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Despite draft regulations, liquid infant formulae may take years to hit market in Japan, says GlobalData

June 16, 2018 Statistics & Trends No Comments Email Email

Even though the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has released guidelines for manufacturing, labelling and storage of liquid infant formula, setting the stage for its production in Japan, it is likely to be several years before the first liquid formula appears on the commercial market, says leading data and analytics company GlobalData.

While liquid infant formulae are widely used in many markets due to convenience, they are no takers for the products in Japan primarily due to lack of safety regulations and rise in the proportion of mothers exclusively breastfeeding from 41.4% in 2005 to 55% in 2015, according to GlobalData.

However, in the wake of the 2011 tsunami, a number of liquid milks were shipped, for example, from the US and Finland, and these proved popular with many mothers. This led to renewed calls for liquid milks to be allowed on the Japanese market.

The Japanese market has tended to split baby milks into two main stages: infant formula for babies from birth until nine months, and follow-on milks from nine months, although the last three years or so have begun to see a shift in age specifications.

Despite rising rates of breastfeeding, per capita consumption of infant formula by babies aged 0-12 months has increased in the last few years, boosted by growing demand from tourists from elsewhere in the region, and stands at 9.8kg.

Valerie Lincoln-Stubbs, Research Director of Baby Food at GlobalData, says: “Overall, the market is difficult and competitive for manufacturers, and all of them are keen to find ways to increase their sales in a market with ever fewer consumers.”

Some companies are even selling baby milk to the elderly in their quest to increase sales. In 2017, in response to older customers adding infant formula to their diet, Morinaga launched infant formula-based Lifestyle milk for women in their 50s to 70s. Bean Stalk Snow followed in September 2017 with a similar product aimed at the adult palate.

While liquid formulae could present an opportunity for increasing the number of usage occasions, manufacturers need to be aware of the crowded state of urban Japan, which means that kitchens are small and storage space is at a premium. There is also an environmental argument against liquid formula with its high volume meaning the carbon footprint to transport it is much higher than for powdered milk.

Lincoln-Stubbs concludes: “Liquid formulae tend to command a higher price, and while Japanese consumers are generally affluent, there are concerns that these products will be unaffordable for the less wealthy. When they do hit the shelves, it is likely that demand will be limited, with small individual serving packs expected to be the most popular format due to their on-the-go appeal, their relatively affordability and easy storage.”

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