Arla Foods Ingredients commissioned YouGov to survey 5,658 mothers in seven different countries. When asked what product characteristics were most important to them, high quality (87%), health benefits (83%), product brand reputation and clinically documented ingredients (both 75%) topped the list, while price (52%) was the least important.
When asked which health benefits would influence their decision to buy a particular product, nearly nine in ten (87%) chose “supports healthy growth”. The next most important health benefits were “helps child’s immune system” (86%), gut comfort (85%) and cognitive development (82%).
The research also showed that mothers shop around for formula – only 27% of respondents had never switched brands. Mothers in the UK were the most brand-loyal and those in China and Indonesia, the least.
Manel Romeu Belles, global industry marketing manager for Paediatric & Medical Nutrition at Arla Foods Ingredients, said: “Although there are some differences between countries, there are also many common themes worldwide. The most important of these are the prioritization of quality over price and a focus on health benefits.
“With only just over a quarter of mothers never switching brands, there is an opportunity for manufacturers to increase customer loyalty. One of the avenues to achieve that could be by launching products containing high-quality, specialized ingredients that can bring infant formula closer to breast milk.”
When asked whether they knew about specific ingredients, lactose topped the list – recognised by 66% of mothers – followed by probiotics (63%).
Ingredients from whey were also widely known about, with nearly half of respondents (46%) aware of whey proteins, 32% aware of whey protein hydrolysates and 31% aware of phospholipids.
A substantial 29% were aware of alpha-lactalbumin and 20% knew of milk fat globule membrane (MFGM) and 16% were even aware of osteopontin (OPN).
Nearly four in ten of the mothers (38%) said they would prefer a product that contained whey proteins, with this figure rising to 55% in China.
Belles added: “This research provides valuable insights into the consumer behaviour of Generation X and Millennial mothers buying infant and baby formula.
“One of the key findings, for us and for formula manufacturers, is that high numbers of mothers globally not only recognise whey-derived ingredients, but also have a preference for products that contain them. This is particularly true of China, the world’s largest infant formula market.”
Alpha-lactalbumin and whey protein hydrolysates were also found to be popular ingredients, both scoring 31%. OPN, phospholipids and MFGM scored 28%, 28% and 25% respectively.
A total of 5,658 mothers and mothers-to-be were interviewed in France, South Korea, China, the UK, the USA, Germany and Indonesia. All were aged 18-45, had children up to the age of four and were educated to college level.