Baby food. Mushed up … mush. It may not be very enticing to us fully-formed adults or be a hot topic for discussion among most people but, truth is, most of us have probably eaten baby food in some form or another in our infant years. And, no doubt, will have or will one day discuss it from the stance of new or soon-to-be parents.

Not to mention that the baby food market is big business: those little pots of mush are generating a market worth £611 million in the UK – a growth of 51% over the past five years, according to Mintel.

Considering there were nearly 724,000 live births in England and Wales in 2011, that’s not so surprising – babies gotta eat, after all.

That’s why we decided to take a look at online conversation about baby food brands in the UK for our most recent mini report.

In 2012, 97 million kilograms of baby food were sold in the UK. For a (rather odd) comparison, that’s roughly the same weight as 19,400 elephants of average weight such as the one pictured below. Easy to get your head around … right? Keep up.

However, volumes sales are expected to drop to 94 million kilograms by 2017. This is thought to be due to perceptions of overpricing (shared by 33% of parents) and worries about high sugar content (23%).

Regardless, baby food is still a topic of interest for parents and is regularly discussed online.

We took a look at a month’s worth of UK online chatter about baby food to determine which brands were winning in terms of brand awareness and discussion.

We found that 68% of the conversation about baby food did not discuss specific brands.

Of the baby food conversation about the 7 main brands (Cow & Gate, Ella’s Kitchen, Heinz, Hipp, Nestle, Organix and Plum Baby), leading brand Cow & Gate dominated with a 32% share – perhaps unsurprising, due to the brand having a 36% share of the global baby food market.

In close second place came organic baby food brand Ella’s Kitchen with 27% share of online conversation, followed by Heinz (18%^) and Hipp (15%).

We found that practical considerations were important when establishing brand preference, with convenience and design a key element of discussion.

Ingredients were equally important.

Despite only one in three parents ‘trusting’ organic baby food (according to a survey by Mintel), Ella’s Kitchen proved to be the most positively viewed brand of baby food in online chat, prompting descriptions as ‘healthy’ and ‘natural’.

Although Twitter proved to be the most popular platform for baby food conversation, forums were also popular, providing a platform for more in-depth conversation about what to feed the little ‘uns.

Cow & Gate particularly dominated Twitter conversation, due to its embracing of modern marketing techniques including an iPhone App. They were also often selected by third parties as the prizes of Twitter competitions.

So, that’s just a few insights into the baby food market as discussed on the web. Hopefully it was of interest and if not, well, you got to see pictures of a cute baby and of an elephant, so the world is alright again.

If you want some more insights like these, you can download the full baby food research here or take a look at some of our other resources.