Ingredient Focus: Dairy 

Whether it’s milk, cream, butter or cheese, it is difficult to go about your day without consuming some kind of dairy product. From the time we are toddlers, these types of foodstuffs become apart of our daily consumption. There may be a growing movement away from the consumption of animal products — towards veganisim — for health, environmental and/or ethical reasons, but for the majority of the population in most countries around the world, dairy forms an integral part of our diets.

A recent report titled ‘Global Dairy Market Report, Trends and Forecast (2016-2021)’ attributed the dairy market’s stable growth over the past several decades to population growth, rising incomes, health consciousness, and thriving F&B industries.

However, more recently, the market has been affected by oversupply (excess milk production) and sluggish demand in some key import markets, such as China, according to the report.

Caterer asked regional experts if there are currently any concerns among suppliers and customers relating to the sourcing of particular dairy products or ingredients in the Middle East region.

Horeca dairy brand manager Juliette Cieslinski said: “Often a customer’s perspective of locally produced dairy products is that they are poor in quality compared to other European or global brands.”

She added that companies such as Balade Farms, which supplies products to the UAE, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar, are “changing the game by producing natural high quality products using locally sourced ingredients”.

Continuing, she told Caterer about other challenges faced at the moment.

“The number of products available in the market is growing and customers might be confused due to the lack of information provided. From a global perspective, the dairy market is fluctuating a lot due to economic constraints in Europe,” Cieslinski asserted.

Meanwhile, Chiara Giussani, export manager at Agriform — a cooperative of dairies producing, ageing and exporting Grana Padano PDO (protected designation of origin) cheese all over the world — explained that concerns in the Middle East are not related to sourcing of dairy products or ingredients, “but actually to the current difficult political situation that can discourage tourism from some countries”.

In terms of consumer preferences having an effect on the dairy industry, Giussani offered her thoughts.

“For dairy producers, it is always important to be flexible and adaptable to the market. Human health and animal welfare are becoming major factors in the consumers’ decision making, and these are the main challenges to face in the near future. These are leading the ‘Sustainability Project’ that Agriform members are carrying out.”

Asked about what chefs are demanding at present from suppliers of dairy-related ingredients, Cieslinski revealed: “The demand at the moment is very cost-oriented, but there seems to be a growing interest in natural raw materials, like the origin of the milk itself and the ethical image of the company.”

Giussani commented: “In order to know how the ingredients can impact the flavours and integrity of their menu, the chefs pay more and more attention on the nutritional aspects of the products, the origin and production quality. Agriform PDO (protected designation of origin) products, like Grana Padano, Piave or Asiago, are guarantees of quality for the end consumer, and rich in taste, so they are an optimal ingredient to enhance any dish without covering the other ingredients.”

All indications are that dairy products will continue to enjoy a strong presence and standing in the Middle East, providing suppliers adapt to growing consumer interest in provenance and ethical assuarances, and remain flexible.

Source: Hotelier Middle East