The View from France: Although the birth rate in France remains relatively strong (827,000 in 2011) the baby food sector is experiencing some stagnation due to a decrease in consumer purchasing power and a certain sentiment of distrust regarding the food industry leading to an increase in the consumption of home-prepared meals for babies.

In 2012 the market, currently valued at €1.2bn, fell by 3.4 per cent in volume and 2.4 per cent in value. Market leader Blédina (Danone) holds 47.5 per cent market share according to  Points de Ventes.

Nestlé, under the brand name Naturnes has reacted intelligently to current trends by offering small ambient pots containing one single ingredient, for example mashed spinach, to aid parents in the preparation of the home-made baby meals.

The French baby food market includes mostly ambient products unlike the Irish market with a larger range of chilled products. Recently, however Yooji has launched a range of chilled organic mashed vegetables with either rice or potatoes packaged in a practical re-sealable pouch allowing for parents to mix recipes and products as they wish.

There has also been recent growth within the frozen baby food market, notably the introduction of a range of 14 frozen products for babies of six months plus by the French frozen food specialists Picard according to Linéaires.

Although currently representing only five per cent of the category, organic baby food, dominated by brands Hipp and Babybio (Vitagermine), is a niche area that is expected to continue to grow, much like the Irish market, as parents look for healthy, natural, high-quality food products for their babies.

Despite an overall slowdown in the French baby food market, the chilled food segment in France is expected to grow. This should provide opportunities for Irish baby food suppliers with the relevant expertise to bring innovative chilled and frozen baby food products to the French market.

 By Victoria Larragy, Paris Office, Bord Bia – Irish Food Board

Image courtesy Bord Bia