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Interview: Building a healthy food group driven by innovation
FoodBev Media

FoodBev Media

28 April 2023

Interview: Building a healthy food group driven by innovation

  1. A milk fat enzymatic biotechnology, which customises flavours to meet consumer preferences and enhances the lactic flavour of dairy products

  2. An industry-first sweetness design platform with a smart sweetness adjustment tool applicable to all of Yili’s dairy products that cater to customers’ reduced sugar and flavour needs

  3. A heat treatment homogenisation technology platform, which has brought about a new room-temperature yogurt and emerged as a gamechanger for industrial development

  4. The 100% peeling system and oxygen-free grinding process, which have led to the creation of the Plant Selected series featuring world-leading soybean milk products that have a strong aroma and smooth texture without any unpleasant soybean flavour. In addition, the ultrafiltration technology is integrated and innovated, through which key components such as protein, calcium and fat are reorganised and optimised to increase the concentration of protein and calcium in the original raw milk, providing consumers with science-based nutritional supplements. Does Yili have any other innovative plans for dairy products and healthy foods? Yili is highly active in the dairy market and confident about its ability to maintain a leading position across all categories, including liquid milk, milk powder, yogurt, ice cream, cheese, and more. Beyond its core dairy sector, the company is continuously evolving its product portfolio and entering new business lines, such as mineral water, plant-based beverages and lactic acid bacteria drinks, with the aim of meeting consumers’ diversifying needs. Yili’s products aim to bring nutrients and health benefits to all age groups as they go about their daily lives. The Group strives to develop patented technologies of core probiotics with its own independent intellectual property rights and has launched a new probiotic health solution brand, Quanjiayi. It has finished the R&D of four flagship probiotic strains and realised their functions, namely, the BL-99 strain for intestinal health, K56 strain for weight management, ET-22 strain for oral health and YLGB-1496 for the health of infants. These technologies have been commercialised in product series such as Changyi 100%, Yixiao, Cheese Bar, Xujinhuan ice cream and the BL-99 solid beverage. Looking forward, Yili will take advantage of its global innovation network to expand the Chinese probiotic strain pool and develop more functional strains. How are Yili's product innovations contributing to the UN's sustainable development goals (SDGs)? To date, Yili has launched five net zero-carbon products through its full-lifecycle carbon reduction actions, including two net zero-carbon milks, net zero-carbon yogurt, net zero-carbon organic milk powder and net zero-carbon ice cream. Yili continues developing its sustainable packaging technologies to improve recyclability and reduce carbon emissions. The use of polyolefin-only packaging, microfoam protective packaging, barrier PET packaging and other packaging solutions, as well as the directing melting PET materials for dairy products, have enabled the replacement of environmentally-unfriendly packaging materials and high recycling performance of packages after consumption. Satine’s No Printing No Ink Environment-friendly Edition won 'Best Packaging Design' at FoodBev's World Food Innovation Awards this year. The inner package is designed in pure white without traditional ink printing and information such as the product name and production date is laser-printed. It uses FSC-certified green packaging materials to help protect the forest ecosystem. Part of the raw material of the cap comes from sugar cane. The outer box uses paper carrying handles to reduce the use of plastic. Every 100,000 outer boxes save approximately 260kg of plastic. In addition, as food is closely related to human health, a sustainable, secure and healthy food industry will contribute to the UN's SDGs. To help achieve SDG 3 on health and nutrition, Yili has carried out academic research and technology development projects aimed at offering customised dairy products that satisfy the nutrition and health needs of different consumer segments, with the goal of fuelling a healthier population. For example, Yili has been conducting research on the breast milk of Chinese mothers for 21 years and operating the first breast milk database among China’s dairy companies. The Group’s vast research data have established a strong foundation for the development of infant formula milk powder. Furthermore, with support from the Chinese Red Cross Foundation, Yili has launched the Yili Nutrition 2030 public welfare programme, which focuses on ensuring that children can stay healthy and always pursue their dreams and aims to contribute to China’s rural revitalisation strategy and the Healthy China initiative. What key trends do you see now in the healthy food sector? Low sugar, high protein: As obesity, diabetes, and other health problems are becoming increasingly serious, demand is growing for healthy and low-sugar food and beverages. High-protein products have gone beyond being a choice just for sports enthusiasts and emerged as a mainstream offering. Consumer demand for high-protein foods is expected to continue increasing. Functionality: During the Covid-19 pandemic, natural and high-protein products became a favourite among consumers. People have been moving away from products with more sugar, fat and salt towards functional dairy products. An ageing population has also driven the growth of nutrition solutions that can meet the elderly’s needs around healthy ageing. Transparency and sustainability: The consumer-driven trend towards 'clean labels' will also continue as consumers demand greater transparency about the procurement of ingredients and hope to buy eco-friendly products. Meanwhile, the demand for natural and organic products is set to continue growing. In addition, as concerns about carbon emissions continue to rise, the conservation and efficient utilisation of water resources has also become an important topic in sustainable global development.

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