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‘Dairy has strong taste, indulgence and nutritional credentials to leverage.’ [Interview]

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Despite the boom in plant-based, dairy products are seen as tasty, indulgent, affordable, and nutritious – and most consumers intend to keep consuming dairy. However, the sector could do more to leverage its advantages, says Mintel analyst Caroline Roux.
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Caroline Roux is global food and drink analyst at Mintel, providing consumer insights and recommendations to food and drink companies around the globe, particularly dairy ones. She will be participating in Fi Global Insight’s Dairy and Dairy Alternatives Deep Dive Day on 5 April.

The plant-based trend seems to be huge. Is dairy in danger of becoming irrelevant?

“No, dairy is not in danger of becoming irrelevant, if anything because the largest plant-based players are also major dairy players, such as Danone and Nestlé [but] also because most consumers are not planning to stop consuming dairy. According to Mintel data, in the largest European markets – France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland – no less than eight in 10 dairy consumers say they would never completely give up eating or drinking dairy products. Moreover, between six and seven in 10 European parents are concerned that their child would miss out on important nutrients when eating and drinking dairy alternatives instead of dairy products.”

What advantages do dairy products have over plant-based alternatives?

“In the context of inflation, affordability is definitively an advantage for dairy products. Taste is another one. Dairy products have very strong taste - and even indulgence - credentials. According to Mintel data, the perceived poor taste of plant-based dairy is the first reason why European consumers are not using dairy alternatives, ahead of price.”

Are dairy brands leveraging these advantages enough?

“Dairy brands could do more to nurture parents' belief that dairy is important in a child's diet. Dairy can help close children's ‘nutritional gaps' in a tasty and affordable manner. To resonate with parents who show interest in dairy alternatives for children, milk and yoghurt brands might want to benchmark their nutritional benefits against plant-based food. Dairy brands also need to be confident about their superior taste credentials.”

Has Mintel noted any new product launches or innovations that suggest the dairy sector is being influenced by the plant-based trend?

“The dairy sector is obviously working on minimising its environmental impact. Companies communicate a lot on their efforts and initiatives towards packaging recyclability, animal welfare and organic certifications.

“[…] The Collective Great Dairy blackberry and blackcurrant yoghurt, from the UK, is playing up its sustainability credentials with a bright green on-pack flash. Although the manufacturer claims to be 'carbon neutral', it actually offsets the emissions made to produce this yoghurt.

“Simultaneously, brands are working on improving the nutritional profile of their products with less sugar and more protein. […] Mon Premier Cacolac, launched in France, targets families with indulgence, nutrition, and affordability. The chocolate flavoured milk scores A on the Nutri-Score and has a low sugar content.”

Which dairy categories are the most innovative in terms of new product launches and meeting consumers’ evolving needs?

“According to Mintel data, cheese accounted for half of new products launched in Europe in 2021. 

“Cheese is proving its potential to provide comfort as a nourishing, indulgent, versatile, and affordable food. Cheese launches are highlighting nutritional, and better-for-you attributes, while natural and sustainable qualities are also growing in prominence.

“[…]  Launched in Germany, Leerdammer’s cheese with pumpkin seed and herbs crust for roasting and baking extends the usage of Leerdammer from sandwich or snacks to meals. By doing so, the brand meets the needs of consumers who want to reduce their intake of meat. This product also has strong animal welfare credentials, notably pasture grazing.”

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