More options for cheaper infant formula

Australia's Own infant formula for sale at AMK Hub's FairPrice Xtra supermarket. It is priced at between $27.50 and $35 for a 900g tin, lower than the average price of $56.06.
Australia's Own infant formula for sale at AMK Hub's FairPrice Xtra supermarket. It is priced at between $27.50 and $35 for a 900g tin, lower than the average price of $56.06.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

FairPrice takes just a month to import new range from Australia

Following calls for more affordable infant formula options, supermarket chain FairPrice yesterday announced the launch of a new range imported from Australia, priced at between $27.50 and $35 for a 900g tin.

The average price of a 900g tin of infant milk powder has more than doubled over the past 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, while supermarkets said they would look into sourcing more affordable options.

The Australia's Own brand, manufactured by Freedom Foods, is making its first foray outside Australia with its step 1 to 3 range, for newborns to 12 months and older.

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At a media briefing at AMK Hub's FairPrice Xtra, FairPrice chief executive Seah Kian Peng said the new 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 had been in discussions with the authorities on bringing in better-value formula milk from additional sources," said Mr Seah.

This reduces business and compliance costs and shortens the import process, with the new range taking only a month to land on shelves, he said.

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 working with overseas counterparts to ensure that health certificates and quality control documents are in alignment with Singapore's standards, rather than having retailers seek out the necessary documents before import, he said.

As a result, "the product can be sold at a very competitive market price, similar to that in Australia", said Dr Koh.

He is leading a task force to ensure key measures such as more formula milk options and strengthening public education are put in place by the end of the year.

As part of the Health Promotion Board's efforts to educate parents on the nutritional needs of children, shelf stoppers on formula milk nutrition and weaning foods will be rolled out to 174 major supermarkets, to help parents make more informed choices.

The task force has also been working with hospitals to increase educational activities for young parents, said Dr Koh.

Freedom Foods Group's country director Peter Brown said the company launched its formula range less than a year ago.

The opportunity to break into its first foreign market was thus a good one for the company, while offering an affordable option for Singaporean families, he said.

Its introduction 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.

The authorities have said all infant formula sold here meets safety standards and nutritional requirements, and urged against using price as a proxy for quality.

Housewife Indra Krishnasamy, 37, purchased a tin of Australia's Own's stage 2 formula yesterday for her eight-month-old twin daughters, who now go through about five tins of Similac that cost more than $250 a month.

Five tins of Australia's Own would cost about $150.

"If they like it, then I willl switch to this since it is very cheap," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2017, with the headline 'More options for cheaper infant formula'. Print Edition | Subscribe