Marketplace Changes in the Baby Food Aisle Abstract

Marketplace Changes in the Baby Food Aisle. Jennifer Stevenson, Bhaskarani Jasthi, PhD RD, Kristine Schmitz, Janet Pettit, and Lisa Harnack, DrPH RD. University of Minnesota Nutrition Coordinating Center.


Objective: To describe changes between 2009 and 2018 in the following characteristics of baby food products offered in the US by leading manufacturers: products labeled as ‘organic’; products sold in pouches; dry cereals containing whole grain ingredients; and complexity (inclusion of multiple ingredients).

Materials and Methods: The University of Minnesota Nutrition Coordinating Center (NCC) Food and Nutrient Database includes baby foods sold by leading manufacturers in the US, and this food category was updated in 2018 to reflect the current marketplace. To examine changes in baby food products over time the products offered in 2018 were compared with products in the database when this product category was updated in 2009. Manufacturers included in the database in both 2009 and 2018 include Gerber, Beech-Nut, and Earth’s Best. In 2018 baby food products sold by several additional manufacturers were added (Plum Organics, Ella’s Kitchen, and Happy Family).

Results: When comparing data from 2009 to 2018, Beech-Nut, Earth’s Best, and Gerber increased the number of baby food products they offer.  Beech-Nut and Gerber increased the number of products labeled as ‘organic’ while other manufacturers sell only organic foods (e.g. Earth’s Best and Plum Organics). Most of the dry cereals in the market today contain one or more whole grain ingredients, with a notable increase for Gerber (from 25% to 72% of their dry cereals). While pouches did not exist in the marketplace in 2009 for the major manufacturers, currently all of the companies in the NCC database sell some or all of their products in pouches. Baby foods that combine multiple ingredients (e.g. fruit and vegetable ingredients) are more common now than in 2009.

Significance: The NCC Food and Nutrient Database has been updated to reflect changes to assist researchers studying the diets of infants and young children.