Heng Hong Tan
Heng Hong is Mintel's APAC Food and Drink analyst based in Kuala Lumpur. He comes with over a decade's worth of experience identifying emerging food and drink trends.

As children in Southeast Asia grow and shift to eating a varied diet, they tend to consume less dairy. In Thailand, 71% of parents with children aged 4-7 buy cow’s milk, compared to 58% of those with older children aged 8-12. However, there are also barriers to dairy consumption including cost, not being part of the traditional diet, lactose intolerance and competition from other soft drinks.

ASEAN Secretariat data shows there were 164 million people in Southeast Asia aged 5-19 in 2020. Here are some ways that dairy brands can re-engage with children aged 5-12:

Innovate with interesting formats

Dairy brands can tap into playability to offer consumers new and playful experiences. One example is the KIN Bulgarian Yogurt Slurp by Indonesia’s ABC Kogen Dairy which can be eaten on its own, with cereal, or frozen like an ice stick. 

KIN Bulgarian Yogurt Slurp provides a new experience for enjoying yogurt (Indonesia); Source: Kindairy.com

Creating “edutainment” content can also appeal to the young demographic who are now spending more time online. The Mintel 2022 Global Consumer Trend ‘Enjoyment Everywhere’ notes that after enduring lockdowns, consumers are eager to break out of their confines and explore, play and embrace novel experiences, both virtually and in the real world. 

In 2021, the Vietnamese dairy company Nutifood created NuVi World, an imaginary world, to support the launch of its NuVi series formulated for brain and height development. The NuVi World franchise includes video content, online/offline games and printed publications.

NuVi World is said to offer meaningful content for children (Vietnam); Source: Nutimilk

Offer lactose-free options

Lactose intolerance is a common issue affecting Southeast Asians. In Indonesia, the prevalence of lactose malabsorption rises with age, reaching 21% at age 3-5, 58% at age 6-11 and 73% at age 12-14, according to a study published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

To make dairy suitable for children who suffer from lactose intolerance, companies can introduce lactose-free products (including those for school milk programs). Brands can also consider ultra-filtered milk, which is still a new concept in this part of the region. Ultra-filtered milk is free from lactose and has reduced sugar.

Lactose-free MilkLife Plain UHT Milk (Indonesia)

Address concerns around added sugar

Rising levels of childhood obesity and overweight have spurred demand for reduced sugar options in both plain and flavoured milk. Dairy players can formulate with less sugar by using natural sweeteners like dates.

Demonstrating third-party verification or measurements via rating systems such as the “Healthier Choice” program can also allay concerns about dairy milk’s added sugar content.

Origina Tamar Raisin Flavoured Milk with Saffron Extract is free from added sugar (Malaysia)

What we think

Competition abounds for dairy milk, flavoured milk and yogurt as children have access to alternatives or competing options such as soy milk (which is traditionally consumed as a staple in markets like Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore), malted beverages, sweetened condensed milk and soft drinks. 

Making dairy milk more interesting through innovative formats, gamification in both online and offline spaces, and elevating its health benefits with lactose-free and better-for-you (sugar-free) variants, can position it as an indulgent yet nutritious drink among young consumers.