Anxious shoppers concerned about food safety are turning increasingly to long life milk, new research reveals.

Global UHT milk consumption has increased 7.9% a year on average in the past four years, claimed Tetra Pak, which publishes the report on future dairy trends next week. This has taken its overall share of the liquid dairy market from 18.7% to 23%.

Although lower demand for dairy in the recession would slow growth across the category, global consumption of UHT milk would still continue to rise at an annual rate of 5.2%, reaching 70 billion litres by 2012, predicted Tetra Pak.

That would outstrip total dairy consumption, which would grow at a more modest 2.2%.

The growth in consumption of UHT milk was being driven by a new sub-culture of ‘anxious consumers’ who were concerned about serious food-related issues, the report said.

Concerns surrounding production, quality and protection of food were likely to remain high on consumers’ agendas, it predicted. These fears were now shared by consumers in the developing world.

“This means the trend toward packaged milk and particularly packaged UHT milk, which offers a long shelf with no refrigeration required before opening and no need for preservatives is set to continue both in developing and developed markets,” it said.

Fresh milk currently dominates retail milk sales in the UK retail market, while the majority of milk consumed in other European countries is UHT.

In Italy, 60.4% of all milk consumed is long-life, while in Spain it is 98%. However last year Milk Link reported renewed interest among UK consumers in long-life milk.

Tetra Pak predicted other changes in shopper behaviour. “Instead of cutting down on dairy products, consumers are now more likely to buy plain milk than fortified milk, choose budget brands over premium brands and buy their products through different channels, such as discounters,” it stated.