Industry fights rearguard action against regulation

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In its latest analysis of the global baby food market, Euromonitor International states: “Government Regulation a Growing Constraint”. It continues: “There are significant international variations in the regulations governing the marketing of milk formula, which are reflected in sales differences across countries.”

There could be no clearer indication that restricting marketing protects breastfeeding, so limiting market growth. “The industry is fighting a rearguard action against regulation on a country-by-country basis,” Euromonitor reports.

Under-resourced public interest organisations will be encouraged to learn that the transnational baby food companies are on the back foot, but concerned at this confirmation that the industry response to the World Health Assembly marketing requirements is to fight against them being implemented in regulations.

Euromonitor highlights the impact of differing regulatory systems: “The huge disparity in the retail value of milk formula sales between China and India is mainly due to the significant differences between their official regulatory regimes.” It notes: “In India, all advertising is prohibited, while in China, TV advertising and the use of celebrity spokespeople are allowed.”

Most growth in the market is in the Asia-Pacific region with China the ‘star performer’, with formula sales predicted to have grown by 26% in 2008.

Sales of toddler milks, said to be an industry priority because their promotion is less regulated, are predicted to grow by 31%.

In industrialised countries the industry focus is on increasing value growth as well as volumes, through the promotion of added ingredients such as DHA and ARA (Long Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids) and ‘probiotics’. Promotion of breastfeeding is a concern to the industry, even in the US where formula advertising is unregulated: “The rising popularity of breast feeding and a low birth rate will combine to drag North American retail value growth down by a percentage point in 2008, to 5.9%.”

Nestlé’s share of the global baby milk and baby food market is given as 26% following its takeover of Gerber, with Danone in second place on 14% following its takeover of the NUMICO brands (Nutricia, Milupa/Aptamil, Cow & Gate).

Organic baby foods are seen as a significant marketing strategy, but Euromonitor acknowledges: “In Western Europe, most parents are unaware that, as a result of stringent EU regulations on permitted levels of pesticide residues in baby food, there is very little difference between regular and organic baby food.”

The internet is portrayed as a major marketing opportunity for developing countries. IBFAN has recorded how companies attempt to sign parents up to ‘Baby Clubs’. We have also highlighted the new strategy of promoting ‘good night milk’. As Euromonitor says: “With an increasing number of mothers returning to work after giving birth, products that help babies sleep better could have a wide appeal.”

The Euromonitor report Global Packaged Food: Market Opportunities for Baby Food to 2013 is available at:

Datamonitor: Build brand loyalty early

“Mothers are returning to a more traditional parenting technique of breastfeeding their children. This presents problems for the baby drinks industry, with the growth of formulas stunted as a consequence. Manufacturers must find ways of creating appeal without positioning drinks as a direct alternative, which creates ill-feeling among mothers.

“Marketers are becoming more aware of the need to target parents as early as possible. Brand relationships and trust bonds can be formed during pregnancy when the child is not yet even born. This lifestage targeting will becoming increasingly important going forwards.”

Babies and Toddlers: Emerging Opportunities.

What has the Gates Foundation done for global health?

For an audio recording of this interesting Royal Society of Arts and Lancet debate in May see:

The Lancet, Vol 373, Issue 9675, p1577, 9.5.09

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