrition-packed treats that also taste great. And these seven companies are among parents’ go-to grabs:
1. Ella’s Kitchen
Ella’s Kitchen is the gold standard of children’s snacks. Founded in 2006 by Paul Lindley, the brand brought fun, health and simplicity to a category that needed innovation. No more additives and complex ingredient names: just a list of real foods on the back of every pack.
Most parents encounter Ella’s Kitchen when their baby starts weaning. The brand offers single-ingredient and puréed meal pouches for children aged four months upwards. They also have a range of baby-friendly solid snacks; its melty puffs and melty sticks were big hits with the Hooley Brown team’s kids when they were little!
In 2013, Ella’s Kitchen launched tray-format ready meals for children ages 12 months upwards, and it has since introduced a frozen food range targeting older children. Bestsellers include big cod fishies with peas and sweetcorn, produced using 100% natural ingredients.
Ella’s Kitchen was bought by Hain Celestial for £70 million in 2013, but that hasn’t impacted the brand’s core values. A certified B-Corp, Ella’s Kitchen still believes in making healthy food that is fun for children to eat. It recently launched a campaign calling for more food play in schools, which has been proven to encourage kids to eat more fruit and vegetables.
Organix is one of the original children’s snack brands, having first entered the category in 1992. Initially a market stall where founder, Lizzee Vann, sold homemade organic baby foods, the brand is now owned by Hero Group and turns over more than £31 million each year.
2022 has been a milestone year for Organix, as the brand has added two new product ranges: a line of baby meals for children aged 6-12+ months and a snack range aimed at 3-6 year-olds. Its latest snack innovations include lemon & lime oaty bars and pizza-flavoured llama puffs.
It’s not just the products that Organix is innovating, either. Its new baby meals are packaged in 100% recyclable pots to help parents choose sustainable convenience food.
The Mediterranean diet has been named the best diet in the world for several years – and Piccolo has brought its principles to babies and children.
Founder, Cat Gazzoli, started the brand after struggling to find nutritious baby foods that were also packed with flavour. Piccolo was launched in collaboration with an infant nutrition specialist, Alice Fotheringham, and creative director, Kane O’Flaherty, and now sells over fifty different products.
Among the brand’s top-selling products are puréed vegetarian meal pouches, popped corn chips, squeezie yoghurt and multigrain cereal. Piccolo fans can personalise their own subscription box – and even pick up Piccolo baby food pouches on their next trip to IKEA.
Piccolo has gained particular traction among parents whose children suffer from allergies. The brand has a free-from ready-meal range that includes gluten-free pasta, and a free-from cooking range that features gluten-free stock cubes and dairy-free sauces.
4. BEAR Snacks
There’s been a big focus on helping kids to snack healthily in recent years, and BEAR has found a firm footing in this market.
BEAR’s fruit bars, bites, yoyos and lollies take their flavour from real fruit juice. The brand uses 100% natural ingredients and no added sugars. In fact, many of its fruit snacks count as one of a child’s five a day.
Although BEAR snacks use natural fruit sugars, some of its products have been affected by new UK laws on high salt, fat and sugar foods. In response to the regulations, BEAR has debuted two non-HFSS snack bars – forest fruit and carrot cake flavours – that are high in fibre with no added sugar.
5. Little Dish
Little Dish is another category pioneer, founded by Hillary Graves in 2006. After seeing jars and packets of baby food that were older than her child, Hillary embarked on a mission to create real food for children with 100% natural ingredients, nutritionally tailored for 1-5 year-olds.
While most kids’ meals and snacks are found in the baby aisle, Little Dish is different. Its products are refrigerated; parents can pick up a creamy tomato pasta or chicken & veg risotto for their child during the post-work trolley dash.
Originally retail-only, Little Dish introduced online orders during the pandemic and e-commerce now accounts for 31% of its total sales. Plans to launch in the USA were put on ice by Covid-19, but Little Dish is eyeing up European expansion in the near future.
For many parents seeking a grab-and-go kids’ snack, Kiddylicious is their go-to brand. The company has created healthier, baby and toddler-friendly versions of popular treats like biscuits and crisps. Their veggie straws are another firm favourite among the children of the Hooley Brown team!
Most Kiddylicious products are developed to encourage self-feeding, which makes the brand popular with parents who practise baby-led weaning. There’s an entire section on Kiddylicious’ website dedicated to weaning tips.
Kiddylicious has expanded its product range in recent years to include hummus dip-dips, plus a range of kids’ ready meals based on adult dishes such as mac & cheese and beef hotpot. The brand was bought by Belgian giant, Lotus Bakeries, in 2018.
7. Little Freddie
Little Freddie is one of the newer kids’ snack brands, first launching in 2014. It combines healthy food with another major concern for parents: sustainability.
Currently, Little Freddie is the only carbon-negative baby food range in the UK. It uses 100% recyclable packaging and even launched Britain’s first baby pouch suitable for kerbside recycling in 2022.
Little Freddie operates across the UK, Hong Kong and China, producing meals and snacks including organic fruit pouches, puréed meal pouches, squeezie yoghurts and healthy crisp alternatives like super seed tubes. It has also recently launched a range of flavoured grains.
Besides its sustainability commitment, another thing that makes Little Freddie stand out is its nutritional credentials. All Little Freddie products are designed in collaboration with Rhiannon Lambert, nutritionist to celebrities including singer Gary Barlow and snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan.
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