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'Chinese demand for infant foods driving innovation'

By Ankush Chibber , 14-Sep-2012

China is setting the regional benchmark for innovation in premium infant foods, according to Enzymotec, the Israel-based lipids-maker.

The company was speaking after the announcement this week that clinical trials for its lipid-based ingredient line for infant nutrition had yielded positive results. 

The trials were part of its strategy to market a line of products mimicking the vital lipids found in mother’s milk, such as triglyceride, phospholipids and long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Yoav Kahane, director of business development at Enzymotec, told FoodNavigator-Asia that out all of Asia, China is the most important market, and it is currently leading innovation in baby formula.

Interest from the West

China’s dairy market has seen increased Western producer interest, especially in infant formula, since the 2008 melamine incident pushed Chinese parents to look outside of domestic sources for quality infant foods.

“Many of the premium infant formula for China products are produced in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand,” said Kahane, although he added that entering the Chinese market is not necessarily a cakewalk, and going on reputation alone would not work for outsiders.

“The Chinese market is very demanding and requires a comprehensive business strategy [to show] that quality is core. Most products should be supported by solid scientific back-up, clinical trials and marketing,” he added.

Clinical study complete

Enzymotec revealed that one recently completed study involved a controlled clinical trial of InFat, which is a beta-palmitate ingredient that successfully mimics the fat composition and properties of human milk fat. 

The study, which tested the positive effect of a commercial infant formula containing beta-palmitate on Chinese infants’ wellbeing was conducted by Professor Chen Yu-Ming of Sun Yat-Sen University, in collaboration with Enzymotec.

In China, InFat is marketed by Advanced Lipids, a joint venture of AAK and Enzymotec. The company claims that the product enables easy digestion and optimised uptake of calcium, fat recovery and energy.

“The Chinese market has adopted InFat and it seems as the it is becoming a standard in the high-tier market. We can proudly say that every month or two, a new product incorporating InFat is launched in China,” said Kahane. 

“We plan to offer a new product in the second half of 2013. As for the introduction of new products to China’s infant formula market, we estimate that these products will gain a significant footprint in the market within three to four years,” he said.

The company is also similarly bullish on other Asian markets, such as Korea and Vietnam. 

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