Shop-bought baby meals: which cuisines are best positioned to inspire NPD?

Starting from four to six months babies are gradually introduced to solid food, adapted to the needs of their age. Between this stage and the age when they start eating regular food, parents can either opt for buying ready-made baby meals or cooking baby food at home. The following baby food stages are commonly used:

Health minded home-cooks are likely to opt for making baby meals themselves in order to be able to provide the best ingredients and have control on what goes into their babies’ food. There are various arguments for and against both home-cooked and shop-bought baby food. For example, some experts argue that home-cooked meals may lead to young children gaining weight.

Using a single-answer steer we asked 344 parents of babies, aged between six months and two years, whether they cook baby meals, buy them, or do both:

A third of our panel uses cooked-at-home meals exclusively, which is substantial considering that cooking for your baby can be a time-consuming process. Almost half of consumers use a combination of cooked-at-home and shop-bought baby meals, making this the most popular way to source baby food. Combined with the 14% using shop-bought baby meals exclusively, these parents make a solid consumer base for baby food meal ranges in retail.

With a wide choice of baby food in shops, it is important to establish which factors parents prioritise when deciding what to buy. Using a multi-answer steer we asked 325 parents of babies aged six months to two years to select the most important factors influencing their choices. The results are presented below:

‘No added salt and sugar’ is a key factor for almost half of our panel, which reflects the influence of NHS campaigns against excessive salt and sugar consumption. The next three factors have attracted around 30% each. Provided that most brands conform to NHS recommendations regarding salt and sugar, offer convenient sizes and packaging, and use organic ingredients, flavour remains a key tool for NPD. Research has shown that the more flavours babies are exposed to, the more likely they are to eat a variety of foods when they are older children.

While the best baby food flavour is variety, choices are subjective and could be triggered by parents’ personal tastes or perceptions regarding certain cuisines being healthier than others. We selected fifteen Stage 3 baby meal options, currently available on the market, and ran a multi-answer steer asking 341 parents of babies for their preferences. Finding the mean in these preferences enabled us to see which types of flavours are more likely than average to trigger purchase decisions:

The seven dishes that scored higher than our mean include sweet potato & beef casserole with rice, chicken curry with veggie rice, and beef stew with spuds. The remaining four are inspired by the Italian cuisine: tomato & basil chicken with rice, mighty meaty pasta, beef spaghetti bolognese with extra virgin olive oil, and salmon risotto with a sprinkle of cheese.

Local food is a trend seeing more people seek out familiar, local options, often thought to be healthier. Italian cuisine, from the other hand, is the world’s most popular.  Like local cuisine, it is often seen as comforting, full of flavour, and healthy. New baby meal products in the UK could maximise market success choosing local or Italian cuisine as an inspiration, as both are familiar, comforting and flavoursome.

Vypr can help steer NPD in niche categories, such as Stage 3 and Stage 4 baby meals, by surveying the relevant subset of our consumer community. Parents of babies are the only consumers who can offer appropriate, up-to-date feedback to brands and retailers in this segment.

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