Health & wellness concerns are fragmenting dairy milk, presenting more opportunity, survey shows

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Source: iStock
Source: iStock

Related tags Milk

Traditional white dairy milk is becoming more colorful as consumers increasingly demand sustainability, functionality and flavor from a category that for years was dominated by only three choices: whole, low-fat and skim.

“In the store in the past, in dairy and especially white milk, there either was the red cap, the dark blue cap or the light blue cap. And all three were really healthy, delicious choices,”​ that represented whole, low-fat and skim milk, Tetra Pak’s VP of Marketing Chris Gretchko told FoodNavigator-USA. “But for me, I see the future with much more color.”

By that, she explained, she sees consumers looking for a greater variety of milk options that match their tastes, lifestyle and different occasions.

“So, let’s compare this to cheese. Not too long ago there was American and cheddar and you were racy if you got Swiss. But there has just been an explosion in the types of cheese – their taste, when you use them and how you use them. And that is a real reflection of people’s involvement with their purchases,”​ she said, adding the same thing already is happening with milk in the US.

For example, instead of almost all Americans buying conventional white milk like they did several years ago, now 11% regularly purchase value-added milk, including lactose free options or milk with added omega 2 and DHA, fiber and other functional ingredients, according to new research from Ipsos commissioned by Tetra Pak.

In addition, the research found 6% of consumers regularly purchase “natural”​ milk, meaning organic.

The vast majority of 64%, however, still buy traditional milk, while the remaining 19% buy a combination of milk from the three categories, according to the survey.

An increasingly fragmented category

As the category becomes more fragmented, consumers are buying multiple types of milk for each household, according to the Mintel Dairy 2016 Report, which found 70% of dairy milk drinkers consume more than one type of dairy milk.

It notes the majority of older Millennials stock the most variety of diary milks with more than half saying that they drink five or more types.

In addition, the Mintel report found 35% of consumers surveyed drink flavored milk, “which speaks to the emergence of new and interesting milk varieties,”​ according to Tetra Pak.

“There is not a one size fits all”​ option anymore, Gretchko said. Rather, most households are developing personal repertoires, “which is pretty exciting,”​ she added.

Health and wellness are driving fragmentation

The fragmentation in the dairy milk aisle is due in part to consumer interest in health and wellness, Gretchko said.

She pointed to the Tetra Pak survey’s finding that many consumers consider dairy milks’ niche health benefits with they shop the category.

For example, 24% of organic milk drinkers surveyed say they look for products with no growth hormones and 34% focus on “what’s healthiest”​ when purchasing milk.

Data from the Mintel report sheds light on how some consumers define health in terms of milk. It found  56% consider bone health, 46% consider nutrients and 44% consider protein when they buy milk.

Visual cues key for guidance

With so many choices now in the dairy milk aisle, manufacturers need to incorporate visual cues into their packaging to help consumers quickly navigate and select the option that best suits their needs, Gretchko said.

For example, she said that value-added milk with omegas or extra calcium needs to call out the benefits with easy to spot claims, similar to those used on fortified orange juices.

In addition, images of cows eating grass or of farms communicate that milk is “natural,”​ as do icons such as organic certified or made without the use of hormones, she said.

Smaller packs are the future

To accommodate consumers who buy multiple types of milk and who want the freshest possible dairy, Gretchko predicts that in the near future consumers will turn away from the traditional gallon size container for milk and instead reach for smaller cartons.

This in turn will help reduce food waste, she added, explaining that “if you are drinking different types of milk, you want to make sure you consumer it and enjoy it before it spoils.”

She also predicts that milk containers increasingly will dedicate space to telling the story of the brand and how the milk was produced, just like other packaged foods and beverages already do.

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