Children's Nutrition Has a Growing Role in Formulation

The old Victorian aphorism, “Children should be seen and not heard,” once was the guiding principle of food formulation. No longer.

By David Feder, RD, Technical Editor

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If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, that goes double for the kids we send off for a full day of learning and troublemaking. That’s why other breakfast foods are improving their formulations with the grade-schoolers in mind too.

Van’s International Foods Inc. (www.vansfoods.com), Longmont, Colo., now a part of Healthy Food Holdings, Inc., is fortifying its Mini Waffles with both calcium and whey protein concentrate (WPC). “One serving of Mini Waffles provide 20 percent of the recommended daily value of calcium, qualifying Van’s Mini Waffles as an excellent source of calcium,” says Jay Orris, director of marketing for the company.

“We use whey protein concentrate, a natural ingredient, to replace some of the oil in our Mini Waffle line,” he continues. “That allows us to maintain fat and calories at a lower level on all our Mini products, including our more indulgent items, like our delicious Mini Chocolate Chip waffles.”

Sensitive to the greater prevalence of food allergies among children, Van's extended its wheat-free line to the mini-waffle product. Also, the wheat-free line of products is gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free and nut-free.

The shift in how we make foods and beverages for kids is a positive trend for not only the children but the manufacturers as well. That parents are taking a much more proactive interest in what they feed junior means they also are more informed and attuned to quality processed foods and willing to put health and flavor ahead of all considerations. The formulators who don’t listen to these insistent parents will soon find themselves in permanent time-out.


Note to Marketing

While marketing plays a big part in the success of a children’s product, shoppers scrutinize the nutritional messages more closely than they do for adult products. So marketers must understand the nutritional underpinnings of good kids’ formulation … because parents increasingly do.

    1. “From a nutritional perspective the starting place for determining a fortification approach for products targeting children falls into three categories: micronutrients, macronutrients and nutraceuticals,” says Lori Stern, scientific leader for nutrition science at DSM Nutritional Products Inc. (www.dsm.com), Parsippany, N.J.

      • Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals): There are two priorities when considering adding micronutrients for intake by children — establishing a relevant contribution to meeting adequate intake of required nutrients and providing safe amounts of these nutrients in the context of the whole diet. To determine where kids are falling short, companies can look at NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) data.


    • Macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fat, fiber): In the face of the obesity epidemic, avoiding excess calories — especially from saturated fat and added sugar — and increasing fiber intake should be part of any child nutrition strategy.
• Nutraceuticals: Understanding how new, emerging ingredients for which there is no established requirement -- e.g., polyunsaturated fatty acids or probiotics -- can further promote the health of children, such as with immune health, mental development, etc. This will require sound and sustained scientific support to ensure that efficacy and safety (of such ingredients) are established specific to children.
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