20 July 2016
Ten years ago, when refrigerators in most American households contained a single gallon of milk, consumers’ dairy decisions were rather simple.
These days, however, there are many more choices. Modern consumers are increasingly stocking their fridges and pantries with a variety of dairy beverages, ranging from organic and lactose-free varieties to value-added and flavored milks.
As the dairy category expands, what does it mean for the future of milk?
Healthy and busy
Driven by health and wellness, consumers today are demanding more from their dairy products. While few doubt the nutritional benefits of milk – it is a rich source of calcium and high-quality protein – traditional offerings may not keep up with their fast-paced, lifestyles.
Pressed for time, more consumers are eating and drinking their meals and snacks away from home, with snacking representing half of all eating occasions, according to the Modern Eating: Cultural Roots, Daily Behaviors report from The Hartman Group. As a result, these health-conscious multitaskers are shopping for beverages that deliver maximum health benefits and fit seamlessly with their on-the-go lives.
Many brands are rising to the challenge with innovative dairy products that meet consumers’ changing needs, marketing nutritious protein-enriched meal replacement products that fill the gaps that traditional offerings may not satisfy.
More to love
The modern milk landscape is vast, but fragmented, as the majority of dairy drinkers (70 percent) report consuming more than one type of milk.
According to new research commissioned by Tetra Pak, modern milk consumers fall into three unique categories: the conventional (drinkers of traditional milk), the value-added (drinkers of lactose free, omega 3/DHA, added fiber, and other products), and the natural (drinkers of organic milk beverages).
And who is drinking the most milk? According to Mintel’s Dairy 2016 Report, Millennials stand out as being the most active drinkers of dairy, with more than half of those surveyed saying they drink more than five types of dairy milk.
For dairy companies, this trend marks an opportunity to launch new and different tasting milk beverages that appeal to the demand for variety as well as health and nutrition.
Flavored milk options, such as drinkable breakfast beverages and post-workout drinks, have the potential to add variety and enhance the consumer dairy experience by offering taste, nutrition and convenience.
Good things, smaller packages
As consumers seek a wider variety of milk options, packaging is playing a larger role in their purchasing decisions.
Rather than buying traditional gallons of milk like consumers did a decade ago, Tetra Pak research shows that an overwhelming majority (79 percent) of milk drinkers are buying half-gallon varieties in paperboard packaging, which many (48 percent) associate with protecting the milk.
In addition, consumers surveyed cited ease of use, storage and recyclability as the qualities they most look for in milk packaging.
While milk’s legacy of goodness continues to span decades – research shows the beverage provides energy and nutrition that is hard to replace – it is interesting to observe changing consumer habits and see how they present new challenges and opportunities for the dairy industry. 
Learn more about the future of milk in my recent interview featured in Food Navigator USA.

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