Within its 10 Key Trends 2014 report, Dairy 2.0 - dairy’s rebirth as a natural whole food, New Nutrition Business, which provides strategic advice to the food and beverage industry, detailed the current consumer move away from functional dairy towards products perceived as natural.
“The first wave of functional dairy products was a two decade-long effort to shoehorn into dairy products ingredients such as plant sterols, omega 3s, CLA, glucosamine and many others, in order to market medicalised benefits such as lowering cholesterol, heart health and joint health,” said the report.
“But this period is over."
“The growing importance to consumers of food and beverages being ‘natural’ – as defined in the consumer’s mind, not necessarily as defined by regulation of science – is now the most influential driver in the business of food and health and, as before, it’s dairy which is at the cutting edge of this new development," the report said.
New Nutrition Business has branded this new age, Dairy 2.0.
In this new era, according to New Nutrition Business, dairy product innovation “is no longer focused on positioning dairy as a competitor with dietary supplements.” Instead, manufacturers are focusing on taste and texture, and on ingredients and benefits that are “as natural as possible” and “a more logical and ‘easy to accept’ fit with dairy.”
Dairies are also taking an interest in “new and more interesting” product formats, New Nutrition Business added.
These usually come in the “form of companies reinventing ‘old formats’ or taking traditional regional dairy products from one geography and launching them into new geographies where they are ‘new and exciting’, but adapted to suit the tastes of the new markets,” it said, pinpointing Greek yogurt as the best embodiment of these traits.
“Naturalness, great texture, a focus on great flavors, and the perceived benefits of a naturally high protein content have all contributed to the Greek success story,” it said.
“Rising tide of significant studies”
Alongside improving consumer perceptions, science is also beginning to show that the natural health benefits of dairy “are very real," the report.
“For 30 years health professionals have attempted to demonise dairy on the grounds of alleged harm from its saturated fat content – producing a consumer obsession with low-fat dairy products in some countries, such as the US,” it said.
“But the dietary recommendations that told people to limit consumption of dairy foods and only consume low-fat dairy may have had their foundations on inadequate science. A rising tide of significant studies is challenging the basis for this advice," it added.