24 June 2015
Milk consumption may be falling, but functional foods are riding high with global sales that hit $43.27B in 2013, up 26.7% in four years, and are predicted to rise another 25% to $54B by 2017, according to Leatherhead Food Research. The U.S. is expected to be the world’s fastest-growing region. By bolstering offerings with innovative functional dairy beverages, producers can position themselves to capture some of the magic.

Given milk’s natural assets, the beverage offers consumers a treasure trove of health and wellness benefits: high protein content, natural formulation, vitamins, minerals and more. Functional dairy beverages build on those healthy advantages and enhance them with even more nutritional value, making milk an ideal candidate for value-added formulations that can boost dairy producers’ bottom lines.

Some areas where dairy beverage producers can capitalize on these properties include:

Packing in the Protein. In an interview with Dairy Reporter, Datamonitor put protein high on the list of additives in the functional dairy arena. Although protein boosts from powders were once prized by athletes to fuel their athletic performance, other consumers are seeking out protein-enhanced beverages and edibles to increase their health. Such products, according to Livestrong, can help consumers stave off several negative health issues, including decreased energy, hair loss, sapped immune response and even cancer.

There are a number of protein and recovery drinks on the market; those formulated with real milk may have an edge with label readers seeking to add natural products with real ingredients to their carts. FitPro REAL Milk Protein, showcased at Natural Products Expo West, offers high protein in a low-calorie, gluten-free beverage housed in aseptic cartons that protect flavor and nutrition.

Nurturing the Mothering Instinct. Pregnant mothers need to be mindful of proper nutrition—for their own sake and for their babies’ development. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, low-fat dairy is a powerful nutritional tool in this endeavor. For example, calcium is a must for proper development of a baby’s teeth, bones, heart and other systems. Drinking fortified dairy beverages can help pregnant women meet the recommended 1,000-milligram minimum daily calcium requirement and provide a host of other important nutrients.

Producers also are looking into probiotics as nutritional aids for mothers and babies. Nutra Ingredients reports Nestle has filed for a patent on a combination of two probiotics designed for consumption by expectant and nursing moms. The producer claims that, when added to dairy beverages and other consumables, the probiotic formulation could help reduce the chances of their babies developing allergies.

Engaging in Child’s Play. As our parents taught us (and the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirms), each kid needs a daily dose of dairy to grow big and strong. That makes the children’s segment of the dairy market a prime target for innovation in functional beverages.

Attracting youngsters and their parents involves more than decorating a milk carton with cartoon characters or adding chocolate or strawberry to the beverage formulation. Producers such as Mega Moo are on a mission to garner increased sales with products that satisfy kids’ fondness for fun flavors and dancing cows, and they appeal to parents’ health wishes by adding vitamins and minerals.

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