Dairy producers are facing a new reality: As consumers look for beverages that suit their lifestyle, milk consumption is on the decline. With the introduction of new health-focused products such as infused water and high-protein nutritional beverages to the market, there is fierce competition for market share in the beverage industry.

To remain relevant, dairy producers must develop products that are on trend — while also addressing consumer concerns. Aseptic dairy solutions can be key to the launch of new or refined products, helping milk brands gain consumer loyalty and relevancy.

Tetra Pak conducted a study in conjunction with market-research firm Ipsos to gain insight into consumer perceptions about ambient milk. The 700-person survey revealed these perceptions:

  • Inferior taste and fresh factor: 48% think ambient milk won’t taste as good as chilled products. And because milk has long been associated with refrigeration for freshness, 33% still think aseptic products must be chilled for product integrity. In reality, the UHT process has evolved to a degree that the taste difference between extended-shelf-life (chilled) and ambient milk is minimal and likely undetected by the average consumer. Continual education can help combat this misperception.
  • For cooking only: 18% didn’t know when they would actually use the milk. Because aseptic dairy products are often merchandised in the baking aisle near products such as condensed and evaporated milk, many consumers associate aseptic dairy with cooking rather than drinking. Merchandising aseptic packaging in other areas of the store — including in the chilled section — may increase initial distribution cost, but the higher product turnover has the potential to increase the overall bottom line.
  • Full of preservatives: 18% incorrectly think aseptic dairy must have preservatives that keep the milk from spoiling. Consumers continue to gravitate toward natural or organic products as a result of their increasing interest in wellness. These savvy consumers check labels to ensure they don’t purchase preservatives or ingredients they find undesirable. Educating the consumer about aseptic dairy’s natural ingredients, as well as in-store merchandising in the health food aisle, can help combat the misconception.

Opportunities for ambient milk

While it may seem like a difficult road to convince consumers to move from purchasing traditional refrigerated white milk to ambient milk, aseptic solutions pave a way for dairy producers to capitalize on one or more consumer trends, including:

  • The value of value-add. The market for wellness beverages continues to grow. For example, people who exercise frequently or prioritize a balanced diet are looking for products that meet their wellness demands. Marketing aseptic beverages as natural and processed without added preservatives can provide a great opportunity to capitalize on this trend while delivering on demands for on-the-go options that don’t require refrigeration.
  • In sync with online. Approximately 10% of groceries and beverages are sold online, and the trend is growing. Dairy producers that want to leverage the power of e-commerce must offer products they can ship and store at ambient temperatures. Aseptic processing and packaging that protect product integrity while also extending product shelf life make this opportunity possible.
  • Emphasis on environmental impact and product quality. A growing number of consumers want to purchase sustainable products, and they want sustainable packaging. Aseptic carton packaging is one way to deliver on these demands. Since 75% of the average aseptic carton is made from renewable materials, these recyclable packages enable brands to demonstrate their commitment to reducing environmental impact. Further, because nonrenewable plastic containers are the most common choice brands use for refrigerated milk products, the innovative aesthetic qualities of aseptic packaging (shape, design and materials) can provide a way for the dairy brand to stand out.
  • Different, smaller sizes. While gallon and half-gallon dairy products are the most frequently purchased, there is plenty of opportunity for dairy brands to offer alternate package sizes. Products available in different or smaller sizes can help consumers reduce waste due to spoilage (and therefore save money) while meeting the specific needs of the whole family. 

Education is key

Educating consumers about the benefits of aseptic dairy needs to be ongoing. Dispelling myths and sharing product success stories are two ways to showcase the benefits.

By thinking about aseptic dairy in new ways and leveraging today’s beverage trends, producers can take steps toward competitive differentiation — and enjoy greater consumer reach and market share.