35% of Irish consumers limiting or moderating some element of dairy – NDC

A total of 35% of Irish consumers are limiting or moderating some element of dairy, according to the results of a consumer survey carried out by the National Dairy Council (NDC) in 2017.

This is most prevalent – 41% – among young Irish women; the key drivers of avoidance among young women are fat, allergy and intolerance, the survey found.

Despite this, results show that – ahead of the fruit and vegetable sector – dairy production is seen most positively ahead of fish, meat and poultry.

The NDC indicated that 75% of consumers believe Ireland’s grass-fed dairy is superior to most other countries, with 74% expressing trust in dairy farmers to behave properly.

The most positive views of dairy farming are held by older respondents, those from a farming background and people living rurally, it added.

Social media influencers

The chief executive of the NDC, Zoe Kavanagh, has been critical of ‘social media influencers‘.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, she said: “Traditionally, we would have talked about dairy very much in a family setting around the kitchen table. We would have used traditional media to promote the product and the benefits of the product.

“Now we have a situation where our consumers have very busy lives and are consuming most of their information through an online media.

There are lots of individuals setting themselves up as experts and almost suggesting that there is a short circuit to beautiful image and health. The reality is that they are not experts and we would almost say we are living in an era of the demise of the expert.

Kavanagh explained that young females – particularly those aged between 20 and 29 – have been deemed the ‘uneasy consumer’. She indicated that the motivation to consume dairy for men is at 75%; but, for women it is actually only at 68%.

“That figure was really curious to me; because, our future mums of Ireland and existing mums of Ireland are key decision makers in the household. If the motivation to consume on health grounds is a question in that young female, I want to understand more what’s going on there.

“Through their sources of information, which are now the social media channels, they look to get their information about diet; because, they want to make smart choices.

“But, what [young females] have told us is that they are really confused, because they are getting a very mixed message around what they should eat,” she said.

‘Ireland is the best dairy producing nation in the world’

Continuing, Kavanagh said: “Ireland is the best dairy producing nation in the world and I can say that for three reasons: it’s based on grass, which is quite unique; it’s a family farming model, where animals are outdoors grazing 300 days of the year; and we produce a portfolio of products that is the envy of the world.

In terms of how we are performing in the marketplace, milk, yogurt, cream, cheese and butter are all in growth. When we dig into the figures, we can see that our trust scores for dairy are very, very high – they are nearly at 80%.

According to the NDC, Ireland is the second highest milk consuming nation in Europe after Finland. The average household consumption is 6.45L/week – driven mainly by households with kids, under 50’s and farming families.

It argued that, despite fortification with calcium and some other nutrients, plant-based dairy alternatives lack many of the “important nutrients naturally and uniquely provided by milk”.