Friday, September 25, 2015

Dairy Show Highlights: Milking the Healthy Beverage Segment

When the 2015 International Dairy Show ended last week at McCormick Place in Chicago, exhibitors and attendees left on an upbeat note. Not only is the show reinventing itself in 2017 (ProFood Tech will make its debut April 4 to 6, 2017, at McCormick Place), it was very apparent that the new generation of dairy processors understands that innovation is necessary in order to thrive in the competitive marketplace.

For an overview of ingredient, process and package innovations showcased at the show, please read my Food Business News online column HERE.

 No segment is innovation more critical than in beverage, where Linda Gilbert, founder and CEO of EcoFocus Worldwide LLC, told Dairy Show attendees during a session hosted by Evergreen Packaging that recent research shows that nearly half (46%) of all grocery shoppers are healthy beverage shoppers. This shopper evaluates the beverage’s nutrition, ingredients and package when deciding if it is healthy or not.

Here are some interesting findings on the healthy beverage shopper. Seventy-one percent live in households earning more than $50K annually, suggesting they have spending power. They tend to be better educated (63% are college or technical school graduates) and younger (48% are millennials or post-millennials). The healthy beverage shopper skews female (52%); more than two-fifths (41%) have children at home.

The good news for dairy processors is that milk, beverages made from milk and other better-for-you beverages such as iced tea and juices—all beverages that can be processed and packaged at a dairy—fit the bill of a healthy beverage.

To read an article I recently wrote for Food Business News on the booming ready-to-drink tea market, link HERE.

What will a healthy beverage shopper pay more for? According to Gilbert, more than three-fourths (77%) of survey respondents will pay more for healthier beverages while 66% dig deeper into their pockets for locally produced offerings. Interestingly, the research shows that 36% of healthy beverage shoppers buy more refrigerated rather than shelf-stable beverages, which is 6% more likely than all shoppers.

What’s important to the healthy beverage shopper? Lower or reduced sugar is number-one, followed by being a good source of antioxidants. Good source of calcium, good source of fiber, increased protein, good source of omega-3 fatty acids and contains probiotics are also all very important to the healthy beverage shopper.

At the Dairy Show, milk-based beverage prototypes (these were shelf-stable for logistic purposes, but all formulations can readily be produced for refrigerated distribution) included Heart Healthy, a vanilla and cinnamon breakfast smoothie loaded with oat fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. It was also enriched with antioxidant vitamins A and E. If fruit flavor is preferred, there was a similarly formulated creamy fruits and oats smoothie also enriched with vitamin D. A 330-milliliter serving contained 12 or 11 grams of protein, respectively.

If a wake-up beverage is what one needs in the morning, there was a coffee and milk breakfast shake formulated to help control appetite while also delivering 13 essential vitamins and minerals.

There’s no doubt dairy processors can make beverages that contain all of the nutrients that healthy beverage shoppers are willing to pay more for. Dairy processors also have tools available to lower or reduce added sugar in these beverages.

Enzyme technology can be used to break down milk’s inherent sugar—lactose—into glucose and galactose, releasing natural sweetness and delivering a sugar reduction ranging from 20% to 50%. This technology can be paired with low- or no-calorie natural sweeteners to achieve the desired sweetness with fewer calories and less added sugar, naturally, which is very important to the healthy beverage consumer. For more information on naturally reducing sugar in dairy beverages using dairy enzymes, link HERE.

“No artificial ingredients is extremely or very important to read on a beverage label for 74% of healthy beverage consumers,” according to Gilbert. “And more than half (55%) want the beverage to be certified organic.

“Transparency earns trust,” she said. “Seventy-one percent of healthy beverage consumers say they pay attention to where the ingredients in their foods or beverages are grown.”

Results from an international consumer-attitude study conducted by DSM among more than 5,000 adults across five countries shows that they, and their children, in particular, have increased consumption of sugared dairy (34% and 53%, respectively). It also shows that they expect to continue doing so in the next three years, despite having major concerns about added sugar in dairy.

The survey data reveals that 80% of the consumers agree that dairy foods with low or no sugar are better for their health, and that more than 60% are concerned about sugar content in these products. Reasons for choosing sugar-reduced dairy are weight loss or management, as well as maintaining good health to prevent diabetes or keep up fitness levels throughout the day.

Growing concerns over added sugar will pave the way for sugar-reduced dairy all over the world. For information on opportunities in this segment, link HERE to a detailed report on consumers’ attitudes and preferences.

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