Bord Bia looks at British dairy trends

What is it that consumers want? Kubi Kalloo, a creative consumer consultancy, endeavoured to find out and presented its findings at a Bord Bia webinar on the future of dairy in the UK. Selling Irish dairy to the British consumer is probably one of the easiest vending operations out there, but Kristin Hickey and Oscar Runeland dug into the findings for the audience and discovered a few items for future marketing.

Rather unsurprisingly, the average consumer is a bit anxious about everything lately, they found. Hickey noted, “As it relates to food, the past two to three years in particular, there has been an explosion of complexity, in choosing what we eat and how we look after ourselves. There is conflict and personal anxiety and uncertainty as it relates to our everyday lives and also how consumers talk about their everyday food choices” Depending on where the consumers were in their age groups (it was a 2,000 person study in four age groups), they either worried about getting their children the best and most joyful, while still nutritious products, as well as buying the groceries at the right price and value for money. “However, the idea of food anxiety made us sit up and think,” Hickey said. In managing food anxiety, for younger consumers, it’s about themselves, while the older ones it’s about feeding families and managing the budgets.

Overall, consumers are still largely advocates of dairy, with three-quarters agreeing that dairy is a nutritious and delicious part of the diet. While 18% said that dairy farmers are contributing to the climate crisis, strong support for dairy is a cornerstone for everyday nutrition. Interestingly, the largest anti-dairy sentiment came from the idea that dairy products were boring, and this especially related to liquid milk, which has been largely commoditised, Hickey observed. “Anti-dairy sentiment is not driven by sustainability or social values, it’s boredom. It’s a request from consumers to do more and innovate more, particularly from the younger cohort of consumers. Milk is iconic and good but a little bit boring.”

They did look at plant based and discovered that the majority purchased dairy (78%), while 21% purchased both plant and dairy milk products, and 1% bought only plant based drinks.

In cheese, they found that cheese overall is a positive thing: People love cheese and it is not seen as boring. “Equally, it is not seen as nutritional. This is a yum category for flavours and intensity, and there is opportunity for upgrading and quality.” Butter, meanwhile, has seen a resurgence in the spreads category. “It is back in people’s fridges, and cooking with butter has overcome all the negativity, and is claiming back the right to win on taste,” she observed. In this segment, branded products were winning out. It is capturing people’s imagination, also being something new with a traditional base. In yogurt, Greek yogurt has completely reinvented the category, and winning with a combination of momentum and penetration. It is used to make treats and in savoury cooking, and is both modern and progressive. Vegan yogurts have not had the same impact, she stated.

Runeland said this survey was a snapshot of the present of dairy, and how it can give the discrete future worlds for dairy, and be used to develop emotional territories where we think the future of dairy is going. Four ideas resonated with the consumers: whole human care, progressive nostalgia, kinder connection, and alive with life. “Yogurt, with its particular strength in the idea of alive with life, gives us an anchor point,” he stated.

With food packaging, both agreed that adding the details of biodynamics, feeding practices and other farming-related issues such as regenerative practices require education for consumers. “You can’t just put it on the packaging and expect consumers to come along at this stage,” Hickey said.

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