Mums want what’s best for their little treasures so make sure it’s on your shelves.

There was a mini baby boom in Carlisle last month, when 36 babies were born in three days - three times the usual number. Precisely 40 weeks earlier floods
had caused power cuts in the town and the locals found themselves limited for things to do!

Events like this are good news for the baby food and baby care markets, which have suffered from low birth rates over recent years. However, according to government statistics, there were 639,721 live births in England and Wales last year, which was 2.9% more than in 2003 and the highest number of births since 1997. The average age of mothers in 2004 was 29 years and, according to Mintel, these older, often better-educated women tend to be more knowledgeable about child-rearing and nutrition, and more demanding in terms of the quality of the food they give their babies. And this must be one of the reasons why organic baby food is now mainstream.

One of the most popular organic brands is Hipp Organic, which is stocked by Budgens and Londis. The company’s communications manager Samantha Mort says: “Naturally, mothers want the best for their babies, and they don’t want to take any chances with their health. Therefore, more and more mothers are choosing organic because it is guaranteed to be free from harmful chemicals and GM ingredients.”
She admits that organic baby foods can be more expensive than non-organic ones but says it’s only a matter of a few pence per jar, which mums are willing to pay for peace of mind.

Mort reckons future growth in the baby food market will come from products designed specifically for toddlers: “Adult ready meals and even those designed for children often do not have the right nutritional content for toddlers, which is why we’ve extended our ‘Growing Up’ range in response to this demand and we’ve introduced Growing Up milk - a specially formulated milk for toddlers from 10 months.

Mintel reports that the grocery multiples accounted for 70% of all baby food and milk sales in 2004. Boots accounted for 20% of sales, and pharmacies 7%, which doesn’t leave much room for convenience stores. These figures may make depressing reading for c-store retailers but it’s got to be said that the grocery multiples do a very good job in seducing mums into their stores. You only have to go into their car parks to see loads of ‘mother and baby’ parking spaces conveniently marked out near the entrances.

Then there are the baby clubs which provide magazines, special offers and advice. That said, there will always be times when mum can’t get to the superstore and will have to rely on her local c-store. It’s then that she’ll rely on you to have what she needs. And because mums want the best for their babies, they’ll be looking for tried and trusted brands.

According to IRI data, Heinz is brand leader in baby food. It maintains its position by keeping in touch with what mums want for their babies. Its organic jar range was recently relaunched as Heinz Simply Organic with simple, high-quality ingredient purees and fresh new packaging. “We know how important clear labelling is to mums, and we have therefore included the clearest labelling in the baby food market with simplified ingredients lists,” explains Heinz Baby Food brand manager Claire McCabe.

At the same time, Heinz has introduced the Mum’s Ingredients range of six jars that allow mums to add vegetables, rice, pasta or potatoes, to prepare their own recipes for their baby. The flavours available are chicken, turkey, beef, cod with potatoes, mixed vegetables and bolognese sauce.

Says McCabe: “We know that preparing homemade baby food is not an easy task, so we have developed the core of the meal - which is often the most difficult part for mums to prepare themselves - so they can cook at home more easily.”

Finally from Heinz, there is a new range of finger foods, juices, soups and meals for toddlers, designed to bridge the gap between baby food and children’s food.
“New Heinz Toddler’s Own provides confidence for mums at a time when feeding her growing baby can be complex and worrying,” explains Helly Seeley, brand manager, Heinz Baby Food.

“As her baby moves from the simple reassurance of nutritionally balanced jars and dried food to more family meals and convenience foods, she needs to know that she can bridge that gap with products that are nutritionally sound.” Heinz Toddler’s Own finger foods include mini apple bears, mini vegetable biscuits, mini bears with prebiotics and banana cereal bars with creamy coating. “They are typically lower in fat and salt than adult equivalents, and therefore provide nutritional reassurance,” says Seeley.

Besides Heinz and Hipp, there are other baby food brands to watch. There’s Babylicious, for instance, a range of frozen foods for babies. Developed by mother and food scientist Sally Preston, the Babylicious food contains no added salt, sugar, colourings, preservatives, artificial additives or GM ingredients. The quality ingredients are cooked in batches, pureed, then frozen in easi-pop trays.

Then there’s the Fresh Daisy frozen organic baby food company with its range of mini meals. Priced from £1.69 each and suitable for babies from one year, the range includes cottage pie, fisherman’s bake, beanie bake and creamy chicken bake.

Nappy Days

Disposable nappy sales are down but sales of baby wipes are up. Mintel attributes the differences in fortune down to the maturity of the markets - disposable nappies are used by up to 99% of families with young children, but penetration of baby wipes is much lower and therefore has greater growth potential. In addition, baby wipes are used by people who do not have children, for general skin cleansing.

Two manufacturers dominate the nappy market - P&G with Pampers and Kimberly-Clark with Huggies. In baby wipes, Johnson & Johnson leads the way. Although the grocery multiples dominate sales P&G UK trade marketing manager Paul Lettice says consumers will top-up on baby products in c-stores. “Nappies are huge in value and will draw customers to a store and then drive sales of related products such as milk, drinks, meals and wipes,” he says.

He advises c-stores that:

30% of brands within the baby category account for 70% of sales, therefore it’s essential to dedicate 70% of space to the best sellers and stock the leading brands.

Products should be grouped together, for example, all nappies together.

Retailers should keep shelves well stocked because out of stocks frustrate customers.

Ensure that all price and product labels are under the relevant product and shelves are kept clean and well maintained.