What the future holds for dairy in 2017, according to 1,700 registered dieticians

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

While nine out of the 10 superfoods for 2017 were plant-based, yogurt ranked third in the list, according to survey of 1,700 registered dieticians. ©iStock/ViktorCap
While nine out of the 10 superfoods for 2017 were plant-based, yogurt ranked third in the list, according to survey of 1,700 registered dieticians. ©iStock/ViktorCap

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The future is overwhelmingly in plant-based consumption patterns, a recent survey of more than 1,700 registered dieticians revealed.

According to the survey conducted by New York City-based Pollock Communications, 59% of nutrition experts said that consumers will choose to “eat clean,” ​by seeking out foods that are less processed, like whole vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains and seeds.

The 10 superfoods of 2017 in the survey include plant-based proteins such as nuts and fermented foods like yogurt holding the number three and four spots, respectively.

“People want to eat healthier and now more than ever there are more products available for those specific types of consumer,”​ Pollock Communications president Louise Pollock told DairyReporter.

The rise of plant-based milks

Non-dairy milks such as soy and almond milks are ubiquitous at grocery stores, a trend that will only continue to increase with new types of plant-based milks in 2017.

“I do think the overall category has grown dramatically,”​ registered dietician and nutrition editor for Today’s Dietician, Sharon Palmer, told DairyReporter.  

“People are looking for more nutritious plant based milks, especially new milks with higher protein.”

A recent Neilson survey revealed that in the past five years, sales of certain plant-based dairy-alternative products grew 250% to more than $894.6m. Meanwhile sales of dairy milk sunk 7% in the same time period.

According to Pollock, people view non-dairy milks as physically “therapeutic, such as for lactose intolerance and gastrointestinal distress.”

Dairy is here to stay because of yogurt and whey

While nearly all of the 2017 superfoods are plant-based, the trend of fermented foods such as yogurt and organic dairy products have helped dairy products stay relevant to today’s health conscious consumer.

“We are a population of snackers, 96% of Americans eat at least one snack day and yogurt fits perfectly into that,”​ Pollock said.

“I think consumption is only going to go up.”

Whey is also another huge area of opportunity as consumers are demanding more protein in their daily nutrition intake and are just starting to learn about the health benefits of whey, Pollock added.

Dairy also lends itself to the consumer’s need for transparency in terms of knowing where their food comes from.

“I definitely think that the whole grass-fed organic dairy is part of that cleaning eat trend as well,”​ Palmer said.

“Interestingly, studies have shown that vegetarians eat more dairy than non-vegetarians. If people are going to start cutting out more red meat, they may be relying more on dairy.”

Out with the word ‘diet’

A plant-based lifestyle fits into consumers’ rising interest in the more sustainable “mindful and clean eating” ​lifestyle rather than a new restrictive diet.

“I think we really are seeing this trend of people aren’t interested in ‘dieting’,”​ Palmer said.

“They’re looking for foods that help their health instead of restrictions rather than the punitive approach.”

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