P. 24-27 /

Perceived healthfulness of dairy products and their imitations: nutrition experts’ perspective


*Corresponding author
1. Nutrition Institute, Tržaška cesta 40, Ljubljana, Slovenia
2. University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty, Jamnikarjeva 101, Ljubljana, Slovenia


Due to their nutritional quality, milk and dairy products are an important element of the human diet in many countries, while there is also an emerging market for their plant-based imitations. These are marketed as a healthier alternative to dairy products, employing the negative health image of saturated animal fats, the animal origin of dairy products, the prevalence of milk allergies and lactose intolerance. The objective of this study was to evaluate the healthfulness of dairy products and their imitations as perceived by experts working in the area of nutrition and food technology. The perceived healthfulness of 112 representative food products was measured using a modified Delphi method. We observed that the nutrition experts generally perceived dairy products to be healthier than their plant-based imitations. The most important negative factors influencing the experts’ perception of the healthfulness of the tested products were fat, sugar and sodium content.


In many parts of the world, milk and dairy products have been an important element of the human diet for thousands of years (1). The wide diversity of dairy products and their nutritional quality are clearly important factors boosting their popularity (1, 2). This has also led to the emergence of a market for plant-based dairy imitations which offer a similar texture and taste to traditional dairy products, but have different properties, e.g. dairy-free, lactose-free and a low fat content. Dairy imitations have become important due to the negative health image of saturated animal fats and increasing demand for products of a non-animal origin. Moreover, milk allergies and/or lactose intolerance are common and dairy imitations enable the consumption of dairy-like foods without these health concerns (1). Plant-based dairy imitations are being marketed aggressively as a healthier alternative to dairy products and are growing in popularity (1, 3, 4).

Milk and dairy products are recognised as an important dietary component in Europe, being a useful source of highly valuable protein, calcium, vitamins (B2, B12 and D, if added) and essential ...