Sam Moore
Sam is a Global Food & Drink Analyst at Mintel, specialising in dairy and beverages.

Launches of liquid infant milk formula (IMF) have seen real growth in the Asia Pacific region over the last five years. In fact, APAC launches are catching up with Europe which have previously been the dominant region, according to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD). In the last year, China has seen the third most launches of liquid IMF in APAC following South Korea and Thailand.

Over half of Chinese parents are willing to pay more for IMF in a portable RTD liquid format.

There could be a real opportunity in China for liquid IMF products as interest is on the rise. Mintel research on China’s infant milk formula market reveals that over half of Chinese parents would be willing to pay more for IMF if it were in a portable ready-to-drink liquid format.

China has the largest IMF market in the world; however, just 1% of IMF products have been in liquid format. This has market potential as liquid IMF launches have increased by 38% globally over the last year. Launches look set to continue to rise as consumers appreciate convenience in their busy lives and are willing to pay more for it.

Premium products help win more market share

Due to the high proportion of working mothers in China, many grandparents are caring for babies—and this is one challenge for liquid IMF. The elderly tend to have more traditional attitudes and modern convenience may lack appeal to them. However, amidst all the food safety concerns, pre-mixed products may provide them with more peace of mind.

Furthermore, both domestic and international brands have realised that premium products can enjoy more opportunities in the market. Therefore, promoting premium liquid sub brands that highlight convenience could be a good strategy for liquid IMF to win more market share in the industry.

Opportunity in usage occasions

In China, three in five parents claim they have fed their kids with packaged dairy drinks (excluding milk). However, for liquid IMF, especially ready-to-drink/feed, there may be concerns around sterilisation and temperature as many parents would warm IMF before feeding to a child. To overcome this, liquid IMF products sold with sterilised teats, especially for on-the-go or travelling situations, would be ideal. Also ideal would be products specifically designed for night feeds where the ready-made convenient liquid would be a help for tired parents.

Night time

Beingmate Sleep Tong Zhen, China
This formula helps the baby sleep and reduces flatulence and stomach discomfort.

On-the-goSMA Pro Stage 1 First Infant Milk Starter Pack, UK
This starter kit has ready-to-use bottles with orthodontic pre-sterilised teats.

China’s liquid formula market is still nascent and while the product faces some challenges, consumers are receptive to the convenience it offers. To maximise appeal, brands should link to specific usage occasions where convenience would be highly valued, such as night-feeding and travelling.