Lunchables absolutely dominate the market for children’s “combination lunches”, and when I say dominate I mean it in every sense of the word.
Kraft Heinz’s star product has an 84% market share, which in today’s reality equals more than 1.36 billion dollars per year!
Impressive, right? But did you know that this Lunchable phenomenon started out as a low-key marketing effort to sell cheap bologna and other lunch meats that were underselling at the time? Or, that they could have been called “Crackerwiches”?
The Lunchables snack brand has grown significantly during its 30-plus-year history, and it is deeply rooted in our culture. Since it looks poised to reign for many decades more, I want to take a moment to celebrate the processed product that has colored so many of our childhood memories.
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The Lunch Time Champ – 34 Years Of History
The year was 1985, and Bob Drane, Tom Bailey, Jeff James, and Deborah Giarusso, had just been tasked with selling more of Oscar Mayer’s underperforming lunch meats.
To achieve this goal, the team, led by Mr. Drane, organized several focus groups to help identify potential solutions to their primary concern: sell more bologna. The resulting data, collected from hundreds of working mothers, allowed them to design a product that was virtually guaranteed to sell well.
What did the team find out? Working mothers were single-mindedly concerned with the increasing time constraints of preparing a nutritional breakfast and lunch for their children during the school year. This resulted in the team focusing their efforts on reducing the time needed to prepare these meals, and packing as much convenience as possible into their product.
Lunchables Were Born!
A product that was conveniently prepacked and included everything that a kid needed to have a tasty and filling meal. This included Oscar Mayer bologna, Kraft cheese, crackers, a drink, and even a bit of dessert.
Throughout the years Lunchables has launched a wide variety of prepackaged food snacks, including the classic cracker with ham and cheese box, pizza, chicken nuggets, miniature hot dog and burger, nacho, a subway sandwich option, and more.
All in all, Lunchables are a very clever solution to a very real problem faced by millions of working Americans every day. The fact that the brand has kept a very honed purpose, focusing on convenience for the parents and a fun factor for the kids, is the reason why it remains successful to this day.
Troubles and Tribulations – A Healthier Alternative To Lunchables?
Lunchables are as popular as they have ever been, but this has not always been the case. During the 90s, the brand came under heavy scrutiny from health advocates and concerned nutritionists.
To be fair, the brand has always prioritized tastiness and convenience over nutrition.
The saturated fat and sodium content found in a typical Lunchable has always been concerningly high, especially when you consider that they are primarily aimed at kids.
When the fact that a single Lunchable could contain as much as 47% of the recommended daily intake for an adult, concerned parents around the country rose up and demanded healthier options.
As a result, Lunchables has repeatedly introduced various “healthier” options so that concerned parents can still enjoy the convenience of these packed meals without having to sacrifice their children’s well-being.
Additionally, the unhealthier components have been replaced by healthier versions or outright substitutions. For example, you will be pressed to find a Lunchable product with a can of Coca-Cola, like you once could.
Surprisingly enough, these healthier options have historically failed from a commercial standpoint. For example, when Lunchables started shipping with yogurt instead of candy for dessert, sales started to tank.
For all their posturing, consumers, both adults, and their kids want to indulge in what tastes good, and the best-selling Lunchable products remain the less healthy food options, such as crackers or pizza boxes.
Everything You Could Want In One Package
At the end of the day, parents who buy Lunchables for their kids do so because it provides everything they need in one affordable, easy-to-use package. But most importantly, they buy them because kids love them.
I loved them as a kid, and now that I have kids of my own I can see that they love them as much as I once did.