The Dairy Council of California, Sacramento, works on behalf of California dairy farmers and milk processors to provide free nutrition lesson plans and programs to school children and their families. The council said these 10 trends affect or influence milk consumption this year. (Read an extended version of this article at

1. Protein is a hot food component
Once esteemed only by athletes to build muscle mass, protein’s list of benefits expands to other groups as well — from dieters in their weight-management efforts to older adults trying to maintain their muscle mass and function. Some authorities believe the current Recommended Dietary Allowance should be 50% higher than the current 46 grams per day recommended for women and 56 grams per day for men. Research is also focusing on type and timing of protein intake throughout the day to optimize body composition, blood pressure, satiety, insulin sensitivity, weight management and other health considerations.

2. Diabetes incidence continues to escalate
It is estimated that one in 10 adults in the United States today is diabetic, and if current trends continue this will reach one in three by 2050. Almost all states have seen increases in diabetes incidence over the past few years, explained by the close association of overweight and type 2 diabetes. Weight loss, physical activity and food intake based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans are the cornerstones to diabetes management.

3. Food and health choices will be incentivized
With the rise in worksite wellness programs, the upcoming implementation of universal health care and the strong evidence that prevention is more effective than treatment, our model of health care is changing. Companies are offering discounts, providing wellness clinics and incentivizing healthy behaviors; hospital chains are facilitating lifestyle changes before writing prescriptions; and registered dietitians, health educators and nurse practitioners are being recruited to help educate patients about healthy habits.

4. Obesity-related diseases still a health crisis
Obesity is now the leading cause of disabilities around the world. For the first time in history, obesity-related diseases — rather than communicable diseases — are the leading cause of sickness and injury. However, in some cities such as New York and Los Angeles, childhood obesity rates are plateauing or even dropping slightly.
Progress toward reducing the prevalence of overweight/obesity is credited to public health efforts such as exercise programs, new snack guidelines, revamped school meal regulations, less “junk food” advertising to children, calorie listings on restaurant menus, availability of reduced fat/calorie products and other public policy efforts.

5. Challenges to milk consumption continue
There are many alternative beverages that people are choosing over milk, including water, juice, sports drinks and alternative milk beverages such as soy, almond and rice beverages. Many complex factors such as economics; nutrition; and concerns about weight management, the environment and animal welfare affect consumer choices. In addition, some consumers are seeking organic; low cholesterol; lactose-, additive-, hormone- and antibiotic-free options because of perceived health benefits. Some are simply looking to minimize use of animal products and are instead leaning toward more plant-based diets.

6. Focus on sustainability expands
Leaders in the sustainability dialogue are recognizing that sustainable diets must consider both the environmental costs and nutritional contributions of a food — which is a shift from a few years ago when carbon footprint was all that mattered. Emerging research involves modeling studies that account for both factors and suggest a more comprehensive approach to sustainable diets.

7. Breakfast: is it making a comeback?
Breakfast is now thought to help control weight, maintain blood sugar and energy levels, and even reduce risk of diabetes. Restaurants are catching on and giving customers what they want — more healthful and portable items such as breakfast burritos, breakfast sandwiches and yogurt parfaits — which is contributing to the nearly 20% increase in breakfast food sales in the past five years.

8. Yogurt’s “health halo” due in part to probiotics
Yogurt sales continue to be strong, driven by innovation of new products, packaging and the perceived “health halo.” Three-quarters of yogurt consumption is reported to be in the home, and it is no longer being eaten just at breakfast but rather at all meals and snack times. The biggest consumers are the 18- to 34-year age group as well as the 45- to 64-year group, but yogurt appeals to people across all age ranges from children to seniors.

9. Transparency is key to trust in food choices
As with any relationship, consumers must trust their food — and the manufacturers of their food — to form a long-term purchasing and consuming commitment. Trust is built through consistency and transparency: knowing where food comes from, the people who make it, how animals were treated, the origin of recipes and the impact on the environment. Claims made about food products must stand up to consumer scrutiny. If food producers and manufacturers fall short, either by lack of transparency or by providing inaccurate or misleading information, they could lose customers forever.

10. Social marketing and networking increasingly influence shoppers
The internet and social media continue to be strong influences in the shopping habits of consumers. They are looking to compare prices, prepare shopping lists, find recipes and collect information on food products such as country of origin and nutritional benefits. Many retailers have developed supermarket loyalty programs and apps that reward their shoppers with personalized discounts and other services. Dairy products are positioned strongly, with their healthful array of nutrients, modest contribution to carbon footprint, affordability and versatility of products.

– Contributed by the Dairy Council of California