Insights

Latest Trends in Infant Nutrition: From Organic to Personalisation

12 Apr 2021

6 min

We have seen trends such as personalisation, natural and immunity growing increasingly popular in the global food & beverage market for adult consumers. However, leading experts are acknowledging that these “adult-nutrition trends” are starting to present in the infant nutrition segment as well.

Parents are highly motivated about what they feed their children, and their children’s nutrition may also be influenced by the same global trends they value in their own diets.

We at NZMP recognise that Breast milk is the best nutrition for a young baby. It's full of everything a baby needs to grow and develop in a healthy way and gives children the very best start in life. This article discusses five of the latest trends for infant nutrition that relate to products that are used if/when breastfeeding is not possible or in complementary feeding scenarios.  

1. Gut health to aid overall wellness

Often dubbed a ‘mega trend’ in the everyday nutrition category, digestive function and gut health is increasingly popular across the Western Hemisphere (1). A primary influence on gut health is of course our diet. As consumers’ understanding is increasing, we see a growing demand for a range of products to address digestive concerns. Babies in particular can be highly sensitive to anything they eat because they have less mature digestive systems.

Over the last decade, the US 'digestive-health' market has tripled in size and is forecasted to reach $5.7B USD by 2024 (2).

Digestive discomfort has always been a key concern for parents and is often one of the most discussed topics online(3). More recently, a global focus on “gut health” has started to encapsulate the infant nutrition market as we start to understand the role of the gut microbiome for healthy digestion and development of the immune system, especially during the early years (4).

As a result, infant formulas featuring ‘gut health’ claims have rapidly begun to appear, with nearly 70% of the global share of infant formula patent inventions centred around gut-related issues (5). This means infant nutrition brands have an opportunity to improve market share by offering solutions that not only support digestive comfort but broader gut health too.

2. COVID-19 accelerates immunity demand

The focus on digestive health also helped fuel the awareness of building infant immunity.  Last year saw a strong increase in online searches for “immunity”, but these numbers tripled within the first two months of the Covid-19 outbreak (6). This has had a huge impact on parents’ appetites for solutions and products which could provide enhanced protection for the entire family.

New-born babies have inexperienced immune systems and their diet plays a key role in building strong immunity foundations(7). Although breast milk is the ideal nutrition for infants, in cases where breastfeeding is not possible, parents want a quality paediatric nutrition solution to support the infant immune system. Parents are becoming aware of the benefits of advanced nutritional ingredients, which is reflected in the growing demand for probiotics for infants and children (8).

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3. Natural and organic claims

Another ‘adult-nutrition’ trend increasingly appearing in the infant nutrition market is a growing demand for products featuring natural or organic claims. This is appealing to the rising health-conscious consumer who wants to know how their food was made. 

In Europe, innovation in organic baby food and drink has increased by 38% in the last five years(9).

When we think ‘organic’, we often think of products that have been produced sustainably. However, amongst today’s consumers, the idea of ‘organic’ goes beyond the environmental aspect, coming to encompass quality, traceability, and the feeling of ‘naturalness’ (10). Brands are moving to promote ‘natural’ claims that aren’t category-specific, and in the paediatric nutrition area, these include strong provenance (including traceability), grass-fed and organic positioning.

It seems that sustainability and health concerns are driving a lot of this growth in organic demand. 47% of global consumers seek organic food and drinks because of environmental concerns. Also, 58% of global consumers seek organic food and drinks because it “makes them feel healthier” (11). So it is not a far stretch to assume these connotations extend to parents wanting to provide organic products for their children.

What Is Infant Formula for babies

4. Personalisation of diet

Rising ‘adult’ trends aren’t the only shift predicted in the infant nutrition area, with a focus on personalised formulas according to region. Consumers have a growing belief that diet cannot be “one size fits all” and are looking for products that meet their specific regional and personal needs.

With a much broader range of infant formulas available, parents can now select a formula based on their infants' needs and preferences including a specific health benefit, preferred format, country of origin and “natural” features.  More personalised infant formulas are now available to manage children’s health concerns such as reducing the risk of developing allergies or promoting digestive comfort.

Other trends in infant nutrition include a growing interest in new types of formula such as A2 protein-based formula, goat and sheep milk-based formulas. Parents’ purchase motivators vary from an interest in where the formula comes from and its safety to more natural propositions, and for specific health benefits.  

5. The sprouting plant-based trend

There is a growing drive from dietary guidelines worldwide to incorporate more fruit and vegetables into our diets. Whilst some choose to be 100% plant-based, many are adopting diets that combine both plant and animal-derived foods like dairy to achieve a more holistic outcome (12).

We now see a bubbling interest in plant-based infant nutrition being flagged by industry experts. 

Currently, there is only a 4% penetration for vegan claims in the infant nutrition market (13).

Industry commentators are quick to point out that the aim of infant formulations should be to provide optimal nutrition and get as close to breast milk as possible. As breast milk is clearly not plant-based, it is a bigger challenge to provide vegan infant formula with high enough nutritional quality to meet infants’ needs (14). However, new developments in upcoming ingredients may enable progress in vegan products and provide a broader range of plant-based foods for all consumers wishing to incorporate more plant-based choices.

Final thoughts

Sustainable and personalised infant nutrition are driving trends and providing consumers with more choices and greater transparency.  Provenance and natural positioning, along with increased demand for more premium products focussed on digestion and immunity, will continue to play an important role in addressing parents’ needs in the future.

 

Continue reading about this in this month's Perspective

About the Author

Shikha Pundir, PhD, MSc

Senior Nutrition Research Scientist at Fonterra Research & Development Centre

Currently Senior Nutrition Research Scientist at Fonterra Research & Development Centre, Shikha is responsible for exploring the best nutritional solutions for mothers and babies. For the past 7 years, she has been investigating the mysteries of human breast milk and is particularly interested in how this impacts the paediatric nutrition space. She is fascinated by human milk research and how different environmental, social and biological factors can change the composition of mothers’ milk.

  • [1] https://blog.euromonitor.com/the-rise-and-potential-of-gut-health/
  • [2] https://www.fona.com/0720guthealth/
  • [3] Mintel, Dec 2020
  • [4] https://www.vitafoodsinsights.com/digestive-and-probiotics/infant-gut-microbiome-key-factor-future-health
  • [5] https://www.nutraingredients-usa.com/Article/2020/02/24/NIU-s-Global-Round-Up-More-infant-milk-formulators-are-focusing-their-efforts-on-gut-and-brain-health-breast-milk-linked-to-baby-growth-and-more
  • [6] https://www.nzmp.com/global/en/surestart/our-focus-areas/protection/nzmp-surestart-bifidob-hn019-for-immunity.html
  • [7] Walker WA. Initial intestial colobisatoin in the human infant and immune homeostatis. Ann Nutr Metab 2013; 63(Suppl2):8-15
  • [8] https://www.signals-analytics.com/resources/blog/probiotic-trend-growing-in-the-baby-food-market
  • [9] Mintel, Organic baby food/milk to be more valued post-COVID-19, June 2020.
  • [10] https://www.nutritioninsight.com/news/mini-me-infant-nutrition-adopts-trending-adult-themes-from-plant-based-to-immunity.html
  • [11] https://myaccount.nzmp.com/sfc/servlet.shepherd/version/download/0682s000001y7nPAAQ?_ga=2.111945540.1549793546.1614648324-1143549250.1613446182
  • [12] https://myaccount.nzmp.com/sfc/servlet.shepherd/version/download/0682s000001Rp5kAAC?_ga=2.177301989.1549793546.1614648324-1143549250.1613446182
  • [13] https://www.nutritioninsight.com/news/mini-me-infant-nutrition-adopts-trending-adult-themes-from-plant-based-to-immunity.html
  • [14] https://www.nutritioninsight.com/news/immunity-and-plant-based-trends-take-infant-nutrition-by-storm.html

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