Shifty and shifting formula industry marketing tactics

Toddler milks

March 20, 2020- With slumping infant formula sales has come the industry shift in marketing to toddler or follow-on milks for babies starting as young as 9 months.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), toddler milk is the fastest growing category of breastmilk substitutes and is unnecessary to young child health. The American Academy of Pediatrics thinks so too in the following statement:

“Toddler milks, often marketed by formula companies as “transitional” to wean from breast milk or formula, are unnecessary and potentially harmful to young children. These products contain added sugars and may fill a baby’s stomach up so he or she is not hungry for healthier foods.”

Toddler milks are mostly powdered low-fat milk, corn syrup solids, and vegetable oils. Some even have added sucrose (table sugar!!).  In fact, there is so much added sugar in some of these products that it exceeds the sugar content of soda drinks. Some are vanilla flavored with artificial flavorings. Toddler milks are pushed on parents of picky eaters with claims that the product is necessary because children are not obtaining the necessary nutrients from their diet. Cross-promotion of toddler drinks and infant formulas by the same manufacturers, using similar branding and packaging, confuses caregivers about the differences between these product categories and the appropriate product for someone of their child’s age. In fact, parents are so confused by the claims made for these products that many believe the toddler milk is better than breastmilk for digestion, growth, and brain development and provide nutrition that babies do not receive from breastmilk.

Toddler milks represent an expensive distraction from what toddlers should be eating which is a simple, healthy, diet of family foods with breastmilk, milk, or water. Even though leading national health organizations emphatically state that toddler milks are not recommended, sales of toddler milk in the US increased by 133% from 2006 to 2015. Fear-based marketing claims for toddler milks remain unsubstantiated but represent a lucrative product extension category for formula manufacturers.

References

Bridge, G., Lomazzi, M. & Bedi, R. A cross-country exploratory study to investigate the labelling, energy, carbohydrate and sugar content of formula milk products marketed for infants. Br Dent J 228, 198–212 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41415-020-1252-0

Harris JL, Pomeranz JL. Infant formula and toddler milk marketing: opportunities to address harmful practices and improve young children’s diets. Nutr Rev. 2020 Jan 22. pii: nuz095. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuz095.

Harris JL, Pomeranz JL. Toddler Drink Marketing: Opportunities to Address Harmful Practices. Durham, NC: Healthy Eating Research; 2020. Available at: https://www. healthyeatingresearch.org.

Lott M, Callahan E, Welker Duffy E, Story M, Daniels S. Healthy Beverage Consumption in Early Childhood: Recommendations from Key National Health and Nutrition Organizations. Technical Scientific Report. Durham, NC: Healthy Eating Research, 2019. Available at http://healthyeatingresearch.org

Romo-Palafox MJ, Pomeranz JL, Harris JL. (2020). Infant formula and toddler milk marketing and caregiver’s provision to young children. Maternal Child Nutrition, 2020, e12962 doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/mcn.12962

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