Dairy drinks: health in control as convenience takes back seat

Health is eclipsing convenience as the major selling point for new dairy drink launches.

Milk-based beverage launches promoting health as the primary benefit constituted 53% of all new products in the category worldwide last year, up from 42% in 2007, according to Innova figures.

Convenience was the major selling point for 17% of new products in 2008. This was down dramatically from 34% in the previous year.

Overall, health was part of the marketing mix for more than 70% of all new dairy drink launches launched across the world in 2008.

The figures were compiled by Innova for Belgium-based ingredients supplier Beneo-Orafti. The data also showed there had been a significant rise in the numbers of new dairy beverages containing inulin and oligofructose. Derived from the chicory-plant, inulin can be used as a fat substitute, while oligofructose can be used to replace sugar in products. Both also have prebiotic qualities.

Last saw 181 dairy beverages containing these ingredients brought to market globally, up from 164 in 2007, an increase of just over 10%.

The primary health claim most frequently used to market these products was gut health, employed in 17% of cases. This was up from 13% last year and from just 2% five years ago.

The use of low fat as the primary health claim fell from 17% in 2007 to 10% last year. Low sugar was the key driver in only 2% of new launches in 2008, down from 3% in the previous year.

These trends reflected the fact that consumers were becoming increasingly aware of specific health claims within the well-being category — and this was something companies could profit from, argued Tim Van der Schraelen, Beneo-Orafti's marketing and communication manager.

"Our own consumer research in December 2008 found that promoting the health benefits of a product does increase the appeal of established brands and generates added value," he said. "Therefore it stands to reason that manufacturers who can tap into this sector with tailored health benefit messages that can be substantiated with scientific proof will continue to see increased market development and penetration this year and beyond."

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