Over the past 10 years the market has “evolved unrecognisably”, with sales climbing by 51% in the past five years alone.
Emma Clifford, senior food analyst at Mintel said: “While parents economise in other areas in response to squeezed incomes, their unwillingness to accept anything but the best for their little ones has insulated the market from the economic downturn to a certain degree.
“The fact that growing numbers of mothers are returning to full-time employment makes the speed and convenience of prepared baby food a necessity in their hectic lives.”
Prepared baby food
But food budgets for babies have limits. About 41% of parents are now making more home-cooked food for their babies and toddlers as they struggle to stretch hard-pressed household weekly spending.
The number of parents with children aged under one using baby food peaked at 76% in 2009. Last year, it reduced to nearly two-thirds (65%) of all parents.
Clifford identified home cooking as “one of the biggest challenges” facing the baby food market.
“Perceived as a safer, cheaper and a more controllable alternative to manufactured baby food, home cooking offers health-conscious parents greater peace of mind, with much of the switching having been fuelled by cost considerations,” she said.
Product promotion remained key to attracting new users into the category. “Parents are only in the market for baby food for something like six months, or a bit longer for convenience. Even the established brands have to keep rebuilding awareness, as their customer base keeps moving out of the market.”
Mintel predicted that over the next five years the baby food and drink market will rise in value to reach £703M. Growth would be fuelled by an increase in the average selling prices.
But volume sales would fall by 3%, from 97M kg this year to 94M kg in 2017. The fall would reflect declining birth rates and an increasing preference for home cooking.
Sales of baby food drinks were curbed by perceptions of over pricing, shared by 33% of parents and high sugar content by 23% of parents.
Also, fewer than three-in-10 (28%) said they trusted organic baby food.
Baby food and drink – in numbers
- £192M – value of the market for wet and dry baby foods, up by 35% since 2007
- £53M – value of the baby snacks market, up by 65% since 2007
- £355M – value of baby milk market.