Today, 83% of parents with children ages 4 and younger say they feed their kids homemade food (excluding snacks), such as purées made from scratch, with as many as 12% saying they do this four times a day or more. And while peeling, chopping, and puréeing is clearly no mean feat, with 35% of parents saying that homemade baby food is easy to prepare, it seems many are in agreement over the benefits of homemade food. About 56% of parents with children ages 4 and younger believe homemade food is trustworthy.
Managing children’s diet is crucial, as 45% of parents cite control of ingredients as a reason for making baby food at home, the research states. And it seems Britain’s parents appreciate the cost-saving element of homemade food, as 34% see baby/toddler pouches as an expensive option. What’s more, for 15% of parents, homemade food is seen to as “premium,” compared to 6% who say this of manufactured baby food products in jars.
Sales of wet and dry baby food dropped by 14% from 37 million kg in 2012 to an estimated 32 million kg in 2015, while sales of baby drinks dropped 67% from 6 million kg to an estimated 2 million kg in the same time period. Sales of baby finger food rose 33% to an estimated 4 million kg between 2012 and 2015, while baby milk rose by 9% to an estimated 58 million kg in the same time frame.
Overall volume sales of baby food, drink, and milk are estimated to have fallen by 3% since 2012 from 99 million kg to 96 million kg in 2015. During 2016, the market is forecast to decline further, falling to 95 million kg.
“While for many busy parents preparing the family meal may feel like a chore, our research shows that the majority of parents are happy to cook for their tots,” says Amy Price, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel.
“An on-going focus on sugar as a health foe means that, for many parents, control of baby’s diet is crucial, which helps to explain why so many parents are choosing to feed their babies and toddlers homemade fare,” she adds. “As a result, the popularity of homemade food poses a threat to the baby food and drink market. That homemade food is seen to be more premium than manufactured indicates that manufacturers need to step up, and premium sub-brands could be one way to explore this.”
Store-bought baby food provides convenience
Manufactured baby food, drink, and milk still have roles to play, as 72% of parents still use it. It continues to provide a convenient option, as 42% of parents see the packaged food as convenient, in contrast to 18% for homemade food. About 22% of parents say they buy manufactured baby/toddler food as a back-up, for example, when they don’t have time to cook. A lack of cooking skills mean 12% of parents buy manufactured baby/toddler food that they would not be confident in making themselves.
Trust is the leading factor in purchase decisions, according to the Mintel research. About 36% of parents with children ages 4 and younger say that the last time they bought manufactured baby or toddler food, they chose a brand they trusted, followed by a product with no added sugar (32%) and a product which contained 1 of 5-a-day portions of fruit or vegetables (30%). When buying baby and toddler milk, brand is also an important factor, as 34% of parents with children in this age group say that the last time they bought baby milk, the brand of the product was important.
About 21% of parents with children ages 4 and younger say that they buy child-friendly versions of regular food, such as low-salt baked beans and full-fat yogurt, instead of manufactured baby or toddler food.
“With pouches, jars, trays, and finger food already seen as convenient by more than a third of parents with young children, brands should do more to leverage the emotional benefit this can deliver to parents,” Price says.
“Brands rarely focus marketing on giving permission to parents to take such shortcuts in their daily routine, enabling parents to focus on the things they enjoy doing, and those that really matter to them and their family, which include spending quality time together.”
Finally, it seems parents are keen for their tots to share a family meal, as 49% say they like their children to eat the same food as the rest of the family, the research states. Giving baby sufficient new tastes and textures remains a concern for 15% of parents who worry that they are not offering their children enough different flavors in their meals. And it seems many parents are striving toward a diverse repertoire, as 79% of parents with children ages 4 and younger say that it is important to expose their children to a variety of foods, so they do not develop allergies.