Do vegies need to be marketed the same way as chips to make them appealing, or should kids just eat what they’re given? By Catherine Saxelby.
Carrots are one of my all-time favourite vegetables. They have virtually no fat, are packed with beta-carotene, fibre and potassium, and are low-GI. They are inexpensive, keep well, add colour to your cooking and have a sweet flavour. Peeled and cut into sticks, they are a convenient snack and help you make it to dinner without hitting the lollies. As one researcher wrote: “If your stomach is full of carrots, there’s less room for junk”. Best of all, kids love them.
So it seems like they would be easy to market these minimarvels to Gen Y. In the US, baby carrots are currently undergoing a makeover as ‘junk food’ to make them more appealing. Baby carrot growers are in fact spending US$1 billion on an ad campaign, complete with a Youtube video iphone app and the tag line ‘Eat ‘em like junk food’. The baby carrots themselves are being packaged into chip-type packets, and sold out of vending machines at schools. Interesting idea, hey?
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Imagine buying a packet of carrots from a vending machine at the train station. They’re fun, portable and easy to eat; they’re small, so little hands can pick one up and munch on it – in exactly the same way as they eat a chip. Turning a basic food into something that fits into our fast food culture of eating – eating with our hands and on-the-go – could be the way to get kids munching on healthy snacks, instead of the usual rubbish.
I love the idea, as it makes a healthy, low-energy, no-added-salt option widely available. In fact, we could soon be hearing “would you like baby carrots with that?”
Or leave them be?
However, as a parent, part of me is annoyed that modern kids need everyday fare ‘transformed’ before they’ll eat it. Who has time to cut out star-shaped potato pieces or makes a ‘face’ from various bits of vegetables?
But, the other part of me knows that marketing vegetables as ‘fun’ makes my life a little easier. After all, years of dinner-time battles – cajoling, nagging, bribing and disguising vegies in other foods – hasn’t worked! If it makes carrots, spinach or Brussels sprouts (or any of those ‘yuck’ foods) more popular, I’m all for it. Even if I’ll be paying more for snack packs of vegetables, than uncut and unpackaged ones – at least I know I’m spending money on foods the kids are more likely to eat.
The bottom line
Packaging healthy food in a way that competes against fast food gets my vote. It does have its detractions, like cost, but I bet we’ll see more vegies being consumed than ever before and that’s a good thing.