Journal article

Globalization, first-foods systems transformations and corporate power: a synthesis of literature and data on the market and political practices of the transnational baby food industry

03 Jun 21
Author(s)Phillip Baker, Thiago Santos, Paulo Augusto Neves, Priscila Machado, Julie Smith, Ellen Piwoz, Aluisio J. D. Barros, Cesar G. Victora, David McCoy
Topic(s): BMS Code
Location: Global
Language(s): English
Audience: Policy makers and legislators, Program designers and implementers, Public
Programs: Policy advocacy
Category: Research

Global milk formula sales grew from ~US$1.5 billion in 1978 to US$55.6 billion in 2019. This remarkable expansion has occurred along two main historical axes. First, the widening geographical reach of the baby food industry and its marketing practices, both globally and within countries, as corporations have pursued new growth opportunities, especially in the Global South. Second, the broadening of product ranges beyond infant formula, to include an array of follow-up, toddler and specialized formulas for a wider range of age groups and conditions, thereby widening the scope of motherchild populations subject to commodification. Sophisticated marketing techniques have been used to grow and sustain milk formula consumption, including marketing through health systems, mass-media and digital advertising, and novel product innovations backed by corporate science. To enable and sustain this marketing, the industry has engaged in diverse political practices to foster favourable policy, regulatory and knowledge environments. This has included lobbying international and national policy-makers, generating and deploying favourable science, leveraging global trade rules and adopting corporate policies to counter regulatory action by governments.