Report: Emerging technologies could help address dairy industry challenges
- A study by Frost & Sullivan business consultants profiled new food safety technologies available in the dairy industry — a sector facing numerous challenges. These include ultra-high pressure and ultraviolet (UV) processing methods used when thermally treating milk to reduce color changes or gelation during processing and storage.
- According to the study, consumer demand and current market conditions are prompting a reshaping of the dairy industry to deliver improved product quality, stability and safety to customers, while reducing energy and costs.
- “Standardization and compliance are crucial to success," said Frost & Sullivan TechVision Senior Industry Analyst Cecilia Van Cauwenberghe. “Food safety best practices must be implemented from the beginning, including the adoption of technology for pathogens, allergens, mycotoxins, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and yeast detection.”
Opportunities for companies throughout the dairy sector to collaborate through partnerships, mergers and acquisitions, co-development and other models will help leverage these new industry technologies, the study found. Other technologies the dairy industry can take advantage of are advanced material design, microelectronics and nanotechnology, advanced thermodynamics, food engineering and processing, and Internet of Things (IoT) innovations to track products and ensure their safety.
The dairy industry is one of the most highly regulated in the U.S., driven by U.S. Food and Drug Administration requirements covering product safety, pasteurization, equipment sanitation, labeling and distribution. These regulations have helped limit U.S. foodborne illness outbreaks involving dairy products but can significantly increase production costs.
Challenges in today's dairy industry are higher feed and fuel prices, oversupply and pricing pressures, labor shortages, the rising incidence of milk allergies and lactose intolerance, and increasingly popular milk-like products made from plants such as soy, rice, almonds, hemp and others. According to Mintel, U.S. non-dairy milk sales grew 9% in 2015, while dairy milk sales declined 7% during the same period.
Plant-based milks also have a longer shelf life than dairy-based milk. Unopened packages of plant-based products are typically good a month or more past the date on the container, while cow's milk, if properly stored, usually lasts for a week past its best-by date. Such differences are not lost on consumers, who are flocking to buy plant-based milk products out of health, safety, ethical and environmental concerns.
Despite all these challenges, the research study emphasized the dairy industry is in a position to leverage new technologies to bolster consumer confidence and help ensure a better — and more profitable — market for its products.