With dairy farming coming under increased scrutiny in recent years, it seems that animal welfare and local claims are today of central importance to milk buyers. New research from Mintel reveals that half of Germans (51%) see ‘locally sourced’ as one of the most important qualities when buying milk, while over seven in 10 (72%) German consumers state that milk packaging should contain more information about the sourcing of the product, up from 43% of consumers who said the same in 2016.

When it comes to conditions of production, over two thirds (68%) of German consumers are interested in purchasing milk from cows that have only been fed grass or hay. Meanwhile, animal welfare is an important factor for over two thirds (35%) of German consumers, up from 31% who said the same in 2016. Additionally, Mintel research found that fair treatment of milk farmers resonates highly, with nearly four in 10 (37%) Germans consumers citing it as one of the most influential factors in their purchase decision.

Julia Büch, Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel, said:

Sustainability has become an increasingly important quality factor in the German milk sector, especially with regards to animal welfare, where the support of natural behaviours, such as grass-grazing, is quickly turning into a consumer expectation. With consumer interest in the sourcing of their milk products increasing, companies have to follow suit to fulfill this demand for responsibly sourced dairy products. With the perception of the intensification of dairy farming across Europe well underway, brands need to increase their efforts to meet consumers’ need for reassurance and make their credentials in this area more tangible.

Across major European markets, consumers seem to consider a guaranteed high animal welfare an important factor in their milk purchasing decisions. While this share is highest in Germany (35%), it is also an important factor for one in three (32%) Italian consumers, one quarter of French and Spanish consumers (23% respectively) and 19% of those in Poland.

With strong consumer interest in ethical claims, it seems that companies have been innovating as a result. According to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), between 2012 and 2016, the share of animal welfare claims in Germany’s white milk category has seen a strong rise from 5% to 22% in total milk launches.

A similar trend can be observed in wider Europe, where product launches with animal welfare claims have more than doubled in the past two years. While only 6% of launches in 2014 carried an animal welfare claim, this increased to 14% of launches across Europe in 2016. Currently the Netherlands are the leading market for these claims, with 80% of white milk launches in 2016 carrying an animal welfare claim, followed by Portugal (66%), France (33%), and Denmark (30%).

In Germany as well as in wider Europe, animal welfare claims in dairy drinks are turning into one of the central selling points. These claims predominantly focus on grass-grazing, which is increasingly turning into an important image factor. With a growing share of products marketed as ‘made of meadow milk’, ‘pasture milk’ or ‘grass-fed milk’, attributes that could long be taken for granted are today re-gaining relevance.” Julia adds.

Dairy Press Release Infographic-ENG

While animal welfare seems to be an increasingly important topic across Europe, not all sustainability concerns are considered equally important. While nearly four in 10 (37%)German consumers see the fair treatment of farmers as one of the most important factors in their milk buying decisions, fewer consumers in other major European markets, such as Poland (13%), Italy (14%) and Spain (22%), share this sentiment.

This is reflected in the number of new sustainable product launches across the continent. In wider Europe, milk launches claiming fair treatment of farmers only represented 3% of all launches in 2016. The share of ‘fair for farmers’ milk introductions was highest in Austria, with 12% of their launches claiming to guarantee fair pay to farmers, followed by the UK with 11% and Germany with 10%. In Germany, that share has grown significantly, from only 2% of launches in 2012 to 10% of all launches in 2016, mirroring the growth in concern among German consumers.

The local sourcing of their milk is also of greater concern to Germans than to consumers in neighbouring countries, with 51% of German consumers claiming to prioritize locally sourced dairy in their purchasing decisions, while the share falls to 30% in Spain, 36% in Poland and 39% in France.

Mintel research additionally highlights some of the other drivers of innovation in the German milk market. With 27% of German consumers saying organic is an important claim when buying milk, organic milk continues to innovate at a strong rate, with 36% of new product launches in Germany in 2016 carrying this claim. Significant growth in innovation can be observed in the GMO-free milk segment, where 44% of new launches in 2016 claimed to be GMO free, up from 20% of launches that claimed the same in 2012. Other ‘free-from’ launches are however in decline in Germany, as launches claiming ‘low/no/reduced’ allergens and lactose have been decreasing over recent years, with both slowing down from 18% of all new milk launches in Germany 2012 to 11% in 2016.

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