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Do We Need Children's Versions Of Everything?

14/08/2014 16:52 | Updated 22 May 2015

Do we need children's versions of everything?

Child-oriented versions of everyday grocery and household products seem to be popping up on supermarket shelves quicker than you can say 'do we really need these?' From toothpastes to yoghurts, drinks and cheeses to hand wash, they're brighter-coloured, jolly cartoon character-covered versions of their grown-up counterparts.

Of course this is not an entirely new marketing phenomenon; there have long been some children's food and household items (beyond the obvious of toys and clothing) but there seem to be so many more in today's supermarkets.

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Parents are being encouraged (some would say pressured...) to fill their trolleys with two products where once one version would have done; a tube of toothpaste for the adults and a different one for the kids for example. Repeat for lots of other food and household categories.

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To be fair, some of these items are genuinely better for little people, due to child-friendly sizes or formulations that are spot on for their needs (such as 'no tears' milder shampoos), but others appear to be about a trend to making everything terribly exciting for kids. Because we couldn't possibly expect them to use bog-standard, boring old hand wash without smiley-faces on the bottle can we?

For every valuable kid-oriented product out there, it seems there's another that's completely superfluous and dare I say, pandering to children by making everything everyday absolutely, tremendously good fun. What's more, children's food items are often over-priced and over-packaged too (granted, the latter are often made with lunchbox convenience in mind).

One such seemingly unnecessary child-specific version of an everyday item, are the rice 'pouches', marketed by a well-known rice brand. These are designed to be quick and easy ready meal type affairs. But they're mainly rice. Rice is rice right? When I did a price comparison of these versus the same company's similar ready-meal products for grown-ups, the kids' version came out nearly twice as pricey per 100g.

Another brand makes pots of kids' organic yoghurts (delicious mind), which work out at around 50p per 100g, whereas similar non-kiddy versions cost just 36p per 100g – that's almost a third more expensive just because there are some cute pictures on the lids.

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So what's behind this proliferation of child-oriented products? Are they really necessary or there to fleece family shoppers?

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I decided to stop ranting and ask an expert, in the form of Emma Worrollo, Managing Director of The Pineapple Lounge, a market research agency which focuses on families and children.

Emma thinks all this is a reflection of broader social developments: "The role of children in our society has vastly changed over the last few decades. Children are listened to more than ever and their opinions are valued and considered. They have a huge influence on parents' shopper behaviour, so it's unsurprising brands have responded with a plethora of product to meet the needs of kids specifically as well as parents."

She adds: "Whilst its easy to argue that this has created a host of unnecessary products and an increase in the commercialisation of childhood, we often find in research that functional everyday items designed with kids in minds can be useful to life as a modern parent.

"Allowing kids to take ownership over products can encourage positive independent behaviour and save parents' time. We've seen parents respond positively to the introduction of characters, fun and an overall more enjoyable user experience for the child."

Fair enough - and I know parents who find their children are far more likely to wash their hands with soap made to appeal to them - but I'm so drawing the line at buying cartoon covered rice pouches...

Do you buy children's versions of everyday products? Do they make life easier? Or do you avoid them?

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