Parents everywhere want the very best for their children—from the food they put in their mouths to the diapers they put on their bottoms, and they’re willing to pay for these things. Nielsen estimates baby food and formula sales around the world to reach nearly $30 billion in 2015, and the diaper market is estimated to exceed $29 billion, representing huge opportunities for manufacturers and retailers. According to Nielsen Taiwan Retail Measurement Services moving the annual total till June, 2015, baby food and formula and diaper markets in Taiwan faced declines of 9% and 8% respectively due to decreasing birth rate.
For baby care manufacturers, the battle for baby bucks come with a fair share of challenges. According to the World Bank, births have declined 45% on average between 1960 and 2013 globally. The situation is further severe in Taiwan, as births have declined 78% between 1960 and 2013, according to Taiwan Ministry of the Interior.
Competitions in the baby care market are fierce; numerous branded and store-brand products at various price points compete for moms’ attention. Moreover, windows for purchasing baby care products are relatively narrow. “Despite challenges, opportunities in the baby care market remain sizeable,” said Spencer Hung, the senior director from the Industry Research of Nielsen Taiwan. “Consumers invest in these categories greatly, and are thus highly discriminating when it comes to products they buy for their children. However, to achieve competitive advantages in the space dominated by only a few major brands, deep understanding of what drives product choices is critical.”
To better understand trends within baby care categories, such as baby food and diapers, as well as why consumers choose one brand over another, Nielsen has polled online respondents who have made a baby care purchase in the past five years from 60 countries worldwide. The findings reveal important insights about the path to purchase and identify the online and offline sources most influential in the process.
INCREASING PROSPERITY, MODERNIZATION AND WOMEN ENTERING THE WORKFORCE DRIVE THE BABY CARE GROWTH
According to World Bank data, between 1990 and 2013, the percentage of women in the workforce has increased more than four percentage points in the 60 markets included in the survey. Meanwhile, Taiwan is also in the journey of rising rates of female participation in the labor force with a growth of six percentage points during the period aforementioned, according to Taiwan Directorate-General of Budget Accounting and Statistics.
As many working mothers return to their jobs shortly after giving birth, prepared baby foods and formulas provide an appealing alternative for them, bridging their desires for healthy, nutritious food with their needs for convenience. “The rising middle class in the developing world have created new opportunities in the baby care market, as the need for products that are compatible with a working mom’s schedule is growing,” said Hung. “And these opportunities include baby care products in the premium space. In fact, in many countries, the cache of premium products is an important symbol of one’s social status.”
More than one-third of global respondents say good nutrition (37%) and safe ingredients/processing (36%) are the most important when deciding which baby food products to purchase, occupying the second and the third most commonly cited attributes respectively; at the same time, trusted brand tops the list, which is cited by 39% of respondents. Still further, organic and all-natural foods are also an important purchase concern.
“Consumers are increasingly health conscious and looking for natural, minimally-processed foods; the stakes are even higher when it comes to their babies,” said Hung. “More parents are seeking foods that set their children up for a healthy life—even if it comes at a premium. We expect this segment to continue growing, as more parents can afford to trade up. In developed markets, where birthrates are lower and baby care categories are highly saturated, said growth will primarily come from both innovation and refinement. In developing markets, innovation is important; but increasing demands are the biggest growth driver.”
In Taiwan, premium products are the driver for the baby care market growth. Comparing to the decline of the total baby care market, premium infant formulas increased 144% with the premium baby diaper growth of 23%, according to Nielsen Taiwan Retail Measurement Services, moving the annual total till June, 2015. “The sales reflect the latest Nielsen Global Baby Care Survey result: 45% consider that ‘safe ingredients and processing’ is the most important when deciding what brand and type of baby food to purchase, which is way above the global average; nonetheless, only 11%, claims that ‘good price/value’ is the most important, which is far below the average value worldwide. This survey reveals premiumization in the baby care market of Taiwan is with huge opportunities even if the total size is downsizing,” Hung said.
The top five information sources for Taiwanese consumers to learn about baby care product information include recommendations from friends/family (51%), parenting websites (37%); recommendations from baby health experts (36%), baby blogs (31%), and parenting magazines (23%) when purchasing baby foods. On the other hand, when it comes to the most influential sources, recommendations from friends/family (49%), recommendations from baby health experts (33%), and parenting websites (26%) are the top three on the list.
ONLINE PURCHASING TRENDS
Global baby care consumers are more likely to purchase baby supplies in physical stores rather than online ones, but this trend is changing as more consumers are switching to online channels. E-commerce retailers are able to compete with prices and the convenience due to reduced capital investments in physical infrastructure, and in some cases, the elimination of links in the supply chain. Moreover, it also offers a compelling proposition for busy parents: the convenience of shopping whenever and wherever they desire, as well as free deliveries to their front door from time to time.
For respondents all over the world, types of baby care products they would purchase online are most likely to be baby toys (38%) and clothes (34%). Twenty-three percent of global consumers say they’ve bought diapers online and 17% have bought baby foods. More specifically, baby toys (39%), baby beauty products (32%) and diapers (29%) are the top 3 baby care categories for online shopping for Taiwanese respondents. Although virtual channel sales is still far below physical channels when speaking infant formulas and diapers, the growth rates for each of the two reach 57% and 81% respectively according to Nielsen eCommerce Measurement Services moving annual total till June, 2015.
Asia-Pacific leads the way in self-reported online purchasing, especially for diapers and baby foods. Thirty-one percent of respondents in this region say they’ve bought diapers online and one-quarter have bought baby food. In Asia, Hong Kong and Korea lead the way in online purchasing; and e-commerce retail sales is of impressive year-over-year growth in China. Between 2013 and 2014, sales of online infant formulas rose 32%, and that of baby foods grew 44% with diapers grew 60%. In Europe, online baby food sales rose 43%, fueled by the strong growth in France.
ABOUT THE NIELSEN GLOBAL SURVEY
The Nielsen Global Baby Care Survey was conducted between Feb. 23-March 13, 2015, and polled consumers in 60 countries throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and North America who have made a baby care purchase in the past five years. The sample has quotas based on age and sex for each country based on its Internet users and is weighted to be representative of Internet consumers. It has a margin of error of ±0.6%. This Nielsen survey is based only on the behavior of respondents with online access. Internet penetration rates vary by country. Nielsen uses a minimum reporting standard of 60% Internet penetration or an online population of 10 million for survey inclusion. The Nielsen Global Survey, which includes the Global Consumer Confidence Index, was established in 2005.