The parents might bring home the bacon, but it’s probably the kids who pick the brand. Despite their size and obvious lack of discernible income, children have a disproportionate sway over household grocery purchases and decisions.

In the report Kids Food and Beverage Market in the US, 8th Edition, survey data from market research publisher Packaged Facts reveal that more than a quarter of parents (26%) learn about a new product as a request from their child. Kids aged 6+ in particular wield a considerable amount of purchasing power, but in reality brand loyalty is nurtured in children even younger.

“Children under age six are just as important to marketers as older children are because life-long dietary habits are established during this time period and brand loyalty begins,” says David Sprinkle, research director, Packaged Facts. “This suggests industry players should focus on product development designed to capture younger kids and gain allegiance from parents earlier to keep them involved with the brand throughout childhood.”

Ultimately the items that end up in parents’ shopping carts stem from an assortment of factors. Chief among them are:

1. what brands or products are recognizable to the children

2. what parents deem healthiest and most nutritious for their children

3. what foods kids themselves enjoy eating

4. what’s recommended by parents’ peers either directly or through social media and online reviews

The importance of this second factor—what foods are perceived as healthier options for children—can’t be understated. According to the "Shopping for Health 2016" report from the Food Marketing Institute and Rodale, a product’s healthfulness for children influences 91% of parents’ food and beverage purchases. On a related note, Packaged Facts found that nearly half (46%) of parents consider nutritional value as a top influencer. These findings indicate the degree to which health and diet are influencing choices within the market. As Packaged Facts found in the report, healthy innovation is emerging within every segment of the kids food market, even among categories not typically associated with health, like sweet and salty snacks.

“Companies or brands dedicated to eliminating or reducing unhealthful ingredients will find a strong following of parents, particularly parents of the Boomer generation or those with kids aged 6-11. Likewise, the hidden veggie trend is most important to Millennial parents—reflecting this demographics’ desire for functional foods,” says Sprinkle.