logo image

Kidult Consumption

Young adults, and brands, extend child-like playfulness to their food choices.


The secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside. –Mark Twain

ONE TREND: Mini-Mischief

As we have studied the Kidult mindset, we have noticed a trend emerge of making the “naughty” or “vices” more kid-like. Some argue that “cool” is at the intersection of good and bad (or deviant). Researchers have dug into this and found a formula that’s similar as they think “cool” is “a subjective, positive trait perceived in people, brands, products, and trends that are autonomous in an appropriate way.” In other words, cool means departing from norms that we consider unnecessary, illegitimate, or repressive—but also doing so in ways that are bounded (http://goo.gl/jwxiSi). So, as young adults are bogged down by the realities of being an adult and romanticize a childhood they had or wish they had, they are making vices mischievous and fun in a kid-like way. The spirits industry is really embracing this. For example, Pinnacle vodka offers a line of vodka flavors that include cotton candy, marshmallows, cake and gummy fish (http://goo.gl/2UH4mx). Budweiser took a similar approach with their Super Bowl commercial that featured a life-size Pac-Man game (every kid’s dream) for a random customer (https://goo.gl/qkAqWE). It’s also a way for the “kid-at-heart” to relive these kid experiences they either had or wish they had, with the fun and benefits that come with being an adult.

 When looking to reach the Kidult target, don’t focus only on aging up kid products or experiences. Also think about ways of adding kid-like experiences to adult products or occasions. This blending of kid and adult-specific experiences is fun for adults because they are able to enjoy the best of both worlds.

ONE BRAND: Kellogg's Frosted Mini-Wheats

Although Americans are eating more breakfast, cold cereal sales have declined at a 1.5% compound annual growth rate from 2008-2013. For breakfast, consumers are opting for healthier options like yogurt, granola bars and eggs. However, based on consumption patterns, consumers often indulge even though they express a desire for healthier items at breakfast, according to research from NPD. Even though consumers have grown from children to adults, their cereal preference has not. Breakfast consumers want to be healthy and they also want to indulge. Kellogg’s has leveraged the two sides of their Frosted Mini-Wheats – the healthy whole grain wheat and sweet frosting – to show how their cereal is a perfect fit for the two sides of their target consumer – the responsibly playful and mindfully indulgent. Their recent TV spot “Kidult” taps into the “kid in everyone” with their depiction of the responsible, yet playful, adult who likes to indulge. 

ONE FACT: More Than 40% of All Lucky Charms Cereal is Eaten by Adults.

Americans’ cereal choices are complicated (as we mentioned above), but nostalgia is a big part of it. Tapping into this trend, General Mills ran a campaign for their old-school cereal brand Lucky Charms in hopes of attracting these nostalgic Millennials. According to General Milles, an estimated 40% of their cereal is eaten by adults. The campaign proved successful as six months later sales were up for the cereal brand, which provided a boost for General Mills general sales. General Mills, much like Kellogg’s and quite frankly most of the cereal category, is embracing the kidult target in full force as Millennials buy up sugary cereals for themselves.