When marketing to families, editor Dan Malovany notes, bakers and snack producers need to think back to when they were kids.

When marketing to families, editor Dan Malovany notes, bakers and snack producers can’t forget what it was like grow up. They need to recall the dynamics between a mother and her children.

That’s also the bottom line on new research by Just Kid Inc., who conducted 30-minute online surveys with 3,600 mothers of children ranging from 2 to 14 years old. Specifically, the project explored what’s important to moms and their families when buying food in 60 categories using 90 different attributes and benefits which influence those decisions.

Food companies need to develop marketing campaigns that reflect how the often complex relationship between a mother and her children can influence whether a product makes it into their homes, says Amy Henry, managing director of research and strategy at the Stamford, Conn.-based firm.

When it comes to preparing meals, she notes, three-quarters of the moms surveyed listed “fresh” as important. Sure, hot and fresh is great in theory, however, in actuality, frozen is what gets put on the table more often than most parents readily admit.

“Easy to prepare trumps everything,” Henry explains.

In the survey, more than 85% of moms listed health and nutrition as the most important characteristics of an ideal food. The key word here, Henry says, is “ideal.” In reality, 78% say its vital that the food their kids are eating tastes good and their children like it, 74% say it has to be something they know their children will love and 73% want something that their kids will eat without a fuss.

Only 55% listed fiber as important, 39% named Omega-3 and 26% care about organic.

As a result, Henry says, moms make the final decision about what food gets into their homes, but nearly all of them admit that their children influence that decision. Simple goodness, she adds, is often more important than the latest health trend.

That’s not to say that health is not important. It’s just a more long-term lifestyle that parents hope to instill in their children, Henry explains. Just don’t tell the little ones that they’re eating something with whole grains in it. What they don’t know won’t hurt them.

A child’s age also changes the relationship that moms and kids have to the foods they eat and the brands they buy. Specifically, those kids who are five and under may have much different eating habits than those six and older.

“There’s an almost magic transformation from kindergarten to first and second grade when it comes to the types of foods that kids eat,” Henry says.

Take, for instance, Uncrustables, by J.M. Smuckers. About 12% of those moms of all age groups surveyed report their children eat them for lunch at least once a month. However, 24% of children ages six to nine eat them for lunch at least once a month.

Likewise, 7.7% of children ages four and five eat frozen entrees for breakfast. That number jumps to 20% when the kids reach the ages of six and seven. Toaster pastries also are eaten about one-third of children under five. That jumps to around 50% for kids who are six and older.

Apparently, Henry says, convenience and the need to fuel their bodies becomes increasingly important to children when rushing in the morning to face a long school day. In addition, moms’ influence over their children’s eating habits tends to decline while other factors from friends and teachers play a bigger role in their lives.

In the end, the latest health trend may sound like the next big thing. For most families, however, it doesn’t make a difference, except in the long run.

Dan Malovany, editor