Cambridge, MA, USA: US soya milk manufacturers must improve the flavour of their products if they are to capture a larger slice of the mainstream consumer market, according to U.S. business consultancy Arthur D Little (ADL).
The Massachusetts-based consultancy recently released the results of a 'sensory benchmarking' study of several leading US brands of soya milk. The flavour and other sensory qualities of the milks were compared by a team of specially-trained panellists, using well-established ADL methods. The results were consistent: when compared to the two reference dairy milk brands, all seven of the leading soya milk brands featured in the study lagged some way behind the dairy in a variety of flavour qualities, including mouth feel, sweetness, aroma and smoothness of flavour. Other key findings included the fact that vanilla flavouring increases the sensory ranking of brands, by masking natural soya qualities; and that the typical 'chalky' mouth feel and greater viscosity of soya dramatically decreases consumers' perception of drinkability. ADL advises manufacturers to consider changes to processing, raw material selection and recipe to improve flavour. Taste, it claims, is always the primary purchasing criterion of consumers, whatever health benefits a product may be perceived to have.
The study is the first fruit of a co-operative initiative that ADL formed with soya industry market research firm Soyatech in May, which will seek to provide the soya industry with a range of strategic and technical recommendations to increase consumer acceptance of soya products. In the US the soya milks market is currently worth U.S. $420 million, or only one per cent of dairy milk consumption. Jack Keniley, ADL's associate director of food, nutrition and health, said: "The soya foods market is experiencing a wave of mergers and takeovers as major food companies with enormous resources and extensive merchandising experience dive into this rapidly expanding market, including Kellogg, ConAgra, Heinz and Kraft. We will work closely with these companies to help them develop product, branding and marketing strategies that will elevate soya to the next level—the mainstream consumer."
ADL will release a sensory perceptions study of European soya milk brands in the autumn.