Natural trend drives rice foods for babies

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Milk

Products made with rice ingredients are dominating new launches of baby foods, according to Beneo Remy and market researchers – a trend that fits with natural, organic and allergy concerns in the wider food sector.

Beneo-Remy’s processed rice-derived starches are used in both baby milks and baby foods. It turned to the Innova database to confirm its observations of an increase in baby foods using its wares since 2002.

The market researcher confirmed that the number of baby foods made with rice has almost doubled over the last year. In 2007 it listed just over 130 new market entrants, but in 2008 that number more than doubled. In the first quarter of 2009 the same trend looks to be continuing.

At the same time, new market launches in the overall baby food sector have stabilised.

According to Beneo Remy, this “compounds the relevance of rice-based ingredients in driving the market and helping manufacturers crease innovative products that meet the needs of the evolving consumer”.

The use of rice ingredients is said to tap into broader trends holding sway over the food sector: natural, organic and hypoallergenic products.

“Consumers’ lifestyles and understanding of health and nutrition has helped shape the baby food market,”​ said Vincent Caluwaerts, sales and marketing manager of Beneo-Remy. “Consumers have become savvy to what food products contain, and actively look for options that offer additional benefits, especially when buying for their children.”

There is also considerably awareness of food intolerance and allergies by parents and carers, with respect to lactose and gluten in particular. This means that cows’ milk and wheat products may not be deemed suitable some infants. Beneo Remy points out that its rice derivatives, on the other hand, hypoallergenic and gluten and lactose free.

Convenience

Another trend in the adult market which is having a knock-on effect on baby products is convenience.

In the market in general, milk formula for toddlers saw average growth of 18.5 per cent between 2003 and 2008, suggesting that mothers are seeking products to nourish their children while they return to work.

When it comes to rice foods, growth has been seen in ‘baby meals’ and ‘cereals and biscuits’; just like snacks and breakfast foods aimed at older children and adults, these products can be eaten ‘on-the-go’.

No concerns

There has been some attention to levels of inorganic arsenic in rice drinks intended to for babies’ consumption recently. Following product testing, the UK’s Food Standards Agency said in May that infants should not be given rice drinks as a replacement for cows’ milk, breast milk, or infant formula, following a new study that indicates potential to exceed maximum safe arsenic intake levels.

However a spokesperson for Beneo Remy explained that rice drinks are made with chopped up rice mixed with water.

For its rice derived ingredients, on the other hand, the company screens the rice it sources for arsenic levels. It is then washed at various stages of processing, and screened once more at the end of processing.

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