This week, the Dairy Council of California released an updated list of dietary and consumer trends that are likely to impact the dairy industry in the next one to three years.

Topping the list, an acknowledgement of skyrocketing diabetes rates and how they will impact the health of Americans.

According to Lori Hoolihan, nutrition research specialist with the Council, Americans will become more focused on sugar, calories and sodium as they try to tackle some of the health-care challenges. Already, chocolate milk is being scrutinized by some school districts because of the sugar. School board and other decision-makers may become so myopic on sugar and calories that they fail to see the overall nutritional quality of the food item in question, including chocolate milk which provides children with calcium, protein and essential vitamins. 

“We need to fight back against those unintended consequences that are happening out there,” Hoolihan told Dairy Herd Management.  

See the commentary in today’s newsletter, “Look at the ‘big picture’ rather than just calories.”

Here are a couple of the other trends identified by the Dairy Council: 

  • Early lifestyle habits are critical to disease prevention. The dietary and lifestyle habits that children acquire at an early age have an important influence later in life. So, the push will be on to teach children and their parents healthy eating habits. Hoolihan says this is an opportunity for the dairy industry, since any focus on health eating habits is likely to include milk. And, if children become good milk-drinkers, they are likely to pass that on to the next generation. “If you are a parent who grew up drinking milk, you will serve milk to your kids,” she says.  
  •  More and more research emphasizes the importance of calcium and vitamin D in the diet, but recent updates to government guidelines did not go far enough in endorsing these nutrients. Further emphasis on calcium and vitamin D will enforce the value of milk, since milk is an important source of those nutrients. “Dairy is the primary source of vitamin D in diets,” Hoolihan says. “Right now, we really have the monopoly on vitamin D,” she adds, although that may change in the future as other foods become fortified with vitamin D.  

Hoolihan says the Dairy Council of California staff developed and updated this list by monitoring more than 50 publications in the scientific and health community and attending numerous conferences.

 “These are the priority trends we want the (dairy) industry to be aware of, so they are seeing things coming down the pike,” she says. “We use this to educate the industry.”

Besides the three trends already named, here are the other seven:

  • Nutritional milk components (such as vitamin D and calcium) continue to gain positive research attention.
  • Sustainability (such as helping the environment and reducing our carbon footprint) is increasingly a factor in consumer food decisions.
  • Social networking and mobile apps are enabling more consumer-direct communications.
  • Demographic changes sub-segment audiences and the approaches to reach them.
  • A variety of other “gatekeepers” (such as nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants) are expanding our traditional health care practices.
  • The food industry is under increasing pressure to reformulate products.
  • Convenience, economics and health are influencing our food choices.