Protein Trends in the Dairy Department

Jenny McTaggart
Contributing Editor

Cheese has been a strong seller in the dairy case, especially as products like shredded cheese for cooking and snacking cheeses have met the needs of consumers’ shifting eating occasions, according to Paul Ziemnisky, EVP of global innovation partnerships for Rosemont, Ill.-based Dairy Management Inc.

“Expect to see cheese continue to grow as a ‘hero’ in entertaining,” he says. “It is a great party companion with so many new varieties and flavors available to consumers.”

Refrigerated and shelf-stable plant-based milks are also gaining significant ground, even if they’re not officially dairy products. While they represent a much smaller dollar volume compared with cow’s milk, both categories show significant growth. Sales of refrigerated plant-based milks were up 10 percent to $1.7 billion in the 52 weeks ending Nov. 4, 2018, according to Jessica Hochman, natural insights and innovation research manager for Chicago-based SPINS.

“Consumers today are looking for ways to eat more plants and fewer animal products, even if their lifestyles aren’t fully vegan or vegetarian,” she observes. “The plant-based milk segment presents an easy entry opportunity, not just from the myriad options developing in the core space as an alternative to dairy milk, but also in the ways plant-based milks are incorporated as ingredients into other segments, such as ready-to-drink coffee and protein beverages.”

Hochman notes that almond milks hold the most dollar volume in both refrigerated and shelf-stable categories of plant-based milk, accounting for $1.2 billion combined.

Room for Growth

Refrigerated milk has been declining in sales, but several new products offer promise for a better performance in 2019. A report from SPINS notes that organic milk labeled as being from grass-fed cows has experienced notable growth.

Meanwhile, a new product, a2 Milk, which is made only from cows that naturally produce the A2 protein but not the A1 protein, should appeal to consumers who may have experienced discomfort when drinking the A1 protein in other milk products. The milk comes from cows that have not been treated with growth hormones, rBST or antibiotics.

Another new specialty milk is fairlife, an ultra-filtered milk that boasts 50 percent more protein, 30 percent more calcium and half the amount of sugars found in typical milks. In addition, it’s lactose-free. SPINS reported 13.3 percent year-over-year sales growth of milk labeled lactose-free.

Julia Kadison, CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP), encourages conventional supermarket operators to make sure that dairy milk is being fully stocked in their stores, as 48 percent of shoppers report experiencing at least one dairy milk out-of-stock experience, which results in lost profit and decreased customer experience. She adds that MilkPEP has developed a robust calendar of shopper marketing programs that retailers can leverage for their stores.

On the Horizon

Ziemnisky predicts that the yogurt category will bounce back this year, particularly as major brands recognize consumers’ concerns about sugar and reformulate their products accordingly.

“We will see a lot of low-sugar, high-protein, high-cream launches in 2019,” he says.

Among plant-based milks, up-and-comers include almond and cashew blends, pea, flax, and oat, according to Hochman.

And, a little farther off into the future, look for dairy milk made without cows. Perfect Day, a startup in San Francisco, has entered into a partnership with Chicago-based food processor Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) to expand production of its cow-free dairy. The company uses a fermentation process that’s said to create the same dairy proteins contained in a glass of milk.

About the Author

Jenny McTaggart

Jenny McTaggart is a contributing editor at Progressive Grocer.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds