Many suppliers think

retailers could be doing more in-store to drive sales in the infant care aisle.

Research by Heinz found that mothers spend on average slightly more than three minutes shopping the baby aisle - longer than most other sections of the store.

With shoppers taking their time in the aisle, there is an opportunity for retailers to engage with them through point-of-sale material, says Nicola Savage, Heinz's marketing manager for infant feeding.

"A lot of fixtures communicate age-staging, but there's an opportunity here to provide more information about products and babies in general."

Lizzie Vann, Organix founder and MD, says availability is crucial in this fixture and retailers need to think carefully about restocking policies.

"Stores tend to stock up for the end of the week, but mothers shop all week - and often at the beginning of the week," she says.

Two suppliers - Little Dish and Babylicious - fear unwillingness to think creatively about the baby aisle is hampering efforts to sell their products.

Little Dish MD Hillary Graves says: "Our meals are stocked in the chilled ready meals aisle, which is a challenge in terms of making people aware of us. We need to promote our products in the baby aisle. But it's proved difficult to get that, because there are different buyers for the baby and chilled meals aisles."

It's equally tough for Babylicious, which makes baby foods and toddler meals that are sold in the frozen aisle.

"People do not expect to find babyfood in the freezers," says founder and MD Sally Preston. "The baby aisle is a shop within a shop, and in an ideal world we would like to see freezers in the baby aisle."

Asda did install freezers in the baby aisles of 35 stores two years ago, but head infant care buyer Kerrie Viggars says they are now under review.

"The problem with frozen is that it's about educating consumers that it's as good as fresh," she says. "It's a struggle to do that with normal frozen food, let alone babyfood, on which shoppers just will not compromise."

Part of the problem for both Little Dish and Babylicious is a lack of rivals. Without a critical mass of brands, retailers are unwilling to create new sub-categories in store. "It would be great to have some competitors," Graves concedes.

She could soon be getting her way. "There's a lot of noise about chilled and more people are looking at it," says Viggars.

The Grocer understands that such launches are expected from Cow & Gate.n