Against the backdrop of a difficult financial climate and more stringent health claims regulation, the dairy industry is taking a coordinated approach to nutrition and health research with the formation of a global research consortium.
The International Dairy Research Consortium for Nutrition and Health, which was officially launched last week, is made up of six dairy organisations from across the globe.
These include the Centre National Interprofessionnel de l’Économie Laitière (France), Dairy Australia, Dairy Farmers of Canada, the US Dairy Research Institute, the Danish Dairy Research Foundation and the Dutch Dairy Association, with the Global Dairy Platform serving as the secretariat.
All of these organisations are major funders of dairy research and the idea of forming a consortium is that they align their pre-competitive research programmes, enabling them to accelerate research and make more efficient use of resources.
Maximise research spend
The timing of the launch is no coincidence – as Gregory Miller, president of the Dairy Research Institute and executive vice president of the National Dairy Council, told NutraIngredients, the current financial climate makes it more important than ever to maximise research spend.
“Right now resources are tight so it makes sense to align research activities. We’re talking about pre-competitive - not confidential - research, so why not share information and resources?
“There’s no point in one organisation funding research in a certain area if someone else is already working on that area – if we share information we can identify research gaps and design programmes that can fill those gaps. Building international alignment through this consortium will also accelerate our ability to firmly establish newer benefits of dairy and its position as an essential part of a healthy diet.”
Potential interest areas for the consortium include exploring how major nutrients and other components in milk may provide benefits related to metabolic health and chronic diseases.
“Dairy nutrition research is at a critical point in that there is mounting evidence indicating that dairy’s benefits extend beyond good nutrition and may extend to reducing the risk of several major chronic diseases, but more research is needed to fully substantiate these claims,” said Miller.
“We haven’t yet finalised the areas we’ll be focusing on but we know that milk fat and its relationship to cardiovascular disease, the role dairy foods play in a healthy metabolism and bone health, and the link between milk protein and body composition will all feature.”
Global approach to research
Ultimately, Miller says the aim is to build a body of research that will create claims opportunities for the dairy industry. Whilst acknowledging that the regulatory framework for making health and nutrition claims varies from market to market, he argues that a global approach to research can work.
“It’s all about generating great data and science that can be translated into meaningful messages – this applies to any market,” he said.
Consortium partners will hold their first meeting in August at which they plan to begin identifying common research priorities.