Understanding consumer preference on sugar reduction: flavored milk

Flavored milk has undergone a transformation in recent years. There are now more flavors than ever before and varieties developed to appeal to adults as well as children. But with pressure to cut sugar consumption mounting, what does the future hold for manufacturers striving to deliver innovation in this area?

Flavored milk at school, at home, at the gym…anywhere! 

These days, supermarkets offer ranges of flavored milk to tempt almost every palate, age-group and – importantly – every lifestyle. From a sleekly packaged, chilled café latte-style drink to a chocolate milk packed with vitamins and designed to be the ideal post-workout recovery fuel, flavored milk has become a hot-bed of innovation and a dairy success story in the face of declining or stagnant sales in some mature markets. Based on a consumer perception survey undertaken across five key markets (USA, China, Brazil, Spain and Germany), this paper is the third in a series of global insight reports focusing on sugar reduction.

"Reducing added sugar means re-thinking milk flavorings as even natural fruit flavors can come with a hit of sugar while many favorite flavors – such as chocolate and caramel – depend on sugar for the sweet taste that consumers love."

Consumption of sugared / sweetened dairy products as a whole (flavored milk, spoonable yogurt and drinking yogurt) is on the rise for a significant proportion of consumers globally. Fifty-three percent of those surveyed say their children consume more of these foods / beverages today than they did three years ago, and 34% said they themselves were eating more. Looking to the future, 50% said that their children would probably or definitely eat more sugared dairy in three years’ time while 29% said they themselves probably or definitely would, suggesting that the astonishing growth seen in flavored milk sales since 2015 could be set to continue.

How do consumer preferences drive nutritional content? 

Milk is an ideal vehicle for so many flavors and nutrients that, with today’s dynamic palate of ingredients and enzymes, the possibilities for creating innovative milk products not only to meet consumers’ health demands but to inspire them to try new and healthful sugar-reduced options are endless. 

Understanding why people choose flavored milk drinks is a key piece of the jigsaw in helping manufacturers get to grips with the importance of sugar content to flavored milk drinkers. Of those surveyed, 55% said they chose to drink flavored milk because of its taste, but for 45% of people it was the benefits for bone health that attracted them.

Food Fact

Reducing lactose can lower the overall sugar content of a flavored milk product (5.6g in 200ml9) and can be used alongside reductions in added sugar to find a solution that offers the optimal balance of sugar content and flavor to create products that deliver on taste as well as consumers’ health needs and preferences. 

DSM Solution

  • DSM's Maxilact® reduces sugar in dairy products like flavored milks and sugared yogurts by up to 20%

  • Of the countries involved in the survey, the newer markets for packaged dairy products, China and Brazil, have seen the strongest flavored milk growth: 19%

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Published on

17 February 2019