The French infant nutrition market was estimated at over 1.2 billion euros in 2012. France is the leading country in terms of consumption of baby food products: about 200 kg of milk and diversification foods are consumed per baby per year, four times more than in the United States. The sector is divided into two main families: infant milks, which account for 41% of the market share, and diversified foods (compotes, purées, yoghurts, ready meals), which account for 59% of the market share.
The French infant nutrition market is dominated by two giants with more than 83% of the world market share: Danone and Nestlé. Alongside these two main players, companies with more local dimensions are trying to survive despite the concentration phenomenon that the market has been experiencing for several years. As for private labels, which have to face the weakness of their brands which are less reassuring for parents, have a moderate proportion.
The market has experienced very strong growth since 2000 (+45% from 1999 to 2009), which was slowed down by the global economic crisis: the market experienced a decline in volume and value during the years 2008-2010. The decline in purchasing power has led to a decline in consumption, consumption transfers and a return to "home-made" fashion. In addition, infant milks have suffered from the fact that more and more young mothers prefer breastfeeding.
New growth drivers were established thanks to expansion and segmentation of the offer as well as product innovation, before seeing its growth slow down between 2011 and 2013. Generally speaking, the brands have developed their product portfolios and have innovated, particularly in the field of diversification foods. Using only the example of Blédina (Danone), the brand created "Mon 1er Blédifruit" (compote intended for infants from four months), "Plates of the day" (small jars containing melting pieces intended for children over ten months) and "Blédi'Délice" (desserts prepared for children from six to eight months). Thus, we note that "natural" products and dairy desserts are booming, posting respectively more than 9% and more than 6% growth since 2011. Packaging innovation has also been an important area of development.
Moreover, organic brands have performed well in recent years despite a very competitive environment: they gained 4.5% market share in 2010 followed by growth of around 1% in 2011. Among the most successful operators in the Materna and Vitagermine segment.
The main mode of distribution of infant nutrition is MSG. The latter have witnessed the increasing size of this sector on their shelves: in ten years, the number of products has risen by 58% on average, from 174 to 274. Today, there are more than 160 different brands of infant milk.
Quality is one of the primary criteria in this sector, because it is the primary concern of parents-clients. The major regulation on the European market in this field is Directive 2006/141/EC, dated 22 December 2006. It specifies the various names and defines threshold values for all the constituents of preparations for children.
Thus, despite growth that has not yet returned to its levels of 10 years ago, the market still has room for expansion: 50% of baby food from 4 to 15 months still consists of non-specific or homemade products. In the eyes of Danone and Nestlé, the potential of this market remains sufficiently attractive to have been engaged in a merciless battle over the past two years to acquire American, Indian and Russian competitors.
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