Market research firm Mintel recently revealed some of the latest trends in baby care products from the PCHi trade show in Guangzhou, China. These reflect shifts in consumer demand throughout mainland China.
First, manufacturers’ specific safety claims in reference to their product lines have been rising in prevalence. Formerly, general assurances of safety were thought to be sufficiently diligent, but an increase in consumer skepticism has made the labeling on baby care products much more specific. Particularly, there has been a rise over the past year in the use of wording such as paraben-free, hypoallergenic, dermatologically tested, and other sundry ethically/environmentally friendly claims.
Additionally, there has been an increased focus on personal care for new mothers, as opposed to products specifically designed for baby. Ad campaigns centering on the importance of the mother are gaining traction in the Chinese market.
Finally, on a related note, the market is increasingly paying attention to the shifting role that fathers are playing in China. This has given way to a significant rise in products and campaigns directed at fathers, particularly young fathers. The firm’s data shows that nearly a third of young (20-29 year old) fathers in China are heavily involved in child-rearing.
Made from natural ingredients such as chamomile, cocoa butter, raw honey, and anti-inflammatory calendula, manufacturers are positioning these products as the go-to skin care solution in the nursery.
Vendors who have invested in developing these multi-purpose balms include Era Organics (Healing Balm), Elizabeth Parker Naturals (Baby Balm), Singapore-based Twinkle (Multi-purpose Baby Balm), and Burt’s Bees (Baby Bee Multipurpose Ointment).
With meal-kit food delivery services like Purple Carrot and HelloFresh all the rage, it was only a matter of time before similar options started appearing for baby. A few of the earlier players flopped, but a couple of newer contenders appear posed to learn from earlier mistakes and take baby food delivery mainstream.
Naturally, there are logistical hurdles with any food delivery services, and there’s the fairly reasonable objection that preparing fresh meals for baby isn’t as time- or resource-intensive as cooking for adults. After all, what could be simpler than a banana and a hand-blender? Additionally, for pre-prepared foods, there other organic options available at major food retailers.
But these services target that narrow niche of parents with no time, a fair bit of expendable income, and a desire to avoid foodstuffs that may have been sitting in a grocery aisle for months on end. To address it, there are a few frontrunners who aim to succeed where several others have failed.
Little Spoon, for example, has the advantage of owning the facilities where the food is produced, and can therefore exert far greater control over the process. They utilize high-pressure processing to retain nutrients and shut out bad bacteria, instead of relying on additives for this.
Another company, Raised Real, takes a somewhat different tack, shipping parents packets of raw meats and veggies and, unlike its competitors, these foods do not come pre-blended. Their subscription-based service also includes a special machine that steams, and then purees the food.
Once formerly the domain of fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi, probiotics are increasingly making their way into other foods. Mainstream medicine is slowly recognizing that a healthy gut biome requires lots of beneficial bacteria. Adults can always take probiotic supplements in the form of capsules, but small children who cannot yet swallow pills do not have that option.
Compounding the problem, artificially putting probiotics into food products has formerly proven difficult, as these bacteria are sensitive to warm temperatures, and developing a shelf-safe product that retains viability of its flora is a challenge.
NuturMe appears up to that challenge, as they have recently introduced cookies for toddlers that combine four ancient grains with a daily dose of proprietary GanedenBC30 probiotics. Considering that approximately 70% of the human immune system is based in the gut, this could represent substantial support for a developing child.
To further differential their products for sensitive tummies and immune systems, NuturMe has taken the added step of eliminating common allergens from all their products, including the Ancient Grain cookies. This includes gluten, dairy, eggs, and soy.
Expo West is perhaps the most important trade show for natural food products, and while attending this year, the Sprout Foods CEO Rick Klauser made four 2017 product trend predictions for organic baby food. They are:
Increasingly Plant-based Products. Research shows that nearly 1/3 of babies and toddlers don’t eat any vegetables on an average day, despite the fact that plant-based diets help avoid a litany of health problems later in life, including high blood pressure and cholesterol, chronic inflammation, diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
As dietary practices begin to keep pace with the science, you can expect a major increase in concerned parents putting their little ones on plant-based diets.
Non-meat Protein Sources. An increase in plant-based intake doesn’t necessarily mean that protein is going by the wayside, but it’s likely that proteins will come less from meats, and more from nuts, legumes, Greek yogurt, leafy greens, organic soy products, and even certain grains like quinoa. With the variety of the above options, getting adequate protein without meat is not difficult.
And with increased concerns over issues like animal welfare and sustainability, those options are likely to see increased attention from parents.
Focus on Sourcing. With conscientious consumers increasingly pushing for full transparency regarding what’s in their food, vendors are likely to start revealing more about how & where plant-based ingredients are grown, and how livestock is raised. Producers of baby foods are particularly on the hook, with parents agonizing over everything that goes into baby’s body.
For its part, Sprout Foods has committed to only using organic, free-range animals without antibiotics or growth hormones in its meat products.
Packaging Innovations. With the great proliferation of new products getting introduced every year, vendors are looking for ways to stand out from the pack and build trust with consumers. There are two packaging trends that seek to accomplish just that.
The first trend is clear pouch packaging, which ties back to the previously mentioned demand for transparency when it comes to what the consumer is actually buying. The second, related trend is clean labeling. This means that ingredient and nutritional information are clear, legible, and easy to comprehend. As millennials become parents, there is increased demand for accountability in how food products, especially those directed at their children, is grown/raised, processed, packaged, and sold.