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By Bill Goodwin - 03/05/2014

Convenient offerings like packaged meal solutions, crockpot and skillet kits, as well as myriad side dishes in stand-up zipper pouches, have seen a surge at retail. Families have welcomed these offerings to their tables, as they are easier alternatives to traditional dinner preparation.

Today’s families are busier than ever, yet strive to spend quality time together. Research has proven the value of simply sitting down to dinner together. For kids, routine family dinners have been linked to better behavior, improved physical and psychological health, and even good grades. Today’s families recognize the importance of these mealtimes. Over the past decade, the percentage of families sharing family dinner rituals has been on the rise, reversing the declining trend of prior decades.

The majority of today’s kids like to prepare or cook meals, and younger kids love to help and contribute. Today’s dads are likely to cook or contribute as well, since many families collaborate on meal planning, selection and shopping, and most aspire to making or prepping their meals together. Stand-up pouch packaging meets these needs and more – it’s easier to store, use, create portions from and dispose of.

On the Go and Always Snacking

The trend toward better-for-you snack options  is driving growth in many markets. Kids have the power to impact entire categories, and often innovations that are tailored to their needs become category norms. The proliferation of “smashed fruit” or purées in pouches began as solutions for toddlers who’ve now “aged up” in recent years. This was also true of juice pouches, which became the preferred alternatives to juice boxes (which are now for little kids), and then aged up with kids via larger portions.

Similar activity is beginning with fresh, ready-to-eat packaged serving solutions of fruits and veggies. Those solutions began as kid-targeted offerings and are now evolving to meet the needs of health-conscious snackers of all ages.

Today’s kids are time-pressured and their lives are overscheduled, as is true of their parents as well. Family breakfasts are often hurried grab-and-gos before running for the bus. On average, today’s school lunch is a mere 20 minutes, and for many, this break is significantly early or late in the day rather than at or close to noon.

As a result, kids snack throughout the day during dashes to classes, before and between after-school activities, resulting in four to six (or more) on-the-go eating occasions versus the structured three main meals. Roughly half of kids claim to “make” their own lunches, although most simply grab and assemble light lunch fare and snacks rather than truly prepare meals.

Simplified packaging and portable snack solutions have driven category growth, and this trend toward convenience, whether on the go or at home, will only continue to grow.