A perfect storm of health challenges for kids means that independents have a bigger role than ever to play in protecting children’s health prospects, writes Jim Manson
The evidence linking poor diet with chronic, lifelong illness has been piling up for years. Some of the starkest predictions about our future health prospects are for Generation Alpha, the cohort who are now infants and young children. Unless conditions change dramatically, they can expect to suffer unprecedented levels of diet-related disease in adult life.
Hijacking our hormones
The single biggest concern is Britain’s worsening obesity crisis, now affecting growing numbers of younger children. This is all the more worrying because excess weight and obesity in childhood are reliable predictors for a range of chronic illnesses, from type 2 diabetes to cardiovascular disease and cancer. And the figures are truly startling. 2022 data from Public Health England covering the South East show that in some parts of the region over 40% of all schoolchildren are now classified as overweight or obese. Statistics gathered by the addiction service UKAT meanwhile reveal that the number of reception-aged children (that’s four to five-year-olds) classed as overweight and obese rose 26% between 2019 and 2022.
These children’s chances of escaping the cycle of poor diet and bad health outcomes are directly threatened by the relentless effort and resources that the food industry directs at getting us hooked on highly calorific and nutritionally depleted foods. In his new book Ravenous the former Government food tsar, Henry Dimbleby, explains how the industry spends millions of pounds each year tweaking junk food recipes to make them ever more irresistible. By combining the precise ratios of sugar, salt and fats that we are hard-wired to crave more of, these foods are intentionally formulated to hijack our satiety hormones, so that it takes longer for us to feel full. Big Food is literally weaponizing our appetites to feed its profits. And it has children firmly in its sights.
As most parents quickly find out, establishing healthy eating habits in young children requires time and effort – and has no guarantee of success. But as nutrition writer Ursula Arens says: “Parental role modelling, where you give children visual and verbal reinforcement of healthy eating behaviours, can be useful. Repeatedly affirming that a newly introduced food is ‘yummy’, can break down resistance and enable parents to gradually increase a child’s healthy eating repertoire.” Arens also highlights valuable national initiatives in this area, for example the TastEd scheme started by Bee Wilson. TasteEd (standing for Taste Education) encourages children to explore a whole range of fresh foods from the commonplace to the more unfamiliar by actively using all of their five senses. “Children are a pretty neutral platform when it comes to exposing them to new foods. So, if you give them a mushroom or olive to try, they will often like it.”
“Big Food is literally weaponizing our appetites to feed its profits. And it has children firmly in its sights”
The retail opportunity
Children’s health is an important but also complex to manage category for health food retailers, as Joanne Hill, owner of Amaranth Wellbeing in Bramhall, explains. “It’s an important category for us, not least because our key target audience are mums in their 30s and 40s. It might not be the biggest category by value, but it’s something that we are very happy to spend time advising on.
“In terms of the conditions and topics that are raised most frequently, I would say eczema is probably top. But we’re also often asked about wider allergy issues, anxiety and mental health – especially since COVID – along with ADHD and sleep issues.
“When we are looking at something like eczema, we would be going beyond just topical products and thinking also about immune support, and options like probiotics. We might discuss antibiotic history. And then we can talk about things like zinc.
“Anxiety has been a really big issue, particularly during and since the pandemic. We’ve had a lot of parents of high school children in particular coming in about quite severe cases of anxiety. With that, depending on the age of the child, we could be looking at something like magnesium. I’ve also seen quite a few children who have been trying reflexology – probably more in terms of just calming the nervous system down. Again, that’s something parents felt they could be doing to help.”
So, what does Hill see as the most promising product types within the children’s health category? “I think it’s a mix of the hardy perennials and some interesting new products. Within supplements, probiotics are probably the biggest category – because they can be useful in so many situations. For us, that might typically be Viridian Mother & Baby and BioCare.” For good sleep, and nightmare problems, she says customers have found Viridian’s California Poppy helpful, and in children’s skincare and for reactions she might recommend Weleda’s Calendula or White Mallow body lotions, or products from Salcura’s Bioskin Junior range.
Some innovative new children’s health products have also been featured on Amaranth’s Instagram. “We’ve recently highlighted a brand called Supernova, which now has a children’s product called Future, a wholefood powder that tastes like a rich chocolate milkshake – a great alternative after-school snack. We also explored some interesting children’s products from Hifas da Terra, the mushroom brand. One that looks really promising in terms of the huge interest in children’s development and the gut and brain connection is their Dr. GB product, which contains reishi and lion’s mane to support brain development and help children calm and unwind.”
Supplementation is a mainstay in any health store, and children’s supplements is an increasingly valuable segment within the category. But it’s also an area where special care, and perhaps additional ethical considerations, come into play when advising in store. How, for example, should a balance be struck between the need to improve children’s food and diet and making the case for supplementation? It’s a question NPN put to Tim Gaunt, chief information officer at Acorn Scientific Marketing (formerly head of research and development at Natures Aid). “A healthy diet is essential for good health and nutrition and is the first port of call for all parents looking to give their child the very best start in life. Any initiatives that promote the good health of our children and the nation at large should be wholeheartedly applauded. However, can we honestly say that we always eat the broad spectrum of fruit and vegetables that we know we should, and just how confident are we as to the quality and nutritional value of the food we are able to purchase today? Supplementing our children’s diet with key vitamins and nutrients has been proven to be essential and has worldwide backing. This alone provides a good argument for their inclusion into the health regime of any child.”
Gaunt says that as well as vitamins A, C and D supplementation – which the Government recommends for all children aged six months to five years – other nutrients that are typically lacking in children’s diets should be considered. “For example, DHA, due to the important role it plays in visual, cognitive and behavioural development; iron – the iron in a plant-based diet (clearly a growing trend) is not as easily absorbed as the iron in a diet including meat, fish and poultry; zinc – key to a healthy immune system, protein synthesis and cognitive development.”
He notes that helping children understand the role of supplementation as a complement to a healthy, varied diet is important as they grow up. “Older children want to be more involved in the supplements that they take as they seek to learn more about the benefits of good health and nutrition.” Partly for this reason, he believes that for this age range food supplements ‘should never be dressed up as sweets’.
Gaunt points out the latest data from Mintel shows that children’s supplements now represent the largest category by value of all supplements, and are particularly strong in the multiples – less so in the independents. Against the backdrop of increasing parental concern around kids’ health – and a perfect storm of health challenges – it’s clear there is an opportunity for health stores to play a bigger role than ever in boosting children’s health prospects.
View from the shop floor
Victoria Richards, store manager at Good & Green, Tunbridge Wells, says that demand for children’s health products is so high that the store has included an additional dedicated bay, located at the front of the store. “It’s massive. Lots of customers come in asking about multivitamins, specific vitamins and minerals and probiotics, so we like to make sure we have all bases covered, with carefully chosen products and brands in each of these areas.”
Richards cites Optibac Babies & Children bacteria supplement as a strong seller among the store’s probiotic offer. The tightly curated bay also includes selected supplements from the G&G range, including Kid’s Rainbow Food. There is a good range of vitamin D products from BetterYou, Child Life and Viridian, and immune support lines from Sambucol and Natures Aid. There’s a strong line-up, too, of the NaturesPlus Animal Parade range. The section also offers a limited children’s food selection, including shaped pasta and sauces from Little Pasta Organics, Mr Organic Pasta Sauce and Clearspring Organic Fruit Purée.
Good & Green also does well with children’s oral health and stocks a wide range of toothpastes, including WooBamboo, Jack ’N Jill and Kurin, and an oral probiotic from Great Oral Health. For parents looking to prevent skin rashes and reactions in younger children, the store has a good line of topical products, including Simply Gentle Organic Barrier Cream and MooGoo Baby & Child (Nut Free) Moisturiser.
Sip and snack
Four kitchen staples to get some healthy goodness into growing bodies
Kid’s Rainbow Food from G&G is an organic multivitamin blend of whole food ingredients derived from real fruits and vegetables that are packed with naturally occurring vitamins, minerals and antioxidants – as demonstrated by the product’s bright pigmentation. Just add water or juice to make a delicious drink or stir through yoghurt for a nutrient-dense snack.
Anyone for wholegrain dinosaurs?
Iconic organic food brand Biona has launched a new range aimed at discerning children (or their parents at least). The innovative Little Foodies Pasta collection is initially available in two variants – Wholegrain Dinosaur and Spelt Safari. Made from quality organic ingredients these provide an inspiring choice for parents looking for a healthier pasta alternative for kids.
Take the tube
Cocos Organic has launched what it says is the UK’s first Organic Coconut Milk Yog Tubes, designed for children over six months. The yoghurt alternative is made from pure organic coconut milk, fortified with live bacteria including Bifidobacterium BB-12, and comes in real strawberry purée and natural banana flavourings. The handy portable tubes are designed to take out and about.
New from the Nordics
Nordic iron supplement brand Nôgel has just landed in the UK, bringing with it ready-to-eat iron-fortified organic baby food to address insufficient intake of iron from food. Suitable from six months, the range comprises four gluten-free options – including Iron-Fortified Organic Buckwheat Porridge with Pear – each providing 53-71% of an infant’s recommended daily iron intake.
AvaCare has announced the launch of the new and improved update of its popular Baby Multi-Vitamin Drops. The formula delivers the previous optimum balance of essential vitamins and zinc but now includes additional micronutrients and an improved flavour.
And so to sleep …
Glow Dreaming is a five-in-one sleep aid designed for children that combines red LED light therapy, aromatherapy, pink noise and a decongesting humidifier, which work together to relax and calm young nervous systems and help children drift off.
It’s not just adults who suffer the effects of reduced sunlight and lowered serotonin in winter. Suitable for kids, Nutrigums Rescue Bears address mental wellbeing and cognitive function with a fruit-based pectin product packed with B vitamins, zinc, amino acids, green tea and prebiotics. With no added sugar, the vegan pineapple gummies feature lemon balm and chamomile to aid relaxation.
Eyeing up the omega
Committed to sustainable Atlantic sourcing, York-based Osavi has launched Norwegian Cod Liver Oil for Kids – a lemon-flavoured liquid which offers 1,000mg of omega-3 per serving, supporting eye function and the immune and respiratory systems.
Enterosgel Kids provides an effective short-term treatment for upset tummies which binds to bacterial toxins and viruses in the gut, removing them from the body in the stool. The flavourless gel can be mixed with water or a rehydration salt solution and is recommended for use when travelling with infants who experience acute diarrhoea.
Future by Supernova Living – The Power Blend
The Power Blend is the worlds healthiest chocolate milkshake, to keep your children fuller for longer and is the ultimate drink for after sports or to boost the diets of fussy children.
The first, whole food, organic children’s supplement with adaptogen, wild chaga – that tastes amazing!!
Chemical free plant proteins, organic quinoa and hemp to help satiety and keep your hungry children fuller for longer. Nourished from within, a full amino acids profile for growing muscles, prebiotics for gut health, medicinal mushroom organic wild chaga, rich in antioxidants to boost immunity and sweetened with organic coconut flower nectar with a low glycemic index so no ‘crash’ or spike.
Supernova POWER blend is SO delicious which had to be a priority as children are fussy. They will never know the immense hidden benefits.
BetterYou Multivitamin Kids’ Oral Spray
BetterYou Multivitamin Kids’ Oral Spray provides perfectly balanced nutritional support for growing bodies – a tasty, fast and fuss-free way for little ones to benefit from the vitamins and nutrients they need to grow and develop.
Providing 32 daily doses, each dose of BetterYou’s Multivitamin Kids’ Oral Spray delivers an expert blend of 14 essential nutrients to support children’s health and wellness. Certified vegetarian and palm oil free, this pill free children’s supplement is suitable for ages 1 year and above and is contained in 100% recyclable planet-friendly packaging.
Junior-vit® – For Healthy Growth & Development – Children need a regular intake of vitamins to help them grow strong and healthy, but kids can be fussy eaters and it can be tough getting them to eat a healthy balanced diet. Junior-vit® a comprehensive balanced formulation, rich in Vitamins and Minerals, especially, B, C, D, Iron Zinc, Copper, and is enriched with trace elements. Junior-vit® provides essential nutrients that children need for optimum growth and development. It is a great tasting tutti-fruity flavour chewable tablet, perfect for those who have difficulty swallowing,
Junior-vit® retails at £9.99 for 30 tablets. Contact HealthAid Ltd on 020 8426 3400 for purchase and stockist information or visit www.healthaid.co.uk
Kids Multi Vitality Sugar Free Raspberry Flavour 60 Vegan Gummies
Nutrigums Kids Multi Vitality Gummies are delicious, raspberry flavoured, SUGAR-FREE gummies providing 8 key vitamins (A, B6, B12, C, D, E, folic acid and biotin) to help support just about every part of your child’s body, including the normal function of the immune and nervous systems, normal psychological function and the reduction of tiredness and fatigue.
Berry Bursts Omega 3 for Kids (DHA, EPA + Vitamins A, C, D &E)
Lamberts® Berry Bursts have been specially formulated for those aged 3 years and over. Chewing the soft capsule releases a burst of delicious natural blackcurrant flavour and delivers essential omega 3 fatty acids alongside the vital vitamins A, C, D and E.
The unique blend is produced using one of the most sophisticated purification processes that minimises any ‘fishy’ aftertaste. The omega-3 fatty acid DHA, is essential for healthy brain function and the vitamins A, C, D and E help to support a healthy immune system, as well as healthy skin, teeth, bones, and eyes.
ORGANii Baby Care Range
Crafted with love and care, ORGANii’s range of gentle and nurturing baby care products are lovingly crafted to soothe and protect your little one’s delicate skin. Made with only the best natural and organic ingredients, the unique, gentle formulas contain certified organic ingredients to care for sensitive skin while being free of harsh, artificial fragrances, sulphates, and other unnecessary chemicals. ORGANii’s popular baby care collection consists of their Nourishing Baby Cream, Protective Nappy Cream, Fresh Scented Water, Fresh Foam Bath and Shampoo, and Softening Dry Baby Oil. Keep your baby’s skin healthy, happy, and free of irritations with ORGANii.
Organic Raw Propolis Extract Kids 1+
Introducing Organic Raw Propolis Extract Kids 1+: Nature’s Immune Support for Little Ones
Our Organic Raw Propolis Extract Kids 1+ is a remarkable addition to your child’s wellness routine. Specifically formulated for children aged 1 year and above, this water-based propolis extract is a natural way to support their growing immune system.
What sets our product apart is its purity being free from alcohol, glycerine, propylene glycol, and other additives and by preserving its raw form, our propolis extract retains its potent properties, ensuring fast-acting immune support for your little one.
The convenient spray bottle design allows for easy, on-the-go application anytime, anywhere. Its portable size fits perfectly in your bag, making it an ideal companion for busy parents.
Children’s Vitamin D3 + K2 Sublingual Spray™
Good Health Naturally’s Children’s Vitamin D3/K2 Spray™ delivers fast and effective absorption of these essential nutrients. Together, they play a crucial role in the uptake and reabsorption of calcium and phosphorous, supporting the healthy development of children’s bones and teeth. Plus, a daily dose of Vitamin D3 is now seen as critical in maintaining the immune system throughout all stages of life. Each sublingual spray delivers 200iu D3 (approx. 220 sprays per bottle), allowing flexible dosing and a convenient, practical solution for the whole family’s recommended daily intake. Spray directly under the tongue or onto food. Suitable for vegans.
Neubria – Neu Kid
Neu Kid is formulated using a special patented technology that delivers 300mg of Omega-3 and 250mg DHA, along with a complex multivitamin to support kid’s physical and cognitive development. The ‘smart chew’ is great tasting and sugar free for ages 3 – 12. Available from CLF or directly from Neubria.
Helios ABC for Children
Award winning ABC from Helios contains three homeopathic remedies, Aconite, Belladonna and Chamomilla. This combination has a long history of traditional use for childhood teething, fevers, sore throats and earache. Homeopathy has a large part to play in supporting health naturally, offering gentle, safe and effective alternatives for common complaints for all the family. ABC comes in lactose free, organic sucrose pill form, in our easy to use, single dose dispenser. For information on all our award winning remedies please contact us.