This post was most recently updated on July 4th, 2019
Cow & Gate, one of the UK’s biggest baby and toddler brands, has shifted its entire consumer PR work to Frank PR and launched a major campaign promoting toddler nutrition.
So said the press release back in 2016 on PR Week
And so the PR machine cranked into action; millions spent on persuading mothers that “Toddler Milk” is somehow part of a nutritious, balanced diet. Not content with selling us the idea that babies need the milk of another species, they realised they can maximise profits by peddling the idea that toddlers need fortified cows’ milk drinks.
The thing is: They don’t. In fact, the high content of some minerals (like iron, for example) in these drinks could actually cause a child to have higher than necessary levels – which can have negative ramifications. If children are getting a balanced diet, why would they need fortified drinks? Why would they even need cows milk – which is only one of a wide range of sources of calcium?
Worryingly, one of the main focusses of this marketing campaign was on us ‘mummy bloggers’.
“It is thought that the growing ‘mummy blogger’ community has been identified as a key target, given its growing importance as an information source for parents.”
I can see why – we won’t eat into the marketing budget too much and mums listen to each other.
If you are a ‘mummy blogger’ would you be tempted to get on board the ‘Cow and Gate PR train’?
I for one won’t be exploited in this manner but let’s face it, even a quick glance through this blog would probably scare them off!
Just so we are completely clear here, follow-on milk, toddler milk, night-time milk and every other packaging variation of essentially the same product are concepts dreamt up by the marketing guys in order to get round the law that states infant formula (for babies less than 6 months) can’t be advertised. By marketing this stuff, they increase sales of their infant brands too. You are being persuaded to buy a product that you don’t need by telling you it’s a healthy addition to your child’s diet. Yes, if you call a highly processed junk food, high in starch and trans-fats a healthy addition.
These kinds of foods increase a child’s chances of developing diseases such as diabetes and heart disease later in life.
A product designed to save infants’ lives in the rare event that breastmilk is not available has been allowed to burrow it’s way into our consciousness so radically that many now continue their brand loyalty til the child is almost school age.
How ironic that it seems easy to buy into the concept that a child needs extra vitamin and mineral support til school age but in the same breath judge those mothers who continue to support their child’s development with breastmilk.
I am now officially old enough to say “the whole world’s gone mad”.
When I wrote this back in 2016 the world of toddler milks was just taking off. Much to my consternation, the market has exploded in the last 3 years. Even pregnant women are being targeted with a milk-based product for them to drink to support their growing baby. Except it is a completely useless waste of money, full of sugar and vitamins they can buy for a fraction of the cost or get for free through the Healthy Start scheme.
The ingredients for Cow and Gate growing up milk are as follows:
Water, Skimmed milk, Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) (from milk), Lactose (from milk), Vegetable oils (Rapeseed oil, Sunflower oil), Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), Acidity regulator (citric acid), Emulsifier (mono-& diglycerides of fatty acids), Vitamin C, Magnesium hydrogen phosphate, Calcium hydroxide, Calcium citrate, Potassium citrate, Milk Flavouring, Potassium hydroxide, Calcium phosphate, Iron lactate, Zinc sulphate, Vitamin E, Vitamin D3, Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Potassium iodide, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin K1, Biotin, Vitamin B6, Thiamin, Folic Acid.
That’s at least 3 sources of carbohydrates (sugars) that I can see. In other words, they take milk, and then add more milk sugars, plus more sugar from fruit. So it’s sweeter than cow’s milk. A lot sweeter. What does this do to a developing child’s taste buds and preferences? What effect does it have on their teeth? (breast milk protects tooth enamel, other sugary drinks attack it, especially if it’s given last thing at night, in a bottle.
First Steps Nutrition, a provider of evidence based information on infant and young child feeding for parents and health professionals says of commercial foods aimed at toddlers:
“The unnecessary use of colourings, flavourings and artificial sweeteners in foods, drinks and medicines, particularly for children and other vulnerable groups is given little scrutiny.
Foods with added flavourings, colourings and sweeteners are often nutrient poor but can encourage children to have taste preferences for sweet and highly flavoured foods. The composition, quality and safety of our foods, drinks and medicines impact on the health and well-being of the entire population.”
The price? around £7.50 for 800g or powdered product or £2.40 for a litre of ready-made-up. Compared to around £1 for a litre of ordinary cow’s milk and a couple of quid for a month’s worth of vitamin drops.
If you are financially in need you may well be eligible for the Healthy Start scheme, which will support you with yours and your baby’s nutrition without the aid of unnecessary and potentially unhealthy foods and drinks.
Milk products and most ready meals aimed at toddlers are junk food dressed in sheep’s clothing. I wonder when consumers are going to wake up to this fact. But more to the point, when is the government going to regulate them and stop the ad-men dictating what our kids eat?