Children in the UK have never had it so good, with 31 per cent of them receiving pocket money from both their parents and their grandparents, a factor influenced by the increasing longevity of the older generation, according to market analysts Mintel.
But kids also have more to spend their money on than ever before, with food and drink now having to vie not only with items such as toys and magazines but also cosmetics, clothes, video games, CDs and even savings.
And if the range of products available for kids to buy has expanded dramatically since the days of their parents and grandparents, the methods used by companies to win a share of the pocket money market have also inevitably become more sophisticated - if not to say aggressive.
Mintel's data shows that crisps, sweets and chocolate are still hugely popular with children of all ages, with 56 per cent of those aged 7-10 spending their money on these products, the second most popular category after toys and games. Some 31 per cent of this age group spend their pocket money on drinks.
But the data also shows that it is children from less affluent households which are the most likely to buy crisps, confectionery and drinks, mainly because, Mintel suggests, many of these are one parent families where the adults tend to be less concerned about healthy eating.
For the older age group (11-14), crisps, and confectionery are the most regular purchases with pocket money (a whopping 84 per cent of children in this age group will spend their cash on these products, Mintel said), followed by drinks (with 73 per cent).
In other words, children tend to buy more food with their pocket money the older they get, despite the obvious distractions of more sophisticated pastimes such as going out or travelling, Mintel said.
A closer look at the figures, however, shows that the relatively low added value of the food and drink products bought by kids means that they account for only a small share of their pocket money - kids aged 11-14 spend an average of £3.79 per week on food, compared to £8.58 on clothes, the biggest outlay.
So food and drink producers targeting children count on regular, repeat purchases of their brands in order to maintain their share of the pocket money market, a factor which in the past required them not only to maintain a high level of product innovation to stimulate interest, but also to spend increasingly large sums of money on promoting their products to children, keeping them at the forefront of their minds.
But Mintel's data also shows that the health debate - which has increasingly blamed food and drink marketers for growing levels of childhood obesity - has had a significant effect on marketing budgets over the last year or so.
Take Masterfoods, for example, the owner of the Mars confectionery brand. The eponymous Mars Bar is perhaps the company's best known brand, and the company spent £5.7 million on promoting the countline bar in children's media in 2000, according to Mintel. But this sum dropped by 71.4 per cent by 2003, with the group spending 'just' £1.2 million on the brand.
Furthermore, food companies are likely to find it harder than ever to increase their share of the pocket money market, with advertising expenditures set to drop further: Mars Bar marketing spend is predicted to drop to £491,000 this year, according to Mintel.
While another confectionery specialist, Nestlé, is also seen as reducing its advertising expenditure in this market, Mintel suggests that the UK's biggest crisp manufacturer, PepsiCo-owned Walkers, will quickly move in to fill the gap.
The snack maker increased its children-focused advertising expenditure by 28 per cent between 2000 and 2003, totalling £15.8 billion by the end of the period, and while expenditure is likely to be slashed dramatically this year, to a mere £4.8 billion, according to Mintel, the company is likely to remain the chief target of anti-obesity campaigners if only because of the sheer size of its marketing machine compared to rivals, running both TV adverts and numerous on-pack promotions.
Health concerns have also obliged food and drink manufacturers to curb the rate of new product development, according to Mintel's GNPD, which monitors product launches. A total of 543 new products or extensions targeted at kids were launched in 2001 by food and drink manufacturers, but this dropped to 366 in 2003 - and to just 46 in the first half of the current year.