Kids treats and snacks - designing the future of permissibility

The need to encourage businesses to be as responsible as possible when creating snack products for children is certainly not new news and continues with urgency. With the sad truth that nearly a third of children aged 2 to 15 are overweight, brands need to do everything they can to innovate for better alternatives to help with this complex issue. But is there also a role for brand design? 

We are now spoilt for choice when it comes to ‘healthier’ ‘permissible’ alternatives to traditional treat foods and snacks. Halo Top ice cream has famously disrupted the ice cream category by offering premium pints with their low calorie, high protein offer. Hippeas and Eat Real provide chickpea, kale and lentil chips to replace the fattier potato chip equivalent. Similarly, healthier ‘treat’ products for kids are becoming more prolific, with Bear fruit snacks, Little Dish and Organix amongst others offering ‘permissible’ snacks. But these offers come at a premium and arguably there is still a time and place for old school treats as we knew them.  

Parents and carers need to be given opportunities to treat their kids without having to completely relegate their health-conscious aspirations. How can brands help us feel able to treat with a little less guilt? And what is our role as designers? 

Traditionally, permissibility has been product-led, with ‘treat-size’, ‘snack-box’ or ‘reduced’ variations of the product. And this is necessary! Sun-Maid raisin boxes are a childhood treat staple. Mini smarties fulfil 'reduced product' perfectly. However, when a brand has strong values and personality it is also possible to take permissibility one step further, from purely product-led to brand-led, and then things can get exciting! When considered as a brand-led multi-sensorial creative challenge, brands can use design to create rituals, stories, and memorable moments. The result is brand led permissibility based around ‘less product but more experience’.

Kids learn through multi-sensorial play and when done well, permissibility can be encouraged through inspiring and fun experiences that can be connected to brand truth. The traditional advent calendar makes small portions anticipated and pleasurable. The unwrapping and peeling of a baby bell is as memorable as the eating. The games at the back of a well designed kids menu makes the dining out experience even better. 

Echo’s work with Smarties does just this. Offering creative solutions to enable parents to both treat children in a fun, engaging way but also extend the play experience long after the product is finished. Smarties is all about sparking the imagination, encouraging and inspiring children and the child in all of us to discover the possibilities of our imagination and the exciting journey’s we can go on. We have designed in permissibility through packaging innovations and added value gifts that facilitate learning, active and imaginative play. Finger puppets, drawing crayons, telescopes and further activity based designs are based around imaginative characterful worlds.  The recently launched Smarties Creator Book offers a refillable activity pad, games and puzzles as well as coloured pencils and stickers.

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Treat and snack brands for kids can design-in inspiring experiences which are about more than just the taste buds and inadvertently create positive learning. In order for this to work, brands need core values to build out from, but when they do, permissibility can and should be much more exciting than just a ‘treat size portion’.

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