Hot climates present unique challenges for food production, distribution, and storage. The development of shelf stable, long shelf life drinking yogurts deliver several advantages over chilled products with benefit for the manufacturer, distributor and consumer. For the dairy producer, long shelf life yogurt enables larger production batches, storage, and transportation over long distances without a costly cold chain distribution system - all delivering significant cost savings. For the consumer, it is now possible to consume your yogurt drink out of the home without it becoming acidic; convenient on-the-go, suitable for picnics and your children's lunch pack, the possibilities are endless. The research used focus groups to understand what factors influence consumers to purchase and consume drinking yogurt products and to discuss the benefits, taste and functionalities, they prefer. Focus group methods were qualitative and consumers were presented with a number of long shelf life yogurt prototypes to taste and evaluate. These prototypes were developed using DuPontT Danisco� cultures and stabilizers with the aim of getting as close to fresh Laban and Lassi as possible, in terms of taste and texture. However, due to its properties, they were in fact shelf stable when being kept at ambient temperature for a longer time. Recruitment criteria for the focus groups was carefully considered for the market and was based on married females with at least one child. The females were aged between 20 - 49 years and all focus group members were purchasers and consumers of packaged dairy products. Participants from Jeddah and Tabuk discussed their buying, purchasing and eating habits as well as their preferences for drinking yogurt.
New concepts and prototypes
Consumers were first presented with the prototypes without being informed that they were stable at ambient temperature. Assuming they were presented with fresh laban and lassi type products, consumers were asked to assess the taste, texture and flavor. Following this first assessment, the focus groups were then informed that the products were shelf stable at ambient temperature and were asked to provide their feedback on the benefits, this would present to them, such as the ability to consume a drinking yogurt after transportation in high temperature without wheying off.
Market research outcomes
Some of the questions that have been answered by the consumer research include:
. What are the current unmet consumer needs in terms of fresh dairy products?
. What preferences Saudi consumers have for drinking yogurt?
. What are the current consumer habits when it comes to drinking yogurt?
. What are the perceived benefits of long life drinking yogurts?
. How do Saudi consumers respond to DuPont concepts and prototypes in terms of flavor, taste, texture and benefits?
Following the global dairy trends
Food shopping habits are developing in Saudi Arabia and are mimicking those in Western countries. This is reflected in a demand for a wide range of food products following the global trends in health and convenience. It is the growing numbers of young people in the country who are particularly interested in the latest global consumption developments as they are influenced by the proliferation of social media. A rapid rise in population, along with increased urbanization and changes in lifestyle and dietary patterns are providing the catalyst for a growing awareness about healthy eating and the positive contribution of dairy products to a healthy lifestyle. The cultured dairy sector and drinking yogurt in particular is well-placed to take advantage of this growing trend, not least because yogurt is already considered naturally safe and healthy but also because fermented milk products have been consumed in the country for thousands of years.
The market for dairy products in Saudi Arabia is growing fast and the drinking yogurt market alone is expected to reach a value of USD789 million by 2020 making this a very lucrative business opportunity. This figure represents around a 9 percent increase in value and 6 percent in volume from 2015-2020 (Euromonitor, 2015), see Figure 1. This market presents considerable challenges for food production, distribution and storage. These challenges can be overcome, however, with the benefits of long shelf life yogurt in terms of easy storage and distribution.
Successful long shelf life drinking yogurt
The results of the consumer research are now available to be shared with the industry and contain a number of important market drivers to be considered in drinking yogurt development in Saudi Arabia. New concepts and prototypes have been presented to focus groups in Saudi Arabia and their feedback is presented alongside the market drivers. The research outcomes have been presented using an approach that highlights the benefits of long shelf life drinking yogurts for the whole of the food supply chain including the manufacturer, distributor and consumer. It is clear that drinking yogurts are an important part of the diet in Saudi Arabia and finding a place in the daily consumption of food is just one of the keys to market success. Other important factors have surfaced from the recent targeted consumer research. DuPont Nutrition & Health offers technical expertise and market insights to help deliver successful drinking yogurt products into this challenging market place.
Figure 1 should be on the Second page
Figure 1: Expected growth of drinking yogurt market in Saudi Arabia 2015-2020
Image Caption: Yoghurt drink