The European dairy market is beginning to resemble the breakfast cereals sector where functional offerings are the norm rather than the exception.Added-value dairy products have revitalised the European traditional dairy sector, according to a new report from Leatherhead Food International.
"(Conventional) milk is the one sector of the dairy beverages market that is not showing strong annual growth," the report stated. "Volumes are in long-term decline, and, until recently, market values were following a similar trend."
The report, Milk, Dairy and Non-Dairy Innovation in Europe, made special mention of one-shot dairy drinks, which have recorded higher-than-average rates of innovation. "Growth rates in the one-shot functional milk-drinks category remain extremely dynamic and were as high as 74.5 per cent in the UK in 2004," the report said. "In fact, the lowest level of growth was the 14.6 per cent increase seen in Spain. Meanwhile, in France, sales rose 51.9 per cent, in Germany 44.1 per cent, in the Netherlands 33.3 per cent and in Italy 20.1 per cent."
Probiotic one-shot beverages were the youngest dairy sector, having launched in the mid-1990s, and they "remain the core focus for the category." But Leatherhead noted recent new product development has focused on the "provision of alternative health benefits, with products aimed at cholesterol reduction and slimming"as well as "recent launches in the area of blood-pressure control."
Products such as cholesterol-lowering Benecol and Flora pro.activ one-shot yoghurt drinks were performing much better than the spreads these brands launched with. Fortifying regular milk with ingredients such as omega-3s and other lignans was also growing in popularity.
A Spanish company, Clesa, has developed a one-shot soy milk offering called Soja Activ that contains Lactobacillus casei cultures.
Of the soy drinks market, Leatherhead noted: "The soy beverages sector is interesting in that new product activity tends to mirror that of the standard dairy-beverages categories, albeit a little later. In recent times, this has led to the development of drinks combining soya milk with fruit juice and to the launch of one-shot soya drinks."
Netherlands-based Prosoy Research and Strategy noted 100 new soy products were launched in 2005, a 50 per cent increase on the previous year. Prosoy senior researcher Gerard Klein Essink said soy beverages infused with various fruit extracts and juices had become very popular. However, despite all this innovation and marketing activity, the major soy milk players like Alpro and So Good International had made no overtures toward one-shot beverages.