Beyond fortification: Yili highlights clean label and high-protein demands from Chinese consumers

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

Dairy giant Yili says that clean label and high protein content are now just as important to Chinese consumers as fortification. ©Yili
Dairy giant Yili says that clean label and high protein content are now just as important to Chinese consumers as fortification. ©Yili

Related tags Yili Yoghurt

Dairy giant Yili says that clean label and high protein content are now just as important to Chinese consumers as fortification.

Yoghurts are generally recognised as a nutritious food in China and manufacturers have long been fortifying these with various nutrients and minerals to boost marketability.

But according to Yili, fortifying with protein or calcium is no longer acceptable as an added benefit for Chinese consumers, who have much more specific expectations.

“Consumers are attaching greater importance to the nutritional value of yogurt as demands for nutrition have also evolved, which means they are no longer satisfied with yoghurts that are traditionally fortified using things like protein and calcium supplements,”​ Yili Group Yoghurt Business Unit Product R&D Manager Yin Xiaojing told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

“They now have more advanced and specific demands regarding how high concentrations of calcium and protein need to be, the content of the original raw milk, clean labels, as well as additional fortification with dietary fibre and vitamins.

“This is further enhanced by the fact that more functional yogurts are emerging [focusing on] health issues related to immunity, digestion, sleep and physical ability, with mental stress and weight management now found to be the main concerns of younger consumers between 16 to 24 years old.

“A good example is the increased popularity of high-protein yogurt products - In 2024, the Chinese market will see more new yogurt products featuring higher protein and raw milk content.”

Yili hopped onto this trend with the recent launch of its Changqing premium protein artisan yoghurt, claiming a protein content 1.6x higher than that of regular yoghurts at 5g/135g, and made without adding protein powders or other added ingredient,s but instead with new technology.

“Yili adopted RO membrane technology to concentrate the milk and achieve this high protein content, meaning that this is made purely with raw cow’s milk and lactic acid bacteria through a natural fermentation process [and not via adding supplemental protein powder],”​ she added.

“This product contains zero sucrose or sugar substitutes, emphasising the natural sweetness of raw milk, [keeping the label as clean as possible].”

This is important in yoghurt innovation as the firm also believes that clean label is going to be a major focal point for the industry this year.

“Clean labels will also continue to be emphasised as Chinese consumers very much appreciate the ‘zero additives’ label,”​ Yin added.

“This is because it not only addresses their concerns over food additives, but also serves to preserve more original flavours which they are looking for.”

Original still best

This also plays into local flavour trends dominating the market currently, as in China original flavoured yoghurts still remain the most popular even with many new flavour innovations entering the market.

“The original flavor has been and will continue to dominate China’s yoghurt market, as it caters to consumer demands for healthy and natural food,”​ she added.

“The simple original flavour also easily goes with all kinds of toppings and combinations in different scenarios [which is important to remember as] yoghurt products are being consumed not only at breakfast, but also as afternoon snacks or after meals, addressing various consumer needs.

“Other classical flavours including strawberry, peach, jujube, and oatmeal remain consumers’ all-time favourites [but] composite-flavour products - such as fruits + grains or mixed fruits – are also gaining popularity in China.”

Protein trends and innovations will be a major topic of focus at our Growth Asia Summit 2024 this year - join us in Singapore to learn more on insights from major industry experts, find out more here​. 

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