At the Institute of Food Technologists convention in Chicago this week, Cargill revealed a recent global research project providing consumer insights into texture, clean label and sugar reduction in dairy products.
The team surveyed 13 countries and more than 5,200 grocery shoppers focusing on yogurt, flavored milk, ice cream and dairy alternatives.
They found that global attitudes toward dairy are shifting. The average consumer primarily cares about hormones, allergens and the perceived unhealthfulness of a product, while both label-friendly and nutritional value are trends driving dairy consumption.
Clean label dairy products are on the rise, most often sought in China and Indonesia. The UK, Germany and Japan don’t yet have a prevalent market for clean label dairy, while the US and Latin America sectors are growing.
According to Mark Fahlin, business development at Cargill, the dairy industry is seeing an overall decline due to less fluid milk consumption in the twenty-first century.
Brands are attempting to combat fluid milk’s stagnant numbers by developing products like ‘ultra-filtered milk’ and functional dairy beverages.
The US and Europe have seen triple-digit increases in plant-based milk alternatives sales in the last 15 years, though Europe still lags a bit behind the US in consumer demand and product innovation in the category. Cargill sees room for a lot of impending growth in the European dairy alternatives market.
Latin America has become one of the fastest-growing dairy markets in the world and saw $430bn in sales in 2017, though the region spends less than half of what North America and Europe spends their dairy industries.
Most LATAM consumers are choosing dairy products for the bone-health benefits, and more than half of those surveyed preferred the taste of real dairy to dairy alternatives.
Across the board in food and beverage consumers are increasingly sensitive to and aware of labels, though not all categories are created equal. Treats and snacks get some leeway from shoppers, but high priority categories like kids' products and dairy get the most label attention.
“There’s just something inherently wholesome about dairy and the expectations of consumers. It’s right next to mothers' milk in terms of one of the first foods that a child consumes,” Fahlin told DairyReporter.