Fortification strategies boost 'Growing Up Milk' sales - despite health warnings

By Nikki Cutler

- Last updated on GMT

istock | DimaSobko
istock | DimaSobko
Sales of Growing Up Milk are booming thanks to product fortification and shrewd marketing, research has revealed, despite repeated health warnings from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The Growing Up Milk market has shown 5.9% volume year-on-year growth in 2018, according to market insight provider Fact.MR.

The report shows successful manufacturers are fortifying products with minerals, vitamins, and prebiotics to enhance nutritional intake and immunity for toddlers.

It states: "The recent discoveries on the important role Human Milk Oligosaccharides (or HMOs) in boosting health of toddlers and younger children are redefining the emerging trends in the growing up milk market.

"Addition of HMOs to growing up milk products is known to improve the nutritional qualities of the products, which can further help to improve the immune health of toddlers. Thereby, a majority of growing up milk market players may shift their focus on discovering innovative nutritional ingredients that can further improve nutritional profile of growing up milk products, in the foreseeable future."

It adds that manufacturers are also introducing products for older infants to expand their target audience and they are more frequently labelling growing up milk as ‘toddler milk’ in order to convince parents these products can help them to transition from breastfeeding to adult food.

However, it points out that "The marketing strategies adopted by leading manufacturers and distributors in the growing up milk market have invited criticism from governmental organisations, including the World Health Organisation (WHO)."

The World Health Organisation does not recommend growing up milk products, calling follow-up formulae “unnecessary” and “unsuitable” for toddler growth. It is concerned that any implication this milk can be used to replace breast milk could lead mothers to stop breastfeeding earlier.  

The growth in this market is also boosted by the increased number of working mothers and the subsequent need to ween earlier.

Brand trust and nutrition

The researchers asked consumers to choose their top purchasing influences and the report ranks the influences in order. ‘Trusted brand’ came out on top (42%), while ‘provides overall good nutrition’ came in close second (38%) and clean label or organic products ranked third (35%).  These were all considered more important than the child’s preference towards the taste (28%).

Shoppers weren’t particularly concerned whether the products were locally manufactured (12%), nor were they greatly influenced by the type of packaging i.e. bottles, pouches, cans (19%).

The research also showed that the transition from conventional to organic growing up milk formulations has highly impacted the North American, European and MEA markets.

Animal-based products

The research report points out that despite the growing popularity of plant-based dairy products among adult consumers, animal-based growing up milk still accounts for 82% revenue share in the market.

It attributes this to the fact a majority of governing bodies and healthcare organizations recommend cow-milk or other alternatives of animal-based growing up milk products for toddlers.

According to a joint statement by Dietitians of Canada (DC) and the Canadian Paediatric Society, plant-based alternatives of growing up milk must not be considered as the primary source of nutrition for toddlers.

Developing countries

According to the data, the demand for these products is higher in developing countries with Asia-Pacific and MEA markets holding a prominent revenue share of around 60% of the global market.

The report states: “The fertility rate in the Asia-Pacific has been higher in the past few years since the Chinese government dropped the one-child policy. Consumers are also becoming more aware of the importance of child nutrition, which in combination with rising birth rate is creating a higher growth potential for growing up milk market players in the region.”

The research has also seen that awareness of nutrition and health has led to the growth in the MEA region.

It states: “The risks of children dying are highest in the African region, according to the World Health Organization. Therefore, reducing preventable deaths of infants and toddlers in this region is one of the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations General Assembly.”

Government resistance

The European Commission has imposed stringent regulations, such as Commission Directive 2013/46/EU on follow-up formula products. The Commission also modified to labelling requirements for substitutes for breast milk by delegating the Regulation (EU) 2016/127, which is likely to come in effect in 2020. Stringent regulations and unfavourable recommendations from governing bodies may create more challenges for growing up milk market players in the upcoming years.

Increasing breastfeeding in developed countries

Despite this significant headroom, the report warns that inclination of parents towards breastfeeding their infants and young children may make a significant impact on growth of the growing up milk market in the coming future.

Modern parents are becoming highly aware of the health benefits of breastfeeding infants and young children for at least one year. In England, the breastfeeding rate increased from 43.2% in 2015-16 to 44.4% in 2016-17, according to Public Health England – an executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care in the UK.

What are the leaders doing?

Nestlé SA, a leading food & beverage company, recently announced its global initiative – 'Nestlé for Healthier Kids'​ to make over 50 million children healthier by 2030. To be in line with the initiative, Nestlé is reformulating its product portfolio to enhance foods and beverages for children, including growing up milk products (Nido organic milk powder), with micronutrients.

The leading player in the growing up milk market also announced that the company reached over 14 million children worldwide with the help of more than 300 partnerships and collaborations, in 2017. With the launch of more nutritious and healthy products in the growing up milk category through this social initiative, Nestlé is aiming to establish even stronger position in the growing up milk market in the upcoming years.

Another leading player, Danone announced recently launched a €300 million social bond to focus on the positive social impacts of the company’s operations. With the launch of this bond, the company is aiming to create a sustainable value for all stakeholders, including communities, consumers, as well as employees. The leading manufacturer of growing up milk product is also a part of the NaturALL Bottle Alliance, which is a research consortium formed to promote the use of renewable and 100% sustainable packaging materials. This is likely to make the company one of the socially-responsible players in the growing up milk market in the upcoming years.

Mead Johnson Nutrition Company (MJN) recently announced​ its merger with a British consumer goods company – Reckitt Benckiser Group plc. (RB). The company announced that its growing up milk product brands Nutramigen and Enfa will be added to the consumer health product portfolio of RB.



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