Imports of imitation dairy products worry sector

Proliferation of look-alike products | Processors encouraged to develop dairy products that use real milk

EDMONTON — Alberta Milk chair Tom Kootstra has issues that keep him awake at night.


Canada’s border with the United States allows milk products and frozen desserts that look like ice cream to leak northward into the Canadian food supply and pass themselves off as dairy products.


“I want to know my grandchildren drink milk, not reconstituted dairy beverages,” said Kootstra, during a panel discussion at the group’s annual meeting.


“The use of imported products is another concern for me. The dairy industry has been built on high quality, wholesome natural products, yet imitation products like frozen desserts that look and function like ice cream and analog cheese, especially for the use in the service industry, are eroding our markets.”


Canada’s supply-managed dairy industry protects dairy farmers from most imported products, but can’t shut out the look-like-dairy products, including protein products for athletes, body builders, or alternatives food products. 


Kootstra challenged Canadian dairy processors to develop new food products that athletes are looking for, but made with real milk, not artificial proteins and food products. 


“The solutions to my issues that keep me awake at night are, producers working together to ensure we meet the processors needs for high quality milk and producers and processors working collaboratively to meet the demands of the consumers.” 


Dan Wong, executive director of the Alberta Dairy Council, said too much time is spent on problems between producers and processors and not enough time understanding the consumer.


“I am not certain we’re focused on the people that matter the most and the people that buy our products. Do we understand our customers are constantly changing?”


Wong said when he started in the industry, the stay-at-home mom made most of the shopping and nutritional decisions for the family, but that is no longer the case.


“It’s more likely that a modern consumer gets their dairy nutrition from their morning latte and morning yogurt snack rather than four glasses of milk a day,” said Wong.


Instead of the producers and processors debating each other, there should be a more collaborative process to recognize the new consumer, he said.


This year a new milk class for mozzarella cheese served in restaurants was developed by the processing industry. It’s a relatively simple class, but it took seven months of negotiations within the industry to develop, he said.


“Are we focusing on the right things?”

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