How to trigger a growth spurt in infant nutrition

By Jim Cornall

- Last updated on GMT

Pic: FrieslandCampina Ingredients
Pic: FrieslandCampina Ingredients

Related tags frieslandcampina ingredients Infant nutrition

Consumers could be forgiven for believing that innovation in infant nutrition is less radical or slower than it is in other parts of the nutrition industry.

After all, there are fundamental realities that do not shift. Breast feeding is best. Ingredient safety and security are absolutely paramount. Natural is optimal, quality is non-negotiable. Protein is essential.

Yvonne van der Vorst, marketing director, early life nutrition, at FrieslandCampina Ingredients, says that in a sector where so much should, and does, stay the same, there is huge scope for change.

While not losing sight of the vital cornerstones we all value and trust, advances in scientific research and technology, and morphing demographics mean we’re on the verge of exciting new developments in what simply can no longer be viewed as a staid market.


Almost every market researcher in the food and nutrition industry has highlighted personalization as a trend that will define consumption habits - and therefore NPD – over the coming years.

And this is just as true in infant nutrition as anywhere else, van der Vorst said.

“As our understanding of physical and mental development in the early years improves, and as experts uncover more and more benefits offered by certain ingredients, particularly dairy proteins, the “one size fits all” nutrition of yesteryear can be replaced by formulations that are carefully honed to specific needs.”

So while on a global level, healthy overall growth, immunity, brain development and digestive health are all priorities, their relative importance varies between regions. In Asia, for instance, there is higher interest in cognitive health than exists in other regions.

This suggests the use of ingredients like MFGM (milk fat globule membrane) and the essential fatty acid Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), both with well-researched brain health benefits in infants, resonate well in this huge market.

Category expansion

Many health organizations, NGOs and health authorities worldwide are united in the belief that the first 1,000 days after birth are critical, and have an enormous bearing on longer-term health. But increasingly we are seeing how influential health and nutrition can be, both before and after these 1,000 days.

van der Vorst says FrieslandCampina Ingredients has adopted a “-12 to +12” model within its Early Life Nutrition business, encouraging optimum nutrition in women from the moment they decide to try to conceive and throughout pregnancy, and on to the onset of a child’s teenage years.

As a woman’s dietary requirements and preferences change – sometimes dramatically – in the run-up to, and over the course of parenthood, so too do her consumption habits. The same can be said of her child, according to van der Vorst.

In the early days – when milk is the only source of nutrition – digestibility and tackling allergies are top priorities, whereas the focus shifts in school-age children to strength from within and enabling good learning.

For this reason, -12 to +12 encompasses four stages, each of which benefit from varying knowledge, support and nutritional ingredients.

Implications for the dairy industry

Diversification – aligning product offerings more closely with the specific requirements of different markets – ensures brand differentiation and adds even more value in a relatively price-insensitive market, van der Vorst said.

“Similarly, developing recipes and formats that respond to the changing needs and desires of the family as it grows is a clear opportunity for brands to remain relevant to, and secure loyalty from, a large market for far longer than 1,000 days.

“With dairy a cornerstone of nutrition throughout the -12 to +12 period, the future is bright for those who embrace its potential and, more specifically, that of its unique components.

“A leader in this market for over 75 years, FrieslandCampina Ingredients is now leveraging its unique insights to develop concepts and solutions that enable dairy producers to do just that.”

FrieslandCampina Ingredients reported combined sales of €1.7bn in FY18 and employs an international group of 3,250 employees.

The new segments Early Life Nutrition, Adult Nutrition, Food & Beverages and Animal Nutrition operate worldwide, with regional sales offices in The Netherlands, USA, Singapore, China and Brazil, under one unified brand identity and tagline, “The Inside Matters”.

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