Japan’ baby food market is on a steady expansion track despite a falling number of children thanks to growing demand from working parents seeking convenient, precooked baby food.

Japanese parents generally start to wean their babies when they are 5 or 6 months old, first giving them mainly rice porridge. The number of ingredients used in weaning foods and the quantity given to babies are increased gradually, but preparation takes time and it is not easy to make nutritionally balanced foods for every meal.

In volume, annual baby food sales have expanded by nearly 20 percent in the past eight years as the weaning period is becoming longer, according to research company Fuji Keizai Co.

“I sometimes rely on precooked foods,” said a 35-year-old mother and corporate worker, noting her baby at times does not want to eat meals prepared by her.

Under its Happy Recipe brand, mayonnaise-maker Kewpie Corp. is increasing the number of products using chicken liver, tuna and other ingredients hard to cook for babies at home. It will release new foods next month that will give children age 18 months to 3 years sufficient vegetables with each meal.

Last year, Morinaga Milk Industry Co. added hydration products for children to its lineup of jelly drinks. Sales of the company’s jelly drink products for babies and infants in fiscal 2018 rose some 50 percent from the preceding year.

“The frequency of use of precooked foods per baby is rising, with fewer and fewer parents thinking that it’s not good to depend on such foods,” a Morinaga Milk public relations official said.

Asahi Group Foods Ltd. is beefing up its lineup of foods for children 12 months or older under its Wakodo brand. In September, the company will launch products using domestically made ingredients.

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