Ongoing and emerging flavors and colors for dairy

By Jim Cornall

- Last updated on GMT

Pic: Getty Images/klenova
Pic: Getty Images/klenova

Related tags Adm Flavors colors Dairy

Dairy Reporter had the opportunity to discuss flavors and colors for the dairy industry with Hélène Moeller, vice president, global product marketing, flavors at ADM.

How is consumers’ heightened focus on health and wellness impacting the flavor and color arena, particularly in the dairy space?

Health and wellness have been a major focus for many consumers since the start of the global pandemic, with research showing that 61% of global consumers are now more conscious of needing to lead a healthy lifestyle1​. With that, people are turning to functional foods and beverages for proactive well-being1​, and health-signaling colors and flavors can help grab shopper attention.

Specifically, gut support is top of mind as over half of global consumers are aware of the potential of the gut microbiome to affect overall health2​. Sour and fermented notes, such as the tartness of black limes, preserved lemons, pickles, pickled ginger and kimchi, which consumers may associate with probiotics and support of gut health, are trending across categories.

In fact, a growing number of brands are launching food and drink products enhanced with fermented ingredients3​. In the dairy aisle, yogurts and fermented milks are generally perceived by consumers to have health advantages. Such notes can elevate these traditional formats and new dairy offerings alike for repeat consumer purchase.

Immune health also continues to be a focus for many people, especially as cold and flu season ramps up alongside ongoing concerns around COVID-19. To help support their immune systems, consumers are turning to vitamin-fortified offerings, with vitamin C most recognized by consumers for immune function support, followed by vitamins A and D1​.

Citrus plays well in this space, with ADM research showing orange and lemon top the list of flavors that consumers associate with immune function2​. Plus, shoppers interested in immune-supporting options tend to gravitate towards bright oranges, yellows, reds and greens shades that pair well with citrus and berry flavors as they tend to invoke a connection to the fruits themselves. Notably, the rising interest in vitamin D provides an opportunity for dairy offerings since consumers already associate this vitamin with dairy products. Incorporating vibrant colors and bursts of fruity flavors into these yogurts, smoothies and frozen treats will help land them in shoppers’ carts.

There are also key flavor and color trends happening in the plant-based space. Plant-based alternatives to dairy are on the rise as consumers look to meet their desires for novel products that are healthy, nutritious and sustainable. As such, colors and flavors that help dairy alternatives mimic gold standard dairy offerings are of increasing popularity. Bright whites that can create a desired appearance for alternatives to milk are highly sought. Plus, vanilla can help balance potential off-notes in alternative products that use oat, almond, pea, coconut or cashew as the plant protein base.

Beyond physical health, mental well-being is also an increasingly important component to consumers’ holistic wellness goals. Consumers are finding comfort in indulgent treats like ice creams, creamy shakes and yogurt drinks that have familiar notes, such as vanilla, chocolate and caramel. Globally, 56% of consumers have regularly purchased comfort food because of Covid-194​.

Moreover, warming spices like cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg, and complementary neutral tones like browns, creams and tans, can provide a sense of calm. On the flip side, pops of yellow, pink and orange paired with awakening and refreshing flavors like pink grapefruit and blood orange as well as mint can inspire feelings of positivity to provide consumers with a potential mood boost.

Do consumers seeking alternatives to dairy also expect to see flavor and color ingredients from plant sources listed on product labels?

Yes, flexitarians consuming more plant-based products are also carefully inspecting what’s on product packs. They want to see clean and clear labels that list closer-to-nature and recognizable ingredients. Research shows that 69% of consumers say simple, recognizable ingredients influence their purchasing decisions, and 66% say they are looking for labels with the shortest ingredients list2​.

Those colors and flavors that check the consumer-perceived “clean-label” box tend to be sourced and extracted from fruits, vegetables, herbs and other botanicals, including berries, beets, acerola, turmeric and more.

However, finding shades that retain their stability during harsh processing conditions like pasteurization and endure throughout a product's shelf life can be a challenge for product developers. ADM’s Colors from Nature portfolio provides plant-based solutions that are heat-, acid- and light-stable to keep a product’s colors vivid while also maintaining clean-label appeal.

While short ingredient lists are desirable for label-conscious consumers, alternatives to dairy sometimes do require additional ingredients, maskers and modifiers to round out flavor profiles and smooth out texture. By leveraging a vast portfolio of clean-tasting plant proteins and flavors derived from natural sources, such as ADM’s ingredient library, brands can reduce the need for such additional modifiers to achieve the same delicious sensory experiences, resulting in cleaner product labels.

What other emerging flavor and color trends specific to the dairy space should we expect to see in the coming year?

Consumers are itching for adventure, and they want out-of-the-box options that are also easily accessible and convenient. For instance, ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages with a regional spin will be trending. We will see deep purple ube lattes and rich, spicy golden milks colored with turmeric more frequently. Plus, ice creams and frozen treats provide a fun format for exploration. Spicy flavors such as chili de árbol are fantastic to combine with pineapple and chocolate, and eye-catching unicorn-colored offerings are prime candidates expected to pop up in dairy and frozen aisles.

Moreover, we are seeing great opportunity for dairy to meet need spaces for families and children. Caretakers are seeking out nutritious, portable and single-serve options for their children’s foods and drinks2​. Colorful and flavorful dairy beverages like yogurt drinks provide both a fun offering for kids and a convenient, health-forward solution to satisfy parents’ demands.

Plus, the consumer desire for closer-to-nature ingredients is also an important factor for many families. Colors and flavors derived from nature can indicate to consumers that the product may offer better nutrition and benefits for their kids.


1FMCG Gurus, How Has COVID-19 Changed Consumer Behavior, March 2021

2​ADM Outside Voice

3Mintel, Patent Insights: Fermented Ingredients in Food & Drink, June 2021

4​FMCG Gurus, Top Ten Trends for 2021, January 2021