For years, milk has been a commodity product in Mexico, according to David Resgado, head of operations at major Mexican dairy company Grupo Lala. However, Grupo Lala has made efforts to launch more premium products in recent years.
“We have a big R&D laboratory in the north of the country and are always looking at what consumers want here and around the world. For example, organic was a global trend in countries like the US, Canada, and Europe and we understand that these trends can bring new experiences to our products.
“We want to be the number one leader in R&D and new product development in the dairy industry," Resgado told FoodNavigator-LATAM at ANTAD Alimentaria this month. "So we have been investing a lot, and one example
of this is Lala 100.”
Lala 100 contains 70% more protein and 30% more calcium than standard milk.
“This is a product that we brought to the consumer and ‘broke’ the commodity [status] of milk. If milk costs 16 or 17 pesos, we can sell this for 22 pesos because it’s a different product. It’s milk but the taste, quality and [nutritional] properties are different, and people accept that.”
Resgado said developing Lala 100, which is made through a process of ultra-filtration, was “a big technical challenge”.
“This was [because] we did not add the extra protein in, we concentrated the milk. It’s more natural for the consumer; they are looking for natural products that don’t have additives or chemical additives.”
“At the minute we are the only company to use this process to concentrate milk and have this kind of product on the market here," he added.
Dairy for all Mexicans
Grupo Lala aims to build a product portfolio that serves all strata of Mexican society. This means not just high-end products, such as Lala 100 or its organic milk, which launched last year, but what Resgado describes as “base business” commodity-style products.
Products such as Nutri-Leche, a blend of water, milk powder, palm oil, emulsifiers, stabilizers, and added vitamins, are affordable for many Mexicans. These commodity-style products account for most of the company’s business in both volume and value, Resgado said.
It is also taking this dual approach for its non-dairy range.
Last month, it signed a distribution deal with Blue Diamond Growers to bring Blue Diamond Growers' Almond Breeze drinks to the Mexican market. The company is confident the Blue Diamond brand will not cannibalize sales from its own range of plant-based milks, Soy Vita, because it is more premium.
Catering to regional preferences
Another way of ensuring widespread appeal in a country as diverse as Mexico is through flavors, Resgado said, which is especially true for cheese.
“Cheese in Mexico is so regional,” he said. “Our milk is distributed all over the country from the south part to the north but cheese has to have a regional focus.”
Consumers in northern regions prefer hard cheeses that have been matured for several months, such as Manchego and Chihuahua (similar to mild, white cheddar) while central Mexicans prefer fresh, white cheese such as panela, he told us.
Grupo Lala sources its milk from the northern region of Coahuila with cattle fed on a mix of feed imported from the US and domestically produced animal feed.
Resgado said Grupo Lala had looked to diversify its sourcing and buy milk from producers in other parts of the country but found the quality was not as high. “In the south, for example, it rains a lot so the cows get sick a lot. They don’t have the same production [levels] and we don’t get the same quality from the milk.”