The Mintel report, “Children and Obesity--U.S.--March 2009,” shows that, while childhood obesity rates may be slowing, they are not declining, with more than 12% of children in each age group being overweight or obese. Meanwhile, parents are increasingly wary--40% state they are concerned their children may develop obesity. Mintel’s parent responses indicate they would welcome more active participation from food manufacturers in providing help in healthful meal preparation. This could be in the form of clearer messaging that goes beyond character merchandising, with a stronger focus on nutrition and simpler formulations, in order to better discern if a product is healthy.

One way manufacturers have responded to these needs is to provide “stealth” nutrition in children’s products. Already prevalent in markets outside of the U.S, these foods contain nutritious ingredients hidden in products already popular with children, such as sauces made with puréed vegetables that can be given to children who claim not to like eating vegetables. In Italy, for example, Coop Club 4-10 has launched Tiny Ravioli Filled with Cod, Carrots and Potatoes. Formulated with 30% fish, the product is said to be a way to introduce fish into children’s diets. The ravioli is made with only a few simple ingredients, is free from colors, hydrogenated fats and genetically modified ingredients, and has a reduced use of preservatives. The front of the package displays clear and colorful graphics showing what the product contains, as well as nutritional information.

Information in this column is from the Global New Products Database, the premier source of global product intelligence, published by Mintel International Group; 351 W. Hubbard, 8th Floor; Chicago, IL 60610; call: 312-932-0600; fax: 312-932-0474; or e-mail