Rapid urbanisation, the growth of the middle class and rising rates of female participation in the labour force, especially in many developing markets, is expected to stimulate strong growth in baby food sales, which Nielsen estimates will reach nearly $30 billion in 2015* and in the diaper market which is projected to exceed $29 billion** around the world.
One in ten consumers in Southeast Asia report having a child below the age of one in their household, one of the highest levels in any region globally and double the global average of 5%. A further 13% of consumers in the region have children aged one to two years old in their household compared to 9% globally.
Nielsen’s Head of Shopper Insights in Southeast Asia, North Asia and Pacific, Connie Cheng, says when it comes to caring for their little bundles of joy, parents are highly discerning: “From the food they put in their mouths to the diapers they put on their bottoms, there is little room for compromise, and parents are willing to spend more for quality."
Cheng cites growing affluence, urbanisation and the increasing number women in the workforce as major factors influencing the adoption of convenience-oriented baby products such as baby formula, prepared baby foods and diapers. However, competition in the baby care market is fierce and numerous branded and store-brand products at various price points compete for attention. Moreover, the window for purchasing baby care products is relatively short.
“Despite the challenges, opportunities in the baby care market are substantial,” advises Cheng. “Achieving competitive advantage in a space dominated by only a few major brands is possible through a deep understanding of what is driving product choice.”
The majority of Southeast Asia consumers (54%) say good nutrition is important when deciding which baby food product to purchase. Safe ingredients/processing and trusted brands were also important for nearly two in five (39%), along with price/value (32%) and flavor or taste. Organic and all-natural foods are also an important purchase consideration, cited by 25% of respondents in the region.
“Greater awareness of the importance of health and nutrition is leading consumers to look for natural, minimally-processed foods, and when it comes to their babies, consumers are especially particular— even if their demands come at a premium,” observes Cheng. “Parents are prepared to trade up and this will drive continued growth in the segment, albeit that growth will come from different sources for different markets. In developed markets, where birthrates are lower and baby care categories are highly saturated, growth will be spurred by innovation and premiumisation while in developing markets, increasing demand will be the biggest growth driver.”
When it comes to attributes in choosing the brand and type of diaper to buy for their babies, around half of consumers in Southeast Asia identify skin protection/good for sensitive skin (51%) as key factors influencing their purchase decisions. Around one third identified good fit /comfortable to wear (34%) and price/value (30%) as important attributes.
Recommendations from family and friends, television advertising and advice from healthcare experts are important sources of information for new parents in learning about which baby food and diapers to buy for their babies. More than two in five consumers (42%) rely on recommendations from friends/family for baby food, followed closely by recommendations from baby health experts (40%) and television advertising (28%).
When it comes to influencing purchase for diapers, close to half of consumers (47%) say recommendations from family and friends had the most significant influence on their purchase decisions followed by television advertising (37%).
While consumers of baby care products in Southeast Asia are most likely to purchase baby supplies in a ‘bricks and mortar’ store, online channels are gaining momentum with 19% of consumers having purchased diapers online and 17% having purchased food online.
Cheng notes that online retailers are able to compete on price and convenience due to reduced capital investment in physical infrastructure and, in some cases, the elimination of links in the supply chain. “From the consumer’s perspective, purchasing baby care products online offers a compelling proposition for busy parents. Online shopping is extending store hours and this helps the parents to better juggle both family and work demands. The enablers of online shopping translate into convenience, choice and price-value for a shopper. With its predictable consumption rates and long shelf life, baby categories like diapers and baby wipes lend themselves well to e-commerce.”
* Based on Nielsen retail sales data for infant nutrition, infant cereal and infant formula categories in selected countries, which cover an estimated 95% of global baby food and formula sales.
**Based on Nielsen sales data for baby diapers and wipes in 63 countries, which account for an estimated 90% of global value sales.
Insights contained in this article are based on results from the 2015 Nielsen Global Baby Care Survey.
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