Global vitamin and infant formula brands are tops in Singapore, but consumers still support local food firms

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

International firms still see infant formula growth opportunities in the Singapore market. ©iStock
International firms still see infant formula growth opportunities in the Singapore market. ©iStock

Related tags Southeast asia

Singapore's consumers overwhelmingly favour global supplement and infant formula brands over local outfits, according to new research from Nielsen, though local food firms remain popular.

The annual Nielsen Global Brand-Origin Report highlights consumers' preference for and sentiment toward products manufactured by local companies versus large global / multinational brands across 34 categories.

While the survey findings have pointed to a relatively balanced view across global and local brands in recent years, the latest results show consumer preference is tipping toward global brands across the majority of categories.

Preference for global brands was strongest in the baby food / formula and baby wipes / diapers categories, where a respective 93% and 92% of Singapore consumers said they preferred to buy brands from global manufacturers.

The backing for global infant formula brands continues despite widespread discontent​ in the country over the price of such products.

Regulators recently announced new rules to restrict the health and nutrition claims formula milk manufacturers are allowed to place on their products' packaging.

This followed a report from the Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS), stating that formula milk manufacturers' expenditure on R&D and marketing was inflating product prices.

That said, international firms still see infant formula growth opportunities in the market, with Blackmores launching its first products​ earlier this month.

Other categories where Singapore consumers showed low preference for local brands in the Nielsen survey included vitamins and supplements (88% preferred global brands), energy / sports drinks (85%), and beer and wine (89%).

"In today's world of hyper-connectivity and globalisation, consumers have a wider array of product choices than ever before,"​ said Nielsen's Regan Leggett.

"Importantly, consumers also have greater access to global brands than they had in the past, thanks to factors such as expanding distribution, e-commerce offerings, and modern trade retail channels. As a result, we're seeing a swing in preference toward the big multinationals."

Dairy and cereals

Conversely, categories in which consumers in Singapore were more inclined to opt for local brands over global brands included biscuits / chips / snacks / cookies (42%), dairy products (36%), instant noodles (33%) and breakfast cereals (29%). 

On a regional level, market nuances were evident, with consumer preference for global versus local brands varying widely within a number of categories.

In the biscuits / chips / snacks / cookies category, consumer preference for local brands was prevalent in South East Asia (50%), Africa, the Middle East (41%) and Latin America (41%), compared to 32% globally.

In Europe, consumers were much more likely to opt for local alcohol brands compared to the global average (22% versus 16%), while South East Asian consumers showed a stronger affinity for local instant noodle brands compared to the global average (39% versus 21%).

"The variation across regions illustrates the relative strength of local manufacturers within specific categories, particularly where they are appealing to local consumers' tastes,"​ said Leggett.

"In South East Asia, for example, where noodles are a staple in consumers' diets, local manufacturers have been able to maintain a stronghold on the category. Similarly, in European markets, locally sourced dairy products are perceived to be of a higher quality than imported products."

"In an increasingly global world, the battle of the brands comes down to understanding consumers' evolving needs, behaviours, lifestyles and tastes. Any brand, be it local or global, that is able to tap into these consumer preferences will be best placed to win the hearts and minds of consumers in the future."

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