DENMARK – The recent Dairy Innovation Strategies 2024 conference held in Copenhagen provided a platform for industry leaders to explore innovation and sustainability in the dairy sector, amid growing consumer interest in plant-based alternatives.

Hosted by Arena International Events Group, the event featured discussions highlighting the need for the dairy industry to evolve and adapt to changing consumer preferences.

Patrik Hansson, Chief Marketing Officer of Arla Foods, emphasized the importance of modernizing the dairy sector’s messaging to resonate with younger consumers.

Hansson stressed the need for innovative approaches to engage the next generation and make dairy products more appealing.

How do we get the next generation to enjoy our products? We need to find ways to innovate in a different way to attract the cool kids of the next generation. How do we make all this fun? That’s the way to change the behaviour of consumers.”

In addition, he noted that it is the industry’s responsibility to address consumer confusion regarding healthy food choices and underscored the potential of science-driven innovations to meet evolving consumer needs, labeling it as “dairy 2.0.”

 “Eighty per cent of people say they are confused as consumers as to what is healthy or unhealthy food. That is a big, big problem and we need to tackle it as an industry,” he said.

During the event, collaboration emerged as a recurring theme, with Thomas Ryan, Head of Agri-Sustainability and Customer Engagement at Irish dairy group Tirlán, advocating for greater cooperation across the supply chain to ensure a sustainable future.

Ryan emphasized the importance of open dialogue and shared responsibility in addressing sustainability challenges.

“My view is that there is a need for greater collaboration. We need to have a very mature and open conversation [around these issues] – and an honest discussion on who bears the costs and where.”

He argued dairy companies have to be sustainable as their customers and end consumers are demanding but he also stressed further investment it is the right thing to do.

Notably, carrying on the theme of sustainability, Thijs Geijer, Senior Sector Economist at ING Bank, shed light on the potential of net-zero strategies to drive innovation in the dairy industry, highlighting the need for coordinated efforts to reduce carbon emissions across the value chain.

He emphasized the significant role of dairy processors in emissions reduction and the financial implications of implementing sustainable solutions.

With sustainability a key topic at the conference, plant-based alternatives took center stage, with representatives from companies like Oatly and Naturli’ showcasing their products and sustainability initiatives.

Lana Lolfing, Sustainability Manager at Oatly, emphasized the environmental benefits of plant-based diets and the importance of transparency in driving consumer behaviour change.

Henrik Lund, CEO of Naturli’ Foods, highlighted the company’s consumer-driven innovation approach and emphasized collaboration between dairy and plant-based sectors.

Despite challenges, Mark Dempsey, Senior Consulting Director at GlobalData, emphasized the importance of continued innovation in the dairy industry.

Dempsey highlighted the potential of game-changing innovations to drive growth and meet consumer demand for healthier and sustainable options.

He urged industry players to adapt to changing consumer preferences and explore opportunities in adjacent categories like food service.

The Dairy Innovation Strategies 2024 conference provided valuable insights and actionable strategies for industry stakeholders to navigate the evolving landscape and drive innovation in the dairy sector.

As consumer preferences continue to evolve, collaboration, sustainability, and innovation will remain key drivers shaping the future of the dairy industry.

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