A look at health, convenience and retailing trends shows the strong give-and-take relationship between dairy brands and consumers. For example, consumers embraced the iconic California Milk Processor Board’s “Got Milk?” campaign promoting the connection between milk and good health. They also followed the recommendations of health organizations and scientists, switching from whole milk to 2% to skim and back again.

A more recent example is the meteoric rise in sales of Greek yogurt, a dairy food that also has significant health benefits. Sales of Greek yogurt rose from just 1% of total yogurt sales in 2007 to 44% in 2013.

As they embraced the connection between health and dairy products, consumers demanded healthful, convenient and wide-ranging options. Dairy processors, in turn, answered the call with low-fat products across the board, string cheese snacks, single-serve smoothies and much more.

Two other trends continue to impact the sector. The on-the-go lifestyle of many consumers is driving brands to adopt convenience-enhancing packaging. And as the dairy shelves become even more crowded, brands strive for differentiation, all the while adhering to retail requests for quick and easy set-up and display.

Trends meet solutions
Packaging is a vital strategy for brand owners adapting to changing customer preferences and the rising popularity of their products. The right packaging will not only provide shelf-impact but can even improve the quality of the foods themselves. Here are some recent examples of packaging innovations in the dairy industry today:

Retail-ready packaging (RRP) options for dairy foods, including pouches of shredded cheese, enable dairy brands to enhance the presentation of their products in stores. Implementing RRP solutions also increases convenience for retail staff. One solution is a carton that saves time and effort for grocery store clerks by eliminating the need to hang pouches of cheese from a peg.

Another new development in dairy food packaging is the use of clear tubs for frozen desserts, such as those used by Talenti Gelato. Transparent containers offer an understated look that stands out next to the brightly colored cardboard containers typically found in the ice cream aisle. In addition, the use of clear containers allows consumers to see what they are getting and enhances the natural presentation of the product.

Modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) uses a protective mix of gases – carbon dioxide and nitrogen in the case of cheese products – to increase the shelf life of foods. MAP is particularly effective for grated or sliced cheese products because it prolongs freshness, enhances flavor and makes slices of cheese easier to separate once the packet is open. The most recent improvements include new oxygen scavengers and film with anti-microbial properties.

Find ideas at Pack Expo
Dairy brand owners seeking the latest packaging and processing technologies can find them at the upcoming Pack Expo 2015, to be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center from Sept. 28 to 30. In addition to more than 1,800 exhibitors demonstrating the latest equipment and material innovations, attendees will have access to the Innovation Stage and its free educational sessions from industry leaders.

Dairy processors can also take advantage of networking opportunities at The Beverage Cooler Lounge, a networking hub that serves as a central meeting place and information center for beverage industry professionals at the show.