China approved nearly 600 infant formulas in 2023 – new national standards data

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

A person preparing an infant formula drink. ©Getty Images
A person preparing an infant formula drink. ©Getty Images

Related tags FSMP health foods Infant formula

China approved nearly 600 infant formulas based on the new GuoBiao (GB) or national standards last year.

A total of 592 infant formulas and 97 companies were approved when the country fully transited to the new GB standards last year, the State Administration of Market Regulation (SAMR) said on June 25.

Since February 22 last year, China also required infant formula to follow a new set of GuoBiao (GB) or national standards.

As of end 2023, the regulator had accumulatively approved 134 companies and 1,028 infant formulas based on the new GB standards.

Market supply of infant formula products was steady, it added.

The new GB standards require firms to reformulate the number of calories, carbohydrates, proteins, and micronutrients. In the process, smaller and less reputable brands that were not able to meet the requirements had exited the market, leaving space for other major brands to grow.

In April, it was reported that several brands, including a2 milk and Danone’s Aptamil, had successfully gained market share​ despite the new GB standards being stricter and China’s infant formula market shrinking.

The a2 Milk Company, for instance, achieved a new record in its market share to 6.4 per cent in the first half of FY2024, while Aptamil’s market share went up to 13 per cent in FY2023.

Market leader Feihe, on the other hand, said sales were down 10.3 per cent.

Record year for FSMP registrations

Last year was a record year for Foods for Special Medical Purposes (FSMP) registrations, with the SAMR approving 70 registrations. In total, 158 FSMP registrations were approved as of end 2023.

Health foods wise, 875 health foods registration and 3,423 health foods filings were approved last year, up 2.5 per cent year-on-year.

In total, China has approved 12,100 health foods registration and 16,200 filings as of end 2023.

99.85% passed sampling inspection

As many as 99.85 per cent of special foods had passed China’s regulator sampling inspection last year. This was also 0.03 per cent higher than year 2022, which the SAMR was a steady improvement.

Special foods (特殊食品) in China consist of three categories, namely health foods, Foods for Special Medical Purposes (FSMP), and infant formulas.

“The passing rate of special foods sampling inspection was 99.85 per cent last year, which was 0.03 per cent higher year-on-year.

“For many years, the inspection capability and standards have continuously improved. Special foods safety inspection has overall, steadily progressed for the better, and has continuously raised consumer confidence,” ​the SAMR said.  

It said it had focused on improving the regulations, imposing stricter requirements for product registrations, and doubled down on supervision and enforcement last year.

Aside from products, the SAMR also inspected the manufacturing systems of 525 health foods manufacturers, 33 FSMP and 111 infant formula manufacturers.

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