Friday, March 16, 2018

Natural Products Expo West 2018: “Fresh dairy” observations to influence your future innovations.

It’s been less than a week since the 38th annual Expo West wrapped up in Anaheim. It goes without saying that natural, organic and clean-label conversations dominated the exposition floor. After three days of observation and five days of digesting, I’ve identified three trends from the show that I believe are important to the fresh dairy industry moving forward, with fresh dairy being the fluid and cultured categories.

But first, something to take note of is the rise in foods for the keto diet. This is not to be confused with the paleo diet, which bans dairy foods. Daily nutrient intake for the keto diet is around 70% fat, 25% protein and 5% carbohydrate. High-fat dairy is welcome.  %20Dairy&utm_medium=Leaderboard_728x90_Static&utm_campaign=Ingredion_2018_Q1_Mar

It’s no wonder there was a plethora of baked 100% cheese snacks at the expo, many coming from traditional grain-based snack food manufacturers. For carb-avoiders, such cheese snacks provide the crunch they crave.

Riding the coattails of the keto diet is FODMAP, a category of carbohydrates linked to gastrointestinal distress in sensitive individuals. Not surprising, lactose is on that list. Thus, it makes sense for full-fat dairy foods to go the extra step and be lactose free.

Foods designed for improved gastrointestinal health also tend to contain probiotics and prebiotics, both of which were prominent at Expo West 2018. The terms were associated with everything from condiments to packaged salads, and of course, cultured dairy foods. But also, take note, dairy-free yogurt-type products now contain probiotics and are being marketed as gut-health foods.

To read an article on the keto and FODMAP trend, please link HERE to an overview written by my Food Business News colleague Monica Watrous.

Here are my three takeaways from Expo West 2018 for fresh dairy.

1. Grass-fed milk. Not only is it not for everyone, there’s not enough for everyone. But here’s the deal with grass-fed milk, and fresh dairy products made with grass-fed milk. Cows on a 100% grass-fed diet produce milk with a significant increase of omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid, as compared to conventionally fed (mostly grain) cows. This has been known for some time. A study showing this was published in the February 2018 Journal of Food Science and Nutrition.
These healthful fatty acids are in the fat component of milk, so it makes sense that grass-fed dairy products be whole milk. And what do keto dieters want more of in their daily diet?

Further, the grass-fed diet approach appeals to consumers striving for a more plant-based diet. Try this for a marketing spin: the original plant-based milk comes from cows who enjoy a 100% grass-based diet.    

Grass-fed dairy ingredients are a key differentiator for Picnik, an Austin, Texas-based coffee house that entered the ready-to-drink category in 2017 with a line of functional coffee-dairy beverages. The shelf-stable drinks are based on fair-trade coffee, grass-fed butter, grass-fed whey protein and medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil. The company says grass-fed butter fuels the body with a sustained, clean energy that satiates appetite and reduces cravings, while the grass-fed whey protein absorbs rapidly into the body to reduce hunger and sustain muscle growth. The MCT oil offers cognitive boost, supports fat burn and balances mood and hormone levels, while the coffee provides alertness. It’s a keto dieter’s dream beverage.

2. Skyr. This Icelandic yogurt is strained, much like traditional Greek yogurt. But whereas Greek yogurt’s primary appeal was protein content, skyr focuses on probiotics and minimal-to-no-added sugar, as well as protein. Traditional skyr was made with nonfat yogurt, mostly to keep protein levels as high as possible in order to fuel the Vikings who relied on skyr for daily nutrition. Today, the new-generation of skyr being produced in the U.S. is made with whole milk. Look for a number of new skyrs to be featured in upcoming weeks as a Daily Dose of Dairy. In the meantime, link HERE to some new products that rolled out earlier this year.
3. Probiotics. Yes, they are not only now common language and mainstream, they are in almost every food product imaginable. Add them to your dairy foods and market them LOUDLY! At Expo West, DanoneWave gave attendees a sneak peek to a recently developed probiotic shot-style product. Showcased under the trademark-pending brand The Cultured Beverage Company, the daily probiotic comes in plain and strawberry flavors. Each 3.1-ounce bottle contains 70 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 10 grams of sugar and billions of probiotic cultures. 

Expect to see a lot more this year and next in the areas of grass-fed dairy (and meat), skyr and probiotics.

A shout out to my friends at DanoneWave. Loved the love!

It's time to turn dairy goodness into greatness! Love Dairy!  %20Dairy&utm_medium=Leaderboard_728x90_Static&utm_campaign=Ingredion_2018_Q1_Mar

Friday, March 9, 2018

Dairy Foods: Innovation Knows No Limits at Expo West 2018

Welcome to Expo West 2018, where there is an estimated 82,000-plus attendees exploring innovations from more than 3,500 exhibitors, of which 600 are first-time exhibitors. The first day of the expo—Thursday, March 8—was limited to educational sessions and table-top exhibitors in the new north halls.

There were many show-stoppers, with numerous being dairy based. There were also many that were not, but still provide inspiration for innovation. Come explore with me.

But first, the morning kicked off with Carlotta Mast, senior vice president of content at New Hope Network, providing insight to the state of the natural industry, which grew 6.5% to $207 billion in 2017. Natural, organic and functional foods and beverages are 70% of sales. These sales are growing about 10-times faster than total food and beverage sales.

This supports data from The Hartman Group that shows across all regions of the U.S., consumers agree that the two most important attributes when shopping for foods and beverages are what’s good for my heart and what’s locally grown or produced. There is no doubt that consumers continue to view food and beverages as the linchpin of achieving a health and wellness lifestyle. They seek food-and-beverage products with recognizable ingredients and minimal processing as cues for fresh, less processed.

Mast identified five food trends driving inspiration at Expo West 2018. By far, the leader is the Plant Revolution. There was everything from new meat and dairy alternatives, to condiments and smoothies, including frozen desserts, cultured products, burgers, nuggets and frozen meals.

Lifeway Foods is in. The nation’s largest kefir manufacturer debuted dairy-free Plantiful Plant-Based Probiotic. Available in 24-ounce plastic bottles in chocolate and vanilla, with other flavors to be decided soon, the live-and-active cultured beverage is made with organic ingredients, namely organic pea protein. An 8-ounce serving provides 11 grams of plant protein.

Honest Stand debuted a line of refrigerated dips based on blended potatoes, cashews and carrots with vinegar and seasonings. They were tasty! Varieties are: Cheddar-Style, Garlic Parm, Mild Nacho, Smoked Cheddar-Style and Spicy Nacho.

Another trend identified by Mast is Regeneration, also often referred to as Biodynamic. This is a nod to farming and manufacturing practices that restore vitality to the earth. Grass-fed falls into this category.

New Know Brainer Ketogenic Cream is based on medium-chain fatty acids and organic grass-fed butter. The creamers come in two varieties, either made with grass-fed milk and cream or made with almond and coconut milks. The no-sugar-added creamers are also enhanced with collagen protein and are described as “brain boosting, metabolism moving.”

There are a lot of new products designed for the keto and paleo consumer. This speaks to the third trend Mast identified: Having it Your Way. Some of this trend has to do with customization, but it also includes products that address specific dietary needs.

New vegan Cake Shake is a line of ready-to-drink no-sugar-added coconut milk shakes enhanced with medium-chain fatty acids. The single-serve glass bottles are intended to be shaken and consumed as a sweet treat, just without the added sugar. They are low in carbs and gluten free. Flavors are: Chocolate, Coffee, Strawberry and Vanilla.

The two other trends identified by Mast are The World Traveler and Waste Not. Examples of innovations supporting these trends include cold-pressed juice made from the lettuce leftovers that don’t make it into bagged salad, seasoned plantain chips made from rescued fruit and nutrition bars made with flour produced from the grain byproduct from beer production.

There were a number of innovations that showed everyday foods in a different format. Innovation knows no limits.
One that really stood out was EggLife wraps. Appealing to those on keto diets, these wrap are almost all egg white. They are free from dairy, gluten and sugars and contain less than 1 gram of carbohydrate, only 25 calories and 4 grams of protein per wrap. 

Riding the gluten-free protein trend, there’s new Pork Panko crumbs, which are made from pork skins. A half-cup of this breadcrumb alternative provides 5 grams of fat and 9 grams of protein.

Schuman Cheese is growing its wildly successful Whisps Cheese Crisps snack line with Bacon BBQ and Tomato Basil varieties. These join Asiago & Pepper Jack, Cheddar and Parmesan. Made with pure cheese, one serving of the gluten-free snack provides 10 or more grams of protein.

Sonoma Creamery is taking this baked/dehydrated cheese concept into a bar format. The new Cheese Crisp Bar is a crispy, savory snack bar baked from real cheese and simple ingredients. Varieties are: Bacon Cheddar, Everything Cheddar, Parmesan, Pepper Jack and Savory Seed. High in protein and low in carbs, there’s 0 grams of sugar and only 110 to 120 calories per two-bar pack.

Here are two prototype concepts to consider from BENEO. The first is Pro Carb Yogurt, which is an all-natural cultured dairy product loaded with protein while being packed with balanced carbohydrate energy. The product is designed to meet the current “sportification” trend, as well as serving as a nutritious breakfast or satisfying snack between meals. It is packed with dairy proteins and Palatinose for a balanced energy supply, so it keeps you going longer without a sugar rush and dip.

There’s also a concept for dairy-free almond lattes.

Over the next few weeks I will be featuring the many new dairy products making their debut at Expo West. The concepts range from extra-high-fat cream-on-top milk to no-curd cottage cheese snacks.

On a closing note, it’s great to see Gary Hirshberg, co-founder of Stonyfield Farm, actively back in the industry. Stonyfield is a company that grew from humble beginnings as a small organic farming school in New Hampshire 35 years ago into a leader in organic dairy. At Expo West, the company started a new chapter in its storied history with Gary’s return in the newly created role of Chief Organic Optimist. He will help accelerate Stonyfield’s long-standing mission of healthy people and a healthy planet through new products, partnerships and initiatives that embody Stonyfield’s, and Gary’s, innate activist spirit.

On a closing note, it’s great to see Gary Hirshberg, co-founder of Stonyfield Farm, actively back in the industry. Stonyfield is a company that grew from humble beginnings as a small organic farming school in New Hampshire 35 years ago into a leader in organic dairy. At Expo West, the company started a new chapter in its storied history with Gary’s return in the newly created role of Chief Organic Optimist. He will help accelerate Stonyfield’s long-standing mission of healthy people and a healthy planet through new products, partnerships and initiatives that embody Stonyfield’s, and Gary’s, innate activist spirit.

“Although we’ve never stopped working for healthy people and a healthy planet, everyone at Stonyfield agrees that the planet needs stronger voices now more than ever,” says Hirshberg. “Of course, just the daily act of supporting over 1,400 organic family farmers stewarding millions of chemical-free acres and helping tens of millions to enjoy delicious organic foods is meaningful, but in today’s policy and political landscape, all of that is not enough. It doesn’t matter to our children how much organic yogurt we produce, if their air, soil and water are seeing increased chemical contamination and climate change is causing massive damage to our communities and to agriculture.”

At Expo West, Stonyfield is arming attendees with tools and resources to get out to vote for this year’s mid-term elections, with the goal of encouraging consumers to vote for candidates who will help protect the environment. Expo attendees can visit one of five onsite Stonyfield “voting” booths, where they can select a postage paid postcard to mail to friends and family across the country that will connect them to online educational resources about the environmental issues at stake--and where the candidates stand on them--this November. Stonyfield is also encouraging attendees to pledge onsite to vote for candidates who will protect the environment and challenge recent EPA decisions such as the announcement this week to dissolve the Unit that tests the effects of chemicals exposure on children.

Hope to see you on the show floor the next couple of days!

Friday, March 2, 2018

Expo West 2018: Protein Preview

In less than a week I hope to see many of you in Anaheim at Expo West 2018, which promises to be the biggest and most diverse natural products exposition ever. This is due to the mainstreaming of organic and natural foods. What once was a venue for a group of tree huggers who embraced foods direct from Mother Nature, maybe produced with a little help from artisan craftsmen, now includes industrial manufactured products such as organic jelly beans and all-natural cola.

As the world’s largest natural, organic and healthy products event, the expo continues to serve as a reunion for many of the industry’s original players. I was not there in the beginning, but I do remember the early days…like the one “clothing optional, fig leave acceptable” year.

Not sure what year was my first, but I do remember there were only three dairies with booths larger than a tabletop. They were Stonyfield Farm, where Gary worked the booth in jeans and Birkenstocks; Organic Valley, which was then still referred to as CROPP, where George, in his predictable jeans and flannel shirt was advocating for national organic standards, and Horizon, still owned by its founding fathers, Mark and Paul, was the newbie in the trio, and had grand plans in place to make organic milk available nationally. Back then, the world was a much simpler place. How I miss those days.

But here we are, 2018! All indications are that protein will dominate the Expo West 2018 conversation, with animal protein and plant protein companies equally represented.

I’ve been writing a lot about plant proteins, as they are impossible to ignore. And they are not just for vegans and vegetarians.

“Vegetarians and vegans together account for less than 15% of all consumers and their numbers do not grow very rapidly, but a growing number of consumers identify themselves as flexitarian or lessitarian, meaning that they’ve cut back on their consumption of animal-based foods and beverages,” says David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts. “It is this group that is most responsible for the significant and ongoing shift from dairy milk to plant-based milk.

“The point of non-dairy is to be non-dairy,” says Sprinkle. “Our research shows that among non-dairy milk alternative buyers in the U.S., only 5% are watching their diet for lactose intolerance, and only 11% are vegetarian/vegetarian leaning. In contrast, 82% of these non-dairy milk buyers also buy dairy milk or half-and-half.”

So I pose the question: can the point of dairy be protein…high-quality, nutritionally superior, complete protein?

Here’s one of my pre-expo observations to consider. Last year there’s was a great deal of anticipation for Bolthouse’s Plant Protein Milk. This year, unless they are sneaking one by me, their new dairy protein products are all the talk.

Bolthouse Farms, which is a part of C-Fresh, a division of the Campbell Soup Company, will be introducing the Bolthouse Farms B line of products, a new platform of lower-sugar, superpremium refrigerated beverages. The better-for-you Bolthouse Farms B Strong protein beverages contain 16 grams of protein (from whey) per 15.2-ounce bottle with 70% less sugar (16 grams total) than the leading refrigerated protein drink, according to the company. Monkfruit juice extract helps keep sugar content down. The protein drink comes in Chocolate, Coffee, Vanilla and Vanilla Chai flavors.

There’s also two new yogurt dressings: Avocado Green Goddess and Sweet Heat Sriracha. A two-tablespoon serving of any of the dressings in the yogurt range contains 1 to 2 grams of protein, from the yogurt, whey protein concentrate and often some cheese.

“We’re committed to creating more great-tasting and nutritious options to support consumers’ evolving lifestyles and nutritional needs,” says Todd Putman, general manager of C-Fresh. “Our new Bolthouse Farms dressing innovations and ‘B’ line of beverages offer consumers a greater variety of healthier options as they explore their wellness journey.”

“Great tasting” and “nutritional needs.” This is what you get with dairy proteins!

Stonyfield knows that. One of the new products the company will be showcasing at Expo West is Stonyfield Organic Kids Choco-Mooo low-fat yogurt pouches and tubes. This is the first chocolate-flavored yogurt designed to appeal to the taste preferences of children’s palates, as the product tastes like chocolate milk while containing 25% less sugar than most kids’ yogurts, as well as less sugar than most chocolate milks. One pouch contains 5 grams of protein.

There will be a number of newer innovative high-protein dairy products at Expo West that have had a makeover in order to better get their protein message out to the consumer. One of these lines comes from Wünder Creamery, which will be introducing Superdairy Quark.

The founders of Misha LLC are now releasing a new line of nutrient-rich super-dairy quark products under the name Wünder Creamery. The new name Wünder pays homage to quark’s international origins and emphasizes the product’s super (natural) dairy qualities. A beloved dairy staple in more than 20 countries across Europe and Central Asia, quark is currently a dairy anomaly in the U.S. Think non-tart yogurt meets rich crème fraiche.

In its home countries, quark is known for its high-protein content and creamy texture. Wünder Creamery’s quark stays true to its origins with added benefits. It is made using grass-fed whole milk, a special blend of cheese cultures from France and is powered by probiotics. The result is a good-for-your-gut snack that is packed with protein yet low in sugar.

“We feel that whole milk Wünder Creamery quark captures everything there is to love about this nutrient-rich super-dairy food,” says co-founder Kamilya Abilova. “High protein, low sugar and probiotics make quark a great option for a balanced diet. A tad of healthy fats adds to the mouthfeel and the flavor. It’s just one of those uncompromising snacks.”

Wünder Creamery’s quark cups will be available at select retailers beginning spring 2018. Flavors include Matcha, Coffee, Vanilla Bean Coconut, Raspberry and Blueberry in 5.3 ounce cups, as well as a Plain option (great for recipes) in a 24-ounce container.
Here’s another. After conducting an in-depth consumer study, ProYo learned two things were keeping it from connecting to frequent frozen dessert/ice cream shoppers. One was the ProYo name and the other was the packaging. Some consumers were confused by the name ProYo, wondering if it was ice cream, frozen yogurt or a novelty. Others felt that the bold, black packaging, and oversized protein callout on the front of the package resonated predominantly with men.

Frequent shoppers of the better-for-you ice cream category are looking for the best-tasting, premium option that also delivers on clean ingredients, and lower levels of calories, sugar and fat. As ProYo’s mission has long been to inspire its customers with the best-tasting, better-for-you ice cream that delivers bang-for-your-bite nutrition, there was a clear opportunity to better communicate the product’s leading points of difference.

The new package features a clean, premium oceanic blue package that will pop on shelf next to the competition with key points of differentiation like high protein, lower sugar and 120-calories per serving noted on front of pack displayed in a way that will resonate with both female and male buyers, according to the company’s research. Additionally, to meet demands for indulgent flavors with inclusions, each flavor is communicated with a photographed, single delectable scoop and color-blocked, front-of-pack flavor names and lids.

The ingredients and formulations of the ice creams have not changed. New Swell Ice Cream is not only low-fat (2.5 grams or less per half-cup serving), it also delivers a market-leading, excellent source of 10 grams of protein per 120-calorie serving (35 grams of protein per 14-ounce container), which comes from the milk and whey protein concentrate.With the rebrand, the company is launching two new inclusion-laded flavors: Chocolate Chip Cookie Batter and Cookies ‘n Cream.

Let’s reclaim the protein story! See you in Anaheim!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Yogurt in the U.S. in 2018. Three Concepts for Innovation Inspiration.

Many U.S. refrigerated yogurt retail departments are a disaster. There are too many options, too many flavors, too many package sizes. Yep, I write this blog on innovation and I’m going to be as direct possible, the refrigerated yogurt case does not need any more copycats.

Spring is in the air. How about cleaning up and paring down your mainstay SKUs. The refrigerated yogurt case does not need a blended low-fat cherry yogurt sold under seven different brands. That’s what I counted in a store the other day.

According to The Yogurt Market and Yogurt Innovation, 3rd Edition, from Packaged Facts, estimated total retail dollar sales of the U.S. yogurt market were $8.8 billion in 2017. Sales increased at a compound annual growth rate of 2% between 2012 and 2017. Volume sales were basically flat in the period. Greek yogurt was the primary driver of upward sales growth over most of the past 10 years.

“The novelty and popularity of this product resulted in Greek yogurt soaring from 1% of the market in 2007 to about half of all sales currently,” says David Sprinkle, publisher for Packaged Facts. “Over the last couple of years, however, growth of Greek yogurt slowed as the segment matured. The overall market has suffered since the underlying declines for traditional yogurt haven’t been offset as they previously were by the significant growth in the Greek segment.”

This report identifies a number of opportunities for growing the category. I am going to build on two of them and present you with three concepts for innovation inspiration.

The first opportunity is dairy alternatives. I discussed this last week. You can read more HERE.

“The U.S. yogurt market enjoyed a revival when Greek yogurt hit the shelves. But with Greek yogurt becoming mainstream, the market is ripe for a new disruptor,” says Sprinkle. “Dairy-free products, especially beyond soy, may be the longer-term solution to revive what has become a relatively flat market.”

The challenge with many of these alternatives in their nutritional inferiority, namely, they lack the powerful protein one gets in cows milk yogurt. So why not combine the two? Adding whey proteins to a cultured coconut base prevents a vegan claim, but it’s still vegetarian, and likely still appealing to that growing segment of the population described as Flexitarian or Lessitarian. It’s the allure of plant protein fueled by the power of whey.

I see this product as more of a drinkable, quite possibly with a smoothie descriptor. Merchandising in the produce department beverage sector would be ideal, but if not there, the value-added milk department makes more sense than that very confusing and congested yogurt case.

That brings me to the second opportunity—international influence--identified in the report. I will break this down into two innovation inspirations.

“There’s a new wave of international influences: skyrs by Icelandic Provisions and Siggi’s, now under Lactalis,” says Sprinkle. “There’s Australian versions such as Danone’s Wallaby Organic and French-accented versions such as General Mills’ indulgence-oriented Oui, in distinctive glass pots, and Liberté, with premium, on-trend flavors such as French Lavender. Innovation in flavor, texture and portability remains key to the market.”

Here’s an international influence that has gone largely ignored in the U.S. It’s pourable yogurt. This is not to be confused with drinkable yogurt, which is meant to be drunk. Pourable yogurt, as its name suggests, is meant to be poured on…to cereal, fruit, salad, etc. Quarts of kefir are the closest thing, and many consumers do use kefir in this manner.

Hopefully more consumers will explore how you can cook with kefir once The Kefir Cookbook, by Julie Smolyansky, CEO of Lifeway Foods, rolls out March 6. This first-of-its-kind cookbook features more than 100 globally inspired recipes using this popular probiotic and nutritious superfood.

Knowing Julie and her energy and commitment, I am confident this book will receive a lot of publicity. This is turn will encourage consumers to get more creative in the kitchen with kefir and other cultured dairy products. The time is right for pourable yogurt. 

One might argue that all a consumer needs to do is scoop a few spoons from a multi-serve tub of yogurt. It’s just not the same. And, for many, there’s the syneresis issue that compounds after every scoop.

Pourable yogurt is meant to be shaken and poured. It should flow easily. It can be enhanced with vitamins, minerals, probiotics, prebiotics and protein for extra nutrition. But even more importantly, the product can be merchandised in the valued-added milk case. That’s where you find cultured buttermilk.

Now here’s that international influence. It’s called Filmjölk, or simply fil. This is a traditional fermented milk product from Sweden, and a common dairy product within the Nordic countries. It tends to have a mild and slightly acidic taste and is designed to be poured.

Here’s the second spin to the international innovation opportunity. David Sprinkle says that innovation in flavor, texture and portability remains key to the market.

That’s what you get with Alove from Morinaga Nutritional Foods Inc., the U.S. arm of Japanese dairy giant Morinaga, which has been successfully selling aloe yogurt in Japan for years. The brand debuted at Expo West 2017 and has not stopped growing. Alove is a kosher-certified yogurt snack that contains aloe, which is made via Morinaga’s proprietary process of removing fresh aloe from aloe plant leaves, the best and tastiest parts. This then gets mixed into creamy yogurt. The product is made in the U.S. using locally sourced California milk. The product does not contain high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors or gluten. It made its original debut in Blueberry, Original Aloe and Strawberry flavors and just last month Peach, Kiwi and Vanilla joined the lineup. The brand also has big news for Expo West 2018, which is less than two weeks away. But it’s embargoed, so you will need be patient for the details.

Alove cups are described as a thinner yogurt compared to conventional and Greek. The product gets a protein boost from whey protein isolate. The aloe contributes a unique texture to the product and is associated with internal healing, cleansing and repair. Some studies show an association with boosting immunity and heart health.

“Yogurt fans have eagerly expressed enthusiasm for international styles of yogurt, such as Greek and Icelandic, over the past few years. We strongly believe that aloe vera yogurt is poised to be the next category craze,” says Hiroyuki Imanishi, president and CEO of Morinaga Nutritional Foods. “The in-depth research we conducted before launching in the U.S. indicated consumers have great interest in our Japanese-style aloe vera yogurt, which is a silkier, smoother style of yogurt mixed with succulent cubes of aloe vera.”

In conclusion, Packaged Facts analysists have high hopes for the yogurt category. So do I!
The report projects that retail dollar sales of the yogurt market will reach $9.8 billion in 2022. Yogurt drinks will continue to grow in popularity, with sales increasing to drive overall market gains. Declines in the spoonable segment will abate, and sales will stabilize as major marketers respond to opportunities in growth niches, particularly in plant-based alternatives. For more information on the report, link HERE.

Hopefully these three concepts provide innovation inspiration.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Why Plant-Based Products Make Sense in your Dairy Foods Portfolio: A Lesson Learned from an Independent Grocer

Before farmer and cooperative readers send me disheartening notes, please hear me out on today’s topic of why it makes good business sense for dairy processors to offer dairy alternatives. And please remember, I’m a dairy-loving lady, so much so that I volunteer at the Farm-in-the-Zoo in Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo in order that I may educate visitors during the cow feeding and milking programs.

The fact is, dairy alternatives are a growing business. They may still be a small part of the big picture, especially in cheese, where, let’s be honest, nothing compares to real cheese. But on the beverage side, business is booming. Many of you were grumbling about it at Dairy Forum. Instead of complaining, act on it. By the end of this blog, I think you will be convinced that it is time to include plant-based products in your dairy foods portfolio.

In beverage, the numbers tell the story. The market for dairy and dairy alternative beverages will reach a projected $28 billion by 2021, according to market research firm Packaged Facts’ report, Dairy and Dairy Alternative Beverage Trends in the U.S., 4th edition. Spurring the segment’s growth will be plant-based dairy alternatives, which are expected to represent 40% of the combined total of dairy and dairy alternative beverages, up from 25% in 2016 when dairy alternative beverages alone accounted for barely $6 billion in retail sales. (Personally I think this projection is inflated, but regardless, it cannot be ignored.)

The shift away from traditional dairy products, namely cows milk products, towards plant-based alternatives revolves around health concerns, with a growing number of consumers believing that plant-based foods are healthier than animal-based foods. Further, there is a growing consumer base that is motivated by animal welfare concerns, leading them to choose plant-based beverages, as well as other plant-based foods over animal-based products. (Again, real or perceived, these beliefs cannot be ignored.)

The key is they are doing this, sometimes, not necessarily always. It may be every other shopping trip. Or they may keep both dairy and dairy alternative options on hand, and enjoy both depending on daypart and usage occasion.

“Vegetarians and vegans together account for less than 15% of all consumers and their numbers do not grow very rapidly, but a growing number of consumers identify themselves as flexitarian or lessitarian, meaning that they’ve cut back on their consumption of animal-based foods and beverages,” says David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts. “It is this group that is most responsible for the significant and ongoing shift from dairy milk to plant-based milk.

“The point of non-dairy is to be non-dairy,” says Sprinkle. “Our research shows that among non-dairy milk alternative buyers in the U.S., only 5% are watching their diet for lactose intolerance, and only 11% are vegetarian/vegetarian leaning. In contrast, 82% of these non-dairy milk buyers also buy dairy milk or half-and-half.”

Please take note of that important figure: 82% of non-dairy milk buyers also buy dairy milk or half-and-half.

The truth is, marketers of plant-based beverages and other dairy alternatives are hardly concealing the nature of their products. The whole point is that they are offering dairy alternatives.

“With their non-dairy identity a given, they are signaling to consumers the dairy products they aim to compete with,” says Sprinkle. “It’s true, non-dairy products compete brazenly against dairy products, but that’s how the marketplace works. And it’s true that these products generally are substitutes for and imitations of dairy products, but that does not necessarily mean they are inferior. When they obviously are inferior, on the terms that matter to individual shoppers, consumers will purchase them once at most, which indeed is the fate of a disproportionate number of dairy alternative products. When dairy alternatives are inferior but less obviously so, the dairy industry can make its case directly to consumers through marketing.”

That brings me to National Grocers Association (NGA) annual meeting earlier this week in Las Vegas. It’s an educational expo for me, as I gain insights on retailing from the independent grocers who attend the event and the suppliers who serve them.

Fresh and in-store foodservice were hot topics of discussion, as was snacking and how to best accommodate the growing array of snack foods. I was talking with a number of retailers about their dairy departments, mostly refrigerated but frozen, too. The consensus was that many of their shoppers purchase both dairy and dairy alternative products because of household members’ preferences or dietary needs. What surprised me was the next revelation, and this was made specific to Ben & Jerry's, Organic Valley and Stonyfield. These retailers told me that shoppers who purchase dairy and dairy alternatives tend to stay within the same brand whenever possible. One retailer specifically said he wished more dairies would offer nondairy under the same family brand.

I pressed one retailer on this and he gave me an explanation I could not wait to share with all of you. “My shoppers trust dairy brands and they want to support local farmers. They just want options, and for many, that includes non-dairy products.”

To learn more about this opportunity, I encourage you to register for a webinar on this topic that will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018. The speakers will explore the trends that are reshaping the dairy market and provide fresh insights on how you can set your products apart. You will gain insight to consumer perceptions of alternative dairy products currently in the market, which will help you develop the next generation of dairy alternatives. Dairy alternatives from dairies. Register HERE.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Cold Brew Coffee and Milk Make the Perfect Match

The percentage of Americans drinking coffee on a daily basis increased to 62% this past year, up from 57% in 2016, according to the National Coffee Association. This increase may be attributed to the growth in premium, gourmet beans as well as the variety and convenience of grab-and-go, ready-to-drink (RTD) coffees. The latter has experienced an upsurge thanks to the cold-brew phenomenon, which for many, turns an otherwise bitter beverage into something smoother, more palatable.

Consumption of RTD coffee is highest among 13- to 18-year olds, as younger consumers, in general, feel less confident brewing their own coffee. This should come as no surprise. This is a generation that grew up playing in coffee shops while mom and dad sipped and socialized.

This is a curious and adventurous audience, and thus presents an excellent opportunity for dairy processors to offer next-generation cold-brew coffee beverages. What do I mean by next generation? Well check this out.  utm_source=BerryonDairy&utm_medium=728x90&utm_campaign=SynergyPureColdBrewCoffee&utm  _content=AnimatedBanner

Though it’s not (yet) for this younger—Gen Z—consumer, as you must be 21- or older to purchase, this new RTD coffee from Café Agave is an extreme example of the opportunities with cold brew. Rolling out this spring, new Cafe Agave Spiked Cold Brew Coffee is a first-of-its-kind to market. It’s a blend of alcohol, cold-brewed coffee, real dairy cream, agave nectar and natural flavors. The wine-based beverage (12.5% alcohol by volume) comes in four flavors: Espresso Shot, Caffe Mocha, Salted Caramel and Vanilla Cinnamon.

“Cold-brewed coffee is the hottest thing around right now,” says Mark Scialdone, co-founder. “Cold brew coffee is no longer reserved for java aficionados, it now has mass market appeal.”

“Cafe Agave Spiked Cold Brew is about a lifestyle,” says Ami-Lynn Bakshi, co-founder. “We are constantly on the go, non-stop, 24/7. We talked a lot about how we always start the night with a cup of coffee. And so, Cafe Agave Spiked Cold Brew was born.”

I’m not suggesting dairy processors get in the booze business. But, I am suggesting you get more creative to appeal to the millennial and Gen Z consumer who likes to explore new beverages. Beverage entrepreneurs are onto it, with most PROUDLY using milk or cream as the number-two ingredient. And, take note, one of the beauties of the cold-brew process is that coffee is less bitter. This allows for the development of beverages with no or very little sweetener, which appeals to today’s beverage consumer. 

At the convenience store show (NACS) this past October, Bowery Coffee Company provided a sneak peek at its Cold Brew + Milk line, which comes in 8-ounce slim cans. Made with whole milk, the drink comes in Original, Mocha, Tahitian Vanilla and Toasted Caramel flavors.

Hey Day showcased its new 11-ounce can line, which includes three varieties—Chocolate, Espresso and Vanilla—made with reduced fat milk. Calories and sugar content are kept low though the use of monk fruit extract.

In Canada, Natrel has repackaged its iced coffee drinks in 310-milliliter sleek single-serve plastic bottles. The dairy beverages are intended for the growing convenience and snacking channels. 

Peet’s Coffee and Tea Corp., now offers a line of RTD cold-brew coffee bottles. One of its specialties is The Black Tie, which is described as bold, smooth and never bitter. It is made with sweetened condensed milk and cream. Other dairy-based offerings include Au Lait, Dark Chocolate and limited-edition Peppermint Mocha.

The Coca-Cola Company will be rolling out Dunkin Donuts Shot in the Dark this May. The 8.4-ounce cans of coffee and milk come in Mocha, Regular and Vanilla flavors.

Coffee Milk is the newest flavor in The Farmer’s Cow popular series of limited-edition milks. Sweet and creamy, it blends rich whole milk with coffee extract, natural flavors and just the right amount of real sugar. There are no artificial flavors or colors, and no high fructose corn syrup. All of the flavors of The Farmer’s Cow Limited Edition Milk are produced in small batches and sold in collectible glass bottles. Each 8-ounce serving has 200 calories and provides 8 grams of protein. The Coffee Milk is easy to find in the dairy case with a latte colored cap and The Farmer’s Cow signature brand.

DanoneWave is expanding its refrigerated Stok cold-brew coffee brand with Stok Protein Espresso. Each 12-ounce bottle contains 16 grams of protein. The beverage is being marketing as “fuel for your daily grind.” A serving contains as much protein as two large eggs and a slice of bacon and as much calcium as a glass of milk.Its ingredient list is simply: Coffee (Filtered Water, Coffee), Skim Milk, Micellar Casein (Milk Protein), Cane Sugar, Cream.

Marketing materials state: “To coffee nerds like us, caffeine and protein is a no-brainer. It’s how you start the day. Or an all-nighter. We experimented—over and over—until we landed on a protein blend that complements our low and slow cold-brew. No chalky aftertaste here—the STOK blend of micellar casein with a little whey hits the super-smooth bullseye.”

Here’s another selling point beverage marketers will likely soon capitalize on: Coffee is the number-one source of antioxidants in the U.S. diet, according to research from the National Coffee Association.
And, let’s start talking about what milk brings to coffee beverages. Numerous consumer articles this past week were based on the scientific paper published in the January 2018 Journal of Food Science and Technology (abstract HERE) that compared the nutritional comparison of cows milk with milk alternatives.

The purpose of the paper was to help consumers make informed decisions. Most of the consumer media communicated that nothing compares to cows milk’s strong nutritional package. The closest alternative is soy. Link HERE to an article written by a registered dietitian.

It’s time to get creative with cold brew and compete in the beverage business. With value-added beverages, single-serve, eye-catching packaging is paramount. Co-packers can assist. (Link HERE for co-packing assistance.) There is a real opportunity to take a functional foods positioning with cold-brew, dairy-based beverages.  utm_source=BerryonDairy&utm_medium=728x90&utm_campaign=SynergyPureColdBrewCoffee&utm  _content=AnimatedBanner