Assessment of consumers' perceptions, preferences, behaviors and values with fluid milk packaging, code date and new product concepts
Because of a decrease in consumption of fluid dairy milk, it is critical that the dairy industry seeks to understand consumers’ perceptions, preferences and purchasing behaviors regarding dairy based beverages. Several factors could have led to the decline in consumption, such as the development of light induced oxidized off-flavor, a relatively short code date and the introduction of a multitude of alternative beverages to the market. The primary objective of this research was to understand consumers’ expectations and evaluate the impact of a sensory experience with milk from three different package dates, as well as milk from the beginning and end of code date, and finally to identify possible dairy based beverage concepts that would provide consumers a reason to return to the dairy beverage category or increase their low consumption.
In the first study, trained panelists detected higher levels of the oxidized attribute in skim and 2% milk from translucent plastic (p<0.05). Consumers did not have a significant preference for milk from translucent plastic or paperboard (p>0.05), though more regularly purchased plastic. There were no differences in consumers’ value for 2% or skim in paperboard or translucent plastic. Consumers were willing to pay significantly more for 2% in paperboard or plastic packaging with “Certified Fresh Taste” seal and for skim in “Certified Fresh Taste” paperboard packaging than when packaged without such labeling. In the second study, trained panelists did not detect a difference in “lacks freshness” flavor in fresh skim or skim milk toward the end of the code date. Consumers valued fresh milk over end of code milk but did not have a taste preference for 2% fresh milk over 2% near the end of code, or for skim fresh over skim end (p>0.05). These findings were in agreement with their acceptability scores (p>0.05). The margin of difference between consumers’ bids (between value for fresh and end of code milk) decreased (p<0.05) from round 1 (before tasting) to round 2 (after tasting). These results confirm that although many consumers go out of their way to buy the freshest milk, they cannot necessarily distinguish fresh milk from milk at the end of code.
In the third study, Millennial consumers indicated flavor and base composition (milk, yogurt, mixture, etc.) were the most important attributes to low-milk consumption subjects surveyed. However, consumers’ decisions are complex and all attributes offered had some importance. Within flavor and base composition, consumers desired common flavors such as chocolate or strawberry over an unflavored product and preferred a mix of dairy milk and milk alternative as the base over dairy milk alone or drinkable yogurt. Millennial consumers also valued the convenience of a single serve or package of multiple single serve size packages.