Monday, 8 November 2010

Capitalizing on breastfeeding moms

Similac has a new kid on the block here in Canada: Similac Mom, a nutritional beverage for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.

What a brilliant marketing scheme.

Brand Loyalty

Hook 'em early. Prey on a pregnant mother's fears, convince her that she needs your product to ensure both she and the growing child in her womb are receiving all the nutrition they need. And when that child is born? Well, do they have the formula for you! You cannot be trusted. Your body cannot be trusted. You need their products.

I found this quote for the Singapore equivalent to be rather telling:
"During my second pregnancy, I started drinking Similac Mum, the new maternal supplement by the maker of Similac Follow-On. It gave me the nutrients required for my baby's overall development during pregnancy and breastfeeding. What's more, it is low in fat, helping me to get back in shape faster.

When the time is right, I will surely give my new baby Similac Follow-On. So that he can be strong and healthy, like his big brother. Clearly, there is a special bond between me, my babies and Similac."

Expanded Target Market

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. If you can't get the babies, go after the moms instead. They'll get your money one way or another. Can't convince a mother that she needs infant formula? Fine. After all, "breast is best", blah blah blah. But you must make sure that you are getting all the nutrition you need while you're breastfeeding, for your sake and the sake of your breastfed child. Enter Similac Mom, for all your complete-nutrition-while-breastfeeding needs! (Oh yes, and when you're done with that cute little breastfeeding stuff, we're right here with your baby and toddler formulas.)

But What's in It?

Their ingredient list isn't quite so reassuring:
Water, sugar (sucrose), sodium and calcium caseinate, corn maltodextrin, high oleic safflower oil, canola oil, soy protein isolate, corn oil, potassium citrate, sodium citrate, calcium phosphate, magnesium phosphate, natural and artificial flavour, magnesium chloride, salt (sodium chloride), soy lecithin, potassium phosphate, carrageenan, ascorbic acid, zinc sulphate, ferrous sulphate, niacinamide, dl-α-tocopheryl acetate, manganese sulphate, cupric sulphate, calcium pantothenate, vitamin A palmitate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, thiamine chloride hydrochloride, riboflavin, folic acid, potassium iodide, sodium molybdate, biotin, sodium selenate, chromium chloride, vitamin D3, cyanocobalamin.

With sugar second only to water, and all fats received in the form of oils (safflower, canola, and corn), any pregnant or nursing mother would do far better with a simple multivitamin in addition to daily meals. The one thing this supplement is lacking? Food.

This new product is being pushed towards women for whom a balanced diet may not be easy - pregnant women battling morning sickness and new mothers who are tired, busy and looking for convenience. In regards to the former, a prenatal vitamin in addition to whatever food you can manage to keep down will be more than enough to care for you and your unborn child. If you can't keep anything down, why would Similac's product be any different? As for the latter, a reasonably balanced diet can be achieved from real foods without a lot of time or effort, despite what Similac would like you to think. Nuts, cheese, apples, bananas, trail mix, and more can all be grabbed quickly and effortlessly to give you the nutrition you need during those early sleep-deprived and busy days.

Questionable Tactics

This is not Similac's first use of questionable tactics when it comes to dealing with breastfeeding mothers. Then again, perhaps Similac can't be faulted for looking out for their bottom line through the development of brand loyalty and expanded target markets. It is, after all, basic marketing. The savvy consumer, however, should be aware of these goals and make their purchasing decisions with them in mind. Similac is playing on our fears (adequate nutrition) and our weaknesses (convenience). Pretending that they have our best interests at heart is simply insulting.

Conscious Choices

Many mothers choose to breastfeed their infants out of a sincere desire to give their children the best they can. If formula is not an adequate substitute for your baby, why is an adult formula an acceptable alternative for you?

Other mothers are unable to breastfeed, and for them formula is a lifesaving alternative for their children. Others choose to use formula for their child for any number of reasons. I am not judging a mother's choice. Not being in her shoes, not knowing what journey she is on or what led her to where she is now, I will support her decision to feed her child in the manner she believes to be best for the two of them.

What I will not support is a corporation's attempts to convince pregnant and breastfeeding mothers that "complete nutrition" comes packaged in a convenient bottle. It undermines trust in one's body and the consumption of real food before the baby is even born. It makes the leap to formula use that one step easier, one step more normative - which is precisely what they're hoping for.

Regardless of our choices, we must remain conscious of our purchasing power. Eat real foods. Get to know your local farmer and support him or her rather than giving your money to a faceless formula company. And if you choose to purchase Similac Mom, do so because it truly was your choice and not because they told you you needed to.


  1. This is disgusting! I agree with everything you said. I heard a few months ago about the chocolate flavored "toddler" formula and I saw someone giving some to a 6 month old baby...(I believe that's Enfamil though).

  2. Wow! What a joke!!! I agree with you!

  3. I agree! This is absolutely outrageous. The last thing pregnant women should be drinking is some processed powder. Eat fresh stuff and take a vitamin supplement that's all you need.

  4. DUMB! I just posted on something you might find interesting... check it out if you want.

  5. wow I haven't heard of this. How ridiculous. I hate when companies do this. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I read this and was (sadly) not surprised, even though it was new news to me. Formula companies are among the shrewdest marketers there are, and this is a clever move on their part. Not so great for breastfeeding/pregnant moms though. Thanks for sharing this info, I will pass it around.

  7. This is crazy, and yet I'm honestly surprised it hasn't been marketed earlier. It's amazing what can be created out of no need just to make money. I haven't heard of it being put on shelves here in US yet, but I imagine we can't be far behind.