Growing Pains, Growing Gains

Growing Pains, Growing Gains

Formula milk sales declines as breastfeeding trend increases in Singapore

Parents everywhere invest in countless resources to provide for their babies’ needs – from the type of milk fed to the brand of diapers purchased. As parents are often willing to spend on quality, these little consumers are providing big market opportunities.

Nonetheless, the battle for baby bucks is facing growing pains in the midst of an evolving consumer landscape, especially when it comes to formula milk sales. Nielsen’s recent Baby Power 2018 report examining the dynamics of Singapore’s formula milk market indicates that breastfeeding patterns continue to trend upwards, where 9 in 10 moms breastfed in either a full or partial manner last year.

Despite challenges, opportunities to cash in the baby care market remain substantial. Parents are willing to invest in the best for their children, and readily develop brand loyalty to what they perceive as premium products. Brands that can cater to parents’ evolving lifestyle patterns also stand out. To achieve competitive advantage, deep insights on consumer motivation is crucial, and our report highlights a few key areas that can drive growth.


As one in two moms are partially breastfeeding, a sizable and increasing portion of mothers are supplementing breast milk with formula milk. 54% and 51% feed their babies with a mixed diet during hospital stay and right after they discharge respectively. Formula milk sales for infants aged 0 to 6 months has also increased by 7% from 2017 to 2018. On the whole, 61% indicated that feeding their babies with formula milk in addition to breast milk creates a peace of mind.

Moms cited inconvenience of breastfeeding and insufficient milk supply as the main triggers for introducing a mixed diet. Marketing efforts can offer compelling propositions for a mixed diet for busy or frenzied moms: those with low milk supply can ensure their babies have nutritious meals just like their peers anytime, anywhere. A mom’s hectic life will also be more flexible, giving her leeways to catch an additional hour or two of rest.


Healthy eating is an evergreen trend, especially for middle- and upper-income individuals who look not only to fill themselves but to also lead longer and more active lives. Consumers are increasingly focused on their health and prefer organic, minimally-processed food. This tendency is intensified when their infants are concerned, and it has become a norm for parents to buy food that boosts their children’s health, even when it comes with a premium price tag.

Indeed, 57% and 49% of moms are willing to pay more for foods that are respectively GMO-free or organic, almost a 10% increase from 2016. An average of 70% of mothers with infants from all age groups indicate that protecting their child from falling sick easily is a top area of concern. To capitalize on this health buzz, brands can highlight how formula milk can boost strong immunity.


What can moms do to enhance breast milk nutrients and improve their general health? As maternal milk consists of essential vitamins and ingredients that are specially tailored to mothers and their babies, it is an effective strength-booster.

Unfortunately, while 39% of moms with babies aged 0 to 12 months consume maternal milk during pregnancy, this figure drops to 15% after pregnancy. What are the main barriers in limiting maternal milk consumption? 1 in 3 moms believe there is no need for maternal milk. 55% also cited disliking powdered milk as the main reason for not having maternal milk during pregnancy, and 34% indicated that the excessively sweet taste of the milk is the central deciding factor to stop maternal milk consumption after giving birth. Market opportunities lie in educating moms on the importance of including maternal milk in one’s postpartum diet. Improving milk flavour, or producing liquid format milk will also encourage moms to consume and continue maternal milk intake.


With longer breastfeeding duration, active brand engagement will become more important when moms switch from breastfeeding to infant formula milk. This is especially so when versus 2016, more moms tend to seek information just before their child reaches their milestone age.

Where do moms turn to when it comes to gathering information? Data indicates that 51% of moms rely on word-of-mouth (WOM) as insight sources of milk brands. Interpersonal recommendations maximize trust and credibility while minimizing cost, and counteracts the impersonal distance associated with top-down advertising. 42% of moms also use the Internet as an information source. To gain an intimate understanding of moms’ delight, excitement, or outright deflections, brands can engage in online social listening.


Ultimately, to stand ahead in an industry dominated by only a few main companies, brand equity, or the commercial value that is derived from a consumer’s belief about a brand, must be cultivated. The key to success in the baby care market is to pitch a premium reputation that symbolizes the values and lifestyle systems of the consumers. The effects of this intangible asset will materialize its soft power through visible means such as profits, demand and market share.