There was a time when milk producers confidently positioned themselves as producers of the healthiest beverage on the planet. Milk producers didn’t fight battles defending the production or the breakdown of components. However, today, trends in fat consumption and diet fads have significantly impacted consumer choices. Today the fight is on to determine what motivates people to quench their thirst.
The battle for The Beverage Bottle
A recent article discussed the idea that water has now become milk’s biggest competitor. Michael Dykes, CEO of International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), reported water consumption as follows: “The North American bottled water market was expected to reach 391 billion litres by 2017” To put that into perspective, consider that, in 2007, single-serve water consumption was recorded at 212 billion litres. As these numbers became a reality, it has also become common to see people with bottled water in hand everywhere you go. Public speakers, church pastors, business leaders and club members have water within reach at all times. Although many of our food choices are driven by price, the beverage industry points out that consumers are choosing the expensive bottled water over the water they could drink directly from the taps in their homes: “It is calculated by drinking two litres a day from the tap would cost $1.50 a year compared to more than $2800 to do the same with single-served bottle water.”
Conscientious Consumers Are Drinking to Their Health
Whether it’s water, milk or the latest speciality drink, there is probably a health component that is luring consumers to choose one over the other. Flip through a magazine or recall the latest TV commercial and you can probably repeat the “punch line” or picture that celebrates milk products that now contain a health-desired ingredient. New market demographics are being reached by milk products that promote ultra-filtered milk that has extra protein. That is the case with Fairlife (a product marketed through Coke Cola partnership) in the USA.
Where Does Milk Fit into The Beverage Game Of Choice?
Dairy producers work hard 24/7 to produce healthy nutritious dairy foods. Having said that, once milk leaves the farm, the beverage industry takes over, and milk becomes just one of many players competing in the high stakes game of consumer choices.
Before you read any further, get yourself something to drink. What did you choose? What options are in your refrigerator? In your pantry? Besides your favourite chair? How many of us are holding milk or a dairy drink in our hands?
How Old Are Milk Drinkers?
There was a time when milk drinkers were automatically categorized as predominantly babies and growing children. Now there are target markets in all age groups. One of the largest group is the Millennials, who are seen as the functional food group consumers. Athletes and exercisers are also finding that milk is the new sports drink. The massive market of Baby Boomers who have entered the Seniors category is being encouraged to look to milk for their health and wellness needs. Depending on the demographic, there has been massive growth in energy drinks and ready to drink beverages. For Millennials the energy sector has seen 56% growth between 2009 and 2014and the ready to drink market has had an astounding 166% growth since 2009.
A Day in the Life of Millennials and Milk
As a Baby Boomer, I have a fascination with labels put on the generations that precede and follow my own. Currently, Millennials are often profiled by groups whom we seek to understand them better for consumer, political or employability reasons. In the area of beverage consumption, statistics show that Millennials are a drinking crowd. They choose beverages for managing stress, combating fatigue, and for improving weight loss. Given their extreme use of digital tools they also look to beverages to assist in maintaining eye health. Savvy milk marketers promote the strong nutritional profiles of milk beverages as a way for Millennials to meet these goals. Milk energy drinks and milk-enhanced smoothies are becoming a well-recognized way to start a nutritious day. We have also learned from Millennials that the right beverage can help us to survive that mid-afternoon slump or a long night of computer research and study.
Milk Moves into First Place In Thirst Quenching
A study from August 2011 suggested that milk is superior to water and sports drinks at replenishing fluids following exercise. The study author was, Dr Brian Timmons, an assistant professor of medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario Canada.
“Milk is better than either a sports drink or water because it is a source of high-quality protein, carbohydrates, calcium and electrolytes,” He explained, “Milk has a high salt concentration which helps the body retain fluid better and replaces sodium that’s lost through sweating.” Results of the peer-reviewed findings were presented in Cornwall England at a conference on children and exercise. A simplified summary of the methodology explains, “McMaster researchers had 14 eight to 10-year-olds exercise on a stationary bike for 40 minutes, then gave them either skim milk, water, or a sports drink to measure hydration. After a two-hour recovery period, 75 per cent of the skim milk was retained in the milk drinkers, compared with 60 per cent from the sports drink, and 50 per cent from the water. Water drinkers also produced twice as much urine than milk drinkers.”
Packaging Also Impacts Consumer Choices
There are many considerations affecting consumer choices. On the one hand, the science proving health benefits reaches more audiences but, at the most basic level, clever advertising also has an impact. Probably the most significant change in the beverage marketing relates to how beverages are packaged. There are many new and innovative ways to drink milk. Wax milk cartons and the iconic Canadian bags of milk are now sharing shelf space with square bottles, round bottles, bottles with flip lids and containers with screw lids. Large and small bottles are competing to be seen as the handy and convenient option for consumers on the go who are looking for a quick meal replacement or satisfying hunger or thirst.
Is the Milk Industry Finding Ways to Be in The Right Place at The Right Time?
While it helps to educate the consumer about milk benefits, at the end of the day, the challenge boils down to making sure that milk beverages are available in the places where people are most likely consuming them. Milk marketers need to get milk into school lunch programs and office building lunchrooms. Milk needs to be at sporting events. Milk needs to sponsor health programs, senior’s activities and other public events for which milk benefits are recognized. The celebrity aspect of drinking milk is also a way to raise milk’s beverage profile. I read recently that the day could be coming soon when sports events, such as baseball and football, end their biggest finals at the end of the year by dumping a few gallons of milk on the coach!
Move Milk from The BUCKET LIST to The MILK-IT List
Perhaps it’s time to get milk moments onto our Dairy Bucket List? At the very least, we need to promote the MILK-IT list. We need to be able to talk fluently about the benefits of milk in today’s meal planning. Once we are comfortable sharing the benefits, we need to work socially, politically and on the home front to make sure milk is part of sports, social and business venues. We also can raise the profile of milk as part of a contribution to world economies and for those populations who face poor health due to environmental, economic or political issues.
The Bullvine Bottom Line
Whether you do your own personal household beverage survey, or you do research on the Beverage Industry in your province or state, the fact remains that today we have many more choices than ever before, when it comes to what we drink. If our dairy industry is to remain viable, we must take an active and involved interest. What drives you to drink milk?