vivaIconic cream cheese brand Philadelphia has launched its first yogurt range in Canada with a new drinkable yogurt called Philadelphia Viva Protein Yogurt Smoothies. Although the main ingredient is skim milk, marketers working on the new Viva packaging felt the need to add the claim, “made with real dairy,” as the product formulation does not fit well with consumers’ appetite for clean ingredient lists.

The claim “made with real milk” suggests that the brand does not take for granted consumers’ awareness and understanding of the products’ benefits. In Canada, dairy brands seem to be doing things right to reinforce the credentials of “real dairy,” as suggested by the confusion that surrounds the benefits of dairy alternatives.

The health benefits of non-dairy milk resonate only among a relative minority of Canadian milk drinkers. Just 13% perceive non-dairy milk to be easier to digest than dairy milk, and a similar number of Canadians also perceive non-dairy milk products to be healthier to drink overall, according to Mintel’s report on dairy and non-dairy milk in Canada.

Yet plant-based dairy is finding success in the Canadian market, enjoying high household penetration and buoyant innovation. Two in five Canadian consumers drank non-dairy milk in the three months to January 2017, with almond milk ranking as the most popular plant-based milk, followed by soy milk and coconut milk. What’s more, among dairy drinks launched in Canada in the last year, 39% were plant-based drinks, compared to just a quarter that were drinking yogurts.

In the US, where the plant-based dairy market is more developed, non-dairy milk is also creating confusion among consumers. US consumers are worryingly losing trust in milk’s inherent and undeniable goodness, while gaining limited understanding of the supposed superior health benefits of non-dairy milk. Yet neither non-dairy nor dairy milk have managed to convince all consumers of their health benefits. In fact, 45% of US consumers would say that neither non-dairy nor dairy milk are high in protein and three in 10 believe that neither are healthy for adults, according to Mintel’s US report on non-dairy milk.

What we think

Plant-based milks built their success on borrowing cues from dairy brands, creating some confusion among consumers in the process. As plant-based milk enters the mainstream, dairy brands need to shout louder about their differences. Dairy brands can’t assume consumers, in particular younger ones, know the benefits of “real milk.” However, the dairy industry has a lot to celebrate as milk is still perceived by many as a natural and healthy food.

Caroline Roux is Research Manager, Food & Drink at Mintel, heading up the global food and drink analyst team based in London and acting as a specialist for the dairy category. She provides robust consumer insights and realistic recommendations to dairy companies, tracking global innovation and consumer trends to assist clients in their growth strategies.

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