2020 H1 Chinese Infant Food Market Recap
BY Shine HuJul 24, 2020
In 2020 H1, the TOP3 infant food sectors by market share were infant formula (cow), infant nutrition, and infant supplementary food. The TOP3 infant food sectors by growth rate were infant seasoning, infant liquid formula milk and infant goat milk powder. The TOP10 infant food brands by market share were Aptamil, Mead Johnson, Friso, Firmus, Wyeth, Abbott, Biostime, Junlebao, Yili, and Nestle.

According to data from ECdataway [1], online maternal and infant sales reached 92.22 billion in the first half of 2020 in two major e-commerce platforms of Tmall and, a year-on-year increase of 18.7%. Before this, maternal and infant sales in Q1 fell by 23.8% year-on-year, showing that the maternal and infant market was rebounding in Q2.

Compared to other maternal and infant categories, infant food (infant formula/infant supplementary food/nutrition/snack/seasoning) has always maintained strong growth momentum because this category is closely associated with infant daily diet and nutrition. It was the fastest-growing category in H1, with a growth rate of 53.1% [1].


Source: ECdataway

Performance of each segment

In 2020 H1, the TOP3 infant food sectors by market share were infant formula (cow), infant nutrition, and infant supplementary food. The TOP3 infant food sectors by growth rate were infant seasoning, infant liquid formula milk and infant goat milk powder [1].


Source: ECdataway

Under the impact of the epidemic, “strengthening immunity” has become a mental shortcut for brand marketing. On this basis, infant nutrition, and scientific formula milk powder with claims such as closest to breast milk, more suited for Chinese babies, or easier to absorb (goat milk powder, A2) are gathering momentum. 

Some new infant formula and infant nutrition products launched in 2020H1:

Wyeth Belsol infant milk powder, featuring "exclusive nutrition customized for Chinese babies and the outcome of profound breast milk research;

Feihe Xingfeifan upgraded version which is closer to the breast milk;

Danone Aptamil Essensis 3 milk powder, the brand’s first A2-type beta-casein organic Milk powder;

Wyeth illuma goat milk powder, promoting better absorption;

Junlebao ULTREE organic milk powder, the first organic milk powder in China that is produced from a vertical supply chain in which all links are owned by Junlebao;

BIOSTIME probiotics platinum edition, calcium and vitamin D granules, and DHA algae oil + ARA gel candies, meeting consumer demands for intestinal health-promoting products, bone health, and visual/cognitive development.

Infant supplementary food and snack sector was booming in 2020 H1 because of the the release of the "General Standard for Children Snack Food," which is the first standard in China specifically for "snacks" and the first standard for "snacks for children." In the context, many enterprises [3] including BESTORE, Be&Cheery, Three Squirrels and Beingmate successively announced to launch children snack brands. 

The TOP2 fastest growing segments infant seasoning and Infant liquid formula milk had the least market share, showing development potential. Infant liquid formula milk is relatively unpopular in China due to high cost, little consumer recognition (Chinese parents are more accepting of brewed hot milk), and short shelf life. Abbott even canceled the registration qualification for its U.S. liquid infant formula in China at the end of 2019 [2]. However, as young parents have more diversified demands for toddler milk powder, dairy companies are striving to tap into further segmentation, including liquid formula milk. Liquid infant formula has its advantages; for instance, it is convenient in different consumption scenarios and is more suitable for babies with weak immune systems. In 2020 H1, Chinese leading infant formula enterprises Firmus and Yili rolled out liquid formula milk for children

Performance in e-commerce

JD and Tmall have always been the largest online platforms for infant food. At present, Tmall has an advantage in the overall market size, reaching 7.87 billion yuan [1].

However, under the epidemic, the growth rate of JD was faster, reaching 70.3%. On the one hand, JD has been the leading online sales platform for leading imported milk powder brands such as Wyeth, Mead Johnson, Abbott, and Friso; On the other, when offline logistics were blocked during the epidemic, JD's own home delivery network played a more prominent role in ensuring supply.


Source: ECdataway

Performance of each player

As the epidemic clouded the first half of this year, brands with better online distribution capabilities were more self-resilient and growing faster. In general, the infant food market remains highly concentrated, and head milk powder brands mostly dominate the market. The TOP10 infant food brands by market share were Aptamil, Mead Johnson, Friso, Firmus, Wyeth, Abbott, Biostime, Junlebao, Yili, and Nestle [1]


Source: ECdataway

Among these TOP10 brands, Firmus and Biostime recorded the fastest growth, and Firmus’ growth rate has exceeded 100%. Data [4] show that Firmus’ online channels sales increased by 200% year-on-year in 2020 Q1 due to several innovative online campaigns like live-streaming. Nielsen report shows that from January 2019 to May 2020, the market share of Firmus rose from 9.5% to 15.2% [5].

In terms of the overall infant food market [1], Friso was the fastest growing brand, with a growth rate of nearly 200%. Goat milk powder brand Kabrita also grew at a rate of over 100%. The growth rate of infant supplementary food brand Little Freddie was as high as 149.3%, and Earth's best also performed well, with a growth rate of nearly 120%. Nutrition brands Ddrops, BioGaia also snowballed, with growth rate both above 100%.

According to iimedia 2020Q1 China infant supplementary food Supplement Industry Monitoring Report [6], the epidemic has affected the production and import of overseas brands and provided an excellent opportunity for domestic infant food brands to occupy the market. Online consumers' choice of infant supplementary food products was mostly dominated by domestic brands, especially in snack and cereal food sectors. Chinese home-grown baby food brands Fangguang and Engnice achieved better word of mouth than imported brands such as Gerber and Little Freddie during 2020 Q1. In 618 Shopping festival, three domestic brands (Engnice, Bao Bao Chan Le and Fangguang) squeezed in the Tmall top 10 baby food sale list, with the No.6 Bao Bao Chan Le established less than for 4 years.

Tmall flagship storeTop-selling SKUs
EngniceRice rusks,  baby noodles, meat floss
Bao Bao Chan LeSesame sea moss, Sesame sea moss floss, shrimp shiitake powder
FangguangBaby noodles, meat floss, fruit juice puree
Shine Hu
ChemLinked Research Analyst
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