Dairy facts can make consumers buy more milk, study finds

Friday, 01 March, 2024

Dairy facts can make consumers buy more milk, study finds

Fluid milk consumption has seen a decline among US consumers since the 1960s. To reverse this trend—and ensure consumers are getting adequate amounts of dairy in their diets — the US dairy sector developed educational materials to reach consumers through informational infographics, TV and print ads, and social media. But do these types of messages actually work?

A study in JDS Communications, published by the American Dairy Science Association and Elsevier, demonstrates that when consumers are empowered with the facts on dairy’s nutritional benefits, they buy and consume more dairy products — including cheese, ice cream, yoghurt and especially milk.

Lead investigator Stephanie Clark, PhD, who recently retired from the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Iowa State University, explained, “We set out to educate those who consume an inadequate amount of dairy (less than three servings of dairy per day, according to The Dietary Guidelines for Americans) about various topics related to dairy nutrition, test their retention of information, and if increasing their knowledge around dairy motivates purchasing and consumption of dairy products.”

Clark and the research team conducted their study in three phases: a screening survey, nominal focus groups and a final follow-up survey with voluntary adult participants. In the first phase, a total of 4542 adults completed the team’s 15-question screening survey.

“After the initial screening survey was closed, we funnelled out a group of 195 participants for the nominal focus groups based on their interest in participating, lack of any food allergies, and the fact that they were reporting consuming less than three servings of dairy per day,” Clark said.

Four infographics were developed to help educate research participants about food labels and dairy concepts: nutrition facts panels, lactose maldigestion, nine essential nutrients, and prebiotics and probiotics.

During the nominal focus groups phase, facilitators administered a pre-survey to the participants, then walked them through the infographics lesson, before administering an ice cream acceptability test. Three samples of ice cream were tasted, and the facilitators explained the nutrition facts panels and ingredient statements of each, with attention given to the differences in lactose and added sugar among the samples.

“Unlike traditional focus groups, where data are collected from interacting panellists, our goal with the nominal format — involving limited interactions between participants — was to deliver educational information to the participants efficiently,” Clark said.

After the ice cream test, participants received a post-survey and another survey one month later.

The study results show that attending the nominal focus groups had a significant and positive effect on dairy product purchasing and consumption between the pre-survey and the one-month follow-up survey.

“Average dairy product purchasing increased to 4.4 servings per week, a 26% increase. Average consumption of each dairy product also increased — 23% for cheese, 20% for ice cream, 26% for yogurt and a staggering 53% increase for milk,” Clark said.

In total, overall participant dairy consumption rose to eight servings per week, or a 35% jump.

“The result for milk consumption was the stand-out in our results, with every focus group seeing milk consumption go up by at least one serving per week.”

Despite these positive results, the research team was quick to point out that participants did not reach the recommended 21 servings of dairy per week. They stressed the importance of additional research to understand the long-term impacts of education on dairy in the diet, or if improvements to the educational materials or delivery might enhance their impact.  

Overall, this study demonstrates that carefully constructed educational messages on the benefits and nutritional attributes of dairy foods can positively influence consumer behaviour, leading to increased purchasing and consumption of dairy foods.

Image credit: iStock.com/skynesher

Related News

PepsiCo reveals APAC Greenhouse Accelerator Program 2024 finalists

PepsiCo has unveiled the 10 finalists selected for the APAC Greenhouse Accelerator Program 2024.

New Zealand Food Safety: changes for importers of frozen berries

New Zealand Food Safety has published a revised Food Notice for importers and food imported for...

Kelp could be the next big in-SEA-dient

Kelp seaweed could be one of the next big sustainable ingredients to watch out for in new food...

  • All content Copyright © 2024 Westwick-Farrow Pty Ltd