Dissecting the terminology tempest around dairy
Innovation and disruption – it’s creating dramatic change throughout the entire food industry, but perhaps most notably in the case of the dairy market, where traditional dairy products are battling plant-based dairy alternative options for shelf space and consumer dollars.
David Sprinkle, publisher at Packaged Facts, has written this latest opinion piece on the current “terminology tempest”: a discourse on dairy alternative marketers’ use of dairy terms such as “milk” or “butter”.
Providing context for the current regulatory skirmishes in Europe and the US, this white paper reviews:
- the June 2017 EU ruling against soyfoods marketed in dairy terms
- the historical context in the West for milk adulteration and soymilk as a hard-times imitation
- the web of nutritional pros and cons for dairy vs. plant products (and whether nutritional facts are really at the heart of the matter)
- the consumer marketplace context for the success of current-generation refrigerated plant milks
- current data on the relative nutritional consciousness of dairy alternative beverage vs dairy milk consumers
- the opportunity for dairy case growth based on meaningful and wider-ranging premium product differentiation
Says Sprinkle, “The essential purpose of food identity standards is to protect consumers from buying products that aren’t what they claim to be.
“Adulterated products — diluted or made cheaply with inferior and sometimes unsafe substitute ingredients — have a long and dishonourable history in the milk industry, in urban as well as remote markets, such that the concept of dairy ‘purity’ is rightfully close to the heart of dairy producers.”
But, notes a FoodNavigator.com article, times have changed and soy products are no longer second-best imitations and substitutes. Plant milks made from soy, almond, coconut, coconut and oats are popular products in their own right bought by consumers who either eschew dairy completely or by those who complement their dairy purchases with plant-based alternatives.
Where the dairy lobby does have a point, Sprinkle writes, is when comes to consumer perception over plant-based alternatives’ healthiness.
Cows’ milk, for instance, is a good source of calcium, has no added sugars, is low in fat and has some protein and, apart from chocolate milk, this is more or less always the case. The same cannot be said for plant alternatives, which vary in the amount of added sugar, emulsifiers and additives they contain.
Nevertheless, he sees the main motivation as being monetary. “With their non-dairy identity a given, they are signalling to consumers which dairy products they aim to compete with. So it’s true that non-dairy products compete brazenly against dairy products, but that’s how the marketplace works.”
“It’s hard to shake the sense that dairy association lobbying for regulatory action is about the money — that is, about throwing regulatory obstacles in the way of a challenging marketplace competitor that is gaining ground.”
It’s a case of Goliath throwing stones at David, for the minute, but in terms of wider consumer purchasing trends, the fact that tofu butter will have to think of a new name is unlikely to have a significant impact on sales, says Sprinkle.
“Meaningful innovation with premium dairy products, rather than border patrolling dairy alternatives, should be the dairy industry’s main focus,” he concludes, adding that, from grass-fed cows’ milk to probiotic-fortified yoghurts or artisan-style cheese, there is plenty to choose from.
Source: Packaged Facts, FoodNavigator.com
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