Baby food products are often bought as a distress purchase, which means independent retail outlets are perfectly positioned to capitalise.

The total infant and child care category is in marginal growth, driven by the sales performance of baby food. It has not been an easy year for baby food brands as wet baby food (pouches and jars) has seen a marginal decline of 5% YOY (Nielsen), offset by strong growth in baby and toddler snacking.
Despite the overall dip in category sales, Piccolo is performing well. It is the only brand within wet baby food to achieve double digit growth year-on-year (Nielsen), driven by successful launches into new retailers, investment behind strong marketing campaigns and effective promotional offers. Piccolo appeals to millennial parents who are typically having children later on in life and are therefore happy to trade up to more premium products.
“There is currently a growing trend around ingredients and flavours in the baby food category,” commented Cat Gazzoli, founder of Piccolo. “It’s important to introduce babies to new and exciting ingredients at the right times as they grow. This is so they can develop their palettes and get the nutrition they need from good quality sources.”
Piccolo has developed the new Mighty Squeeze range designed to introduce babies from 12 months old to superfood ingredients like amaranth, quinoa and turmeric in a healthy and convenient snack. This is appealing to parents who are also exploring new superfoods in their diets.
“Over the next year we will see more of a focus on snacking, in particular improving the health of the snacking category,” added Gazzoli. “There will continue to be a move towards no added sugar and salt in products. In addition to this, we will see brands continue to develop more environmentally friendly products, for example the reduction of palm oil.”
Piccolo provides collateral such as FSDUs, CDUs and weaning guides to independent retailers.
“We understand the support that retailers need with this category to help consumers understand and trust what they are buying, so merchandising is key,” comments Gazzoli.
Typically baby food is a distress purchase for consumers at independents. “They are looking for two things – familiarity, such as pouches, and a something premium that offers the health and nutritional quality they want,” says Gazzoli. “As this is a distressed purchased they are also typically less price sensitive and so are prepared to pay more.”
For the last two years Piccolo has attended the SPAR retail show and offered independent SPAR owners an intro trial offer on our Stage one pouches, where they received one free case for every three they purchased. The company has seen distribution amongst independent SPAR retailers in the south west of England increase by an average of 500% across the range that they carry year on year.
“On top of buy in promotions we’re always looking at innovative ways to help independent retailers achieve results, particularly those who have restricted food bays,” adds Gazzoli. “We’ll also be working closely with retail owners to create more unique POS in order to drive more shoppers into buying baby food as a convenience purchase.”
A recent Mintel report shows the global picture of the proportion of baby food launches that have been focused around no additives, organic and with vitamins/minerals. The trend is clear that “no added” in 2018 became the norm and organic continues to rise across the world, something that has become a hygiene factor in the UK. The focus is now on how to boost the nutritional quality of baby food, which is already a key attribute of Piccolo baby food.
Piccolo’s new Mighty Squeeze toddler snacking pouches which are suitable for babies aged 12 months + are pushing forwards the category for healthy toddler snacks. With no added sugar and nutritional claims on the front of the pack, such as high in Vitamin C, Fibre and One of your five a day, it makes it easier for consumers to make their purchase decision.
Teething Wafers, launched in 2018, are suitable for babies aged 10 months + are made from ancient grains and 100% natural flavour made using dried fruit. This means there is nothing added and gives babies a much healthier and more exciting way to teethe.
On-the-go purchases
Baby food represents a huge opportunity for impulse and convenience retailers who can stock the right brands and range, according to RH Amar, which distributes the Ella’s Kitchen range through the wholesale and convenience channels.
“Convenience retailers who stock the right brands and products have a great opportunity to continue to capitalise on parents’ growing demand for top up and on-the-go purchases,” explains Sam Higgins, senior brand manager for Ella’s Kitchen at distributor RH Amar, which has overseen an impressive period of growth for the UK’s favourite baby food brand in wholesale and convenience.
Ella’s Kitchen is now the biggest selling brand in both multiple grocery and convenience (IRI).
Working with Ella’s Kitchen since 2010, RH Amar’s decision to introduce the brand’s first cash & carry shelf-ready packs in 2013 allowed independent impulse and convenience retailers to buy into the brand in even greater numbers as they were able to buy lower quantities than had previously been possible.
“We haven’t looked back,” adds Higgins, “and earlier this year we celebrated Ella’s Kitchen’s 11 consecutive years of double-digit growth across all retail channels with the brand’s first listings in Booker, making it more accessible than ever before for independent retailers looking to capitalise on the biggest opportunity in baby food.”
Three initial products – Stage 1 – Strawberry’s & Apple, Stage 1 Carrot, Apple & Parsnip, and Stage 2 Chicken Casserole – are being stocked by Booker, and all are aimed at parents with younger children making top up, out of home and distress purchases.
As well as offering a comprehensive range of Ella’s Kitchen meals, breakfasts and yogurts in convenient pouches, RH Amar also supplies a range of Ella’s Kitchen bagged and boxed snacks to the wholesale trade, including Strawberry & Apple Oaty Fingers (RRP: £2.49, 5x25g box) and new Strawberry & Banana Melty Puffs (RRP: £0.89, 20g bag).
“Positioning these snacks near the till point can be a great way to increase impulse sales,” adds Higgins.