Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Mums and lunchboxes - September 2013

We’re two weeks into the new school term and lots of mums are thinking about lunches. Specifically what to put in their child's lunchbox that keeps them happy and ensures they have a full tummy but meets school deadlines and doesn’t break the bank!

As you can tell from that list lunchboxes have become a bit of a hot topic for mums. In the last few years parents have come under increasing pressure from the Government and schools to provide a ‘healthy’ lunchbox. Most parents would agree this is really important but what do you do if your child won’t eat fruit and veg? And many parents choose packed lunches as an alternative to more costly school dinners – is it possible for parents to make the healthiest choice possible when catering to a budget? Is there a place for brands to help mums make lunchboxes less stressful?

We recently carried out some insight work with mums looking at what decisions they make when filling their child's lunchbox. 

 • 74% of mums struggle to vary what they put in their childs lunchbox.
 • 61% of mums said they had school lunchbox guidelines to meet.

Mums main criteria and wants when filling the lunchbox: 

1. The children enjoy it (and fits their own personal needs i.e. allergies, fussy eaters, wants).
2. It fills them up, provides nutrients and vitamins and energy for the day.
3. It meets school guidelines.

Mums look out for healthy additions, and if it provides them 1, 2 or 3 of their 5 a day that’s great. Another tick off the lunchbox list. But most mums don’t actively look for low fat products, it is more about what the lunchbox gives their child rather than avoiding the 'bad' choices. I

If you are developing products for mums then you might be interested to know…

Top 5 inclusions in lunchboxes: 

1. 95% sandwich (cheese, ham and tuna are the top 3 filings)
2. 86% piece of fruit
3. 75% yoghurt
4. 61% cheese portion
5. 51% biscuit/mini packet of biscuits

But we did see indications that the usual lunchbox formula is changing ever so slightly in the quest to meet varying lunchbox needs.

About a fifth of mums mentioned some bespoke inclusions in the lunchbox, here’s how mums are doing it:

  • Homebaked products are on the up. 63% of mums regularly put home-baked products in their lunchbox. Could you use that information to create messaging that appeals to these mums?
  • Raw vegetable sticks are a regular for some kids – with carrots & cucumber sticks the favourite. There were other veg mentioned including gherkins, peapods and olives. 
  • Mini sausage or sausage roll were mentioned as an alternative to sandwiches. 
  • Savoury and sweet sometimes merge, possibly in attempt to balance what is deemed a healthy snack – so mums mentioned including savoury scones and brioche rolls. 
  • Kids don’t always go for ‘kid food’ – many mums mentioned dips such as hummus with breadsticks or rice and pasta salads with chicken strips. 
  • Jam sandwiches are here to stay – 10% regularly put them in their kid’s lunchbox. 
  • Cereal bars are the most popular new addition to lunch boxes. But many have to be nut free to meet school guidelines. Is there a growing gap in the market?

Most of all mums want to see more healthy and fruit based lunchbox items on supermarket shelves. And ideally kid sized. 

From online survey of 565 UK parents.

If you’d like to talk to us about working with MumPanel to help you get your products right for mums then give us a call.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

MumPanel Approved - new parent stamp of approval

This week we are officially launching the MumPanel Approved quality mark.

Most parents struggle to choose between the vast array of products on the market - how do you know what's best for your child, what product offers the best value, is it a quality product?

What most mums do is ask friends and family but we wanted an additional, independent way to help parents when they are stood in a shop puzzling over what to buy. The MumPanel Approved mark will show parents if products or services are of high quality and good value and if other parents would recommend them.

Each product will go through a testing system and will be assessed on criteria including price, value, quality and level of customer satisfaction. To be awarded MumPanel Approved brands must score highly in all areas.

Brands and products that have already achieved the mark are Australia’s No1 Suncream brand SunSense and Soreen’s Lunchbox Loaves. Other well-known brands are currently within our entirely independent testing process. Testing is carried out by the thousands of mums, dads and grandparents who make up the MumPanel.

If you'd like to know more about MumPanel Approved email lynne@mumpanel.co.uk

Thursday, 22 August 2013

The winning idea - Cultured Kids Travel Kit

As part of The Big Mum Opinion we asked mums (and dads and grandparents) to come with an idea for a product or service that would make parents' lives easier.

Our panel of judges, including Soreen Managing Director Paul Tripp; inventor and founder of Brother Max, Jonathan Gold; top blogger Nickie O’Hara; and entrepreneur and founder of Workingmums.co.uk Gillian Nissam plus the MumPanel team, looked at over 1200 fantastic ideas.

There were so many brilliant ideas including an iPhone Advisor App for reviewing family-specific attractions and destinations and a marketing labelling scheme to make it easier for parents to identify child-friendly food products, i.e. those which contain low salt, sugar and additives.

It was very difficult to choose a winner as there were so many great suggestions but one particular idea really resonated with the parents on the panel.

We choose Laura Harris, from Andover in Hampshire, as our winner. Laura came up with the idea of The Cultured Kids Travel Kit – a pack of destination-led activities for children between ages two and 12 that aims to educate them about the country they are travelling to in a fun and entertaining way. It’s a simple idea which will be straightforward to develop and implement.

As well as winning £150 of high street vouchers we're helping Laura promote her idea to brands. We know tour operators and travel companies would be perfectly positioned to help parents keep their children entertained and create a stress-free holiday.

The full report from The Big Mum Opinion will be available in September 2013.  Email contact@mumpanel.co.uk if you would like more information when the full report is released.

Friday, 26 July 2013

5 ways brands can help mums fill lunchboxes

Last week the papers were full of news of schools banning packed lunches.

Behind the headlines was the release of a report called The Independent School Food Plan. The plan outlines a number of recommendations to change the eating behaviours of school children in the UK.

One of those recommendations is that 70% of school children should be eating school dinners. The idea is that schools lunches are healthier (although we know that not to be the case in many schools) and parents can’t fill lunchboxes with ‘junk’.

It would also provide a much needed source of income to schools which would then fund making school dinners better. You can read the whole report here.

The reaction from mums on twitter and in our facebook group wasn’t very positive – whatever the thought process behind the plan they wanted to have the choice to decide lunchbox or school dinner.

“It's taking the choice away from parents, what if you have a child on a special diet or a fussy eater? As parents are we not capable of putting healthy food in our kids lunchboxes?" Susan

And for many mums cost was an issue…

“My kids aren't at school yet, but when they go I intend to send packed lunches. Not sure we could afford school meals. If they were heavily subsidised and meet the needs of fussy eaters so kids aren't going hungry then may be convinced...” Natalie

We know from our research in The Big Mum Opinion that lunchboxes are a daily topic of conversation – how can mums balance the ‘rules’ that schools set about what can go in lunchboxes with what their kids like (and will eat) and healthy eating?

So how can brands help mums with lunchboxes?

1. Think about price 
Mums have different budgets for their child’s lunchbox but the cost can add up when you have to provide 5 meals (and more if you have more than one child) so mums are always comparing costs. Mums will balance health considerations with price but if it’s a ‘small treat’ (e.g. a chocolate biscuit versus a ‘healthier’ biscuit’) then price may win. Mums often buy in bulk so find special offers for lunchboxes attractive.

2. Provide choice 
Mums want to vary the lunchbox for different nutritional as well as taste requirements. Children have fads, allergies and different wants. Give mums choice.

3. Help educate mums 
Many mums would love to feed their children healthy, tasty, nutritious foods every single day. But we often need ideas and inspiration. Could your brand be that helping hand that mums need – offering great ideas that satisfy kids and school rules around what can go in lunchboxes? What’s the nutritional value of their lunchbox?

4. Appeal to kids but satisfy the parents 
Our mums tell us that they make the ultimate decision about what goes in the trolley. The kids don’t normally decide but we do want to keep them happy (and safe if they have allergies etc) so think about what appeals to kids but satisfies parents needs. At the end of the day if the child doesn’t like the taste it won’t be bought again.

5. Let mums know it is recommended for the lunchbox
It sounds really obvious but let us know it is good for the lunchbox (recommended and used by mums and kids) and whatever the product is make it lunchbox friendly, packaging, size, easy to find in store and easy to open.

If you want to know more about research with mums or marketing specific products to mums drop us a line.

Friday, 21 June 2013

The Big Mum Opinion sneak peek – the changing shape of shopping

After weeks of gathering information we’ve now closed The Big Mum Opinion. 3000 mums gave us their opinions on shopping, spending, social media use and how brands can best communicate with them. We also did in-depth research with hundreds of mums in their own communities to give us a balanced view of the world of mums in 2013.

We’re now analysing the data which confirms some of what we already know from talking to thousands of mums over the last three years. There were also a few surprises in there and we know this insight will be vital as brands try and find ways to connect effectively with mums.

We thought we’d offer you a peek into the kind of issues that mums discussed and some of the hard facts that came out of the study.

Do you think price promises and loyalty cards make mums shop in one place?

Despite the best efforts of the supermarkets mums are still shopping around.


  • 78% of mums use more than one shop (including online shops) to buy their grocery shopping in a typical week.
  • 28% of mums use three or more shops for their grocery shopping in a typical week
  • 51% of mums do one big grocery shop and go to shops for other items (usually something specific like meat at a butchers or vegetables from one particular place).
Two main reasons emerged – 78% mums said they did this because of offers and 39% said it was because of better quality fresh food. And these two things aren’t mutually exclusive – many mums mentioned Aldi’s fruit and veg as being both of better quality and cheaper.

It doesn’t follow that mums who like offers and low priced products are willing to compromise on quality. They want both.

We have also seen confirmation of a pattern that we identified about two years ago. Mums are loyal – but not to one store or brand. They’ll own loyalty cards but often for several supermarkets. They’ll be loyal to a brand, but only buy when it’s on offer.

Here’s what one mum said:

“I go to Sainsbury’s for some of the brands I can’t get in Morrisons (and their own brands) and also to get the price promise voucher for next week. I shop in Morrisons for location, fresh produce quality and build up their weekly offer voucher scheme too. And then I go to Aldi for fresh fruit and veg when I am in the village. Sometimes use bargain stores for cleaning products and kids sweets.”

If you’d like to know more about what mums think and a copy of the full report (due out July) email nicola@mumpanel.co.uk (cost £495). 

Thursday, 21 March 2013

First-ever major UK mum study goes back to the school gates

This week has been a very exciting one for MumPanel as we launch The Big Mum Opinion. You can find out more about the study in the press release below.

Specialist family insight and marketing consultancy MumPanel, has launched the first in-depth study of UK mums and their views on the products and services that brands offer them.

“The Big Mum Opinion will be the first large-scale qualitative and quantitative investigation of mothers’ purchasing attitudes and preferences in Britain,” said Lynne Barcoe, Founder of MumPanel. “This study goes way beyond number crunching and categorising mum types according to their household spend. We are going back to the school gates and the children’s groups to hear mums’ thoughts first-hand, and find out the real complexities of being a mum. Particularly, what that means when it comes to buying goods for themselves and their families,” she said.

The consultancy, which has so far helped many family brands to understand and connect with their mum customers, from Organix to Soreen, believes there is a huge opportunity for brands to really connect with mums out in their worlds, improving communication, products and services and giving them what they want.

Barcoe, who has more than 10 years’ senior marketing experience, said: “While brands now have more data at their fingertips and more touchpoints to connect with mums, it is not as helpful as it may seem on the face of it. Mums are telling us that brands are not always getting it right; we want to look at why this is and what they should be doing. The Big Mum Opinion is all about understanding the real face of mums and removing the risk of misinterpreting them by providing quality workable evidence and insight that brands can pick up and run with.”

Mums like Charlotte from London: “We’re not just mothers, we are friends, daughters, workers, partners. We have hobbies and pastimes, likes and dislikes. I feel like no-one quite gets me and that I’m still represented by the mum stereotypes of old,” she said.

MumPanel’s Head of Marketing, Nicola Cooper-Abbs, added: “Lately there is too great a reliance on online data but we know most mums don’t spend their lives online. This is creating a red herring for brands, as the opinions of mums are narrowed down to a small minority who are always online. We also see research that is much too biased on quantitative data and missing supportive in-depth qualitative data. So mums are labelled up and filed according to the box they ticked online.”

MumPanel’s Big Mum Opinion, which launched this week, will focus on getting the real views of mums out in the field, in their natural environment, from the school gates to the toddler and children’s clubs, as well as online – in fact the Big Mum Opinion promises to take in most mum touchpoints. The team will speak to around 4,000 mums in a variety of settings, including their Opinion Pods, and will track mums’ journeys from start to end.

Cooper-Abbs, said: “Where MumPanel really adds value is in our marketing skills and knowledge. We are not a parenting forum we are mum marketing specialists who gather quality research and insight from our mum panelists and combine it with authoritative analysis and commentary. This gives brands a real understanding of their customers and concrete evidence to work with at the end of it all.”

She concluded: “If brands want to attract their slice of the parent pound they need to understand the opinions of all their customers, not just a select few, and how to feed those opinions back into the products they are developing, campaigns they are planning and the services they’re delivering. The Big Mum Opinion, which will be published 22 May 2013, is a must read for brands who count mums as a primary customer.”

For more information on the Big Mum Opinion, visit: http://www.mumpanel.co.uk/projects-surveys.php

For more information you can contact Rachael Tilling at The PR Station: m 078 1111 9430 rtilling@theprstation.co.uk

Monday, 4 March 2013

Top 5 tips for marketing to mums

With Mothers’ Day on the horizon we thought we’d put together our top five tips for marketing to mums.  The biggest issue we encounter when companies market to mums is that they don’t really seem to understand where mums are right now  - what is going on in their lives, what plays on their minds when it comes to making purchases, where budget would be best spent to get mums to buy. 

  1. Know mums. That may sound an incredibly obvious statement but think about it for a minute. If you are a marketing manager and not a parent are you really sure you can relate to mums – do you understand their fears and worries? Do you shop in the same way they do? Do you know what they want from your product or service? Do your research – use focus groups, social media and surveys (on and offline) to dig into what mums want. 
  2. Mums don’t always follow the rules. The common approach when it comes to research and marketing is to break down a target audience into segments – often working on the basis that they will purchase in a certain way based on socio-economic or geographic factors.  But it’s different for mums – we’re hard to segment.  Mums 'with money' can be penny pinchers who shop in charity shops because they don’t have their own income. Mums with little income will go without so their children can have the best.  It can be useful to look at targeting mums based on grouping such as having children of a similar age but segmenting might not always give you the best insight.
  3. Be aware of where mums are. We’ve seen some statistics this year that have told us all mums are online, spending hours on facebook. This isn’t a true reflection of what’s happening out there.  Mums over 35 often don’t use social media at all. Think about where mums HAVE to be everyday – schoolgate, children’s clubs or in their own social circle.
  4. Word of mouth still rules. Whether it’s face to face or amplifying through social media, word of mouth is still the most powerful and long lasting way to connect with mums.  That’s because mums trust other mums.
  5. Give mums what they want. The easiest way to get mums to buy is by giving them what they need. You can identify gaps in the market by carrying out research and then sense checking concepts with mums. That way you’ll know you are on target to a good product.

If you’d like to know more about research or marketing to mums give us a call at MumPanel.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Using tech to talk to mums

In our last blog I talked about how brands need to make sure they don’t forget where mums are everyday.  So we know out and about and social media play their parts but where does other technology sit in all of this?  There’s no doubt mums now use all sorts of technology as part of their everyday lives – nearly everyone has an email address and uses the internet. Many have smartphones, some use social media (but quick note brands, not always in the way you need them to!). What is emerging in this field is the growth of ebooks and apps – several brands have cottoned onto this and released shopping/information apps or other e-content in the last few months. We think that’s a pretty smart move. 

Mums don’t have much time, so if you can provide a way for me to get information or do jobs on the run then I’m going to grab it with both hands. Answer my questions and make my life easier? Where do I sign up!?

The question is how do you use technology appropriately so you engage mums, create loyalty and get them to buy?

A great place to start is by providing information.  As soon as you get pregnant you have questions – what should I eat, where will I give birth, how much has my baby grown? And once the baby arrives you have a million more questions.  Our research has shown that mums use other mums and their own family as a primary touchpoint for information. But we know this must be balanced with the fact that mums are deep consumers of information, gathering from multiple sources and in many different media – from a leaflet at the doctor’s surgery to being told about a new app by a mum friends on facebook. 

If you take an informational approach to engaging with mums you create deeper connections as they see you as a valuable part of their parenting life. And that’s where loyalty begins. 

Drop me a line if you’d like to know more about creating technology that mums want to engage with nicola@mumpanel.co.uk

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Living socially - the next step in connecting with mums

A few months ago a conversation started in the MumPanel office about brands focussing a little too much on social media and in the process forgetting about where they could connect with mums every day. 


I’m an early adopter of technology.  Most of my friends aren’t. Most of my friends are mums. If you take notice of the media and rafts of marketing information coming your way you might be convinced that every single person (including mums) are spending their entire life on facebook and twitter. They’re permanently attached to their smartphone and asking all their parenting questions on forums. 

But this isn’t the whole story. I know most of the mums in my daughter’s class pretty well now and only about a third are on facebook (even less use it every day), I’m one of a handful on twitter and many don’t own a smartphone. Some even share an email account with their husband. 

Surprised? We aren’t.  We’re hearing the same story from mums across the UK, irrespective of their location, income or ethnicity. As the trend to push brands online has grown we worry that marketers have forgotten that mums HAVE to connect in real life, every day and in many different ways. 

If you have children, regardless of the amount of time you may choose to spend online, you have to do the school run, go and buy new shoes, do drop offs and pick ups at classes and organise outings to keep them occupied at the weekends. That doesn’t mean to say we don’t use technology – I’m often checking directions to somewhere on my smartphone or asking a question of mums on Facebook. 

But every single morning I stand with 10 other mums and we share information – this morning it was personal recommendations about where to buy a new kitchen table. And because I know and trust these mums then that word of mouth recommendation sticks. I’m much more likely to act on this than on a tweet. Mums take social media to the next level – they integrate it with their day to day social interactions – turning it into social living. But what does that all mean for brands? Firstly social media is great  - if your audience is there (and you should test this). Secondly don’t let social media or online activity stand alone – you are missing the opportunity to connect with mums on a wider and deeper level. Finally, never forget where mums are everyday – in the supermarket, at the school gate, living socially. Find ways to connect and build on natural word of mouth recommendation.

Drop me a line to me at nicola@mumpanel.co.uk if you’d like a copy of our Soreen case study on integrating spreading the word marketing online and at the school gate.