This article is part of our 2016 Dairy digital feature.

Changing health advice on fat consumption – with some scientists claiming saturated fats found in natural foods such as dairy, meat and eggs may not be as bad for our health as previous advice has suggested – has started to gain traction with consumers.

And it looks like the message is particularly resonating with younger people, according to a Harris Interactive poll for The Grocer, which found that almost a fifth of 25 to 34 year olds believe whole milk is the healthiest types of milk or milk alternative. Whole milk was identified as the healthiest option by 18% of the 25 to 34-year-olds in the survey of 2,017 consumers.

This was second only to best-seller semi-skimmed milk, with 24% of the age group thinking it was the healthiest option. Crucially, more young people thought whole milk was healthier than skimmed milk (16% of respondents), almond milk (14%), organic, soya and coconut milk (all 8%), and rice milk (4%).

Which is healthiest? 

Semi Skimmed milk 26% 24% 28% 22% 24% 21% 23% 32%
Skimmed milk 24% 25% 23% 12% 16% 23% 27% 30%
Whole milk 13% 14% 13% 15% 18% 13% 13% 11%
Almond milk 10% 9% 12% 16% 14% 11% 8% 7%
Soya milk 10% 11% 9% 11% 8% 12% 11% 8%
Coconut milk 8% 8% 7% 13% 8% 6% 9% 6%
Organic milk 7% 7% 7% 6% 8% 9% 6% 5%
Rice milk 3% 3% 3% 5% 4% 4% 2% 1%

“It’s excellent news to see that younger generations think of milk as a healthy option,” says Dairy UK CEO Judith Bryans. “The shift towards a more positive image and understanding of dairy fats is long overdue and we need to keep pressing home that dairy foods have a crucial role to play in a healthy diet.”

“For too long, people have focused so heavily on the fat content of dairy that they largely forgot that dairy foods are natural products which offer a wealth of nutrients, yet dairy foods such as whole milk are natural and healthy products, two aspects that young consumers find increasingly appealing. It is very reassuring to see that they know they can enjoy wholesome and nutritious dairy foods guilt-free.”

However, more work needs to be done to persuade older generations of the merits of full fat milk, the Harris research suggests, with just 11% of over 55’s thinking whole milk is healthiest, with semi-skimmed (32%) and skimmed (30%) still seen as the best option.

Next article - Booths buyer: Dairy has become ’footfall driver in price war’

In partnership with: