SINGAPORE - Following calls for more affordable infant formula options here, supermarket chain FairPrice on Thursday (June 15) announced the launch of a new range imported from Australia, priced between $27.50 and $35 for a 900g tin. It is priced similarly as in Australia, where the range is AU$25 to AU$35.
The average price of a 900g tin of infant milk powder has more than doubled over the last decade to $56.06, making it among the highest in the world, along with those in China and Hong Kong.
Public unhappiness and debate over the high prices prompted the Government to announce measures to address the issue last month (May), while supermarkets said they would look into sourcing more affordable options.
The "Australia's Own" brand, manufactured by Freedom Foods, has only been available in Australia until now. It uses milk sourced from the dairy pasture area of Gippsland, Victoria, and meets safety and nutritional requirements here. Its step 1 to 3 range, for newborns to 12 months and up, will be on shelves at FairPrice stores and its Warehouse Club from tomorrow (June 16).
At a media briefing at AMK Hub's FairPrice Xtra, FairPrice chief executive Seah Kian Peng said that the introduction of the Australia's Own range will complement the existing 150 formula milk varieties on its shelves that range from $22 per kg to $97 per kg.
"Following the Government's announcement to review import requirements, FairPrice has been in discussion with the authorities on bringing in better value formula milk from additional sources," said Mr Seah, who is also an MP for Marine Parade GRC.
The streamlined requirements aid the ease of import by reducing business and compliance costs and shortening the process, with the Australia's Own brand taking only a month to land on shelves, said Mr Seah.
FairPrice is continuing to look at developing a house brand formula, he added. Cold Storage has also said it is taking steps to develop its own formula.
"We will continue to proactively work with the authorities and new suppliers to provide better value and a wider choice of formula milk for the community," he said.
As part of the Health Promotion Board's (HPB) efforts to educate parents on the nutritional needs of children, in-store collaterals on formula milk nutrition will be rolled out to 174 major supermarkets, including at Cold Storage, Giant and Sheng Siong stores, to help parents make more informed choices.
The shelf displays will show a nutrition comparison of eight stage two formulas, as well as typical weaning food.
Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon said at the briefing that The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority has been working with retailers to facilitate the entry of more suppliers and brands of formula milk.
This includes streamlining import requirements by working with overseas counterparts to ensure that health certificates and quality control documents are in alignment, rather than having retailers seek out the necessary documents before import, he said.
This helps to make the process faster and reduces business costs so that savings can be passed on to consumers, Dr Koh said though he stressed that food safety is not compromised.
"As a result of streamlining the cost the product can be sold at a very competitive market price, similar to in Australia. So despite being an imported product, the cost is kept affordable. I think this is something we will continue to do, and I would like to encourage all other retailers to consider also bringing in products to widen choices for consumers," said Dr Koh.
Dr Koh is leading a task force to ensure key measures announced by the Government last month are put in place by the end of the year. These include tightening regulations on labelling and advertising, facilitating imports of more formula milk options, strengthening public education and encouraging good practices in hospitals.
The task force has also been working with hospitals to increase educational activities for young parents, while the HPB has increased public education to help parents make informed choices, such as with the supermarket shelf display boards, said Dr Koh.
Freedom Foods Group's country director Peter Brown said that the company, which manufactures foods such as organic rice and almond milk, launched its formula range less than a year ago.
The opportunity to break into its first foreign market in an exclusive collaboration with FairPrice was thus a good one for the company, while offering an affordable option for Singaporean families, he said.
It is able to keep costs low as Freedom Foods owns two cow farms in Australia, while the streamlined requirements helped it to save about 5 to 10 per cent in import costs, said Mr Brown.
Housewife Indra Krishnasamy, 37, purchased a tin of Australia's Own's stage 2 formula on Thursday to try with her 8-month-old twin daughters, who currently go through about five tins of Similac that cost over $250 a month.
"If they like it then I'll switch to this since it's very cheap," she said.
The introduction of the Australia's Own range follows the launch last month of a made-in-Singapore range of infant milk powder, Einmilk, with prices of under $40 for an 800g tin. It is currently available at U Stars supermarkets and online.