A new Arla Foods survey claims that western Europeans are drinking more UHT (Ultra High Temperature) milk than ever before.
The survey has revealed that in the last 30 years, sales of long-life milk have increased by 100 per cent, and UHT now accounts for half of all milk sales in western Europe.
UHT milk is fresh milk that has been heat-treated to ensure microbic inactivation and preserve nutritional value. It is placed in aseptic packaging which protects the product from air or light, and enables the milk to have a long shelf life without the need for refrigeration.
Even countries that have traditionally had a strong dairy culture appear to be choosing UHT over fresh milk. In Germany, two out of every three litres of milk sold is long-life, and in Belgium UHT has now begun to dominate the milk market. The Arla Foods survey suggests that the increasing trend is due to the fact that production and distribution of UHT milk is easier than conventional milk.
In Denmark, however, the trend is going in reverse. The results of the survey showed that more than half of Danish milk consumers stop shopping in outlets that regularly fail to supply fresh milk and families with children opt for fresh milk more than the average consumer.
More than 50 per cent of Danish consumers use the bottling date as a guideline when buying milk, the survey showed. If the milk is not entirely fresh, 78 per cent of consumers choose to buy less of it. In some western countries, fresh milk can be several days old when it is put on the shelves. In Denmark, milk is only considered fresh if it is bottled on the same or previous day.
The survey results suggest that consumers are also unconcerned about the effects of heat treatment on milk. In fact, reports suggest that treating milk for a short time at a high temperature has a less destructive effect on nutrients than the low-temperature pasteurisation of fresh milk over a longer period.
During the production of UHT milk, milk is heated above 135 degrees centigrade for one or two seconds, while fresh milk is pasteurised at 72 degrees centigrade for 15 seconds.