What is driving the dairy trends?

The great nutritional value of dairy should be highlighted more, as it is highly valued by consumers. What is the role of nutritional benefits, consumer preferences, and dairy in meeting the demands of today’s consumer?

  • Snackification trend: More people are skipping meals, leading to the popularity of quick and convenient snacks to meet nutritional needs throughout the day.
  • Dairy as a nutritious snack: Dairy products can offer a great and nutritious snack option, with various on-the-go formats available.
  • Personalisation of diets: Consumers seek personalised solutions in dairy products, focusing on taste, healthiness, and natural ingredients.
  • Protein focus: Consumers value high-protein snacks for their perceived health benefits, leading to a shift towards high-protein, low-sugar alternatives.
  • Digestive wellness and lactose intolerance: Consumers look for lactose free options to address digestive issues, and lactose free products have opportunities beyond the dairy industry.
  • Clean labels and simple ingredients: Consumers prefer dairy products with clean labels and shorter ingredient lists.
  • Flavour innovation: New flavours and taste innovations, especially in flavoured milk, appeal to consumers and offer potential for companies.
  • Affordability: Dairy-based products are more affordable than many plant-based alternatives, making them appealing to cost-conscious consumers.

Snackifications is growing.

The snackification trend is still going strong, or even getting stronger, which can be seen in the growing number of people skipping meals. Nearly one-quarter (24%) of global consumers skip breakfast at least three times a week and 26 % skip lunch three times a week. [1] This has also become more common in the Nordic countries, since half of all Norwegians and Finns skip at least one meal (lunch or dinner) during a typical week. [2]

However, people still need to nourish themselves throughout the day, so many are turning to quick and tasty snacks that support their personalized health and wellness needs. Today’s busy consumers also prioritize solutions that make their life easier, so snacks have to be convenient. It’s especially younger consumers who tend to replace proper meals with quick and easy snacks, which are eaten on-the-go.

Consumers have high expectations when seeking better-for-you snacks.

Protein continues to be highly valued by consumers. It’s seen as a focal point for good nutrition due to its perceived health benefits. Over half of global consumers say that high-protein claims make a snack healthy and 56% have switched from snacking on snacks such as chocolate, to high-protein/low-sugar alternatives. [4]

And in response to this, many snack novelties contain claims like “reduced sugar” and “high protein”, reduced fat, carbohydrates, or sodium. [3]

Dairy products make a great and nutritious snack, and protein enrichment has high consumer interest in many dairy categories. Different on-the-go formats with protein are also blooming, e.g. snack bars, RTD drinks and puddings, which all can be utilised in dairy applications.

But in addition to protein quantity, consumers have started to pay more attention to the sources and especially the quality of protein and amino acid content. [6] The great nutritional value of dairy should be highlighted more, as it is highly valued by consumers.

What consumers look for in dairy?

At Valio, we do our own trend analysis every year, and according to it, food is more and more used as a tool for achieving one’s own unique immediate and long-term goals. This has led to the personalisation of diets since those one-size-fits-all solutions are not enough anymore.

Taste is still the top key reason for consuming dairy, with healthiness and natural ingredients acting as the next most important drivers. [9] But in line with the trend of “the personalisation of diets”, consumers seek personal solutions also in dairy. And it is the functionality that makes dairy more personal because that way you can find a solution exactly for your own needs, whether they are related to digestive wellness, immunity or bone health.

Lactose free options are needed.

Digestive wellbeing is one of the most sought-after health benefits, as around one-third of global consumers are struggling with digestive issues. Consumers are increasingly aware of lactose intolerance and look for lactose free options. Lactose avoiders appreciate equal access to all food, also to indulgence — without compromising the taste or texture.

Lactose free solutions offer a multitude of possibilities for manufacturers operating in different markets. And the great news is that the opportunities created by demand for lactose free products are not limited to the dairy industry alone. Lactose free has potential to expand to all food categories which include milk as an ingredient.

Taste is king and clean label is booming.

As consumers seek out health-boosting claims, they have become more attentive to ingredients and their naturality. So besides functionality, consumers look for clean labels in dairy products, which is why short and simple ingredient lists are now driving healthier dairy innovations. [11]

As taste is still the number one driver for consuming dairy, new flavours and taste innovations are increasingly important for consumers. Especially in flavoured milk, a focus on newer, exciting flavours through limited editions offers further potential for companies.

In these times of inflation affordable nutrition has become a collective aim for many consumers. Dairy milk has an important role also here, as the affordability of dairy-based products give them a competitive advantage over many plant-based alternatives.

Valio specialty milk powders

With Valio Eila® functional milk powders, we can help manufacturers develop products full of all the wellness-boosting natural goodness consumer's desire.

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  1. The Evolution of Snacking Habits over the Next Five Years, FMCG Gurus, 2021
  2. Food & Health Nordic Report, YouGov, 2023.
  3. Nutrition on the go, global consumer trends in healthy snacking report, Innova Market Insights, 2023.
  4. FMCG Gurus, Protein report, 2021.
  5. Protein Evolution and Revolution, Innova Market Insights, 2022
  6. ”Ingredient watch: protein blends for 'protein quality’ ”, Mintel, 2021
  7. US Dairy Consumer Survey, McKinsey, 2022.
  8. Global Consumer Food Trends, Valio, 2023.
  9. Dairy and Dairy alternatives, Innova Top Trends, 2023.
  10. Dairy Trends, FMCG Gurus, 2022.
  11. Category Survey: Dairy and dairy alternatives, Innova Market Insight, 2023.