Baby milk sales fell 5% in value last year in the UK, according to Nielson, owing to a dropping birth rate and more British women choosing to breastfeed. The baby food category has also been negatively hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with many parents making their own baby food in the home during lockdowns.
Piccolo, which launched in 2016, is now currently the UK’s sixth-biggest player in the babyfood category and the largest premium brand in pouches based on sales, according to Neilson.
The challenger brand's founder Cat Gazzoli told FoodNavigator it is growing 16% year-on-year as it capitalises on untapped potential for organic products in the baby food category.
“This year HIPP downgraded their stage 3 growing up milk from organic to a non-organic product. This coupled with an overall lack of organic milk makes Piccolo a standout player. When you look at the pouch and jar category, over 70% of the sales are through organic products compared with less than 15% in milk.”
The spokesperson added that while the market decline in milk is driven mostly by a falling birth rate, there is ‘a great opportunity to offer parents a better quality and product’.
Piccolo’s upmarket milk formula (available in three formats: first infant, follow-on and growing up priced at £14.99/800g) launched earlier this year contains only certified organic milk, is free from palm oil, and its packaging is made from recyclable steel. It has secured listings in Boots, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Wholefoods and selected independent pharmacies and convenience stores.
“We use only certified organic ingredients and milk, and we’re one of the only brands whose entire formula range is all organic. Some other brands offer one organic variant,” Gazzoli continued. “In terms of milk, the category is dominated by much larger, well-established brands, so we’re the first young start-up to enter the space.”
The brand has just launched its first ever out-of-home and TV ad campaign to promote its baby formula launch. Piccolo’s Creative Director and Co-Founder, Kane O’Flaherty, said the campaigns aim to illustrate the realities of everyday parenting in order to instil a sense of trust and credibility in a sector which has typically been dominated by larger, established brands.
“Just like all our other campaigns and product designs, we wanted to do things differently and challenge the status quo of both milk and parenting adverts. We wanted something more upbeat and current that resonates with our audience, to celebrate diversity and to convey a clear message that parenting is personal, an idea which is emphasised by saying ‘It’s up to you and no one else how to feed your baby’.”
Gazzoli elaborated on the appeal of organic among parents. “Consumers understand that organic milk means no nasties, i.e. pesticides and other chemicals, are used in any of the feed for the cows and therefore don’t make their way into the finished product. Parents feel this is more likely to result in a formula milk that is less likely to be rejected by their baby or cause digestive issues etc. Another subsequent by-product of organic farming is that most organic farms tend to have higher welfare standards - this is certainly the case for Piccolo formula milk.”