Milk. It’s good for you, as it nurtures the early life of every human being. You probably have an image of your parents extolling the benefits of milk and other dairy products, and they were right.

While most of us know about the high calcium content of milk, it’s a lesser known fact that milk also contains fifteen other essential nutrients, each delivering amazing benefits. Milk is a local food as well, produced close to even our largest cities in Canada, making it fresh, affordable, and environmentally sustainable.

However, in recent years milk has been pushed aside, with consumers being tempted by new options and non-dairy beverages that don’t come close to offering the natural benefits that milk does. To get the focus back on milk, Agropur, Canada’s largest dairy cooperative,  is using innovative ideas to reinvent the dairy industry.

“Innovation is critical, not only for our industry but for society in general,” says Simon Olivier, Agropur’s Senior Vice President of Strategy and Innovation. “There are many benefits of milk that we already know about, but through continued research we’re starting to discover and learn about even more uses and advantages. We’re excited to be able to bring this information to the public.”

Last year, Agropur achieved a first for the Canadian agri-food industry with the launch of its Inno Challenge, in which 67 cutting-edge ideas from eight countries were submitted. These innovative ideas have been narrowed down to the top three, and soon the one with the strongest market potential will be chosen.       

“Tapping into the global mindset outside the dairy industry was important, because it gave us a fresh angle and new ideas,” says Olivier. “We were surprised and excited by the number and quality of ideas we received. It illustrates what’s possible when we put our heads together, as we seek to deliver the benefits of dairy in different ways.” Inspired by this spirit of innovation and collaboration, the Inno Challenge is now planned to be an annual initiative.

In this spirit of innovation, research by Agropur is discovering that milk is more than just a source of good nutrition. A recent study identified a protein found in milk that can help children with a rare disease that only allows them to digest this one protein. “It’s just the beginning of what innovation and technology will allow us to do,” says Olivier. “We can extract particles from milk and leverage them for some very beneficial purposes, such as helping children with health issues survive, and even manufacture industrial products, such as plastic bottles, using milk as an eco-friendly alternative to petroleum. It’s extremely powerful.”

So the next time you drink a glass of milk, pause for a moment and think about all the bright minds working hard to make dairy products even better for society.