From active to personalized nutrition: The case for dairy

By Teodora Lyubomirova

- Last updated on GMT

GettyImages/miniseries
GettyImages/miniseries

Related tags active nutrition Probiotics microbiome Gut health Sports nutrition Protein plant proteins Dairy Yogurt Kefir

DairyReporter speaks to ADM’s Mike Medina to discover how the latest wellness trends and consumer attitudes are shaping the future of dairy.

The pursuit of holistic health and wellness continues to be top-of-mind for today’s consumers. Not only are these consumers concerned about their physical health, but they’re also concentrating on their emotional and mental wellness.

According to FMCG Gurus’ trends forecast for 2023, mental wellbeing and cognitive health, along with immune function, digestion and heart health, are the top five areas that consumers plan to address over the next 12 months.

On top of that, ADM’s Outside Voice research shows that 64% of global consumers describe their approach to health as proactive; they’re seeking convenient offerings with appealing sensory experiences that can fit into daily routines, which is paving the way for food and beverage manufacturers to meet this demand.

Dairy brands that lean into consumers’ focus on health and wellbeing with key ingredients will be set for success in 2023.

Personalized offerings

The way food choices affect gut health and overall wellbeing has been of particular focus for consumers in recent years. Dairy products rich in probiotics, such as kefir and yogurt, already enjoy a health halo, and research carried out by FCMG Gurus on growth opportunities for dairy showed that 40% of consumers think of dairy products as ‘healthy’. “This creates a perfect launching point for incorporating gut microbiome-supporting solutions, including prebiotic fiber, probiotics and postbiotics, into formats throughout the dairy category,”​ explained Mike Medina, category marketing director for specialized nutrition & dairy at ADM. “Plus, our research shows that global consumers overwhelmingly favor beverages and dairy as preferred probiotic consumption formats4. Additionally, 29% of global consumers note that they drink dairy products because they’re ‘easy to consume’. Convenience is key, and many consumers find drinkability an important factor, further giving the dairy category space to grow within the health and nutrition arena.”

As consumer interest in gut microbiome-supporting solutions increases, brands can utilize these ingredients to elevate dairy offerings, from milks to drinkable yogurts and shakes, in new ways, Medina suggested. “Notably, strain-specific research is accelerating, pinpointing unique benefits that have the potential to meet rising consumer demand for personalized offerings,”​ he added. “Research shows that 63% of consumers state they are interested in food and drink products that are customized to meet their individual needs.”

In terms of formats, spore-forming probiotics and postbiotics are taking off, Medina explained. “Postbiotics, in particular, are seeing a faster adoption than prebiotics and probiotics had upon their introductions to the market. Because both spore-forming probiotics and postbiotics of non-viable microorganisms can retain functionality through harsh formulation conditions like pasteurization, they can provide greater flexibility for dairy formulation innovation with gut microbiome-supporting attributes.”

Active nutrition

The active nutrition space is also key to enticing more health-minded shoppers into the dairy isle. “Like biotics, protein is a highly sought-after ingredient for many shoppers,”​ Medina said, “and we’re seeing this reflected throughout active nutrition offerings.”

He added that FCMG Gurus’ 2022 Growth Opportunities for Dairy report reveals that consumers find on-pack claims around protein content (58%) and probiotics (55%) appealing. “Combining protein sources, from traditional whey and casein to soy and pea proteins, with biotics is creating new dairy consumption opportunities for consumers focused on active nutrition, from exercise support to afternoon pick-me-ups. Dairy-based beverages, frozen treats, snacks and confections with a range of functional ingredients, such as added protein, prebiotic fiber, probiotics and postbiotics, are emerging in the marketplace, filling the demand for quick better-for-you bites,”​ he said.

Whey and casein remain important to the dairy category for benefits like providing muscle-building attributes within active nutrition products – but manufacturers should also consider casting their net into the plant protein space, too. “Consumers focused on active nutrition find a variety of protein types appealing, with both whey and plant sources as the most popular,”​ Medina explained. “As such, there is clear opportunity for dairy manufacturers to champion both traditional proteins and plant proteins through blends. Building in wholesome ingredients like nuts and seeds can further support these protein blends, helping achieve consumer-preferred taste and texture, as well as ingredient and protein diversity within an array of dairy offerings.

“On top of that, it also helps meet clean-label targets. While there is no one definition for what constitutes a ‘clean label’, our research shows that most consumers state that simple, recognizable ingredients influence their product purchases. By leveraging blends with familiar wholesome ingredients, brands can capture conscientious consumer attentions who associate such ingredients with attributes that are better for them, as well as their communities and the planet.”

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