It was recently reported that a man had been arrested for suspected involvement in a series of milk powder theft cases islandwide. It was also understood that he had intentions to resell the stolen milk powder. As would seem to be the observation of that man, is milk powder such an expensive commodity that selling it on the black market would be lucrative?
A one-stop pregnancy and parenting portal in Singapore, Babyment, collected data earlier this month about the price hike of formula milk in Singapore, and noticed the increase in price when compared with data collected in December 2012.
The portal, which advocates and promotes breastfeeding, also observed that the price of formula milk sold in Singapore was much higher than similar brands sold in Malaysia and China, with two products selling at a price that is more than double that of similar brands in Malaysia.
To protect and promote breastfeeding in Singapore, the Ministry of Health (MOH) established the Sale of Infant Foods Ethics Committee, Singapore (SIFECS) in 1979. This committee formulated and implemented the Code of Ethics on the Sale of Infant Foods in Singapore, noting that the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding (that is the infant only receives breast milk without any additional food or drink, not even water) for the first six months of life.
Under the Code of Ethics, companies that sell or market formula milk are subjected to fairly stringent terms and conditions to ensure that mothers are not persuaded to rely on these products to provide nutrients for their infants.
- Price of formula milk in December 2012 and March 2017*
Tables below show the price per 100 grams of baby milk powder by stage:
On average, the price of baby milk powder sold in Singapore has increased by 26.8%. The smallest increase is seen in Enfa products by Mead Johnson (21.3% for stage 1, 20.7% for stage 2 and 22.3% for stage 3) while Nestlé’s Nan H.A. products show the greatest increase (39.3% for stage 1, 37.1% for stage 2 and 34.7% for stage 3).
Manufacturers claim they have made improvements to the formula milk sold in Singapore in the last 4 years. These include the Similac and Enfa series of products by Abbott and Mead Johnson respectively.
- Price comparison with China and Malaysia *
Tables below show the cost per 100 grams of baby milk powder in Singapore, China and Malaysia by stage.
According to the data collected, baby milk powder sold in Singapore is more expensive than those sold in Malaysia, with two brands (Similac stage 3 and Friso stage 3) selling at a price that is 2.2 times of similar ones in Malaysia.
Baby milk powder in Singapore is in general more expensive than similar brands in China except for the Nestlé Nan H.A. series.
Products sold in different countries may differ in terms of nutrition level due to different food regulatory requirement by the country’s governing authority.
*All data is computed based on selling price of a can of formula milk that has a net weight of milk powder of 800g to 900g.
Data collection and verification
All data on baby milk powder sold in Singapore was collected through personal visits to NTUC Fairprice and Cold Storage supermarkets. In general, there is no price difference for all baby milk powder in Singapore among major supermarkets like Fairprice, Cold Storage, Sheng Siong and Giant.
The majority of data on prices of formula milk in December 2012 (except stage 1 formula) can be verified through another independent database owned by Babyment. Through this database, Babyment shares with its visitors the latest promotions in baby milk powder.
Wyeth (S26), Nestlé (Nan H.A.), Abbott (Similac), Dumex (Mamil), Mead Johnson (Enfa) and Friso have official stores in e-commerce platform www.jd.com in China and the original selling price of products sold in those official stores was used in the comparison.
Wyeth, Dumex and Nestle Nan have official stores in e-commerce platform www.lazada.com.my and the original selling price of products sold in those official stores was used for these brands. For other brands sold in Malaysia, the average prices from two supermarkets Tesco and Jaya Grocer were used.
Exchange rate used in computation: SGD : RMB = 1 : 4.94 and SGD : RM = 1 : 3.17. The company in its calculation followed the rate quoted on 20 March 2017 at google.com.sg
Notes and explanation on the data
Not all formula milk products sold in Singapore are included in Babyment‘s data collection. In 2012, stage 1 formula sold by Mead Johnson was called Enfalac, stage 2 Enfapro, and stage 3 Enfagro.
China and Malaysia have been chosen for comparison due to similar products sold in those two countries. Names of the products may be slightly different. For example, in Malaysia, the stage 1 formula by Mead Johnson company is called Enfalac, instead of Enfamil.