As per the U.S. Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), infant formula is defined as "a food which purports to be or is represented for special dietary use solely as a food for infants by reason of its simulation of human milk or its suitability as a complete or partial substitute for human milk.” Due to regulation and marketing purposes, infant formula is segmented into different stages to cater to different age groups. The types of infant formulas based on the age group include: stage-1 or standard infant formula, designed for infants below six months of age; stage-2 or follow-up formula designed for infants between 6 months and 1 year of age; and toddler or growing-up milk for children above 1 year of age.Globally, stage-1 and stage 2/follow-up formulas are highly regulated, with most authorities advising against marketing of infant formulas to boost breastfeeding. With increasing food safety concerns, authorities are taking a more stringent stance on the regulatory framework to ensure infant safety. Changing regulatory standards, especially across China and Europe, are expected to have a significant mid-to-long term impact on the infant formula ingredients market. The demand for high-quality infant formula products that can closely mimic the breast milk composition is expected to remain a key innovation driver. Further, clean-label and organic formula products are expected to create an opportunity for organic, non-GM ingredients. Fats and oils, and proteins are key macro ingredient segments holding a majority of market share in 2020. With the demand for plant-based infant formulas expanding, the opportunity across non-allergenic, non-GMO plant protein ingredients is expected to expand. On the other hand, the demand for specialized fats is expected to be key a growth driver across the fat and oil segment. Prebiotics, for example, Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMO), and probiotics are expected to witness strong growth during the forecast period. The need to create product differentiation to cater to changing consumer demand is driving ingredient innovation. Further, the demand for premium infant formula products, especially in China, is boosting the adoption of highly specialized ingredients, such as HMOs and probiotics.In terms of volume demand, APAC, including China, held a majority of the market share in 2020, closely followed by Europe, which remained one of the top exporters of infant formula in 2020. China, New Zealand, and Southeast Asian countries together are expected to drive a majority of growth during the forecast period. Europe and North America are expected to be more mature markets in terms of ingredient demand; however, there is a higher adoption potential for more innovative ingredients in these two regions. Growth in Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa is expected to remain strong, with Latin America likely to offer strong growth opportunities. Broadly, for most of the ingredients, the growing-up/toddler milk category is estimated to hold a majority of share in 2020, primarily due to its sheer volume. However, specialized formulas (e.g., hypoallergenic formulas) are expected to drive the majority of growth during the forecast period. In terms of the competitive environment, market leaders differ by ingredient segments; however, the overall infant formula ingredient market seems to be dominated by global manufacturers. Consolidation is ongoing across the value chain, with companies aiming to move up the supply chain through both organic and inorganic growth strategies. Prebiotics, probiotics, omega oils, and specialized fats are some key sectors holding high innovation potential and growth opportunity for competitors during the forecast period.
Author: Smriti Sharma