The successful commercialisation of functional dairy products is reliant on improved consumer recognition and understanding of ingredients such as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and lactoferrin, Australian researchers have discovered.
According to a report published in the Advances in Dairy Ingredients journal, the depth of consumer knowledge surrounding the majority of ingredients in functional dairy products “remains relatively low” despite increasing consumer interest in functional dairy products.
Ingredients such as calcium “can stand on their own merits,” but the “majority” of dairy ingredients “are not well known to the typical shopper,” the researchers claimed in their report, Market Acceptance of Dairy Ingredients: What Consumers Are Thinking and Demanding.
“Consumers are less likely to trust things that they do not recognise or understand,” it said.
“In the absence of awareness, an ingredient needs to be tied to familiar foods or beverages that the consumer knows and appreciates.”
Linking to food may “bridge the awareness gap”
“Successful commercialisation of functional dairy foods requires consumer recognition and relevance,” said the report. “Understanding consumer knowledge of an ingredient is critical to determining how to communicate it.”
“In certain instances, where ingredients are well known, such as in the case of calcium or probiotics, the ingredient can stand alone. However, when sufficient consumer knowledge does not exist, linking ingredients to known food sources and benefits may help to bridge the awareness gap.”
According to the researchers, omega-3 fatty acids have become more acceptable to consumers purely through their link to fish and fish oil.
“Ten years ago, omega-3 fatty acids were not as widely known, but their link to fish has always been clear; this provided acceptability at the consumer level. Consumers are more likely to have confidence in food itself than in an ingredient found in food,” said the report.
Mass market success “limited” without awareness
The researchers added that “until adequate levels of awareness are created,” the success of the functional dairy products in the mass market “will be limited.”
“Success is not based simply on adding the ingredient, regardless of how sound the science is. Success is more likely to come from understanding and communicating how an ingredient or product delivers on a consumer need from the perspective of the consumer,” said the report.
“Therefore, the key to success in functional foods and beverages is to build and communicate messaging based on proven science for ingredients that are recognisable, acceptable, and meet the benefits of most interest to shoppers,” it added.
Davis, B. and Katz, B. (2013) Market Acceptance of Dairy Ingredients: What Consumers Are Thinking and Demanding, in Advances in Dairy Ingredients (eds G. W. Smithers and M. A. Augustin), Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781118448205.ch11