Themed week Flavor variety: Product variations and innovations: The agony or pleasure of having to choose?

Produkt-Variationen und -Innovationen
The dairy sector is particular is know for the constant flow of new product innovations and variations that are launched. Manufacturers can get professional tips for their recipe management at drinktec. (Photo: Thorsten Witteriede, Käse-Theke)

The range of dairy products is incredibly large – much more extensive than what consumers are used to with beer and other beverages. And every year new products are added to the selection of dairy products. Some of them are so-called line extensions, or expansions to existing product lines by adding new flavors. Innovations account for the other new products.

Innovation or product variation?

Generally speaking, the industry differentiates between innovations and product variations. In many cases, consumers perceive both as new products. As a result, the definition of marketing for new developments is oriented to that fact: Every product that gives the consumer the impression that it is new may de facto be referred to as “new”. The fact is that, when it comes to product innovations, there are hardly any quantum leaps in the dairy industry. In many cases, there cannot be because statutory requirements regarding labeling, for example, are far too restrictive. For instance, a food manufacturer may not assign its products to the line-up of medicinal products, even if they are packed with added superfruits or superseeds that make them extremely healthy.

An example of this type of innovation is the Icelandic yoghurt Skyr. It generated more than 10 million euros in sales in Germany the first nine months after it was introduced there. The thing that makes this type of yoghurt special is the manufacturing technique, in which only skimmed milk is used—in fact, four times more than conventional yoghurt. This ensures that the dairy product has a naturally high protein content and a low fat content.

A legion of variations

Anyone who has ever stood in front of the refrigerated section in a supermarket with a comprehensive range of products and has seen the diverse range of available merchandise knows what a wealth of products and flavors await the buyer. The enormous selection of dairy products from German manufacturers is rounded out by several equivalent products from foreign dairies. Concrete numbers are difficult to find. But according to estimates by marketing experts, approximately 20 percent of the dairy products in (German) supermarkets come from other EU countries.

From production to marketing

The consumer has the privilege and also the agony of having to make a choice, whereas the manufacturer is constantly changing its product range by adding new variations and innovations. More and more often, they orient their portfolios to major trends such as convenience, health, taste and increasingly to animal welfare and sustainability. And launching a new product is no longer child’s play. All relevant sectors, from purchasing and quality assurance to controlling and production, must be incorporated into the process.

After that, marketing’s task is to showcase whatever makes the product variation or innovation special and sell it to the customer. The Innovation Flow Lounge at drinktec gives marketing executives as well as product and innovation managers a perfect exchange and inspiration platform for doing so. In addition, Focus Day: Milk (Hall A2 on September 15) will give visitors a look at the latest trend topics in dairy production.

Innovation Flow Lounge is supported by:

  • Döhler
  • FoodBev Media
  • KHS
  • Sahm GmbH

Roland Sossna

The trained dairy expert, agricultural engineer and freelance journalist Roland Sossna is part of the editorial staff of the trade magazine molkerei-industrie (dairy industry) and IDM International Dairy Magazine. He regularly presents outstanding innovations from the dairy industry on the blog.