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2020 Vision : 12 insights for Christmas

2020 Vision : 12 insights for Christmas


On average there are 12 hours between a teenager’s first and last meal eaten at home.  One in five teenagers, aged 12-14, eat their dinner after 7pm, 46% of them having eaten their breakfast and left home for school before 8am.  There’s a 10-hour-gap for younger children too.  Kids fill up with anything in between those hours that school provides them, or from their packed lunch, or the food they buy on route to and from school.

Eating at home gets little attention from kids.  Two thirds of kids are busy doing something else whilst consuming food and drink.  Half of them watch TV whilst eating or drinking, but even as kids’ hands are occupied with a video game controller, 1 in 5 of them still manage to eat and drink at the same time.

Grazing and snacking are the best options for kids who don’t want to interrupt their media moments, but many parents complain that kids ‘shovel’ food in without it “touching their sides” and worry about the nutritional content of their kids’ intake from all that snacking.

Food brands and retailers – take note! 

  • What can you do to promote a cook from scratch culture, connecting a campaign between family members at home and teaching in schools, to encourage kids to re-engage with food.
  • Refocus parent attention on the nutritional value of snacks, packaged or fresh, for growing kids and teenagers, and continue to communicate with parents along the path to purchase about the proactive purchase decisions they are empowered to make.
  • Develop new social sharing meal options, expanding beyond Mexican meal kits, to bring families back around the table, with a different set of flavours for younger palates, and easy to prepare even around the midweek rush.


As shoppers migrates online, use of catalogues by British kids, to show parents what they want for Christmas, has fallen by -42% over the last 10 years, and accompanied shops to the toy fixture are down -36% in that same time period.  With so many families switching to online shopping or topping up in convenience stores (where gift and licensed ranges are limited) this poses significant challenges for gifting and character franchises, particularly in the grocery channel.

Only 13% of kids use the internet to create an online wish-list, not enough to offset the loss in catalogue use.  Wish lists are essential tools for parents – 82% of them will stick to buying whatever is on the wish list, for fear of wasting money by buying something that’s unwanted.

Parents lose exposure to catalogue devised wish lists, and kids lose exposure to toys on retail shelves.

Catalogues are great tools for kids and their parents that should be cherished and promoted.   In addition, discover and develop new ways of working to ensure that parents have enough information to successfully search for specific products, regardless of the presence of a catalogue in home.   

  • We’ve honed our expertise in memory structuring, to design brand communication that leaves an indelible mark on kids’ memories, building affinity with the brand and embedding easy to recall product features and names for kids to recite back to their parents.
  • Our approach to SEO, digital taxonomy and product page design is built around knowing how information and requests are transferred between parent and child, how precise or vague it’s likely to be, and therefore how these factors will influence search success.
  • Be one step ahead by improving kids’ user experience in browsing for products online.  So many ecommerce sites are not fit for kids to browse for pleasure.  Google and YouTube are developing new ways of visualising the ‘shop view’ for searches so step in now and learn how to lead in the interests of young kids.


81% of UK parents with preschool kids tell us that they read to their kids daily, 55% with a bedtime story.  And yet few parents feel confident that they can teach their children to read at home, distracted and discouraged somewaht by the emphasis placed on “phonics” at school.  It’s not that parents don’t understand phonics, but they are worried about making mistakes, teaching their children to read “the wrong way” and setting them up to fail when they finally start school and are taught the “official way”.

Many British parents are averse to using a screen (tablets) for reading, preferring to use library books or to purchase their own.  By contrast, our research in Italy reveals that more kids are introduced to reading on tablets and at a younger age.  It also reveals that Italian kids are more inclined to continue to read for pleasure when they become teenagers, accustomed, as they are, to using their tablet for reading.  British parents tend to introduce tablets to their kids for video gaming and entertainment purposes, and therefore British kids associate it with those activities.

  • Not surprisingly, parents have no recollection of the term ‘phonics’ from their own childhood, so parents develop beliefs and false memories about how they were taught to read at school.  They need reminding of that simple and timeless process, and interactive apps are an ideal way to boost parental confidence.  Instructions are best delivered in video format. 
  • Audio and reading apps are a part of the process to learn to read in the 21st century and voice activation means that stories are accessible to pre-reading kids, any time of the day, without relying on parents.  Whilst many categories are struggling to find a way to usefully apply Voice to their brands, in kids’ entertainment it’s transformational.  In reading, it can be too. 
  • Parents don’t want bedtime storytelling, a precious bonding occasion, to be usurped by audio storytelling, or to be encroached by screens, so it is better to respect that wish than try to disrupt it.  Teaching kids to read is stressful for both parent and child and is better kept separate from a child’s bedtime routine altogether.


We asked parents in Italy and the UK at what age they noticed that their kids were playing with toys less often.  We also asked kids what their perception of this change was.  Both kids and parents claimed that they were beginning to lose interest in toys by the time they were 7 years old.

Toys struggle to hold on to their share of spend for Christmas against the onslaught of digital devices and the average number of toys bought per child aged 3-10 is down to just under 4.  With spend on a single digital electronic gift 3 times greater than it is for a single toy, on average, it’s not surprising that kids are “hedging their bets” with their wish list and asking for fewer toys in the hope of securing an electronic item for this special occasion.

  • If they note that their child is less interested in playing with toys by the age of 7 years old, parents become much more reticent and discerning about how much they’re prepared to spend on a single toy.  They are mindful of the fact that play longevity, key criteria in toy purchases, is shorter.  This has implications on price range architecture, the target age for technical innovation and product design, and the importance of appealing to parents with additional benefits such as STEM learning, to retain their engagement in the category for longer.
  • Competing against digital device requests at Christmas, the toy category is finding more and more difficult to generate a seasonal boost.  It has caused many toy companies to re-focus their efforts outside of the peak gifting season, so that they’re not up against the lure of digital.  Spreading purposeful toy purchases throughout the year certainly helps assuage negative perceptions of the conscious consumer.


In a recent study we learned that 89% of UK shoppers buy ready meals, 80% buy frozen ready meals and ease and convenience become the focus for busy young families, a substitute for eating out with more exotic flavours if they can find them, or great for busy coming-and-going families where teenagers and adults often end up eating at different times.

3% of ready meal shoppers think they’ve ever bought a Japanese ready meal.  When asked what adults associate with the flavours of Japanese food, 48% said ‘fishy’, 43% healthy, 43% raw, 38% fresh.  The dominant association is with Sushi.  Despite its traditionally subtle flavours, 82% thought that Japanese food would have garlic in it, 73% chilli and 72% paprika.

  • Is there a missed opportunity for Japanese frozen meals to meet the needs of families for ‘healthier’ (not creamy), more adventurous flavours, whilst being mild enough for younger taste buds?


We’ve been independently testing new entertainment IPs since we launched the company in 2013 and pioneered the use of AI – Face Reader – with young, preschool kids to understand their split second reactions to cartoons, video games and advertising, helping entertainment companies to optimise the narrative style, geography, pace, themes, characterisation, visual graphic style and vocabulary of their content. 

There is a critical moment, when the plot of a show has been resolved, when kids lose attention.  At this moment, they’ll either get distracted, start doing something else, take a natural break during the ad break to seek some food or go to the toilet or skip the ads altogether. Either way, their attention is no longer on the screen. 

Toys and video games remain the most popular forms of advertising right up until senior school.  46% of gift choices in the UK amongst preschool kids are driven by product advertising and yet 60% of kids skip the ads.  57% are driven by characters.

  • It’s crucial to work with the memory structures of kids and to draw their attention back to the screen in the final few seconds of a show and within the first second of the ad break.  If their eyes are no longer on the screen, try using a noise – discordant or evocative – to bring them back to screen.  Use faces in the opening sequence, looking straight out from the screen, to rapidly re-engage.
  • Use every dramatic trick in the book, building and releasing ‘tension’ throughout a show, to sustain attention.  As soon as the plot is resolved, ramp up the anticipation for a funny clip or dramatic event which kids will learn to predict and remain attentive for, until the final credits roll. 


  • The Kid Consumer, 2019 study, authored by Consumer Fluent, syndicated by Kidz Global
  • Memory Structures, Entertainment & Advertising Research, 2009-2019, conducted by Ruth Clement / Consumer Fluent
  • Shoppers Trends – Parental Purchase, 2009 – 2019, conducted by Ruth Clement / Consumer Fluent
  • Family Meals & Taste Buds Trends 2016 – 2019 by Consumer Fluent App Design, Publishing Concepts