A £3 million marketing campaign launched by the Milk Development Council (MDC) this week will promote the beauty benefits offered by nutrients in dairy products, including the link between B vitamins and healthy skin, calcium's role in toothcare and the use of protein and amino acids in healthy hair.
Calcium intake is important during adolescence as this is considered a key period for the formation of bones and protection against osteoporosis later in life. However research by the industry body suggests that only one out of four girls is eating at least three portions of dairy products daily.
Those who are leaving out dairy products are most likely doing so because of their fear of putting on weight. The new campaign, to run for two years, will try to use this strong interest in appearance to dairy's advantage.
"What's important to teenage girls is looking good," said Vicky Hathaway, marketing manager at the MDC, a government-appointed marketing body for the UK milk sector.
"There is no point talking to them about osteoporosis, which they view as a long-term condition that is not life-threatening. We have to give them other reasons for eating more calcium," she told NutraIngredients.com.
The campaign, backed by a €2.1 million grant from the European Commission, uses a range of media including cinema, radio and press, to carry the 'Naturally Beautiful' message.
Its success will be carefully watched by manufacturers of other health foods. Consumer research suggests that marketers who focus on positive health benefits are more successful than those who focus on disease prevention.
However dairy products have not been widely studied for their cosmeceutical benefits.
Yet branded, health-orientated dairy products are proving popular across the UK multiples, bolstered by high advertising spend, while traditional dairy commodities - own-label milk for instance - are failing to maintain such a high-profile retail presence.
The new campaign reflects the increasing prominence being given to health by British consumers and recognition of the marketing power associated with health benefits.
The UK dairy council has also submitted a dossier of evidence to the UK's Joint Health Claims Initiative to assess whether dairy foods could carry health claims referring to their benefit to bone health.
Hathaway added: "We're aiming to make eating dairy a healthy habit, so that it's not just over the next two years we'll see increases in consumption among these girls, but for the rest of their lives. And as the mothers of the future, they will be instrumental in encouraging future generations to eat a healthy amount of a variety of dairy products."