Innovation in traditional baby foods like fruit juices and biscuits have been on the decline since 2018, while the “other baby food” category has shown strong growth, based on data from Mintel.
“Products such as broths, sauces, seasonings, oils, and pasta have grown over the last five years. Sauces designed for children make home-cooking easier, and fruit and vegetable spreads are an easy way to increase a kid’s intake of these foods.
“In particular, 36% of Thai moms with children aged 0 to 3 years are interested in multi-purpose sauces for babies,” said Jolene Ng, Principal Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel, during the recently held Growth Asia Summit 2023.
Despite the convenience of these RTE options, parents tend to feel that they are “cheating” when they give their children ready-made meals or snacks, according to Ng.
One way these time-strapped parents could ease their guilt is through customisable meal kits, which are an untapped category in the market.
“Being able to customise the meal kits gives parents a sense of control, and helps them feel like they are still making an effort in preparing their child’s meal.”
Health comes first
At the same time, “health benefits” is the primary consideration for parents when it comes to factors that influence their choice of baby food product.
A Mintel survey, which included 500 female internet users aged above 18 who are parents of children between 0 and 3 years, showed that nutritional content is the second-most important factor while price ranks third.
Ng believes that specific nutrition that helps with age-appropriate growth will be the gold standard in the near future.
“Moving forward, formula that is enriched with alpha-lactalbumin, the major whey protein found in breastmilk, is more important for infants. The right amount of alpha-lactalbumin is said to support age-appropriate growth, with increased energy efficiency and improved gastrointestinal tolerance.”
Cognitive and immune support continue to be the key functional benefits in baby milk and food that parents are looking out for.
“A good way to enhance the nutritional value in kids’ everyday meals is to add powdered supplements that offer specific benefits for children. The functional benefit of each ingredient should also be clearly stipulated on the product. In Thailand, 58% of mums wish that there were more powdered fruits and vegetables for baby food and drinks.”
Tangible benefits of sustainability
For parents to resonate with a brand’s eco-friendly messaging, it is crucial to link sustainability to tangible benefits.
“Brands should explain the association between sustainability and product quality. More education is needed to help parents understand the impact of sustainable sourcing on the nutrition of the ingredients used,” Ng added.
For instance, regenerative agricultural practices reportedly elevate the nutritional content of crops due to improved soil health.
“Studies have shown that regenerative farming results in higher vitamin and mineral content in foods relevant to human’s health. Connecting the greater nutritional value of ingredients to the sustainable growing practices adopted to cultivate them will help raise awareness on the benefits that sustainability provides.
“By linking locally sourced ingredients to product safety, parents may also feel reassured due to the traceability. Furthermore, it would promote usage of local ingredients.”