Consumer acceptability of reduced fat milk
Campden BRI case study
Campden BRI has been instrumental in helping Dairy UK assess likely consumer reaction to new grades of reduced-fat milk. Understanding this reaction is a critical part of Dairy UK's strategy for helping the sector to better meet consumer needs, as Dr. Ed Komorowski, Technical Director of Dairy UK explains. "Changes in EU legislation now allow more flexible marketing of milk. This was previously restricted to whole milk at 3.6% fat, semi-skimmed milk at 1.6% fat, and skimmed milk at 0.5% fat – even though a wider range of fat contents, and consumer choices, is perfectly feasible. These changes help the sector respond to the drive by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) to reduce consumers' consumption of saturated fat."
Dairy UK & which represents the interests of dairy farmers, producer co-operatives, manufacturers of dairy products, and processors and distributors of liquid milk throughout the United Kingdom - commissioned Campden BRI to look at both sensory and consumer aspects of reduced fat milks.
Peter Burgess, Head of Consumer and Sensory Science at Campden BRI explains the approaches used. Sensory panelists were used to find an 'optimal' range of milk fat contents for use in consumer studies. A quantitative study was completed in which a cross-section of target consumers was asked to use these milks and identify their preferences, product acceptability and usage. A further qualitative study was undertaken to investigate buyer behaviour and explore reaction to the current and proposed milk merchandising activity."
Despite pre-test reservations about potential loss of taste in reduced fat milks, after tasting the reduced fat versions most focus group respondents were pleasantly surprised that the test samples delivered taste and texture at least as acceptable as the standard milks. And the quantitative studies showed that there was no real preference for either whole or semi-skimmed milk over their corresponding reduced fat alternatives.
Most importantly, the project provided Dairy UK with the information it needed to support the sector it serves - aptly illustrating Campden BRI's pursuit of the practical application of technical excellence.