For many families, feeding a baby represents the largest cost element after the baby is born. As the number of full-time nursing mothers and housewives drops across Africa, baby foods and infant formulas are increasingly supplementing or totally replacing breast milk which has always been the traditional source of nutrition for babies. For the benefit of people reading this who do not know the difference between baby food‘ and baby formula‘, we‘ll explain.
Baby formula (or infant formula) is a manufactured food for feeding babies and infants usually less than 12 months old. Formula is used as a full or partial substitute for human breast milk or in situations when the baby has special dietary needs.
Baby formula looks and tastes like breast milk and appeals to mothers who cannot breastfeed their babies due to health, preference or convenience reasons. Infant formula is sold under several brand names and the common ones usually contain cow‘s milk extracts, a blend of vegetable oils, carbohydrates and a mix of vitamins and minerals.
On the other hand, baby food is any soft and easily consumed food other than breast milk or infant formula, which is made specifically for babies between the ages of two to nine months to two years. Baby food comes in several varieties and tastes, and unlike formulas, it‘s not intended to look like or replace breast milk.
Baby foods are either a soft, liquid paste or an easily chewed food since babies lack developed muscles and teeth to chew effectively. Babies typically move to consuming baby food once breast milk or formula is no longer sufficient to satisfy their appetite, so ready-made baby foods (that are so common in the West, but hardly available in Africa) are pureed vegetable mixtures, fruits or grains according to the baby‘s digestive system development.
Baby food and formula are some of the fastest-moving baby products in Africa. Billions of these will be consumed by babies across Africa over the coming decades as over 1 billion babies are added to Africa‘s population.
Most of the baby food and formulas sold in Africa are either imported from overseas or manufactured locally. Due to the delicate hygiene requirements for producing baby food and recent health scares of food poisoning in some countries, more parents now prefer to buy the major brands such as Heinz and Nestle, but frankly they are very expensive, even by Western standards! We saw Nestle baby porridge with banana flakes selling in Nairobi‘s supermarket for US$6, while the one without banana still cost $3!
However, there are a few newcomers in the market that are starting to appeal to customers who cannot afford the big brands. There is also a huge opportunity for baby food alternatives that are based on locally-sourced foods.
First you should be very clear about what kind of mums and families you are targeting with your product. The kind of baby food you offer, and the price you charge, need to be acceptable for your target market.
If you have not too much capital to invest into state-of-the-art equipment to cook ready meals, you can start with simpler baby foods such as cereal porridge, fruit purees, or dry snacks for toddlers. They all require very basic ingredients and are easily processed and packaged.
Organic baby food
Toddler drinks and fruit smoothies
Dry baby food snacks
Baby food in squeezable sachets
Top Countries & Policy Guidance
Get in touch with the regulatory body for food safety in the location you want to operate in. These are different departments across Africa. In Nigeria, for example, it would be the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control (NAFDAC). It is the major agency responsible for regulating and controlling the manufacturing, importation, export, advertisement, distribution, and use of food, drugs, and other products.
Baby food production will be most successful in countries with a fast-rising middle and consumer class, for example: Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, Morocco, Zambia, Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Angola and Senegal, among others.
Action & Tips
Find out as much as possible about the baby food market in the country you want to operate in – in Africa it s best to simply pick up the phone or visit in person. Contact the Chamber of Commerce, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Association of Nurses, or check Euromonitor.com for some market research outcomes online. And above all: talk to mums!