Selling Healthy Kids Cuisine Via Product Presentation

japaneselunch.jpgPresentation is everything. How many times have we heard that in advertising?

This Happy Lunch Haiku site of photos proves marketers are missing an opportunity to sell healthier choices to kids.

As a child I lived in Japan for 2 ½ years, and the presentation of “edible art” never ceased to amaze me. (admittedly, I also have fish head flashbacks from eyes staring up at me that didn’t suit my squeamish nine-year old brain)

Little did I know I’d use BOTH sides of that experience for Shaping Youth, presenting food to kids as either ‘gross’ (our Dare to Compare/Fear Factor Foods style game) or enticing (fun, clever) to get kids to try new things in our counter-marketing sessions.

Advertising and marketing can take healthy kids cuisine to a whole new level if industry would use some of the creative firepower to brand GOOD stuff versus junky processed drek.

This “Crazy Happy Lunch” site is a stunning example of just how far you can go to make food appealing to kids. Little birds made of rice, tomato tulips with peapod stems, bite-sized critters and sourdough snakes, and of course all the branded Hello Kitty and Japanese characters…Edible art using healthy food could outsell Lunchables and foil-food pouches in a heartbeat if major brands got onboard and shifted the focus of media and marketing to these kinds of choices.

Marketers could make a mint, kids would be healthier, and parents could have a fresh ‘convenience’ food to toss in a lunch box, for a win-win all around.

Of course, it would quickly spin into SpongeBob Swiss with Starfish Sourdough and be brandwashing kids’ brains with every possible licensed character tie-in…But at least it’s going in a healthier direction that way. If it saves some kids’ lives from morbid obesity, early onset diabetes and hypertension, isn’t it worth it?



  1. You are so right. How I wish our manufacturers and such would think like this. It could save so many kids…

  2. Hey, you may have accidentally given a “great idea” to the U.S food-makers, but it almost scares me to think what some of them with no “couth” or social conscience might start marketing here! The PRE-school set might be attracted to the old “snow-man-of-cottage-cheese” dish & “cute” concepts as in Japan, but can you imagine what they might have to dream up to appeal to the teeny-boppers?

    I’m obviously a cynic about our obsession of “prettying up” food, just to tempt kids (AND adults)while they read/watch TV clips about the world-wide hunger problem….

    And about those “clever little containers” all those creative little creatures are in: are they recyclable?

  3. Good point…And yes, there’s irony that when I was growing up we were told ‘not to play with our food’ and that’s about ALL kids want to do with it now. If it doesn’t shake, sparkle, turn pink or purple, come with tatoos embedded or have gimmicks galore, it doesn’t ‘sell’ as well…

    It’s almost normative now in terms of ‘market demand’ with new products…With 50 hours of food ads per year filtering into kids’ brains, I keep thinking there’s GOT to be a way to shift that brainwashing into a healthier arena, FAST.

    Our counter-marketing concepts of ‘fighting fire with fire’ have been so successful that this Japanese ‘presentation’ idea seems like a quick ‘shorcut’ to shift the marketing machine to churn out tasty healthy stuff…

    As for the eco-side…

    Yeah, those containers were presented as one-offs to recycle at home I’m sure, so to mass produce, they’d need something as cheap and easy as those foil pouches, only recyclable…

    Then there’s the whole ‘fresh vs. processed’ shelf life issue impacting cost and of course labor (sigh) so I realize the price points and pragmatics favor the pre-preprocessed drek.

    Still, there must be SOME way to integrate healthy planet messaging (one trip to Costco seeing those blister packs of plastic housing a tiny object with a yard of promo makes me livid, so I concur!) and healthy body messaging via clever marketing and cool products to turn the tide on this trend…

  4. On a separate note re: the presentation/recycling issue, just found this incredible site that speaks to creativity and art melding into a ‘better idea’—Check out these bowls made of recycled wrappers. Truly an artform!

  5. Hey Amy. I just stumbled across your blog and wanted to introduce Full Tank Foods to you. Full Tank offers frozen entrees that are veggie enriched “kid favorites”. I would be happy to send you some samples to try if you would like to write a review.

    Dr. Whitney Anderson, one of the company’s founders and pediatrician, knows of this problem all too well. Eight out of ten kids don’t get enough veggies and that is why she and her husband started Full Tank Full Tank makes frozen veggie enriched favorites like Macaroni & Cheese, Pasta & Red Sauce, Pizza Fondue and Cheesy Mashed Potatoes in a pocket sandwich. Full Tank encourages parents to try the real veggies first, but if a child refuses, these products can solve that problem and provide the nutrition the child needs.

    Parents of kids with sensory issues also fight this battle. It can be very difficult to provide the nutrition they need due to an increased sensitivity to taste, smell, texture and even color! Veggies pretty much cover all these senses. Full Tank veggie enriched kid favorites offers a solution for these kiddos as well.

    We are currently registered with Shaping Americas Youth and have partnered with the Department of Agricultures MyPyramid program. I look forward to hearing from you.

  6. We don’t do samples/reviews per se, but I will definitely forward this info to our nutritionist guru as it sounds like a worthy endeavor to deconstruct…I’m always up for writing about healthier choices, and it looks like you’ve got all kinds of sanctioning here, so hopefully Rebecca will take this one on for us, since she’s got the dietary/RD chops to give us all great context.

    Thanks for the heads up, and pls. feel free to forward any other positive choices you deem worthy, as folks are always looking for fun, fast finds that are HEALTHY and whole.

    Looking forward to hearing what she has to say! 🙂 –AJ

  7. Hi – Rebecca the SY nutrition guru here. I checked out the Full Tank Foods website and here is my impression:

    I think they need to post the nutrition facts for all their products on their website. I think customers will appreciate this information – and as a nutrition professional, I won’t recommend a product to any client until I can view the nutrition facts.

    The “product benefits” are nice, but they don’t really tell you the nutrition quality. It’s difficult to compare this to “the competition”.

    Overall, my impression of frozen prepared meals is to limit them. The frequency depends on what you have going on in your schedule. Once or twice a week during some of your busiest days is reasonable. However, I believe preparing fresh meals is better for the family — and they don’t have to be complicated or keep you in the kitchen for hours. Parents are shaping long term nutrition behaviors for their kids with every meal. Cooking with kids can be a lot of fun for both parents and children. I also think that parents need to break the idea of “kid food” versus “adult food”. Sure kids have favorites, but many parents have had luck giving their kid the same food they are having (with maybe some tweaks to spices and flavorings).

    Now, if you are comparing this organic, veggie-puree fortified meal to another frozen meal this one is probably going to be better. So if you can afford the price and want to give it a try, go for it. You can also cook food in bigger batches and freeze your own like my friend does for her 2-year-old.

    I’m sure this product is fine, but like I said, I can’t really compare it to other frozen convenience foods on the market without access to the nutrition facts. Chances are it is better, but you just don’t know unless you have the information.

    I always recommend real, fresh food first.

    In Health,

  8. Just before I become parent, I really didn’t know that children enjoy baking so much. My daughter absolutely loves it, I imagine when become adults will be even better cook than me.

  9. Little Pals leads the way in children’s gardening with garden tools including a child’s watering can, spade, lawn rake, forks and trowels as well as gloves, garden kits, tool sets and much more.It can be very difficult to provide the nutrition they need due to an increased sensitivity to taste, smell, texture and even color!Full Tank veggie enriched kid favorites offers a solution for these kiddos as well.
    Little Pals

Speak Your Mind