In its Health & Nutrition Survey conducted in 2020 with 9,011 respondents and again in 2022 with 7,958 participants, Euromonitor found that the top label claims parents care most about when it comes to baby food are ‘all natural,' 'free from preservatives,' and 'limited or no added sugar.'
Claims that saw the most growth in terms of desirability between 2020 and 2022 included “contains added vitamins” and “contains added fiber,” according to Euromonitor.
"Meeting parents’ demands around clean label, functionality and convenience are essential to succeed, given the challenging and competitive environment," noted Euromonitor global industry manager, Maria Mascaraque, in a blog post.
And despite many products containing matching health credentials to fortified nutrition claims such as 'added fiber' or 'added vitamins and minerals,' a large portion of companies are missing the opportunity to call out specific label claims, wrote Mascaraque.
“There is a significant gap between parents’ desires and the presence of these claims in products, especially with the usage of ‘natural,’ considering that there is limited or non-existent regulation for this claim,” wrote Mascaraque.
In connection with the natural movement, Mascaraque also highlighted that ‘organic’ presents a significant opportunity in the baby food category.
“Analyzing the claims landscape in online retailers, it [organic] remains the most available attribute in baby food across most regions, and is especially widespread in Western Europe and North America,” she wrote.
Global baby food market: $98.9bn by 2024
The global baby food market was valued at approximately $71.4bn in retail sales in 2018 and is expected to expand to $98.9bn by 2024, with roughly a third of total sales attributed to North America, according to Statista.
Plant-based: Growing opportunity in the baby food aisle
Plant-based innovation and formulation is gaining steam within the baby food segment presenting a significant opportunity for brands and manufacturers to capitalize on the trend, Mascaraque pointed out.
“Considering that nearly 40% of consumers choose these alternatives ‘to feel healthier,’ the habit is likely to be passed onto their offspring,” she wrote.
However, not all categories present a straightforward opportunity when it comes to plant-based innovation as Mascaraque highlights plant-based infant formula is still a highly niche segment with many challenges to overcome before it can become a staple for parents.
“The main issue is the need to mimic breast milk, which remains a challenge using plant-based ingredients. Also, there are still fears amongst many parents that these alternatives are not complete enough from a nutrition perspective.
"Therefore, it is essential to target the right consumer base for these products, who tend to be vegan parents, and those whose babies have an allergy or intolerance and have seen better digestion with such alternatives,” said Mascaraque, who added that most immediate opportunity for plant-based milk alternatives would be for children over the age of 1 as there are fewer nutritional requirements to meet.
Rise of e-commerce: 'Opportunities abound'
While grocery retailers remain the most important for the distribution of baby food globally with a 44% share of total retail sales, e-commerce continues to gain traction since the record adoption levels seen in 2020. According to Euromonitor, in 2022 online channels are set to account for 20% of retail sales of baby food globally, doubling in share since 2017.
“Opportunities abound as the habit of buying online continues,” said Mascaraque.
Takeaways for baby food brands and manufacturers
Baby food manufacturers should focus on highlighting clean label-related and low-sugar content claims and attributes when applicable and make better use of the term of ‘all natural’ which resonates strongly with parents, Mascaraque noted.
“Plant-based offerings should also be brought into focus, particularly innovations in milk formula for children aged over 12 months, prepared baby food and baby snacks,” she said.
“Finally, it will be crucial to target the new generation of tech-savvy parents with online models. Convenience and discounts on subscription-based programs for recurring purchases are the key drivers leading the trend.”