15 July 2014
CHOICE has found Aspen, Nestle and Nutricia are targeting unsuspecting parents with costly “junior milk” products that make a range of outlandish nutritional claims and offer few benefits to healthy toddlers.
Many products in the $229 million a year formula market are designed to appeal to parents of older children however many parents wouldn’t be aware that these products are unnecessary after their child turns one.
While the marketing of infant formula for children under one is banned under a World Health Organisation Code, there is no restriction on manufacturers such as Nestle and Aspen advertising toddler and junior milks for babies over 12 months.
“We believe the branding of toddler and junior milk is too similar to infant formula, and acts as proxy advertising for all types of formula,” says CHOICE journalist Kate Browne.
“Older children should be able to meet their nutritional requirements from eating a healthy diet without special toddler milks.
Nutrients in these formulas such as iron, omega-3 and prebiotics can be obtained from a healthy diet of meat, fish, wholegrain breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables.
When it came to nutritional claims, CHOICE found Nestle’s NAN toddler milks claim to “support your toddler’s digestive immune system”, while Aptamil toddler and junior milks promise to “nutritionally support your child’s immune system and brain development”.
“While the claims might sound great to some parents, they don’t really mean anything,” says Ms Browne.
“Perhaps the worst offender is Aspen who advertises its S26 toddler milk with the claim it’s the ‘perfect mix of science and love’. However, they have a different message for retailers, ‘keep mums buying even after their little ones turn two’.
“It’s clear food companies are cashing in on parents who are trying to nurse their pre-schoolers through the seemingly never-ending cycle of colds and tummy bugs. What they don’t tell you is you’d be better off concentrating on developing better eating habits for your child.”
“The branding on pack is also confusing with large 3 and 4 figures depicted by the age panel although they have nothing to do with the age of the child the product is designed for. They seem to be there to deliberate confuse parents.”
“It’s really important toddlers become familiar with foods and formulas shouldn’t replace a healthy diet in toddlers.
“Given most healthy one-year olds are capable of drinking cow’s milk there is very little point paying a lot more for powdered supplements.”
CHOICE’s full investigation into toddler and junior milk formula can be found at choice.com.au/toddlerformula
Marketing in Australia of Infant Formula
In Australia, the Marketing in Australia of Infant Formulas (MAIF) agreement is a voluntary self-regulatory code of conduct between manufacturers and importers of infant formula. The code was developed in response to the World Health Organisation’s International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes 1981 (WHO Code), which includes a ban on the advertising and promotion of infant formulas.
Does your child need toddler milk?
The National Health and Medical Research Council Infant Feeding Guidelines state:
- Toddler milks and special and/or supplementary foods for toddlers are not required for healthy children
- From 12 months of age and beyond, toddlers should be consuming family foods consistent with the Australian Dietary Guidelines
- Solid foods should provide an increasing proportion of the energy intake after 12 months of age.
Types of formula and milk
- Infant formula is designed for babies under six month who are not being breastfed
- Follow-on formula is marketed as a “second-step” product for infants aged 6-12 months that, like infant formula, is designed for babies who aren’t being breastfed
- Toddler milk is for children aged 12 months and older
- Junior milk is for children two years and older
 Retail World 47th Annual Report 2013