Can Swedish baby food buck the Brexit trend?


With most recent statistics (2015) for England & Wales revealing that over a quarter - 27.5 percent - of live births were to mothers who were born outside the UK, it is perhaps no wonder that baby feeding traditions from other cultures are becoming more evident: the increasingly  mainstream availability of Sweden’s most traditional baby product välling is just one such example.

More Satisfied Babies

Described as a complete source of nourishment for the infant, välling is a milk-based, cereal style product halfway between milk and cereal, designed to be consumed from the age of four months, although some babies are introduced to the product as early as one month. Mothers in Sweden have for generations sworn by the product, which they believe is more satisfying, leading to their infants sleeping better through the night.

Can Välling Make The Move?

In Sweden välling accounts for over two thirds of all baby cereal sales but has been losing share as the market becomes more Europeanised. It would be somewhat ironic if the increased Europeanisation of the UK led to välling increasing its share in this market just at the time when the UK is trying to sever its ties with mainland Europe.

Semper’s välling has been available in the UK via some online retailers for a while now, but at a significant premium. Ocado, however, is selling the product at a similar price to more traditional brands, which should make it more accessible as well as more attractive to a greater numbers of UK-based mothers, for some of whom, many born outside the UK, the concept of fortified milk would need no introduction. 

Obstacles to Growth

There remain a number of obstacles to repeating the Swedish experience. One Spanish mother, used to the continental tradition of giving instructions as to the amount of cereal which should be added to milk to make a välling style product on the backs of formula packs, whilst welcoming Ocado stocking the product, bewailed the complete absence of any similar advice on baby milk packs in the UK. Another pointed out the lack of teats specially designed for milks thickened with cereal (the holes need to be larger) which are common elsewhere in Europe.  

However, the final potential hurdle must be how to market the concept to those who have not yet come across it. With World Health Organisation and the United Nations International Children's Fund guidelines firmly indicating exclusive breastfeeding for six months and no introduction of solids before that point, the industry would be unable to suggest to its potential client base that it could safely used before then, even though many Swedish mothers are happy to introduce välling to their baby after just one month.