Caroline Roux
As a Global Food & Drink Analyst, Caroline provides consumer insights and recommendations to dairy companies and tracks global innovation and consumer trends.

In China, innovation in dairy products targeted at children declined by half between 2015 and 2017. According to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), child-targeted dairy products accounted for 5% of dairy innovation in China in 2017, compared to 11% in 2015.

Despite limited innovation, child-specific dairy products enjoy a high level of penetration among Chinese families, suggesting that parents are interested in buying more of these products. Mintel research on food and drinks purchases for children in China reveals that around seven in 10 Chinese parents buy child-specific yogurt and milk respectively.

As children grow, they are more likely to be offered family- or adult-targeted dairy. Yet over two-thirds of Chinese parents with children aged 10 to 12 are still buying child-targeted dairy. To encourage growing children to keep their dairy consumption habits into adulthood, brands might want to consider the teenage years as the appropriate time to offer children more adult-like dairy.

The opportunities

The landscape of child-targeted dairy innovation is evolving, with fewer products launched in 2017 compared to previous years. While drinking yogurt still dominates child-targeted dairy introductions, it is losing ground against white milk and soft cheese desserts.

To stay in the competition, yogurt manufacturers could cater to Chinese parents willingness to pay more for additive-free yogurt with probiotics as well as yogurt that is high in protein. Indeed, research from Early Data, Mintel’s joint venture partner specialising in e-commerce business intelligence, shows that probiotics specialist GenMont is among China’s top manufacturers of yogurt targeted for kids health.

Meanwhile, brands of soft cheese desserts are leveraging cheese’s popularity among Chinese parents and children to introduce spoonable versions of well-established processed cheese. Child-targeted soft cheese desserts are offering the same flavours and functional health benefits (eg bone health, growth) as processed cheese. They often have a very similar ingredient list that includes dairy, sugar and texturing ingredients.

Owing to the way international brands have introduced cheese in the last two decades, Chinese consumers expect it to be sweet in taste and soft in texture. More than half of Chinese cheese consumers prefer them with a sweet taste, compared to just a third who prefer savoury cheese. In fact, Mintel GNPD shows that two-thirds of child-targeted cheese launched between 2015 and 2017 were flavoured, with strawberry and banana among the most widely available flavours.

Milkana KidzUp! Banana Flavoured Kiddy Cheese is formulated with Nutriose, which contains dietary fibre to help promote normal intestine function. It is high in calcium and milk protein for the formation of cells.
Milkland Original Flavoured Fresh Cheese for Children is a raw milk-based product that’s said to be nutritious.

Overall, dairy plays a minor role in innovation in child-targeted food and drink. Mintel research indicates that Chinese parents are interested in buying more child-targeted dairy, particularly milk and yogurt. They are looking for products that are healthy—in line with professional recommendations from doctors or nutritionists—but also desirable from their children’s point of view.