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  • Author: Christina Howlett, Dairy Sector, Bord Bia - The Irish Food Board

     

    Dairy hybrids are blended products involving plant proteins being incorporated into dairy products. Brands can harness the taste and health benefits of both products, offering the best of both worlds to consumers while meeting evolving consumer demands (Mintel, 2020).

     

    Plant-based dairy alternatives are becoming increasingly popular, not only among vegans, but non-vegans alike. However, consumers arguably are not ready to commit fully to a plant-based diet. It’s important to understand what drives the current ’flexitarian’ trend, where consumers are increasing their intake of plant-based foods and limiting animal product consumption. 75% of the UK population who use plant-based  alternatives also use standard dairy milk, and this clearly highlights that the usage of plant-based drinks are not limited to people following an exclusively plant-based diet (Mintel, 2020b). The biggest users of non-dairy alternatives are 16-24 year olds, however 55% of this age group and 63% of total plant-based drink users in the UK would be interested in trying dairy milk that is blended with a plant-based alternative (Mintel 2020b). This compares to 35% of dairy milk consumers.

     

    It’s crucial to recognize that the nutritional values of dairy products and plant based alternatives are not equal, but both can offer us key benefits. Plant-based diets are usually high in natural sources of dietary fibre whereas protein is readily available in dairy (Walsh, 2019).

     

    There are many motivations for buying dairy hybrid products, many of which overlap with one another. Consumers may want to boost protein intake, cut dairy in the interest of a lactose free diet or add more vegetables to their diet. Blends offer an easy way to achieve these goals (Mellentin, 2020).

     

    For millennial mothers, if >20% of the product contains vegetables, the product is given a health halo to make it seem like a better choice. Most people don’t want to replace dairy completely, they just want to get more vegetables into their diets. Peekaboo ice cream features hidden veggies and is targeted at ‘picky eaters’ – children and adults alike. It promotes the tagline ‘veggies in every bite’ and uses health-halo of plants to create a product that gives permission to consumers to indulge (Mellentin, 2020).

     

    An example of a brand that is leading in the hybrid space is Live Real Farms Dairy. Their 50:50 blend of lactose-free dairy milk with a non-dairy alternative such as oats or almonds looks for a balance between dairy and non-dairy, and provides the lactose free digestive wellness benefit which makes it a strong motivator for people choosing plant-based non-dairy drinks (Mintel, 2020)(New Nutrition Business, 2020).

    Post-COVID-19, it’s more important than ever for dairy brands to keep up to date with new consumer demands, which have been accelerated due to the pandemic. The growing trend of flexitarianism opens the space for hybrid dairy products.

     

    References

    • Faulkner F (2020) Bord Bia Dairy Review. Mintel.
    • Mellentin J (2020) Hybrid strategy – harnessing the health halo of plants. New Nutrition Business.
    • Mintel (2020b) Dairy and Non-Dairy Drinks, Milk and Cream: Inc Impact of COVID-19 – UK – May 2020
    • Vlietstra K. (2019) Embrace dairy alternatives for high-protein ice cream. Mintel.
    • Walsh M (2019) Dairy alternatives - how do they compare? Dairy Nutrition Forum.