baby with bottle of milk

Top Trends in Infant Nutrition for 2021

Infant nutrition is an exciting category that continues to be driven by new research and innovation while also addressing the concerns most important to parents. Here we explore the top trends in infant nutrition for 2021.

2021 Infant Nutrition Trends

The infant nutrition category is known for its cutting-edge research and incorporation of key findings into products that can support the health and wellbeing of infants even more effectively. Along with these efforts comes the need to clearly communicate product benefits to parents, while meeting their preferences and often food and beverage trends, as well. This year’s trends reflect all of these aspects. 

Check out the 2021 infant nutrition trends impacting the category:

1. HMOs

Interest in mimicking the nutrition of breast milk continues to drive innovation in the infant nutrition category, with human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) as the hero ingredient. Globally, new baby formula/milk launches with HMO ingredients grew more than tenfold between 2017 and 2019.1 With increased awareness of the role of HMOs in supporting immune system development, this trend is expected to continue.

2. Digestive Health

Digestive health is on track to be the next big innovation area in infant nutrition. Among recent global infant formula patents, 29% address digestive problems, while 29% focus on the gut-brain axis; another 13% pertain to gut-immunity.2 In China (the largest consumer base for infant formula), 2 out of 3 parents are concerned about poor digestion when feeding their children under three, making it the top concern.3 The high level of patent activity indicates a wave of new products ahead with digestion and gut-brain benefits.

baby formula and baby bottle

3. Vitamin/Mineral & Protein Claims

While vitamins, minerals, and protein are nothing new in infant formula, front-of-package claims about these ingredients are on the rise. Vitamin/mineral fortified is now the top claim among new infant milk formula/growing-up milks, jumping from 31% of global new product launches in 2015 to 56% in 2019.4 Vitamins B1 and C, calcium, and iron are especially popular. Companies are also responding to parents’ interest in infant protein, with 33% of global baby formula/milk launches using whey featuring a protein claim.5

4. Growing-Up Milks

Another trend in infant nutrition is the increasing popularity of growing-up milks, which are grabbing a larger share of market growth and new product launches. Also known as toddler milks, these supplementary formulas are designed for children one to three years old. At 38% of global sales, growing-up milks are forecast to grow at a CAGR of 5.7% to 2025, compared with 2% for standard milk formula.

5. Organic Claims

Parents’ interests in organic nutrition for infants and sustainability in general are driving growth in organic infant formula. In 2019, 10% of global new product launches of baby milk formula featured an organic claim, up from 7% in 2015.7 The use of organic ingredients addresses parents’ concerns about product safety (for example, pesticide and fertilizer residues), as well as environmental sustainability. While organic nutrition for infants may have started with smaller brands, larger brands are beginning to embrace organic and other sustainable messaging.

dad raising baby in the air

Healthy Ingredients for Winning Products

We have nutritional solutions that can support all stages of childhood development, from our dairy-based proteins to our health-beneficial bioactive ingredients like NeoShield, to our custom nutrient premix solutions that allow for specific vitamin and mineral requirements to be achieved. Get in touch to find out how we can help you create your next early life nutrition product.

Frequently Asked Questions

The most important nutrients for babies are iron and zinc for brain development and immunity (to name just a few key roles), calcium and vitamin D for strong bones and teeth, and protein to support growth. While babies’ first foods are often fruit and vegetable purees and cereals, graduating to solid foods expands the options considerably.

Healthy snacks for toddlers are foods that are convenient, easy to eat, often mild in taste, and meet the nutritional needs of toddlers. According to the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a toddler’s diet should be rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy or fortified soy alternatives, and protein foods—and that includes snacks.

Since iron and zinc are especially important at this stage of life, healthy snacks for toddlers, as well as toddler meals, might be fortified with these and other essential nutrients. Today’s most popular healthy snacks for toddlers include fruit and vegetable purees, yogurts, cereals, cereal bars, and snack crackers.

Important nutrients for pregnant women include folic acid, iron, calcium, vitamin D, DHA, protein, choline, and iodine to support the health of the mother and the developing baby. Prenatal nutrition can be delivered through a diverse diet rich in vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and protein foods and supplemented with fortified foods or beverages and dietary supplements. 

There are also bioactives for pregnant women that provide additional benefits beyond the basic nutrients. An important category here is bioactive dairy ingredients that contain concentrated lactoferrins, immunoglobulins, and milk fat globule membrane (MFGM) phospholipids.


1. Innova, Whey ingredients: Key applications and trending platforms, July 2020.
2-3. Mintel, The Future of Specialised Nutrition: 2020, January 2020.
4. Mintel, The Future of Baby Food & Milk: 2020, January 2020.
5. Innova, Whey ingredients: Key applications and trending platforms, July 2020.
6. Euromonitor, Milk Formula, August 2020.
7. Innova, Whey ingredients: Key applications and trending platforms, July 2020.

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