Bord Bia: Consumers willing to spend more for ‘healthy’, ‘natural’ dairy products

By Estelle Alley

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Sustainability Health claims Dairy consumer insights

Farmers, buyers and suppliers should also watch out for heightened regulatory, customer and consumer demands in the coming years, says the body’s UK dairy category manager, Estelle Alley.

When it comes to sustainability and quality standards, Ireland’s food and drink is leading the way, with Irish dairy farming one of the lowest globally from a greenhouse gas emissions intensity perspective. Bord Bia plays an integral role in maintaining Irish dairy’s high sustainability standards and also elevating them.

The current dairy industry outlook

Bord Bia revealed that dairy demand in H2 2021 right through to Q3 of 2022 remained solid, despite increased dairy product price levels. Irish dairy supply to the UK has grown 30% since 2016 with a record of almost 470,000 metric tonnes shipped in 2021. The reputation Irish companies have in terms of consistent high-quality supply has supported this, but increasingly the sustainability proof points of Irish dairy are giving buyers confidence in sourcing from Ireland.

Ireland is established as a reliable and consistent producer of high-calibre grass fed dairy, proven by recent research from Red Tractor’s Trust in Food Index which revealed that Ireland tops the league as the most trusted importer of dairy in the UK.

Sustainability: a core purchasing criteria

While price is a hot topic, sustainability remains crucial. Data from Bord Bia’s recent Global Sustainability Insights report revealed that sustainability is a top priority when choosing a supplier for dairy buyers. 51% of buyers interviewed said sustainability was ‘integral’ to their business and 72% of trade buyers said it's important to have suppliers with strong sustainability credentials.

The term ‘sustainability’ has evolved and now encompasses a variety of different factors, from reducing carbon emissions and creating sustainable packaging to sourcing local and limiting food miles. For dairy, almost two-thirds (64%) of consumers are willing to pay more for grass fed dairy, driven by its strong association with terms such as ‘natural’, ‘healthy’ and ‘premium’.

How to overcome today’s dairy challenges

Consumers put responsibility for improving food sustainability on the food producer above anyone else. To ensure that you meet this demand, you can look to partner with Irish dairy suppliers. Irish dairy adheres to The Bord Bia Grass Fed Standard, only sourcing from herds that enjoy a diet that’s, on average, 95% grass or grass-based forage, and grazes in open pastures for an average of 240 days a year during their lifetime. Organizations and dairy farmers that adhere to the Bord Bia grass-fed standard can benefit from a better reputation among consumers.

Dairy farmers, buyers and suppliers should also watch out for heightened regulatory, customer and consumer demands in the coming years. In particular, pay attention to eco-scores and carbon numbers for brands raising the bar in sustainability communications. This means embracing sustainability in organisational strategy and B2C/B2B strategy, while keeping up with consumer trends, to not get caught out by the acceleration.

Implementing emission-cutting objectives

Celebrating its 10th year, Ireland’s Origin Green program, the world’s only national food and drink sustainability program, equips food manufacturers, retailers and food service companies to meet the evolving sustainability needs and demands of global consumer markets.

Independently-monitored and verified at every stage, Irish dairy farming is proud of its work to reduce GHG emissions. Calculated at an average of 0.97kg carbon equivalents per kg output, Irish dairy has achieved a 7% reduction in the last eight years, with work ongoing for further reductions. Bord Bia is committed to advancing the overall sustainability of Irish dairy, and collaboration is crucial in achieving this.

How sustainable dairy benefits consumers and retailers

Consumers around the world are increasingly expressing a desire for dairy products that can be verified as grass fed and the market requires evidence to back the claim. Research from Ernst and Young shows that 50% of consumers globally now express a preference for grass fed dairy. The Bord Bia Grass Fed Standard provides assurance of Ireland’s commitment to producing dairy sourced only from pasture grazed herds.

As global sustainability standards increase, the dairy industry must also evolve. We are proud that Ireland has a rich heritage in sustainable farming practices, but Bord Bia will continue to collaborate with the industry to ensure that the bar is continually being raised.

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