Young consumers are confused about food, but concerns about climate change in particular were making them question dairy consumption.
At the Dairy UK dinner seminar, a panel of Generation Z, aged between 16 and 24, told an audience of farmers and processors their views on dairy products.
They said they did not necessarily see dairy as unhealthy as part of a balanced diet, but highlighted it depended how it was eaten, whether as a glass of milk or as a bar of milk chocolate.
Cheese was popular with the panel, who said they ate it in a lot of different foods but were unsure of how much they should be eating.
They wanted more guidance on the amount of dairy they should be getting, highlighting the only category they were clear on was the five-a-day campaign around fruit and vegetables.
And many of the panel believed plant-based alternatives were healthy, as healthy Instagram pages were pushing them and the packaging made them look healthy.
Nutritionist Pixie Turner, who chaired the debate, said what had surprised her was there were such strong views on the environment and dairy in the diet but, when challenged, the young people did not really know where the information had come from.
“They were quite biased in favour of animal products being bad for the environment,” she said, adding there was also an idea dairy could be healthy in a balanced diet.
But the main reason they were consuming it was down to their parents, for example buying semi-skimmed milk as their mother bought it.
She said dairy needed to be working on social media, going to where these people were already active and challenging these ideas.
But there was a lot of anger on social media when speaking about animal products, highlighting a recent social media post stating dairy did not cause acne.
“Within a couple of minutes I had messages basically telling me I am a terrible person,” she said.
She added someone had sent her a Google link telling her she was wrong.
“[A Google link] is not the same as my two science degrees," she added.