Pester power fading

Kids pestering parents for unhealthy food is losing its persuasive power as new figures show the grown ups are taking back control of the shopping basket.

New figures from independent research company TNS show more than 55% of the parents surveyed said a child should eat what he or she is given, a rise of 5 percentage points between 2004 and 2006.

This survey also showed a growth in the importance of buying a healthy range of foods and a belief in eating well balanced meals.

The latest figures were printed in 'Green Shoots' a wide-ranging report from red meat promotion body Quality Meat Scotland into changing consumer attitudes to their food. The report highlights the first signs of a shift in behaviour that seems to be driving people back to using fresh and traditional ingredients.

Laurent Vernet, Head of Marketing for Quality Meat Scotland, said, 'Whether it's the Jamie factor convincing mums to prepare 'better' meals or whether his campaign for 'proper' school meals has happily coincided with a return to these values, the effect is the same.

'Mums are taking back control of what their children eat, and health is at the top of the agenda.

'Another interesting trend is that mothers cooking from scratch are less inclined to believe their children need different meals than adults. Increasingly, everyone eats together, preferably at the same time and mothers encourage their children to try different flavours.'

This effect is not only being seen in homes, there has been a period of decline in children having both meals and snacks where these are provided by the school, and a resurgence in children's lunchboxes brought from home.

Things are on the up again for school meals, but snacking has declined sharply in the past year, from 791 million occasions in 2006 to 541 million in 2007.

Parent power is also evident in the nation's lunchboxes, with health being increasingly given as the reason both for providing the lunchbox and its contents. According to TNS this is a further sign that parents are taking a more active role in feeding their children a healthier diet.

As one mother in our focus group commented, 'Jamie has changed things - I used to have a whole freezer full of processed foods. Now the children are more health conscious.'