Liquid product innovation may fit teen market

by Jeff Gelski
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ROSEMONT, ILL. — Many teenagers seek energy and convenience, said Jeff Hilton, co-founder and partner of Integrated Marketing Group, Salt Lake City. Delivery form advantages give liquid products the potential to fit both needs, he said Feb. 27 at the Institute of Food Technologists’ Wellness 13 in Rosemont.

Teenagers need both physical energy for sports and mental energy for school, he said. Energy drinks are “a quick and easy way to get that ‘pop’ they need,” he said, while wondering how healthy energy drinks are for teenagers. Mr. Hilton said teenagers may rely too much on energy drink consumption for their energy levels and not enough on sleep patterns and lifestyle practices.

“We as marketers need to remind (teenagers) there are other ways to get energy than out of a can,” he said.

Stress and energy were mentioned in a “Teens from the top down” study from HealthFocus International, St. Petersburg, Fla., presented at the Feb. 27 session. HealthFocus International in January surveyed 614 teenagers between the ages of 15-17.

When asked their main health concerns, 63% of the girls said stress. Tiredness/lack of energy at 52% trailed appearance (59%) and skin health (54%).  Among the boys, the main health concerns were dental health (44%), appearance (40%), stress (38%), lack of concentration, attention span in school (37%), and tiredness lack of energy (37%).

Mr. Hilton added when teenagers skip family meals, they often replace them with liquid meals. He suggested two possible liquid product innovations: adding micronutrients such as folic acid and introducing new delivery formats such as pouches or shots. Teenagers are noticing the negative health image news concerning soft drinks, he said, and they are growing up with alternatives to soft drinks.

Teenagers in the HealthFocus International study had a positive image of orange juice. When asked how healthy they thought brands were, 93% considered Tropicana orange juice to be either extremely/very healthy or healthy. The brand trailed only Nature Valley granola bars at 95%.

Mr. Hilton said marketers wanting to reach teenagers should remember they divide their attention between four types of screens:  mobile phones, tablets, televisions and computers.

“Realizing it’s a four-screen world, you better be on all four screens,” he said of product advertising.

The Feb. 27 session also included a panel of six teenagers from the Chicago area. Not one of the six teenagers said they consumed energy drinks. Several mentioned bottled water, including vitaminwater.

“Water is the most healthy thing you can have, I feel,” Robert said. “And it’s water, plus vitamins.”

When asked what sources they checked to see if a product is healthy, half the teenagers said the Internet on their cell phones and the other half said the back of the package, including the ingredient list.

Portion control might be a way to reach Jacob, who said he is able to eat a whole container of Cheez-It crackers at one time.

“You open them up, and then they’re open,” he said.

Jacob said he was an athlete who tended to eat healthy.

Mr. Hilton warned that teenagers often switch from one extreme to another, such as eating meat, going vegan and then going back to eating meat.

“They are experimenting, and that is how they view life,” he said.
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