The product was launched through multi-channel sales in conjunction with e-commerce platform JD.com and renowned mother-and-baby chain Leyou, and is touted as beneficial to pregnant women's intestinal health and immune system.
Made with milk taken from purebred A2 cows identified via DNA screening, the product is imported from Switzerland, and contains folic acid, DHA and iron (among other nutrients).
According to Nestlé, it also contains a unique double strain of Swiss probiotics — BB12 and LGG — which is said to help build immunity for both mother and baby.
This launch came shortly after the company announced its entry into Australia's A2 milk sector, sparking industry talk of competition with the a2 Milk Company.
The maternal milk powder is also not the first A2 milk product it has released in China — in February 2018, it introduced its Illuma Two Stage 3, an A2 infant formula product.
Trends, timelines and technology
Binu Jacob, senior VP of Nestlé Greater China’s Infant Nutrition Unit, told NutraIngredients-Asia: "One of the trends we noticed in China was the growing awareness of A2 β-casein among mothers. When we did our own consumer research, we found that many mothers were looking for A2 milk when shopping for infant formula.
"Furthermore, when it came to maternal milk, no company had developed an A2 product. That's why we decided to provide this option for maternal milk supplements in China.
“We formulated the product to be low in fat and lactose, and with zero added sugar. This is extremely important for millennial mums in China, who have become more and more conscious about weight gain during pregnancy.”
He also highlighted the relatively short timeline between the conceptualisation and launch of the product, aided by China's progress as one of the company's innovation centres.
"We conceptualised and innovated this particular product here in China, and we managed to do so in less than nine months — from the day we created the concept to the day we launched it.
"Of course, we had support from our global R&D team, because the science and technology come from them, but the whole innovation process started and ended here in China."
Platforms and preferences
While Nestlé has taken advantage of China’s burgeoning e-commerce sector by launching on JD.com and Alibaba, it has also partnered with Leyou, a well-known domestic mother-and-baby chain that is promoting the product through its channel.
In a media release, Leyou Group VP Yang Liping said, "Leyou believes that if mothers are healthy, (their) babies will be healthy. We insist on providing safe, healthy and nutritious products for mothers and babies, and apply advanced technology to optimise customer experience.
"As Nestlé's long-term partners, we are very happy to present Nestlé's new milk powder product to consumers in a convenient way, contributing to maternal and child health."
Jacob emphasised the importance of this channel, saying, "Such stores are, in my mind, an even more critical channel (than e-commerce) for mothers, as that is where they go to experience the products and get nutritional advice before they decide what to buy.
"Such purchases are usually very carefully planned. Once mothers have decided on a brand, they stick to it so they don't have to keep searching, and the chances of them switching to another brand are not high."
JD.com's Jiang Longwu, who oversees milk powder food supplements within the platform's Maternal and Child Production and Marketing Department said, "Following maternal health, the healthy growth of infants and young children has always been an area JD.com values.
"Nestlé has brought in a new choice for Chinese mothers, and we hope to provide stable and safe purchasing channels for mothers, and to help improve their consumption experience."
Superiority a priority
Beyond providing more options for mothers in China, however, Jacob told us Nestlé insists upon strong consumer preference and 'nutritional superiority' for a product before deciding to launch it.
"We believe that at least 60% of consumers should prefer our product to that of our nearest competitor, and that our product should have nutritional superiority over that competitor. If it doesn't meet these two criteria, we won't launch it.
"This maternal A2 milk powder has a 67% (consumer preference level) over the leading player in the market. That's something we’re very proud of, as it means we not only provide good nutrition, but nutrition that tastes good.
"This is also critical during pregnancy, as (the sensitivity of) expectant mothers' taste buds is usually heightened."
Nestlé's focus when it comes to A2 milk products remains fixed on China for now, with its Australian presence meant to support further growth in China, presumably via daigou channels.
The firm is planning to develop more A2 infant formula, which Jacob said was "the next logical step" after recently launching its NAN A2 formula in Australia.
"We are now assessing how we can bring this product into China through our e-commerce platform. Launching anything in China now requires a long registration process, so this would not only be an easier way to bring products into China, it would give us time to assess and work on how to launch this in the domestic market.”