Spanning from infant formula to pre-prepared foods, ready meals, and even recipe boxes aimed at youngsters, baby and children’s food categories are expanding.
According to Statista, the revenue of the baby food market in the UK reached more than £1.4bn in 2020 and is forecast to grow at a steady rate to reach almost £1.7bn by 2025.
Euromonitor International, which tracks trends in the baby food category, suggests some similarities can be observed between both infant and toddler food segments.
The company’s market research analyst Marie Breban, who specialises in food and nutrition, talks us through three top line trends.
No added sugar claims
Across all food categories, the ‘no added sugar’ claim is gaining traction. To carry such a claim, the product in question must not contain any added mono- or disaccharides or any other food used for its sweetening properties.
In packaged food, and indeed overall, baby food has the biggest proportion of no added sugar claims, according to Euromonitor.
“I think consumers increasingly believe that avoiding sugar is important for their health, and they recognise that it’s also applicable to infants and children,” Breban told this publication.
“These sorts of claims are likely to provide reassurance to parents and consumers of infant and children’s food.”
UK baby food company Piccolo is one such proponent of the no added sugar claim. Launched in 2016, the brand’s range includes formula milk, purees for four months, texture meals from seven months, teething snacks, as well as cooking sauces and stock cubes.
Piccolo’s 12+ month line includes Tomato & Basil Risotto and Pea and Courgette Risotto, which both boast no added sugar claims.
“In line with baby guidance, where possible our products contain no added sugar. Many contain naturally occurring sugars (mainly the fruit pouches), so it’s important the consumer understand there are not added sugars,” Piccolo founder Cat Gazzoli told FoodNavigator.
“With regards to our Risotto in particular, which are made with no added sugar, although it’s a savoury product, many brands with adult equivalents do in fact contain added sugars. And it’s these adult alternatives that parents would be picked up if we didn’t offer a no added sugar in the baby category, so we’re really proud to provide families with these options.”
Piccolo suggested that such claims can also influence purchasing decisions amongst shoppers with health front-of-mind.
“With the number of health-conscious consumers on the rise, purchasing decisions are being determined by nutritional claims, such as ‘no added sugar’, more than ever – and the baby category is no exception," said Gazzoli.
“The importance of seeking out products made with quality organic ingredients and a balanced nutritional profile has seeped into the way in which new parents shop for their babies, which is exactly what we hear from our consumers and why our cooking range, including our Risotto, is answering parents’ needs.”
Euromonitor’s Breban suggested the growing trend for no added sugar claims could align with Public Health England’s (PHE) draft proposal for commercial baby food and drink guidelines.
These ‘reducing sugar’ guidelines are aimed at food and drink made for children aged up to three years.
This comes as PHE found two-thirds of commercial baby finger foods to be sweet, with these products containing the highest average sugar content across all products.
Under the proposed guidelines, almost no free sugars would be permitted in any products – with the exception of small amounts in lemon or lime juice as a preservative, a small amount of fruit ingredients in main meals and dry cereals, and lactose in whey powder in dry cereals.
Total sugars should not exceed 12g/100g in desserts and breakfasts, nor make up more than 30% of energy in finger foods and snacks.
As per the draft, final guidelines are expected to be achieved by industry by 2023.
Organic food for little ones
Another top line trend, according to Breban, lies in organic. “Organic has now become somewhat of a ‘safety’ factor, [gaining] in importance in children’s nutrition,” we were told.
Organic baby foods are those grown or processed without synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. According to Research and Markets, global demand for organic baby food is on the rise due to rising awareness among parents who adequately fulfil their babies’ nutritional requirements.
The market research firm estimates that the global organic baby food market will reach $12.6bn by 2017.
According to Euromonitor, parents tend to pay more attention to higher quality products – such as those free from pesticides – for their children, rather than for themselves. “So here, it is really a matter of safety and trust that play special roles,” said Breban.
Organic is also trending in countries that have experienced food scandals in the past, the market research analyst continued. In 2018 in China, for example, milk and infant formula were amongst the food products adulterated with the toxic substance melamine.
UK baby food brand Organix prides itself on only using certified organic ingredients. For Mandy Bobrowski, marketing director at Organix, feeding fresh, organic fruit and vegetables where possible means that foods not only taste great, but are free from artificial fertilisers and pesticides, and therefore 'kind to tiny tummies, our planet and wildlife too'.
"Organic crops are also of a much higher nutritional quality than their non-organic equivalents. This means that eating organic foods can lead to an increased intake of antioxidants, which are nutritionally very beneficial," she told FoodNavigator.
According to Bobrowski, parents with children at weaning and toddler age are seeking high nutritional standards for their little ones, and providing them with organic foods 'certainly helps them achieve this'.
"They want to do their bit in not only safeguarding their families’ health, but they are increasingly driven by the ethical aspect of their purchasing, and also crucially, its impact on the environment. By marketing our foods as organic, parents are reassured that they are doing the best for their little ones whilst also doing their bit for the environment."
Euromonitor’s Breban expects the trend for health-focused children’s food to continue. “By the time your toddler turns three, you’re not going to stop caring about its [health],” she enthused. “The likelihood is you’re going to care about it for your children as well.”
Expanding from infant to toddler
Another trend observed by Euromonitor in the baby food market is companies’ extension of age ranges, towards toddlers and young children.
“The historical and larger baby food players are now coming to see some [stagnation] in birth rates, and even decline in western Europe, so there are some strategies that are being looked at, as to how to extend the target market – by age group, really.
“It’s about developing meals for children, rather than only babies.”
Although not immediately available for comment on this trend, UK brand Ella’s Kitchen is one such company to have expanded beyond purely baby food into the toddler category.
Founded in 2006, the company made a push into the children’s ready meal category in 2013. And in 2018, the brand introduced its first frozen food range for kids aged from weaning to three years.
Ella’s Kitchen’s ‘toddler tray meal’ line, aimed at kids aged 12+ months, includes organic pork stew and beans, and veggie moussaka.
The overall trend sees companies ‘accompanying babies’, explained Breban, “from birth with infant milk formula, then slowly, gradually into prepared baby food with jars and pouches, and then weaning them with baby food, before extending that even further with, say, ready meals for children.”