The maker of Similac Advance, the top commercial baby formula brand in the United States, said it will begin selling the first mainstream baby formula made without genetically altered ingredients by the end of the month at Target.
Similac’s maker, the global health care company Abbott, said it will first offer a “non-GMO” version of its best-selling Similac Advance followed by a non-GMO version of Similac Sensitive. Depending on sales, Abbott may offer other formulas free of such ingredients.
Abbott will join a growing number of companies offering popular products without genetically modified organisms. Consumer demand for such products has been growing despite a concerted and expensive effort by trade groups representing major food manufacturers and the biotech industry to convince them that genetically altered ingredients are not harmful to human health.
“We listen to moms and dads, and they’ve told us they want a non-GMO option,” said Chris Calamari, general manager of Abbott’s pediatric nutrition business. “We want to make sure we meet the desires of parents.”
A new online study of 1,829 adults selected by Fluent, a consumer marketing and advertising firm, found that nearly one in five of them said they preferred non-GMO products.
“The preference for non-GMO products in particular is more pronounced among shoppers with higher household incomes and with shoppers based in the Northeast,” said Matt Conlin of Fluent.
Most mainstream baby formula is made from various corn and soy derivatives, and more than 90 percent of those crops in America are grown from genetically altered seeds.
Over the last few years, consumers have petitioned Abbott and other big makers of infant formula to remove genetically altered ingredients.
But that movement, Calamari said, had nothing to do with the introduction of non-GMO versions of Similac. Rather, he said, the company’s own research had prompted the decision.
“Over one-third of consumers say it would have appeal to them and give them peace of mind,” he said.
As consumer interest in improving health through nutrition has grown, Abbott has also begun moving to sell more of its products beyond niche audiences. For instance, the company recently began marketing Pedialyte, an oral electrolyte solution that has long been recommended for sick children by pediatricians, to adults.
“We’ve known that we always had an underground movement of adults who used it for various purposes,” said Lindsy Delco, a spokeswoman for Abbott. “We recently started digging into that and found that since 2012, one-third of our sales” are for adult use.