Mothers are warming up to whey proteins in baby formula

By Beth Newhart contact

- Last updated on GMT

"High numbers of mothers globally not only recognize whey-derived ingredients, but also have a preference for products that contain them.” Pic: ©GettyImages/stevanovicigor
"High numbers of mothers globally not only recognize whey-derived ingredients, but also have a preference for products that contain them.” Pic: ©GettyImages/stevanovicigor

Related tags: Whey, Whey protein, Formula milk, Infant formula

Nearly half of women surveyed recognized whey protein as an ingredient in infant formula, and four in 10 preferred it over other formulas, a new study from Arla Foods Ingredients found.

Arla spoke to nearly 6,000 women in seven countries to understand their attitudes toward certain ingredients in formula. The women were from France, South Korea, China, the UK, the US, Germany and Indonesia, were aged 18-45, were college educated and had children aged four or younger.

The most recognized ingredient was lactose (66%), followed by probiotics (63%). But 46% were aware of whey proteins, a sign that alternative protein source common in the health and wellness world is catching on.

About 32% knew about whey protein hydrolysates and 31% were aware of phospholipids. Women also identified alpha-lactalbumin (29%), milk fat globule membrane (20%) and osteopontin (16%).

China represents the world’s largest infant formula market, and 55% of Chinese mothers said they would prefer a formula that contained whey proteins. About 38% of women from the other countries agreed in preference and 31% preferred alpha-lactalbumin and whey protein hydrolysates.

Manel Romeu Belles, marketing manager at Arla, said “This research provides valuable insights into the consumer behavior of Generation X and Millennial mothers buying infant and baby formula. One of the key findings, for us and for formula manufacturers, is that high numbers of mothers globally not only recognize whey-derived ingredients, but also have a preference for products that contain them.”

Common formula themes worldwide

Mothers also revealed that they like to consider several options in formula, with just 27% saying they had never switched brands. In China and Indonesia especially, it is common to shop around for product.

The most important factors for mothers in choosing the right formula are said to be high quality (87%), health benefits (83%), product brand reputation (75%) and clinically documented ingredients (75%). Price came in last with 52%.

They most want the health benefits to support healthy growth (87%), help children’s immune systems (86%), provide gut comfort (85%) and cognitive development (82%).

“Although there are some differences between countries, there are also many common themes worldwide. The most important of these are the prioritization of quality over price and a focus on health benefits,”​ Belles said.

“With only just over a quarter of mothers never switching brands, there is an opportunity for manufacturers to increase customer loyalty. One of the avenues to achieve that could be by launching products containing high-quality, specialized ingredients that can bring infant formula closer to breast milk.”

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