ROSEMONT, Ill. -- A new, preliminary study of dairy ingredients indicates that consumers prefer products for their superior flavor and texture and associate them with qualities such as natural, nutritious, fresh and appealing in taste.
According to Dairy Management Inc. here, the first-phase, qualitative research effort conducted this past April is sought to provide the organization with a better understanding of what dairy ingredients consumers are most comfortable with, in hopes of encouraging processors to stick to more basic ingredients in the future, according to Jeanne Turner, DMI spokeswoman.
Simple formulations were preferred by the initial, limited-member focus group, who agreed that they feel overwhelmed, at times, by the constantly changing health issues presented by the media, and are relying more on their own common sense to evaluate and purchase products.
"This information... indicates that manufacturers who concentrate on the positive aspects of their product -- using ingredients that promote the nutritional value, goodness, flavor and freshness of their product line -- will win consumers' loyalty and trust," said Bill Haines, vice president of business-to-business marketing for DMI.
The study found that many shoppers rely on the Nutritional Facts panel found on all dairy labels for information that will help determine their purchases. Participants stated that labels with long lists of synthetics, additives, preservatives or fillers would discourage them from buying a product.
To that end, Turner stressed that the study was not a direct attempt to draw comparisons to dairy-free beverages, particularly soy-based products, which have become explosively popular in recent months. Nevertheless, the consumer panel found that long names on ingredient labels are discouraging, and Turner acknowledged some of those long names included the word soy.
At the same time, though the consumers said they don't always recognize some dairy ingredients, they expressed positive feelings about the category as a whole.
"Consumers recognize the inherent natural goodness of dairy," said Haines. "This points out a great opportunity for dairy processors and food manufacturers alike."
This latest focus group survey will be followed up later this spring when DMI conducts more in-depth quantitative consumer research that will focus on discovering factors that influence food-purchasing decisions and gather more opinions on dairy ingredients.