The growing popularity of functional products and the proven probiotic qualities of acid dairy drinks means that growth in this category is set to continue, writes Philippe Barey.

Acid dairy drinks are a worldwide growth phenomenon that looks set to continue as consumers seek out foods with proven probiotic qualities. Over the past three years, the compound annual growth rate for products in the gut health market has been over 40% per annum and by far the largest category within this is dairy-based products.

As Julian Mellentin, director for the Centre for Food & Health Studies, maintains in New Nutrition Magazine, "Consumers think dairy when they think probiotics." 

In the UK alone, sales of daily dose probiotic drinks now exceed GBP225.84m (US$450m) and the growth in consumption levels there is mirrored both in other European countries and in the newer markets for acid dairy drinks of North America and China. Currently Asia accounts for around 50% to 60% of the global acid dairy drinks market.

Classified as an acidified protein liquid system with a stability and viscosity similar to natural milk, acid dairy drinks are usually composed of a acid dairy phase (fermented base), or a neutral base, blended with an acidic medium (fruit pulp or concentrate), which can be flavoured. Sugar and stabilisers are also added. It has been proven since the late 1950s that adding high methoxyl pectin (HM pectin) to acid milk drinks is the best way to prevent the formation of sediment.

Acid dairy drinks represent one of the fastest growing sectors in the healthy food and drinks market.  As the market for these products continues to mature, manufacturers will find opportunities to add value to the basic probiotic product, not only in terms of flavours, textures and packaging methods, but also in terms of the additional health benefits that can be gained from incorporating other ingredients to the basic product concept. 

Examples of this trend include the fortification of acid dairy drinks with anti-oxidants such as Coenzyme Q10 and vitamins A, C and E. This helps to broaden the appeal of products beyond their original market positioning. 

In particular, the opportunity presents itself to meet the growing requirement from consumers for products that work on synergistic health effects in the human body, with innovative products that exploit the synergy between carefully selected functional ingredients.

Source: Soft Drinks International
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Philippe Barey is Dairy Application Lead for Europe/Middle-East/Africa at Cargill Texturizing Solutions.