Four trends driving innovation in dairy packaging

Dairy manufacturers can explore packaging trends at PACK EXPO in September. Pic: PMMI
Dairy manufacturers can explore packaging trends at PACK EXPO in September. Pic: PMMI

Related tags Milk

As millennials seek out products that are healthy and all-natural, dairy is often positioned as an attractive option. Recent studies have indicated that dairy, whether low- or full-fat, offers health benefits, from combatting diabetes to boosting bone density, to improving memory and overall mental health.

The increasing popularity of dairy is a global phenomenon. Per capita volume growth of dairy in China, for example, is a strong 48%.1​ 

Sales of plain yogurt alone in China are expected to see a 26% compound annual growth rate through 2020, and not far behind is India, at 16%, according to the Global Packaging Trends Report 2017, produced by Euromonitor international and sponsored by leading packaging associations PMMI, Australian Packaging and Processing Machinery Association, Italian Manufacturers of Automatic Packing and Packaging Machinery and the Processing & Packaging Machinery Trade Association.

Sean Riley, senior director, media and industry communications, PMMI

Helping expand sales of the category are the many different forms of packaging available for today’s dairy products.

Previously, milk was mainly available in gable-topped cartons. Today, milk is delivered in portable, brand-friendly PET bottles, an attractive option for busy consumers. PET bottles are one of four overarching packaging trends moving the dairy industry, as detailed below.

1. PET bottles for drinkable dairy

Some of the newest milk and drinkable dairy products, such as yogurts and smoothies, are available in sleek, single-serve PET bottles. Lightweight, shatterproof PET bottles allow dairy products to be easily carried around, opening up new drinking options.

Liquid filling and blow molding equipment company Serac explained in a whitepaper how PET opens new market segments for dairy companies.

The company said PET bottles allow brands to differentiate themselves from competitors on store shelves for multiple reasons.

The first is that PET can be blow molded into a wide variety of shapes and sizes, offering more possibilities than cartons. This adds to brand recognition.

Second, PET’s typical properties better reveal the product compared to high density polyethylene (HDPE) packaging. This explains why the glossy appearance of PET bottles with ultra violet (UV) barriers often stand for quality on extended shelf life products, as glass-like transparency is becoming a standard for premium fresh milk.2

2. Flexible packaging

Packaging innovation has been slower in some dairy categories.

Flexible packaging for dairy has grown since major cheese companies like Kraft began packaging shredded cheeses in re-closeable, stand-up pouches. The format not only offers the convenience of re-sealability, but also is a space-saver, appealing to the increasing number of urban-dwellers around the world living in small apartments.

The latest dairy category to warm up to flexible packaging is yogurt, particularly for kids’ varieties.


Children are attracted to the squeezability factor and to the sippability of pouches for dairy drinks like smoothies and drinkable yogurts.

But adults get in on the fun too. For example, Arla recently extended its Arla Protein range with the launch of yogurt-based snacks called Protein Pouches.

3. Smaller portion sizes

As more people around the world live in congested urban centers, package size is an important consideration.

Bulk store packages work for large, suburban households, but an increasing number of households, especially in developed countries like the US, consist of only one or two people. These consumers are looking for smaller, single containers.

Multipacks enable smaller families to enjoy a single serving without having to open larger containers and worry about products becoming stale.

Stand-up pouch containers for cheeses, like Kraft’s, allow retailers to occupy less shelf space per product. Consumers also appreciate the format because less space is required for storage in the fridge.

Another consideration for consumers is portion control. As customers, particularly those in affluent western nations, are more weight-conscious, portable, snackable single portions of items like yogurt or cheese fit into a healthier lifestyle.

Jarlsberg Cheese, from Norwegian company TINE, for example, recently launched a three-quarter ounce cheese-stick version of its popular larger cheese product in the US. The new product line is designed to be a healthy snack at only 70 calories a stick while packing five grams of protein.

4. On-the-go solutions

Smaller pack sizes for dairy products tie into the on-the-go packaging trend. In an increasingly mobile society, enabling a consumer to grab small packs of yogurt or cottage cheese and be on their way armed with lunch or a snack gives any dairy brand a competitive edge.

Noosa Finest Yoghurt, for example, recently introduced 4 oz, four-pack sizes as grab-and-go options for consumers wanting a healthy snack. This is a significantly smaller version of its standard 8- and 16-oz containers.

PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2017

At PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2017, dairy manufacturers can explore these trends and solutions firsthand, and learn about new technologies impacting dairy industry packaging.

pack expo

Co-located with Healthcare Packaging EXPO, the show will feature packaging solutions from more than 2,000 exhibitors and will be attended by 30,000 packaging industry professionals.

Learn more, and register, at​.

About PMMI

PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, represents more than 800 North American manufacturers and suppliers of equipment, components and materials as well as providers of related equipment and services to the packaging and processing industry.

PMMI works to advance a variety of industries by connecting consumer goods companies with manufacturing solutions through the PACK EXPO portfolio of trade shows, leading trade media and a wide range of resources to empower its members. The PACK EXPO trade shows unite the world of packaging and processing to advance the industries they serve: PACK EXPO International, PACK EXPO Las Vegas, Healthcare Packaging EXPO, PACK EXPO East, EXPOPACK México, EXPO PACK Guadalajara and ProFood Tech.

Learn more at​,​ and​.