Kids are making an impression in categories such as over-the-counter remedies, toiletries, oral hygiene, suncare, cosmetics and bath.
The importance of children in rounding out supermarkets' health and beauty care categories is being recognized by retailers and manufacturers.
Not only are children possessing more money and making more direct-purchasing decisions, they are also wielding more influence than ever before over what their parents buy, industry experts report.
By all accounts, the children's HBC category is growing, and retailers and suppliers are paying attention to the needs and desires of their young customers.
A children's bath section featuring children's shampoos and soap products being tested by Springfield, Mass.-based Big Y Foods in its West Springfield, Mass., store has done so well, the company is now rolling out the program to its other 41 units, according to Betsy Turgeon, HBC category manager.
And Topco Associates, Skokie, Ill., which supplies private-label products to some 20 supermarket chains, is in the process of redesigning its Jungle Land label, a line of children's HBC products, "to be more colorful and more vibrant," said Mary Arnieri, HBC manager.
Packaged Facts, a New York-based marketing-research firm, predicts total retail sales of children's HBC products will reach $904 million by the year 2000, reflecting a 47% increase from 1995's sales of $615.5 million.
Included in the figures are OTC remedies, toiletries, oral hygiene, suncare, cosmetics and fragrances, for children in the 3- to 12-year-old age bracket.
Yet a researcher at Texas A&M University in College Park, Texas, contends the category's value could already be much higher. "It's hard to get a handle on the health and beauty care market, but where the products are identified as 'kids',' it looks like a $1.2 billion or $1.3 billion market," said James McNeal, professor of marketing at the university and author of the 1992 book, "Kids as Customers."
So far, it's the OTC remedies category, which includes cough/cold/flu medications, first aid, and analgesics, that is leading in sales, accounting for more than two-thirds of the kid's HBC market. They are followed by toiletries (bubble bath, soap and hair care); oral hygiene (toothpaste and toothbrushes); suncare; and cosmetics and fragrances, respectively, according to Packaged Facts in a 1996 report.
And the size of the children's HBC market is expected to grow, not only because of new innovative products and marketing, but also because of simple population growth. In January 1997, the number of children aged five to 12 was 31 million, and by 2002 that is expected to reach 32.2 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. However, after 2003, a downturn is anticipated.
With children's HBC product margins averaging 30% to 35%, and up to 40% for toothbrushes, first aid, suncare and fragrance products, according to Packaged Facts, supermarket retailers are savvy to try to get their share of the sales.
Peter Gassenberger, HBC director for Consumers Markets, Springfield, Mo., just added a new line of children's shampoos to its product mix. "It is a real nice bright package to attract kids," said Gassenberger. "We gave it four facings. It's been in the stores for two weeks now, so it's too soon to tell how it's doing."
That is in addition to an existing brand of shampoos and bubble baths with Disney characters Consumers already carries, he noted.
Jim Wisner, group vice president for Topco, said its Jungle Land line of children's products started out as just a vitamin product several years ago. "They were in the shape of animals, and then we expanded from there," said Wisner. There are now some 75 items in the line.
Despite researcher reports, Topco's Arnieri thinks product selection is still principally the parent's decision. "When you get beyond the infant stage though, the kids may be attracted by flavors, colors or animal shapes," she concedes.
"And some of these products you would not think of normally as fun -- make it palatable to kids," Arnieri said.
Meanwhile, Bowling Green, Ky.-based Houchens Food Stores has just taken on a new children's body wash and hair care line, said Dale Green, HBC buyer.
He commented that the analgesics market is "gearing more to kids all the time," bringing out products that "are not just the adult formulas."
Green credits the product innovations for bringing new sales to the category. "It is not taking from the adult sales. And I guess it's sales that we weren't getting at all before, because the parent was self-doctoring the child I think."
While most retailers said the kids' products were still being integrated on the shelves among other products in the category, Green said that at least for the cough/cold items at Houchens, they were separated out in the section and given a one or two shelf areas.
In addition to the special sections created for children's bath products, Big Y is also expanding its product selection with a new line of branded children's bath products which come in animal-shaped packaging, said Turgeon.
Other new children's HBC products it has taken on that Turgeon expects "will add excitement to the category," include several first-aid items, such as an antibiotic bandage; a waterproof bandage; and a bandage for burns that is designed with a coolant and can be cut to fit the burn area.
Turgeon also said another new product she expects to be good for the category is a nail care line for older children and young teens. Additionally, she expects to see more seasonal products or themed products, that borrow on Christmas or summer movie releases, to be introduced in the kids' hair accessories and bath lines.