The Soil Association says 30% of babyfood sales are organic, and while sales of organic food overall rose £200m to £800m, sales of organic baby food rose 65% in the past year to £49m. Its potential was recognised long ago by stalwarts of the organic movement, Baby Organix and Hipp Nutrition UK, and now companies such as Heinz and Cow & Gate have jumped on the bandwagon. More choice is the all-important goal as companies vie to offer innovation in tastes and natural flavours. Hipp believes its success comes from a varied, interesting menu. Marketing manager Jane Mayall says: "Mums are looking for variety, especially when they have to feed babies three meals a day, plus dessert." Hipp's 70-strong range offers simple, casserole and ethnic options.It is set to launch a raft of savoury meals and desserts across all meal stages. Baby Organix has a £13m share of the babyfood market and a 7.7% volume share [FSA: 52 w/e Oct 2001]. More than half of parents are buying organic babyfood, says md Lizzie Vann. "We have seen this growth in the last few months. Heinz has put a lot of investment into it and the question is: why did they leave it for so long?" Baby Organix is introducing an Italian range of pasta tubes with tomato and cheese sauces. It is also moving into snacks with organic curly puffs in cheese and herb, and cheese and tomato, with no artificial flavours and colourings, and two mini breadsticks: tomato and basil, and natural made with olive oil, which are baked and have a low fat level. "A lot of standard savoury foods consist of almost half sugar," says Vann. "Nine out of 10 children's snacks have added flavours, and it's wrong. We treat children as if their taste buds are important. We only use olive oil, real herbs and no artificial flavourings." Nutricia says recipes are key to driving sales. "Babies get to like a recipe and different recipes create more interest," says trading director John Sykes. However, Nutricia, which owns Cow & Gate and Milupa brands, admits its first foray into organic a year ago under the Olvarit brand failed. Sykes says: "We found it difficult to market Olvarit as a standalone brand. We are now rebranding it under Cow & Gate." This organic range of baby weaning products consisting of packet meals, rice cakes and pure diluted ready to drink juices was launched in October. Last year Heinz relaunched its standard babyfood, and introduced an organic sub brand called Simply. Heinz believes the market is divided into three sectors: brand believers represent 44% and stick to trusted brands; 29% are brand buyers who buy organic and traditional products; 27% are foodies who don't or only occasionally buy prepared babyfood. Heinz is targeting the latter with its Simply range. Heinz says it is unlikely the market will move higher than 50% organic purchasing. "For the market to achieve the 80% penetration predicted by some, a huge change in buying patterns would have to occur," says Viv Kerr, marketing manager for Farley's dried food. "Organic babyfood is largely a repertoire purchase, and only 18%-20% of buyers are exclusively loyal." However, the steady growth pattern of the babyfood market is also thanks to the constant stream of convenient, added value products geared towards an increasing number of working parents with more cash than time. Small jars and sachets of tasty premium products plus microwaveable meals have been developed. Hipp's latest products targeted at toddlers are microwaveable dishes in two-portion, heart shaped pots containing meals such as chicken nuggets with vegetable risotto. The arrival of ready-to-drink, milk products has also been important. At Nutricia, Sykes says: "We've introduced ready-made liquid milk products under the Cow & Gate label in 200ml and 500ml sizes. Farley and SMA have them, too. In France these products are more developed and in excess of 20% of the market. That's the way we can go ­ higher value products not subject to the cut-throat competition on powdered milk. "This food isn't price sensitive. You can expand it by value." Meanwhile a new contender is a range of organic babyfood fronted by the Teletubbies. Made in Germany by Sunval, the 15-strong range jarred meals and desserts for babies aged from four to eight months aim to be on the shelves in time for Easter. Jeff Bayley, md of Single Marketing, which handles the range in the UK, says prices will be very much in line with other organic products. "There has been a substantial difference between standard products, but in organic there is very much the same price level as the competition." The general consensus is to make a splash on shelf. Blocks of brands work and should be featured by age of baby as most parents shop by age, and organic should be in the main fixture. Bayley says the multiples have recognised that brands build a market sector and they need to have a brand presence. "It would be dull and boring if babyfoods became 80% own label." With such small jars, he says, you can't have just two or three products. "Mums do have difficulty finding the particular variety their baby likes so unless you have 10 or 15 you don't have visibility. Supermarkets have gone along with that. They may have three ranges but each has a minimum of 10 lines especially the baby food in jars." The importance of baby food to the retailer is that it attracts young mothers who will hopefully make it a one stop shop. Hipp's Mayall says that when you have a baby, a lot of habits change. "If you can get a person to change their shopping habits too, you've hooked a new customer." {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}