Recognition of the nutritional benefits of dairy products is increasing across major European and global dairy markets.
Experts from 20 different countries gathered in Edinburgh for the European Dairy Association's (EDA) Annual Congress heard that attitudes to the nutritional value of dairy were changing in a positive way.
In the UK alone dairy products are present in 98% of households, but the industry has to continue to work harder to promote the nutritional benefits of dairy.
Speaking at the EDA World Dairy Forum, Dr Mike Johnson, Chief Executive of The Dairy Council for Northern Ireland, said: "Attitudes towards dairy are changing in a positive way. The effects of milk and dairy foods on health are about more than the individual nutrients they contain. Rather, the unique combination of nutrients, bioactive factors and other components, and how they interact with each other in the dairy matrix, combine to produce the overall effect on health.
"The challenge is to leverage these positive changes to develop sales, and this can best be achieved through generic and brand marketing working together."
Heather Wheeler MP, Chair of the Dairy All-Party Parliamentary Group, also took part in the discussion, focusing on the Dairy APPG's recent work on dairy and public health and how to encourage support from parliamentarians.
Speaking at the EDA World Dairy Forum, Heather Wheeler MP, said: "At a time when the industry needs strong support and tangible solutions to weather the current storm, it is disheartening to hear negative or misleading messages about the benefits of milk and dairy products. Therefore, we decided to launch a new enquiry and look at the role of dairy in the public health debate to support the future of the UK dairy industry by highlighting the unique contribution of dairy to public health.
"Over the next few weeks, we will examine the impact of public health policies on the dairy industry and on consumers. We want to ensure the dairy food group plays a key role in any government strategy on public health and healthy eating, and we must address misconceptions about the benefits of dairy and its role in a healthy and balanced diet."
Dr Judith Bryans, Chief Executive of Dairy UK, added: "The science that underpins the nutritional benefits of milk is very formidable and we are delighted that the public is so supportive of dairy but we need to keep pressing home that these are nutritionally great foods which form an important part of a healthy diet."
Other speakers included Isabel MacNeil, Group Manager of Industry Promotion and Product Innovation, who led an award-winning 'Legendairy' marketing campaign to paint a positive picture about the dairy industry.