Go to the top of the class! Back to school is a big opportunity for food, drink and more

The ‘healthy’ food and drink market has exploded in recent years and continues to grow, with new products arriving on shelves every week and being lapped up by consumers, particularly millennials, who have a greater than ever awareness of health and wellness and how diet and nutrition fit in.

This shift in consumers’ food and drink preferences is having a direct effect on the back to school market too. As the new school year starts, we look at the ‘Back to School’ profit opportunity, with the help of some major suppliers. Soft drinks makers Radnor Hills have been busy in the NPD department over the summer, says Holly Sparrow, Marketing Executive, refreshing their label designs and recipes as well as launching new products which are all suitable for the school drinks sector.

Radnor Hills’ most popular range Radnor Fizz has had a rebrand, the result of an ongoing project working with secondary school students to get their input and feedback, making Radnor Hills’ one of the first to launch a new label design which is designed by students, for students!

But it doesn’t stop there; Radnor Hills are also launching Radnor Fruits, a new range of products in a 330ml can format, with eye catching, colourful designs. This new range is free from artificial preservatives, colours and flavourings and contains absolutely no added sugar. Each can contributes to one of the recommended 5-a-day portions of fruit and veg. Radnor Hills have also been busy planning their next on-pack promotion, working once again with Europe’s largest entertainment company Merlin Entertainments to offer ‘Teens Go Free’ tickets to some of the UK’s top attractions with the purchase of a fullpriced adult ticket. This will be their biggest on-pack promotion yet, with 30 million promotional packs heading into schools up and down the country in September.

The new school year signals the return of parents looking to stock up on items for their children’s daily lunchboxes. It presents an opportunity that retailers cannot miss, says Becky Unwin, Senior Brand Manager, Vimto Soft Drinks.

Vimto’s wide portfolio of products meets a variety of tastes and need states for this occasion. Their Vimto Minis No Added Sugar RTD 250ml bottle and Tetra Pak formats are popular with children and parents alike, offering healthy hydration and the Vimto flavour that kids love. They are available as multi packs, for retailers to include in their lunchbox offering to attract parents purchasing lunchbox drinks for multiple days.

Water is another key part of Vimto’s offering: “As health remains high on the agenda with the media spotlight on childhood obesity,” says Becky, “water is increasingly becoming a key part of lunchbox offerings. But as any parent will tell you, it’s not always simple getting your children to drink enough water!”

Vim2o minis are a still spring water drink flavoured with a hint of the unique Vimto taste, containing no added sugar. “Aimed at those parents who know their children don’t like the taste of plain water, but want to make sure they stay hydrated throughout the day, The flavoured water market is booming, with current growth of +8.4%. Teens are also a key back to school target, says Becky Unwin, and Vimto are continuing to engage them with their biggest campaign to date, spending over £3.5m on TV, social and digital as part of ‘I see Vimto in You’, which is disruptive and refreshingly different, just like Vimto.

Vimto is performing really well in the grab and go lunch market – purchased primarily by teens. It is currently the fastest growing RTD brand, with value growing +19% YTD. “Soft drinks are a key part of the grab and go market, so it’s essential to stock a variety alongside any food-to-go fixture. Our 500ml sports cap is our fastest growing packaging format, it’s up +24%, which certainly reflects the rise in instant refreshment.”

Sales lessons with Vimto Visibility is crucial for driving grab and go sales, says Becky Unwin, so point of sale displays can really help, as can ensuring soft drinks are front and centre of your refrigerators, alongside quick and easy food to go options. Vimto are bringing the ‘I See Vimto in You’ campaign to life in store with POS inviting consumers to win a range of prizes, from a month’s supply of Vimto to an iPhone XR.

As school starts again, says Matthew Grenter, Sales Manager at Brioche Pasquier, parents are once again looking to fill their children’s lunchboxes with healthy, tasty items their children will actually eat: “For busy parents, goods packed in child size portions can be particularly useful. Fruit and child-friendly salad items are good standbys that make appropriate lunchbox additions, but parents also want to add a little treat to give their children a boost after lunch, or as a morning or after school snack.”

Brioche Pasquier’s PITCH chocolate filled brioche are soft and tasty and have chocolate chips or a chocolate filling, so children love them. And from the parents’ point of view they have been given an extremely high rating by the Family Panel, with 96% of families appreciating that they are free from artificial colours, preservatives and hydrogenated fats.

Child-sized portions of individually wrapped items like Brioche Pasquier’s PITCH filled brioche are perfect as they come in packs of four or six individually wrapped for convenience, so they are so easy to carry in a bag or pocket. Product longevity is also important with these products, not only for consumers but retailers. The natural ‘levain’ unique to Brioche Pasquier guarantees their products for up to 21 days, even though they contain no preservatives.

PITCH brioche are great for breakfast on the go, mid-morning break, a treat after lunch or sport, or an after-school boost. Unlike a bread roll, PITCH needs no butter or spread, they are delicious straight out of the packet. There are two types – one has a seam of smooth dark hazelnut chocolate running through the centre of the brioche roll, and the other is sprinkled with chocolate chips.

Brioche Pasquier’s back to school campaign runs on the PITCH range from July till mid-October, offering families the chance to win prizes including a holiday. Customers can see instantly if they have won a prize, by entering the pack’s unique code on a microsite.

All prizes are linked to going back to school and include items like magazine subscriptions and book vouchers. Encouraging repeat purchases, anyone who collects five codes through multiple buys will receive a collectable gift such as a lunchbox.

Burton’s Biscuit Co. is advising retailers to stock up on biscuit portion packs to maximise sales around the key back to school/lunchbox occasion. Isabel Lydall, Category & Insights Controller at Burton’s Biscuit Company says shopper demand for more permissible options for lunchboxes continues to grow, with school lunchbox content coming under increased scrutiny from health experts and the Government, along with the introduction of PHE guidelines for children to consume just 2 snacks under 100 calories a day.

Burton’s, the No.1 manufacturer in the £62.3m Kids Minis Biscuits market, is leading the way in portion-controlled biscuits, offering the strongest ‘less than 100 calories per serve’ range in the UK’s £3 billion biscuits category. Biscuit Portion Packs are outperforming the total market, with the number of children consuming biscuits as part of a carried-out lunch increasing by +32% year on year, says Isabel Lydall: “This highlights the opportunity to provide biscuits and snacks that are convenient and permissible, while still a delicious treat.”

Many of Burton’s best-selling brands such as Jammie Dodgers and Maryland Cookies are available in mini bite size or individual portions, making them perfect for lunchboxes or an afterschool snack as part of a balanced diet.

Burton’s recently introduced a range of snack bars, expanding its existing portion packs range, including Jammie Dodgers ‘Jam & Yogurt Snacks,’ a modern twist on the classic jam sandwich combining a yogurt filling and Jammie Dodgers much-loved raspberry jam, and Maryland Oaty Cookie Bars, individually wrapped chocolate chip cookie bars high in fibre and wholegrain oats.

Back to School is a key occasion for milk drinks, and YAZOO in particular, says Wayne Thompson, Customer Marketing Manager at YAZOO. “With a key part of our audience being teens, retailers that don’t stock YAZOO front of store with the Food to Go are missing a trick.”

With its 95% or higher milk content and calcium, protein and vitamin B2, YAZOO helps to keep students fuller for longer, says Wayne Thompson. Also, being sugar levy exempt, its audience is increasing as more and more consumers choose alternatives to traditional soft drinks. In 2018 we saw 15% of consumers switch to milk drinks from other soft drinks. Now found in 3.4million households, YAZOO is outperforming the flavoured milk category by +11.8%.

Flavoured milk remains a taste-led category, and YAZOO Original’s 400ml bottles are very popular with teens. Available in the best-selling flavours: Chocolate, Strawberry, Banana and Vanilla, as well as brand new Choc Caramel, YAZOO make a great after school treat. Also part of the YAZOO portfolio, YAZOO KiDS is the only flavoured milk on the market with no added sugar or artificial sweeteners. Available in a 200ml bottle, it fits in a lunchbox, and is an ambient product which can last throughout the day out of the fridge.

Britain’s school lunchboxes are changing, says Anca Lazar, brand manager of Cathedral City Snacking, part of Saputo Dairy UK, the new name for Dairy Crest: “The ongoing consumer focus on health and the recent backlash against sugar and processed carbohydrates have meant more and more Brits paying attention to nutrition labels before purchasing, driving demand for healthier snacking and lunchbox options.

“Parents are becoming more mindful of the quality of foods they choose for their families, from meal times to snacking, and are always on the lookout for healthier and balanced options. Naturally nutritious, protein rich products such as dairy-based snacks have become increasingly popular with parents as a great addition to their kids’ lunchboxes.”

“In line with the Dairy UK ‘Dairy Delivers’ campaign, we believe it’s time to recognise the major difference between foods which provide little to no nutrition – discretionary foods – and foods which, in view of their high nutritional value, play an important role as part of a healthy balanced diet.”

In line with this trend, says Anca, protein-rich dairy based snacks have gained in popularity, and pre-packed cheese snacks have seen +7% volume growth year on year. The Cathedral City Kids Snacks portfolio, which includes Nibbles, Towers, Shapes and Cheese & Toasties, is worth £5.7m and offers little ones an exciting way to enjoy delicious real Cheddar, while reassuring mums they are getting a 100% natural kids’ snacking product, high in protein, a good source of calcium and with no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. Recently reformulated to a 30% reduced fat cheese the range is perfectly placed to respond to the recently introduced PHE 100kcal snacking initiative.

Now worth £7.3m Cathedral City Minis, six individually wrapped, snacksize portions grew +29% in volume and +26% value last year. Cathedral City Minis Mature is the top selling Adult & Family Cheese Snacking SKU.

With sandwich consumption increasing steadily and use of cheese in sandwiches on the increase, Anca Lazar says convenient cheese formats for easy sandwich preparation such as Sliced and Grated continue to grow dynamically, up 7% by revenue in the latest year. Cathedral City is a strong contributor, its Sliced range growing 7.4% and Grated 8.5%. Cathedral City Sliced pack designs feature sandwich inspiration to make Cathedral City Slices top of mind in shopping missions.

The Cathedral City Sliced range extended in 2018 with the launch of Cathedral City ‘Big Slice’ mature cheddar, giving 60% more cheese per slice, 30% larger than standard slices and thicker. ‘The Big Slice’ is the only sliced cheddar that covers a whole slice of bread.

With almost 90% of all Butter & Spreads used for spreading and carriedout lunch occasions, Butters & Spreads are another hugely important part of a retailer’s lunchbox sandwich proposition.

Among Saputo’s spreads brands, Clover Light has won Spreads category Product of the Year in the world’s largest consumer voted award for product innovation, two years after the Clover standard recipe won the same award. A category first in Reduced Fat Spreads, Clover Light’s renovation follows Clover Original’s relaunch with No Artificial Ingredients in 2015.

Clover is currently worth £79.1m, and purchased by 27.9% of UK households. Since Original and Clover Light’s relaunch the Clover brand has outperformed the Spreads sector and grown market share, winning over half a million new shoppers in the last year.

Consumers, particularly millennials and today’s schoolkids, have a greater awareness of health and wellness than ever before, which is driving the shift in their food and drink preferences. Coca- Cola European Partners has responded, says Amy Burgess, CCEP’s Senior Trade Communications Manager, by launching 39 new low or zero sugar soft drinks since 2005, with Coca-Cola zero sugar and Fuze Tea joining lunchtime favourites like Diet Coke and GLACÉAU smartwater. CCEP have also expanded their range of waters to include GLACÉAU smartwater sparkling flavours, Oasis Aquashock and Aquarius functional water, to help keep consumers hydrated during the school day.

Capri-Sun, the UK’s largest juice drink brand, is also popular for lunchboxes. This year to date 10% more households in GB are buying the Capri- Sun brand, showing that new flavour innovation like Capri-Sun Cherry 330ml resealable pouch and the move to 50% less sugar across Capri-Sun original variants is helping attract a broad range of shoppers into the brand. Lunchtime is often an occasion for school pupils to take a moment to momentarily unwind and CCEP’s Fuze Tea contains a relaxing blend of ingredients including camomile and hibiscus, perfect to be enjoyed while taking a pause during a busy day of lessons.

Barr Soft Drinks is advising retailers to stock up on trusted, quality brands which represent value, convenience and great taste in order to make the most of the back to school opportunity. Barr offers a wide range of convenient products which are ideal for the lunchbox occasion, including popular children’s juice drink brand Simply Fruity and Strathmore Water, ideal for the Back to School occasion.

“Back to school represents a key opportunity for retailers and getting the balance right on the fixture is key,” advises Adrian Troy, Marketing Director for Barr Soft Drinks. “It’s essential to stock up on brands which not only taste great but are trusted by parents.”

Water is a must-stock for back to school, says Adrian Troy, and format is key. Barr’s Strathmore water brand, currently growing at +20%, is available in a range of pack sizes including 330ml, perfect for lunchboxes. The brand also offers a flavoured water variant, Strathmore Twist, currently growing at +44%. Available in Strawberry & Blackberry and Lemon & Lime flavours, Strathmore Twist is Scottish water with a twist of natural fruit flavour, another popular lunchbox choice.

Barr’s Simply Fruity brand is also ideally suited to the back to school occasion, in a new, impactful bottle design with bright colours and a fun, textured design. The competitivelypriced range includes four great flavours; Blackcurrant and Apple, Orange, Apple and Strawberry, all containing no added sugar and available in convenient 330ml bottles with sports caps.

Popular with kids under ten, Simply Fruity currently sells nearly 25 million bottles every year and is growing fast, at +13% annually. Barr Soft Drinks advise retailers to stock Simply Fruity in the ‘Everyday Refreshment’ section of the chiller, where it can work for both the lunchbox and ‘drink now’ occasion.

Finally, in today’s allergy-conscious climate, food allergens are an important area for parents to focus on as a child accidently eating someone else’s packed lunch could cause serious health issues. Laura Brickley, Product Manager Retail at Avery UK, says this is one of the reasons Avery felt it necessary to create easy to use name labels for packed lunchboxes which can be written on quickly, even on the school run: “Our labels make sure children’s lunches aren’t at risk. If the labels are positioned alongside the lunchbox and back to school range in a grocery store this can create an impulse purchase.”

Avery UK’s new labels are also perfect for keeping busy families organised. Laura Brickley explains: “Our labels help identify all school items, from lunchboxes to stationery and from shoes to uniform. So often children lose items, or they get mixed up with other children’s. Too often schools are throwing out unnamed items that can’t be returned and parents are having to buy new items.

“We also realise how timeconsuming naming items has traditionally been which is why our labels can be handwritten on, so each item is labelled in a matter of seconds. Parents can even leave the labels in the car for last-minute naming on the school run.”

To launch the labels, Avery are hosting a giant playhouse for children to get creative in Meadowhall Shopping Centre in Sheffield this summer. Known as ‘The House that Sheffield Built’, families can discover how this range of products can save them time and money while young people can create their own labelled brick for the house, as well as discovering plenty of fun and engaging activities to keep them entertained.