“What SNACK did you bring Mum?’’ Does anyone else get greeted at pick up every day with that line? But with all the sweet treats on offer it can often be hard to find snacks that the minis want to eat but won't send their sugar intake sky rocketing. I was so excited to catch up with SNACKZILLA founder Marieke Syed and find out how her minis’ love of snacks inspired her to create a guilt-free, reduced sugar alternative.
"My kids are constantly demanding snacks, but it seems they aren’t alone. The vast majority (86%) of British kids aged 7-15 snack at least once a day, while more than half (52%) are snacking constantly or several times a day. I first noticed that my kids weren’t being catered for by baby and toddler snacks after they turned 5, the oaty bars ‘were for babies’ and the fruit yoyo’s were being inhaled in under 5 seconds. Then the pestering started.
‘Mum can you get those cool yoghurts from the TV ad’, ‘Mum I want those chocolate biscuits that Harry has after school’. The older they were getting the more they seemed to be influenced by both advertising and by peer pressure. Pester power is now a marketing phenomenon, with most parents adopting a collaborative approach to choosing snacks for their children and around half admitting that they tend to buy snacks their child prefers, a number which is rising as the child grows.
I wouldn’t mind the pestering if they were demanding cucumber sticks and tahini, the issue was the products they wanted were packed full of sugar or sweeteners or palm oil and the like. In my household the snack of choice is a biscuit, something my kids must have inherited from me as I admit I could easily devour a packet of chocolate hobnobs in one sitting. Many of us love a bit of indulgence at snack time and kids especially love a sweet treat, with 61% of kids listing biscuits as their snack of choice.
The problem with our love of sweet snacks is that it is linked to rising obesity levels in children*. In August 2016 the Government published ‘Childhood obesity: A plan for action’. This included a commitment for Public Health England (PHE) to oversee a sugar reduction programme. They have challenged all sectors of the food industry to reduce the level of sugar by 20% before 2020, with a particular focus on the categories that contribute most to sugar intake in children under 18, including biscuits. Sugar consumption is now cited as a major concern for the majority of parents, with 85% of parents trying to control the amount their kids consume."
“Despite consumer demand for more low-sugar formulations and the willingness to pay more if needed for low-sugar options, retailers are failing to make these products available on the shelf.”
Netmums editor in chief Anne-Marie O’Leary, September 2017.
Marieke admits "As a parent myself I found it difficult to find products out there that were targeted and branded especially for their age group, that would make them feel like they were having a treat but that would help me keep their sugar consumption down."
So, she decided to do something about it! After 6 months of research SNACKZILLA was born, targeted at 5-13 year olds, with a mission to make a less sugary cookie that would fulfill their snacking cravings whilst also being perfect for lunchboxes and on the go.
"Working with a food technologist meant I could adapt my Great Grandmothers oaty cookie recipe to meet the Food Standards Authority’s nutritional profile model. In SNACKZILLA’s we use a combination of brown rice syrup, chicory root fibre and citrus fibre to get the sweetness, whilst keeping the cookie soft and chewy.
After 2 years of development we have made a cookie that has 40% less sugar in it compared to a standard sweet biscuit. The feedback from kids so far has been brilliant, with most not even realising it is reduced sugar. Perhaps not as healthy a snack as a cucumber stick, but hopefully a step in the right direction.”
Marieke Syed, Founder SNACKZILLA