May 2004 Issue--In a survey of 500 teenagers, BuzzBack LLC (New York) found that teenagers may share the same overall opinions of food options, although the rationale can differ greatly by gender. Overall, teens are looking for healthful, sweet snacks and fast foods with easily recognizable brands (see chart), but females have more nutritional concerns and are more likely to try new products. Male teens, meanwhile, were more apt to eat energy snacks and full meals.

For that matter, boys simply eat more than girls and readily admit to eating “whatever is available.” They eat an average of 2.3 full meals per day, compared to 2.0 for girls. Boys hold a similar lead in the snacking area, consuming 3.3 snacks daily compared to girls' 3.1.

The quantity may be lacking, but girls are interested in better-quality foods. Girls are most likely to go after chewing gum, fresh fruit, cereal bars, granola bars and yogurt, as 46% say they try to eat what is right for them as often as possible. This compares with 35% of boys responding in kind, who are more likely to grab chips, cookies, candy and ice cream as a snack.

What are girls looking for in a snack? Options must be fresh, fast, low-calorie and nutritious, factors which marketers may want to keep in mind. When targeting boys, however, advertising or packaging should relate how the product will deliver extra energy and not compromise taste.

For more information on “Understanding Teen Attitudes Toward Health and Nutrition,” contact 646-519-8010.