Baby food packaging: a shift from glass packaging to plastic packaging and pouches

Baby food has proven to be the most dynamic category of the global foods packaging industry with total retail packaging sales up 5.1% in 2010 and, in prepared baby food particularly, we see the traditional glass jar format being challenged by alternative, safe and easy-to-use packaging formats that seek to address busy parents’ lifestyle needs.

An unceasing rise in demand for quality baby food

Global retail spend on baby food amounted to close to US$37 billion in 2010, equating to an increase of 5% on 2009 levels, illustrating the category’s resilience to a recessionary operating environment.

Parents have shown themselves to be more willing to reduce their outgoings on snacks and indulgent food purchases whilst showing a rising concern for their baby’s nutritional intake, resulting in the increasing purchase of prepared baby food.

Health scares such as the melamine contamination crisis in milk formula in China of 2009, also impacting the wider Asia Pacific region, have further cemented parents’ demand for quality, the world over, with China introducing more rigorous product and packaging safety standards to safeguard the population’s health.

Furthermore, despite the maturing demand and low birth rates evident across many of the more developed world economies, baby food manufacturers continue to focus on adding value to their product ranges rather than implement a discounting strategy with retail price holding at US$12 per kilo as the use of functional ingredients and organic baby food lines expand market presence.

Global Prepared Baby Food Packaging
Billion units

Euromonitor International.

Thin wall plastic container proves to be the success story of prepared baby food

In packaging terms, important developments afoot that respond to busy parents’ lifestyle needs have procured especially buoyant development for the thin wall plastic container, with retail sales rising by an impressive 15% in 2010.

Gerber (USA), Blédina (France), Pulmuone (South Korea)

The lightweight attributes of the thin wall plastic container over the equivalent glass jar makes it suited to parents on the move whilst reduced transportation costs is an additional contributory factor for the rise in use of thin wall plastic container amongst US brand owners with the US importantly ranked as the single-largest country user of thin wall plastic containers in baby food in 2010.

The thin wall plastic container’s microwaveable attribute is another important driver attesting to the pack type’s growing success, increasing market presence to account for 27% of global prepared baby food packaging sales in 2010, up from 21% in 2005 as busy parents look for aids to simplify preparation of baby’s meal.

Within France, which has had the microwaveable thin wall plastic container for prepared baby food for a few years, there continues to be a growing interest and purchase of such microwaveable baby meals. These provide consumers with the same convenience and time-saving gains as when cooking an adult ready meal and sales growth increased by the widened product offering with further launches from market leader Blédina SA through the “Les Idées de Maman” range of meals.

In powder milk formula, the launch of single-serve sachets such as by the Enfamil brand in the US, is just another indicator of how busy working parents, juggling child care and work look to packaging to simplify daily feeding routines and the amount of baby kit they need to carry around with them.

Pouches finding a niche amongst organic lines in North America and Western Europe

Pouches are also becoming more widely available in the baby food category offering brand owners a new-look baby food packaging format with take-up most apparent amongst premium, niche and in many cases organic, prepared baby food lines.

Plum Organics (USA), Ella’s Kitchen (UK)

In the US, the emergence and success of pouches is evident through organic baby food brands like Sprout and Plum Organics. Similarly in the UK, Ella’s Kitchen is one notable flagship brand using brightly coloured pouches across its organic baby food range, from baby through to toddler stage. The pouch is forecast to offer 7.4% CAGR growth in baby food over 2010-2015.

Colour used in German packaging to highlight a new economy milk formula line

In Germany, in the aim to meet differing consumer needs, Humana Milchunion eG, ranked number 4 in German retail baby food sales, launched an economy range covering all stages of baby development, from newborns to toddlers. The company chose to use purple across this new product range launched in 2010 as a means to enable easy and clear visibility to consumers on store shelves.

Positioned as an economy range, the brand owner fully comprehends consumers’ interest in provenance as quality remains high on consumers’ agendas when it comes to making baby food purchases, regardless of the price point, and as such the marketing for the new product line clearly states that the line is “German-sourced”.

Glass will certainly remain the material of choice within prepared baby food in the years to come but is nevertheless set to post a far more sombre growth of just under 1% CAGR over 2010-2015 as compared to a more robust total packaging growth of 4% CAGR set for the category.