So far, 2023 has proven to be full of supply fluctuations, innovation, and a focus on sustainability. And 2024 already looks to be shaping up to be an interesting year, with an increased pressure on companies to innovate and expand product offerings.
As we look ahead to future change, here are the top four trends we can expect to see from top dairy companies in the year ahead.
1. Plant-based alternatives
Whether it's cashew, coconut, rice, almond, oats, or peas, customers are demanding non-dairy alternatives to the products they use on a daily basis.
Many dairy manufacturers are beginning to work with food scientists to introduce plant-based options to their product lines to appeal to plant-based consumers. Many of the new products coming to market will be non-GMO, organic, and non-dairy options with a short list of ingredients.
Specifically, a focus on plant-based cheese is likely in 2024 as consumers branch out from plant-based milks and look for alternatives for other frequently consumed dairy products.
2. Functional, nutritional products
In addition to plant-based options, consumers are increasingly interested in dairy products that offer additional health benefits. Dairy companies will continue to respond by introducing products fortified with functional ingredients, including:
- Probiotics — For example, many dairy brands are focusing on probiotic yogurts, drinks, and fermented milk products that contain specific strains of beneficial bacteria.
- Vitamins — For example, calcium and vitamin D are commonly added to dairy products to support bone health.
- Minerals — For example, omega-3 fatty acids, known for their potential heart health benefits, may be added to dairy products.
3. More milk, lower prices
Milk is projected up $2.2 billion pounds in 2024 (about 1% from 2023). That means that the production increases we saw in the top 24 milk-producing states (approximately 0.5% increases) will carry through into the new year.
According to the USDA, we can expect to see milk prices decrease to under $20 per hundredweight as follows:
|Dairy Category||Anticipated 2023 Price (per cwt)|
4. An emphasis on product differentiation
As consumers look to plant-based milk alternatives and prioritize sustainability, they'll be looking for dairy brands to stand out. We are likely to see popular brands revitalize their branding, similar to Chobani's logo change. We'll also begin to see more sustainable product packaging innovation and new product and flavor rollouts as dairy manufacturers work to stand out on the shelves.
Image credit: UnderConsideration LLC
So, what are consumers looking for from dairy manufacturers? Studies have found that 88% of customers want to buy from companies that help them make a difference, and 76% of Americans would switch their preferred packaging goods brands if they were offsetting carbon emissions. These will both play a big part in consumer decision-making in the new year.
Where should you focus for 2024?
The key to a successful year is to do what makes sense for your business — while it's important to follow trends and be aware of how these changes are impacting consumer behavior and revenue generation, no one solution or focus area will be the perfect fit for all dairy plants.
Interested in staying on top of upcoming trends and the current state of the dairy industry? We'll be keeping a close eye on these trends and other emerging areas of focus and keeping dairy experts informed on our blog.