With this demand comes expectations, not only with production standards but also with ingredient quality and formulation choice as parents seek out the very best nutrition for their children.
NutraIngredients spoke to Sophie Nicolas, Marketing Manager, Early Life Nutrition at FrieslandCampina Ingredients on forthcoming company plans, new directions and trends entering 2022.
FrieslandCampina recently launched Deminal 90 Organic, a whey ingredient for the organic infant formula market.
Could you comment on the ‘premiumisation’ of infant formula, which offers organic, vegan as well as premium ingredient (omega-3, probiotics) options to meet demand from a more affluent population?
“We know organic products are a key priority, and we also understand the importance of developing infant formula that supports specific health benefits.
“For example, our latest research reveals that gut health is a trending topic for parents of young children, with 55% looking for infant formula solutions that can support a healthy gut.
“We believe a premium infant formula differentiates itself by the quality of the science behind its ingredients.
“That is why we are passionate about the research revealing the ability of GOS (galacto-oligosaccharides) and HMOs (human milk oligosaccharides) to influence infant gut health.”
Does FrieslandCampina buy into the notion that this premiumisation will convince mothers to consider alternatives to breastfeeding?
“Parents in China are already leading the way in their focus on standout solutions: the market there for ultra-premium products is rapidly outpacing the premium category, with a CAGR of 26% between 2018-2020.
“FrieslandCampina Ingredients is the only provider offering both HMOs and GOS: we make it easy for customers to achieve a premium positioning by leveraging a combination of high-quality ingredients, each of which is backed by science.”
Speaking about the HMO science, would you say it’s pretty robust or are there still questions regarding the gut’s influence on infant health? What area needs more research?
“Oligosaccharide ingredients such as HMOs and GOS have clearly demonstrated their ability to influence the composition and functionality of the gut microbiota by stimulating the growth of bifidobacteria, which is connected with such health benefits.
“What’s really exciting, though, is combining the power of HMOs with other oligosaccharide structures, particularly GOS, which have different but complementary benefits for infant health, including digestive comfort, natural immune defence and improved mineral absorption.
“There is still much to uncover. FrieslandCampina recently initiated a clinical trial with researchers from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to study the effects of an infant formula containing 2.4g/litre of our Aequival 2’-FL on infant growth and tolerance.
“This is the first clinical trial studying 2’-FL at a level comparable to what is reported to be present in human milk – the results are expected in 2022, so watch this space.”
In Dec 2020, FrieslandCampina increased lactoferrin production capacity in the Netherlands. Could you outline what has been primarily responsible for the rise in lactoferrin demand?
“In the wake of the global pandemic, parents have been more interested in solutions to support their children’s immunity alongside their own, and the market has responded with a growing number of infant formula launches with an immune health positioning.
“Ultimately, parents are looking for the right combination of ingredients in infant formula to maximise the health benefits their child can receive when breastfeeding is not an option.”
FrieslandCampina are very much involved in the HMO ingredient market, with the firm’s 2’-fucosyllactose (2’-FL), certified for use in infant formula back in 2018.
With the benefit of this HMO on gut health and the microbiome, would Friesland consider looking at its applications in other areas such as adult nutrition or digestive health?
“Right now, we are focused on expanding the range of HMOs we can offer as part of our ingredient portfolio to support a healthy infant gut.
“We are planning to bring more HMOs to market, such as lacto‐N‐tetraose (LNT). And we are also paving the way for the next generation of GOS.
“That said, it does of course make sense to look at new application areas for ingredients that have demonstrated success and value elsewhere and we’re constantly exploring these options.”