The industry has lost sight of the competition, and the opportunity to make milk a modern snack, says Simon Muschamp

The Daily Mail reported this week on hypocrisy in US government policy.

On the one hand, the US Department of Agriculture is spending millions discouraging consumers from eating foods with high levels of saturated fat such as cheese. On the other hand, Dairy Management, a marketing offshoot of the same government body, is promoting sales of cheese made from all of the unused whole fat milk.

While the contradiction was amusing, it did make me think about what wins with consumers - taste or health?

Having spent the past two years developing a drinkable dairy snack under the Modern Milk brand, I am convinced milk should be repositioned as a tasty alternative to less healthy drinks and snacks.

For many people milk is simply a liquid to put on cereal, or to whiten hot beverages. With a facelift, consumers can think differently about the wider food choices facing them. When a consumer starts to think differently about milk, they can see the opportunities it offers as a healthy, refreshing drink in its own right. With its high protein content and naturally low GI level, milk is naturally filling.

Consumption of milk has fallen over recent years, despite it being one of the only drinks that contains a large range of nutrients in its natural form. Dairy company statistics published in The Grocer in September showed consumption dropping from 1.8 litres per head in 1998 to 1.6 litres in 2008. It is fast becoming one of those essential products that people are forgetting about.

One weakness is format: it isn't always available in a convenient format. Another is taste. Research by the University of Aarhus and European Food Information Centre (EHFIC) found the main reason for a consumer's product choice is taste, not health benefits (perceived or otherwise). Great taste is paramount, and that is what we have tried to achieve with Modern Milk. We will be tempting tastebuds with four varieties: Milk Chocolate with a hint of Caramel, Ripe Strawberry with Raspberry, Lush Banana and Honey, and Smooth Coffee and a hint of Vanilla.

We tested Modern Milk's proposition with consumers and believe it is just right for the market but, of course, time will tell! Our objective was to develop a great-tasting range of products with sophisticated flavour combinations that would appeal to the adult market against a backdrop of good health and nutrition. A product that is delicious but also low in fat and added sugars, and with natural flavours and extra ­benefits.

Each 330ml carton contains extra calcium, 70% of the RDA; added vitamin D to help bones absorb calcium better; and added fibre, which is not only filling but also has benefits for a healthy digestive system.

We also wanted to make Modern Milk as easy as possible to consume milk isn't traditionally easy to ­consume on the go. Modern Milk, therefore, comes in a handy, environmentally friendly 330ml Tetra Top carton-based bottle with a screw cap: ideal for people on the go.

As for Dairy Management's contradictory campaigns, I think this is a case where "everything in moderation" rings true. Both cheese and milk have their place in a healthy and balanced diet especially when the milk is a Modern Milk.

Simon Muschamp is head of marketing at Lakeland Dairies.