The dairy industry has been pre-occupied with production issues for as long as anyone can remember. Today it is definitely turning the corner.
Last week, I had the privilege of chairing the First Global Dairy Marketing Congress in Amsterdam, attended by over 200 delegates from more than 30 countries.
The mood was upbeat. The energy was palpable. Why ?
Because dairy innovations are now leading the way across many food and drink categories. Because their health benefits are backed by proper science. Because consumers are responding with real enthusiasm. And because the result is a better deal for farmers as well as dairies.
What did I learn that was new ? This is always a good test for any conference. Much, of course, was reaffirmation.
But perhaps I realised for the first time just how many drinking milks, desserts, spreads and cheeses now have added health benefits beyond their valuable natural ingredients.
Three prevailing long term changes stand out in today’s market:
- the scale of lower fat, lighter diet products,
- the rapid growth of probiotics for those who simply want their bodies to function more efficiently and
- the surge in a whole range of functional shot drinks with all kinds of merits from cholesterol reduction to cognitive enhancement.
One revelation was how far the US market must move to catch up with these trends elsewhere.
Three new emerging themes also seem to be taking shape:
- the idea of satiety products, which make you feel more full and were the winners of an informal delegate vote as The Next Big Thing,
- the need for muscle repair drinks to redress the slow weakening of ageing muscles known as sarcopenia and
- the introduction of cosmeceutical products to improve skin suppleness.
Surprisingly little was said about the need for more exercise. Which must mean that the dairy industry is concentrating on what it can do to help, rather than trying to suggest solutions are up to others.
The weather is set fair for dairy to enjoy new pastures.