Insight – Growth opportunities in the Chilean infant food market

24 August 2021

The Chilean infant food market is growing rapidly. The market’s lack of product diversity offers export opportunities for Australian businesses.

Chilean infant food consumption and imports

The Chilean infant food market was worth US$191 million in 2018. It is projected to increase by 24% to US$237 million by 2023.[1] Chilean infant food sales have grown by over 60% over the previous decade.

Chile meets 90% of its infant food demand through domestic production. However, there is a lack of diversity, which may present opportunities for new exporters. Baby milk formulas account for 59% of the market value. Infant cereals account for 25% and wet meals 16%.  

Chile imports about US$20 million in infant food each year. Over 90% of these imports are baby milk formulas. The rest are cereal preparations and wet meals.

In 2020, Chile imported its infant food from:

  • Mexico (53%)
  • Ireland (37%)
  • Spain (2%)
  • the US (4%).

Implications for exporters

The Chilean infant food market is projected to grow. Demographic trends are also favourable. These trends indicate diversification opportunities for Australian exporters.

Exporters should familiarise themselves with the Chilean Ministry of Health’s regulations for processed foods. This includes labelling and marketing requirements for food nutrient levels. There is also additional labelling required for dairy and dairy-based products. The Chilean Ministry of Health’s product labelling manual has information on the implementation and use of mandatory labelling.

Exporters should also review the requirements for Chile in the Manual of Importing Country Requirements (Micor). Chile also has import requirements for food for human consumption [PDF, 12.8 MB, Spanish].

Infant formula imports do not need a sanitary certificate from the Chilean Agriculture and Livestock Service. However, they must be accompanied by a certificate of origin and certificate of free sale.

Demand for infant food in Chile

The baby milk formula market in Chile is worth US$113 million. Per capita expenditure is US$153; this is higher than most other South American countries. The table below shows the market share value of different baby milk formulas in Chile.

Formula type

Market share (%)

First-stage milks (0–6 months)

54

Second-stage milks (6–12 months)

20

Third-stage milks (12–36 months)

15

Special dietary formulas

11

There has been a slight decline in market share for first-stage formulas in recent years. This is due to an increased substitution for third-stage milks, which are more affordable. 

Infant cereals are popular products in Chile, with US$47 million in sales. Per capita consumption is high at US$75. Most products are wheat-based, with some rice and oat-based cereals available. 

Wet meals for babies are an increasingly important market segment. Sales were worth US$31.1 million. Wet meals are the fastest-growing infant food product over the last decade. Per capita consumption expenditure in wet meals has almost doubled and now stands at US$42.

Australian exports of infant food

Most Australian infant food exports go to East and Southeast Asia. Infant food exports peaked at $940.0 million in 2019. Drought, COVID-19 and trade disruption saw infant food exports drop to $598.8 million in 2020. This is a 37% contraction against 2019 values, or 7% contraction against the 2016–2019 average values. Available export data suggests 2021 infant formula export values remain low.

Australian exports of infant food, 2016 to 2020 ($ million)

Australian exports of infant food, 2016 to 2020 ($ million)

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics 

Under the Australia-Chile Free Trade Agreement (ACI-FTA), Australia is entitled to a 0% import duty for infant foods. Chile, however, has an extensive Free Trade Agreement network. It grants 0% import duties to competitors such as Mexico, the US and EU. Chile is a highly competitive market for infant food. Its limited product diversity, however, makes it a promising market.

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment is negotiating a Mutual Recognition Agreement for organic products systems. The Agreement would allow Australian certified-organic products, including baby milk formulas, to be sold in Chile without needing approval from an official certifying body of the Chilean government.  

Resources

Exporters wishing to explore infant food opportunities in the Latin American region should contact Austrade.

Details about Chile’s labelling and marketing laws can be found at Law 20,606, Law 20,869 and Law 21,179.

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment can provide English language translations of Chilean regulations and manuals.

The Australian Government’s network of Agriculture Counsellors provided information for this article. More information about the Agriculture Counsellor network, including contact details, is available on the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment website.

[1] Sourced from Global Data 2018 Report and reflect the Chilean baby food market in 2017. More recent reports using Euromonitor data advise the market for baby foods in Chile was reportedly worth US$207 million in 2018, with sales projected to increase to US$282 million by 2023.