The investigation, conducted by UK watchdog The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in Nov. 2023 revealed that manufacturers raised prices by 25% over a two-year period, putting significant strain on parents seeking infant formula for their babies.
"During this difficult period, we have worked very hard to absorb the significant cost increases we have faced, make savings and minimise any price increases,” a Danone spokesperson said.
The CMA reported that two brands own 85% of the UK infant formula market share, with Danone and its Aptamil, Cow & Gate and Nutritia brands dominating the market.
British supermarket chain Iceland, which has over 900 stores throughout the UK, was the first to implement price cuts on Danone's 800 g Aptamil First Infant Milk, Aptamil Growing Up Milk and Aptamil Follow-on Milk. Leading retailers including Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury's and Morrisons announced similar price cuts to Aptamil baby formula products shortly thereafter.
“We are committed to lowering prices on the products our customers buy most often," a Sainsbury’s spokesperson said. "As of last Thursday, we have reduced the price of some of our branded baby formula by 7% to pass cost savings directly onto customers. We know January is an important time for customers to get the best value so we lowered our prices ahead of the supplier decrease.”
Asda also released a statement on Jan. 15 announcing that it would reduce Aptamil prices and allow customers to pay for baby formula using their loyalty vouchers for the first time.
“The price reduction comes in response to falling cost prices in production for manufacturer Danone and forms part of the supermarket's ongoing efforts to support customers struggling with the cost-of-living crisis,” according to the statement.
It added that a total of six Aptamil lines across the core range will be reduced in price by an average of 7%.
“For many of Asda’s customers, and families nationwide, we understand that buying baby formula is a vital necessity in their weekly shop, which is why we’re taking swift action to pass on falling manufacturing costs to customers before any other retailer,”said Kris Comerford, Asda's chief commercial officer.
The retailer has also removed exclusions on using Asda Rewards vouchers to pay for baby formula despite The Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula (England) Regulation 2007. This law prohibits the promotion of price cuts to formula by retailers and restricts parents from using loyalty points to purchase baby formula for infants up to six months old due to concerns about discouraging mothers to breastfeed their infants.
“Whilst we respect the regulations in place regarding the sale of baby formula, we want to do everything we can to help families manage their budget and keep their family fed,” Comerford added.
In a report released in Aug. 2023, Richard Walker, managing director of the Iceland Foods Group, said that these restrictions are based on the WHO recommendations for exclusive breastfeeding for infants during the first six months of life.
He stressed that Iceland has “no desire or intention to discourage the feeding of infants in any other way” but underlined the importance of addressing those unable to breastfeed and require access to affordable infant formula.
“Then there is the huge swathe of mothers who do their utmost to breastfeed their child but still need to supplement their own milk with formula, or who need to return to work and are unable to express milk for use while they are away from home,” he said.