In part three of our Changing Tastes series, we turn the spotlight to the growth of ambient drinking yoghurt and how it’s taken hold in China  

Part two of our Changing Tastes series looked at how lactose-free has quickly become the fastest-growing segment in dairy. But it’s not only lactose-free that’s taken the dairy industry by storm. Ambient drinking yoghurt – also known as shelf-stable drinking yoghurt ­– has exploded in popularity thanks to the growing global demand for convenience.

Ambient drinking yoghurt doesn’t require chilling, often has a shelf-life of up to 12 months and can be easily drunk while on the go. This high level of convenience for transport, storage and consumption has made it an extremely successful product segment that’s grown at an impressive rate in a number of markets.

Changing needs in China

Nowhere is the ambient boom more evident than in China where sales of shelf-stable drinking yoghurt have rocketed. In 2015, year-on-year sales grew by 70% – an impressive figure considering sales had already grown a staggering 140% a year earlier. Sales of chilled drinking yoghurt, meanwhile, grew at a more modest rate of 15%.

The success of ambient yoghurt in China has been driven by a number of lifestyle trends seen in countries undergoing rapid urbanisation. Consumers here want more convenient food and drinks, more on-the-go snacks and treats, and they want new and interesting product experiences that can be both healthy and indulgent.

Understandably, most of these demands are coming from younger Chinese consumers. In fact, Mintel research has found four in five Chinese consumers aged 20-24 now drink ambient yoghurt. The research also shows that these consumers are attracted by novel yoghurt flavours, and are willing to pay more for premium, seasonal-flavoured and limited-edition products.

Untapped and emerging

It’s not only China where ambient drinking yoghurt has taken off. These products are appealing to the wider needs of modern consumers all over the world, especially in Africa and the Middle East. Both these regions are seeing a growing middle class, more on-the-go lifestyles and an increasing demand for healthy dairy products. This together with a still largely under-developed cold-chain network means shelf-stable yoghurt is expected to see significant growth in the coming years.

While the potential for ambient drinking yoghurt is clear, producing it is a more complex process than that of chilled yoghurt. It not only requires UHT treatment and aseptic filling but also the right product formulation to ensure the perfect consistency and quality for a long shelf life. SIG’s know-how and experience in ambient yoghurt means it can help producers quickly tap into this potential and get their products to market fast.   

Adding value to ambient

In China, the Mengniu Dairy Group turned to SIG when producing its new Zhenguoli long-life yoghurt with coconut chips and berry jams. Available in SIG’s combismile* pack, the product is targeted at young and mobile consumers looking for a convenient on-the-go yoghurt. Another leading dairy player in China, Yili, also chose SIG for its Baoquzhu-branded yoghurt drinks. Packed in combiblocSmall, these drinks contain chewable alginate balls filled with juice. 

Both these products utilise SIG’s drinksplus solution. This enables ambient beverages and drinking yoghurts to contain real food pieces, such as fruit, vegetables, nuts or cereal grains. This means producers can create added-value products that answer the growing need for great-tasting, convenient and premium on-the-go yoghurts.

Want to know more about creating ambient yoghurts with SIG? Check out our range of solutions for Product Innovation & Differentiation.

And don’t miss part four of our Changing Tastes series when we’ll look at the growing need for functional food and drinks, or so-called nutraceutical products.

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*combismile is currently not available in Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy and Japan

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