Parents turning to cheaper formula milk

Mr Saravanan, 43, who goes by only one name, and his wife Indra, 37, with their nine-month-old twin daughters Heerthikaa and Hera (right). The couple switched to a more affordable range of formula milk from Australia, which was introduced by FairPric
Mr Saravanan, 43, who goes by only one name, and his wife Indra, 37, with their nine-month-old twin daughters Heerthikaa and Hera (right). The couple switched to a more affordable range of formula milk from Australia, which was introduced by FairPrice last month.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Some supermarkets report rise in sales amid govt efforts to increase affordable options

Feeding their nine-month-old twin daughters used to cost housewife Indra Saravanan and her husband $280 a month for five tins of Similac's formula milk powder.

The family of five, who rely on a single income, have felt the pinch of rising formula milk prices in Singapore, which are among the highest in the world.

"It is difficult. We need to buy diapers and other things as well," said Mrs Indra, 37.

The couple switched to the more affordable Australia's Own range, which was introduced by FairPrice last month. The $100 they now save a month will go towards their elder son's education, said Mrs Indra.

More parents are choosing cheaper formula milk, following government efforts to increase affordable options and shift demand from "premium" formulas, which can be twice as expensive.

An estimated 95 per cent of formula milk sales in 2015 comprised sales of "premium" and speciality milk, though the authorities have urged parents against using price as a proxy for quality. Nutritional experts say cheaper brands are no less nutritious, while breast milk is best for babies.

 
 
 

Nearly two months after the formation of a task force to address the issue of high prices, overall demand for formula has not fallen, retailers said. But some have seen an increase in sales of cheaper brands.

  • $280

    What it used to cost the Saravanans a month for five tins of Similac formula milk powder for their twins.

  • $175

    What they spend each month after switching to Australia's Own, a cheaper brand of milk powder.

Supermarket chain FairPrice said it has had a 15 to 20 per cent increase in sales for brands such as Dugro and Lactogen over the last three months.

Giant said that a "handful" of shoppers have switched their purchases to standard ranges, and it has expanded its distribution of the Dugro range to an additional 10 stores. Local brand Einmilk, launched in May at U Stars supermarkets, is now also available at Giant's eight hypermarkets.

It will be on shelves at Cold Storage and Guardian stores by the end of the month, when Cold Storage will also stock Dugro and Lactogen at selected stores.

Talks are also under way with FairPrice, said Einmilk business director Chan Yong Chye. Consumer response thus far has been "positive", though sales have been curtailed by its limited distribution, he said.

Danone Dumex, which owns the Dupro, Dugro, Mamil Gold and Aptamil formula ranges, said it is intensifying in-store marketing efforts for the Dupro and Dugro brands, and looking at bringing in more affordable products from its 16 brands.

But entrenched brand loyalty may pose a barrier to the new market entrants.

Housewife Sonia Lim, 34, said that savings could not entice her to try a new brand. "The popular brands already have that reputation and trust whereas we don't know much about the new brands... parents will spare no expense for their children," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2017, with the headline 'More families buy cheaper formula milk'. Print Edition | Subscribe