Friday, January 15, 2021

Dairies are a Bright Spot in 2021


Personal note: I attribute my (thus far) very mild, almost asymptomatic case of COVID-19 on a healthful diet and exercise. That diet is dairy-centric, loaded with probiotics, vitamin D and essential fats, along with plenty of vitamin C and a few antioxidant supplements. Thanks for your well wishes and care packages. I am in the clear on Saturday. I also want to emphasize the importance of wearing a mask. My eldest son and I tested positive after he learned he was exposed to a positive carrier on New Year’s Eve. Had we not known, and if we were reckless with protection and sanitizing, we could have infected many. Just saying…

The Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network (CFBN) hosted its first event of the 2021 season this week. The virtual event provided an in-depth look at the State of the Industry. Dairies are a bright spot!

“With all of the challenges that 2020 brought to our industry and all of the optimism that 2021 promises--from the COVID vaccine rollout to projected city re-openings, and from interesting mergers and acquisitions activity on the horizon to consumer’s next moves and changing commerce models--there is a lot to discuss,” said Alan Reed, executive director of CFBN.

He emphasized that there are two things that will continue this year. Consumers want to eat healthier products and there will be more eating at home. Even though tourism and hospitality will likely explode in the second half of the year, consumers will remain cautious with what they fuel their body with and where they do it. 

My friend Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, CSSD, LDN, shared insights on the best eating plans, which, of course, include dairy, and why they may be beneficial, especially for athletes and active people. Read her comprehensive article she wrote for the Northeast American Dairy Association HERE.

Industry authorities participating in the CFBN State of the Industry event emphasized that when the world starts opening up, there will be lots of pent up demand to explore new products. That’s why innovation must not stop.  

Need innovation ideas? Listen to the season two premiere of “The Dairy Download” featuring interviews with BerryOnDairy and Dairy Carrie, addressing efforts to connect American consumers with the stories behind their favorite dairy products…brands that also thrive outside of cows’ milk products.
Consumers today want to know “Where did that gallon of milk come from?” “Why is my local dairy making juice?” “Why are there so many ice cream flavors and cheese styles?” Link HERE to the 30-minute podcast. 

One of the biggest opportunities for dairy processors is the beverage section of the refrigerated dairy case, as well as the produce department. This has become a destination for beverage seekers who want premium, quality product that is minimally processed and free of artificial ingredients. Dairy processors are well poised to be making these juices, teas and coffee beverages.

This week Chobani expanded its refrigerated beverage business with new Chobani Coffee. (More on this rollout next week as a Daily Dose of Dairy.) Throughout 2020, Chobani successfully introduced a range of refrigerated fluid products, including plant-based beverages, creamers and functional wellness drinks. While the Chobani brand is best associated with Greek yogurt, the dairy recognizes the value in its brand and the appreciation and trust consumers have in it. That’s what dairies bring to the beverage category. 

Friday, January 8, 2021

Dairy is in a good place in 2021. Let’s keep it there!


The newly released Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2020-2025 edition) reaffirmed dairy’s central role in the diet, as dairy foods provide essential nutrients that are often under consumed. It is paramount that processors continue to offer the highest-quality, best-tasting dairy foods in order to keep consumers as customers. 

Highlights from the Dietary Guidelines:

  • A recommendation of three servings of dairy in the Healthy U.S. Eating pattern and Healthy Vegetarian Eating patterns, in keeping with past guidelines;

  • Dairy’s continued recognition as a distinct food group;

  • A recognition that Americans aren’t consuming enough dairy to meet their nutritional needs;

(#1 approach to keep dairy attractive to the 2021 shopper: Invest in the marketing of dairy’s nutrient density. This includes social media and packaging claims.) 

  • Dairy’s reaffirmation as a source of four nutrients of public health concern, including potassium, calcium, and vitamin D, as well as iodine for pregnant women; and, the most noteworthy,
  • A recommendation of milk, yogurt and cheese in the first-ever healthy eating patterns geared toward infants and toddlers ages birth to 24 months.

(#2 approach to keep dairy attractive to the 2021 shopper: Invest in the development of nutrient-dense, delicious and even fun dairy foods for infants and toddlers.) 

“The panel’s recognition that dairy is a key source of ‘nutrients of concern’ in U.S. diets is especially important,” says Jim Mulhern, president and CEO, National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF). “During a time of food insecurity and concerns about proper nutrition among Americans, dairy is a readily accessible solution to clearly identified public-health challenges. Dairy farmers work hard to be part of that solution, and the panel’s recognition of the nutritional importance of dairy is greatly appreciated.”

Miquela Hanselman, NMPF’s regulatory affairs manager, said in a recently released podcast, “Dairy is in a good place. Three servings of low-fat and non-fat dairy are continued to be recommended in the healthy U.S. and vegetarian diets, and dairy remained its own group. In addition, dairy was recognized as a source of under-consumed nutrients, which are also known as nutrients of public health concern.”

Hanselman also discusses the need to incorporate up-to-date research on dairy in fats in the next round of guidelines and talks about their impact on encouraging the next generation of milk-drinkers. To listen to the five-minute podcast, link HERE. (I highly recommend listening and subscribing!)

Hanselman explained how the new Dietary Guidelines went against the advice of a Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee and kept the recommendation for added sugars at less than 10% of total calories per day, starting at age 2. Infants younger than age 2 should avoid foods and beverage with added sugars.

“Some added sugars can increase the palatability of healthy foods for kids,” said Hanselman.

The FDA defines added sugars as sugars that are added during the processing of foods, foods packaged as sweeteners, sugars from syrups and honey, and sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices. When it comes to kids, sugar-sweetened beverages are the number-one contributor of added sugars to their diet, followed by desserts and sweet snacks.

(#3 approach to keep dairy attractive to the 2021 shopper: Invest in added sugar reduction for all ages. This can be achieved through careful selection of ingredients. For dairy, this includes use of high-quality fruits, premium cocoa, low- and non-caloric sweeteners, flavor modulators, enzymes and texturants.) 

When it comes to sweeteners, consumer requirements are diverse and there is not a one-size-fits-all approach, according to HealthFocus International. (See infographic.) Research shows that 66% of consumers now prefer products that taste less sweet than they used to. Interestingly, most shoppers prefer to reduce sugar instead of replacing it.

This is something that Eric Bonin, founder and CEO of Pillars Yogurt—and a friend—has known for some time. Pillars was the first yogurt brand to debut drinkable Greek yogurt with zero added sugar and pre-and-probiotics.

Four and a half years ago, Bonin delivered the first batch of Pillars to the Wayland, Massachusetts, Whole Foods from the trunk of his car. Now for 2021, the brand has won national distribution--with the exception of the Pacific-Northwest region--in the retailer’s yogurt set. 

(#4 approach to keep dairy attractive to the 2021 shopper: Invest in ingredients that support gut health and build immunity.) 

“Whole Foods was our first customer--the retailer that gave us a shot to bring a new product to the super-competitive yogurt category. We’re incredibly grateful and humbled by this opportunity,” says Bonin. “Brick by brick and store by store, we’ve been working hard at building our brand, and Whole Foods has been an incredible partner along the way. Taking Pillars national with Whole Foods will fuel our own trajectory and brand awareness, and also help the overall drinkable category expand as shoppers embrace the convenience and value of the drinkable format, which is still novel for many yogurt consumers.”

Created by Bonin with functional health and wellness in mind, all Pillars products are free from added sugar and feature a proprietary pre-and-probiotic blend to support optimal gut health. Pillars’ brand portfolio features six 12-ounce single-serve drinkable yogurt flavors, and four 32-ounce multi-serve drinkable SKUs. A 12-ounce serving of Pillars has 100 calories, 18 grams of protein, 5 grams net carbs, 0 grams of fat and is a good source of fiber. Sweetened and flavored with organic stevia and organic natural flavors, Pillars is non-GMO, gluten-free and certified kosher.

(On a personal note, my eldest son and I have tested positive for COVID-19 after he was exposed to the virus on New Year’s Eve. Don’t get me started on his selfish act, but nevertheless, he is my son. So far, so good. If we come out of this easily, I attribute it to all the probiotics and vitamin D we consume.)

Now the final topic we must all address: packaging. COVID-19 has all of us using way too much packaging and disposables.

Dutch multinational dairy cooperative FrieslandCampina just announced that it will be making PET bottles from 100% recycled PET (rPET) starting February 2021. Due to the fact that PET bottle can only be recycled if the consumer has removed the label, FrieslandCampina’s Research & Development department has developed a brand new “zipper” that makes it easier to separate labels from the bottle. This makes FrieslandCampina the first company in the dairy sector to make its bottles virtually circular for its brands in the Netherlands, Belgium, the United Kingdom and Hungary.

“With the 100% recycled PET bottle, FrieslandCampina is taking a new step in making its packaging circular,” says Patrick van Baal, global director packaging development. “Our ambition is to become fully circular. That is why we are increasing the recycled content of our PET bottles from 20% to 100%. This step is crucial because in order to achieve our sustainability goals, all packaging must first become recyclable and/or reusable.”

(#5 approach to keep dairy attractive to the 2021 shopper: Invest in efforts to do your part in reducing packaging waste.) 

Happy New Year! Dairy is in a good place. Let’s keep it there!

Friday, December 18, 2020

Dairy Foods Innovation: Be Ahead of the Curve in 2021


Too many forecasts to digest? How many even relate to dairy? Better yet, how can we make them relevant to dairy? Let’s explore what consumers actually purchased in 2020 and how the dairy industry can be ahead of the game and make sure these products are better than ever and more available in 2021. 

There will be no trade-offs in 2021. People are smarter and stronger than a year ago. They plan to speak with their dollar more than ever before.

In an end-of-year progress report conference call with media on Dec. 17, 2020, Tom Gallagher, CEO, Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) and Barb O’Brien, president of DMI and the Innovation Canter for U.S. Dairy, along with Pennsylvania dairy farmer and DMI Chair Marilyn Hershey, provided a review of 2020 and a look ahead to 2021. The three confirmed what we already knew, consumers flocked to the supermarket dairy case during the pandemic. 

Now that there’s a vaccine, which may allow for more flexibility in dining by the time summer rolls around, we need to keep dairy relevant to consumers. The speakers pointed out how COVID-19 has made consumers more aware of the food supply chain and sustainability efforts by all players in that chain. It matters. And will matter even more moving forward. That’s a good thing for the dairy industry because we are ahead of the curve.

According to research conducted by Kearney Consulting in April, 50% of consumers say COVID-19 has made them more aware of the environment. But even more remarkable, 58% of Americans believe we should respond to climate change with the same urgency as we have responded to COVID-19.
O’Brien referenced strong commitments by many involved with dairy, in particular NestlĂ© and Starbucks, to the Net Zero Initiative, an industry-wide effort that will help U.S. dairy farms of all sizes and geographies implement new technologies and adopt economically viable practices. The initiative is a critical component of U.S. dairy’s environmental stewardship goals, endorsed by dairy industry leaders and farmers, to achieve carbon neutrality, optimized water usage and improved water quality by 2050. Photo source: Dairy Management Inc.

“The U.S. dairy community has been working together to provide the world with responsibly produced, nutritious dairy foods,” said Mike Haddad, chairman, Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. “With the entire dairy community at the table--from farmers and cooperatives to processors, household brands and retailers—we’re leveraging U.S. dairy’s innovation, diversity and scale to drive continued environmental progress and create a more sustainable planet for future generations.”

Again, we are ahead of the curve. Dairy is all about delicious, nutritious foods made in a sustainable manner. Note, the emphasis on delicious is about creamy richness…not sweetness. 

Did you know that dairy farmers have been funding research led by National Dairy Council on the role of whole milk dairy foods and wellness for over a decade? In fact, around 70 studies have been published, adding to the growing body of evidence indicating that consuming dairy foods, regardless of fat content, as part of healthy eating patterns is not linked with risk of heart disease or type 2 diabetes. The paradigm shift to more fat flexibility in the dairy group is already happening in the real world as demonstrated through the many actions of consumers and thought leaders. 

Whole milk, for example, has increased its volume share of milk. In 2020, whole milk holds 41% share, the largest of any fat level. Major quick-service restaurants are offering flexibility, too, with whole milk, cheeses, yogurts and, in some cases, butter. 

While the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report recommended decreasing added sugars from 10% to 6% of daily calories it did not recommend decreasing saturated fat. It stayed at 10% of daily calories.

Let’s get back to staying ahead of the curve in 2021. There will be growth in functional foods and flexitarian meals. Remember, dairy makes plants taste better! Dairy is also inherently functional. 

Innovation is key to moving forward. People are tired of the same old recipes they are cooking at home or the limited options available for delivery and takeout. They are looking for a balance between better-for-you and enjoyment. They are feeling more adventurous and interested in new flavors. It’s time to rethink what sold in 2020 and how to attract shoppers in 2021. 

This week the Kroger Company, America's largest grocery retailer, announced the top-10 trending foods of 2020, as well as its food trend predictions for 2021. Based on year-over-year sales growth across Kroger’s business, including nearly 2,800 retail stores and pickup, delivery and ship, the trending foods and beverages of 2020 included:

1. Zero-Calorie Soft Drinks
2. Four-Cheese Mexican Blend Shredded Cheese
3. Flavored Potato Chips (Hot & Spicy, Regional Flavors & Meal-Inspired Varieties)
4. Sauvignon Blanc Wine
5. Heavy Whipping Cream
6. Fresh Burger Patties
7. Artisan Breads & Restaurant-Style Buns
8. Bulk Individual Coffee Pods (96-Count)
9. Party-Size Bags of Variety Chocolate
10. Black Forest Ham

“The most-popular foods and beverages of 2020 underscore how our customers not only adapted to the challenges of this unique year but embraced cooking and eating at home as part of their new routine,” said Stuart Aitken, Kroger’s chief merchant. “As many of our customers transitioned to working from home and virtual schoolrooms this year, coffee, fresh deli meat and artisan bread emerged as go-to staples for elevated breakfast and lunch routines, while zero-calorie soft drinks, unique potato chip flavors, wine and chocolate stood out as comfort-food favorites. Fresh ground beef, premium buns and shredded cheese also rose in popularity as our customers recreated their favorite restaurant-style burgers at home.”

In addition to the look back at the trending grocery purchases of 2020, Kroger unveiled its top-seven food trend predictions for 2021, thoughtfully curated by its culinary experiences team and its private-label (Our Brands) product developers, chefs and innovators. Dairy has a role in all of them. Read more. 

1. Futureproof Foods
From immune defense to mood management, consumers are increasingly looking for flavor and functionality in their favorite foods and beverages, especially as the nation continues to navigate a public health crisis. As “futureproofing” and “biohacking” trends continue to accelerate in 2021, shoppers can expect to see more foods with added benefits to support immune health, gut and brain health, energy levels and stress management.

Opportunity: This is a no-brainer for dairy. Think probiotics, prebiotics, added nutrients, and yes, dairy’s inherent high-quality, complete protein content and healthy fatty acid profile. 

2. Seeking Comfort
Easy-to-prepare comfort foods are on the rise as consumers look to balance convenience and quick preparation times with flavorful meal options. To help cope with the added stress many faced in 2020, consumers are also increasingly turning to home baking as a mood booster and mental escape.

Opportunity: Another no-brainer for dairy. Think cheese, cooking creams, dips, dressings, and of course, ice cream. 

3. Ketotarian Foods
High-protein eating styles like keto have skyrocketed in popularity, creating a conundrum for consumers who want to explore the trend, but find it difficult to balance the low-carb, high-fat dietary guidelines with a desire to consume more vegetables and plant-based foods. Enter the “ketotarian” diet: a plant-based spin on traditional keto guidelines. Consumers can expect to find a growing selection of these plant-based, high-protein foods on grocery shelves in the year ahead. 

Opportunity: Dairy fat makes keto-designed foods delicious!

4. Global Flavors and Restaurant Favorites Hit Home
According to 84.51°, Kroger’s data and analytics subsidiary, more than 60% of Kroger shoppers are spending more time cooking at home. This trend will only accelerate in 2021, as consumers spice up their weekly routines by experimenting with global flavors and recipes that recreate their favorite travel experiences or restaurant meals at home.

Opportunity: Flavor creation is the future. Take consumers on an adventure!

5. Mushroom Mania
Kroger believes 2021 will be a breakout year for mushrooms. The versatile vegetable is rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and can easily elevate everyday recipes with its warm umami flavor. Consumers should expect to see mushrooms play a starring role in a variety of new products in 2021, including blended plant-based proteins, condiments, spices, seasonings and more.

Opportunity: This trend may be a bit more challenging for dairy foods innovators to embrace; however, there’s opportunity in mushroom cream sauces and dips, as well as cheese spreads and even ice cream. Did you know candy cap mushrooms have the fragrance of maple syrup? They make a great inclusion. 

Photo source: Vitamix
6. For the Planet
Consumers are more interested than ever before in the environmental impact of their lifestyle choices. According to a recent survey from 84.51°, 35% of Kroger shoppers strongly agree they are more conscious of food waste since the onset of COVID-19 and more than half plan to continue taking steps to limit food waste after the pandemic. In the coming year, consumers will find a growing selection of eco-friendly products that reduce their carbon footprint, including plant-based and plant-blended meats, sustainably packaged products and more.

Opportunity: Dairy is on the way to achieving carbon neutrality, optimized water usage and improved water quality by 2050.

7. Fresh Innovation
Forget Silicon Valley--consumers can find the latest emerging technology in their local produce aisles. From no-cry onions to in-store hydroponic farms to plant-based coatings like Apeel™ that extend the shelf life of produce, shoppers will see more innovative solutions launch in the coming year to help keep their favorite fruits and vegetables at the peak of freshness longer.

Opportunity: Dairy dips, yogurts and dressings are a great accompaniment. Remember, dairy makes plants delicious!

Friday, December 11, 2020

Ice Cream Flavor Trends 2021: Everything Old Will Be New Again—Just Add a Spin or a Twist


Tom Vilsack, soon-to-be former president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) and former Iowa governor, will once again lead the Department of Agriculture under soon-to-be President Joe Biden. He previously held the position of U.S. Department of Agriculture secretary for eight years under President Barack Obama. President-Elect Biden chose Vilsack so he can “hit the ground running.” Everything old will be new again.

“With an estimated one in six Americans and a quarter of U.S. children facing a hunger crisis, farmers reeling and rural communities struggling to weather the pain and economic fallout of the pandemic, Vilsack will bring the experience and bold thinking needed to deliver immediate relief to farmers, ranchers, producers and families all across the country,” President-Elect Biden said in a news release announcing the nomination. Vilsack represents rural America, has a deep knowledge of the department and he can hopefully fix what got broken the past four years. Oh, and by the way, he is one of the dairy industry’s biggest advocates. 

During a packed general session at Dairy Forum 2017, soon after joining USDEC, Vilsack was asked about his favorite ice cream flavor. He responded, “How can you pick one? I love them all.” He went on to say that when given the choice between white and chocolate milk, hands down, he picks chocolate.  

Vilsack, like many consumers, has strong flavor preferences with some foods and is more willing to explore with others. That’s why making a flavor connection can be very important when introducing a new product to the marketplace. In 2021, everything old will be new again, much like President-Elect Biden and Vilsack returning to the White House. 

There are many flavor forecasts circulating in the food and beverage industry. Most are not directly relevant to dairy foods, such as ice cream, milk and yogurt, which have a smooth, creamy, white canvas just waiting to be flavored. With dairy, old flavors are new again…but are coming with a spin or a twist. After all, 2020 turned us upside down, and everything is a bit different these days. 

For many, ice cream is a comfort food. During the pandemic, consumers sought out nostalgic flavors to provide them with some familiarity and consistency in life. Some wanted a little more, such as flavor adventure during uncertain times when travel was grounded and dining out banned. This will continue in 2021.

Marketers brought taglines, such as Classic, Blue Ribbon, Everyday Goodness, Old Fashioned and Original, front and center on packaging to connect with shoppers and offer them some comfort. We are starting to see more of this with updated packaging and graphics. Marketers are also repositioning classic concepts while taking old favorites and giving them new life. 

Serendipity Brands, for example, recently partnered with Actress and Singer Selena Gomez. As the company’s most recent investor and now co-owner, Gomez helped the brand launch Cookies & Cream Remix. The flavor was inspired by global music phenomenon BLACKPINK and Gomez’s latest single “Ice Cream.” Cookies & Cream Remix is made with pink vanilla ice cream, crunchy cookie bites and swirling gobs of gooey fudge. 

Nestle Ice Cream will soon be rolling out its Rocky Road Collection under both the Dreyer’s and Edy’s brands. (Details will be shared next week as a Daily Dose of Dairy.) The collection includes Brownie Brick Road, Caramel Pretzel Path and Cookie Cobblestone and comes in 14-ounce cups and 1.5-quart tubs. 

Another classic with opportunity for flavor spins is Butter Pecan. Expect to see other “brown” flavors be mixed in, such as maple, honey and bourbon. Alcohol flavors—with and without real booze--will continue to thrive in ice cream, as many find them to be calming and soothing…a way to destress after a long day in the makeshift basement office. 

Speaking of bourbon, Ben & Jerry’s is growing its Netflix flavor collection with Punch Line, a comedic duo of brown butter bourbon and almond ice creams with roasted almonds and chuckles of cherries—because we all could use a few laughs these days. 

For the holidays, HP Hood’s Brigham’s brand is offering limited-edition Frozen Pudding. It’s a spin on the classic dessert and features a rum-flavored ice cream and candied fruit. 

And, in anticipation of cherry blossom time in the nation’s capital, Hood developed Green’s White House Cherry. This is vanilla ice cream with red maraschino cherry halves, an old favorite with a new name. There’s something comforting about knowing what’s inside. Cheers! 

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Are Your Dairy Foods Ready for the Upcoming Baby Bust?


Photo source: Food Culture/MilkPEP

I hope those of you who typically celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday managed to connect and enjoy some time with family and friends, even if it was via a Zoom call or a drop-off dinner. I am very thankful for the almost 9,000 subscribers to the Daily Dose of Dairy and especially thankful to advertisers and sponsors. If you are interested in supporting this electronic innovation tool, please send me an EMAIL and I will share some opportunities that are still available for 2021.  

Best, Donna Berry

It’s the countdown to the end of 2020. You may think your company did a good job of pivoting, adapting and even rebooting to the long-lasting changes from the pandemic that have impacted the production, manufacturing, distribution, sale and even preparation of foods at home and in foodservice. Congrats on your efforts…but you may have missed the most important consumer. It’s that demographic that is being born now and will be adults in 18 years. And guess what? They will be the most different of any generation and also fewer in number. It is paramount that we make them “real dairy” consumers with innovations that appeal to the gatekeeper on all fronts: nutrition, clean label, sustainability, and more. These have to be products made with ingredients that mom and dad trust.  

I like to encourage readers to think out of the box and think beyond today, tomorrow or even next year. So here’s something to ponder. A very close college friend is an OB/GYN in the Chicagoland area. Her schedule has recently gotten quite hectic because of many moms-to-be entering their 8th and 9th month of pregnancy. As she describes it, these are the pandemic quarantine babies. And while the next two months are going to be very busy for her, she expects business to slow down dramatically.  

The initial spike in births is the result of those first few weeks of being stuck at home with partners. But just like the home cooking and baking started to lose appeal, so did the romance. Economists predict that the U.S. may have around 500,000 fewer births this coming year because of the pandemic. It’s not necessarily because couples got sick of each other, it’s more of the financial insecurity, the stress and the uncertainty of everything from education to employment. On the upside, teen pregnancy in developed countries is speculated to be significantly down, as there were no homecomings, proms or graduation parties.

The Brookings Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit public policy organization, published an excellent overview of what it calls the “Covid Baby Bust.” You can read it HERE.

The report’s authors hypothesize that COVID-19 will likely lead to a large, lasting baby bust, as we are thrust into an economic recession. Children come at a cost, which is why many will make the conscious decision to have less children in order to have fewer mouths to feed. It is paramount that the dairy industry innovate for this younger generation.

“On top of the economic impact, there will likely be a further decline in births as a direct result of the public health crisis and the uncertainty and anxiety it creates, and perhaps to some extent, social distancing. Our analysis of the Spanish Flu indicated a 15% decline in annual births in a pandemic that was not accompanied by a major recession. And this occurred during a period in which no modern contraception existed to easily regulated fertility,” the authors wrote. “We expect that many of these births will not just be delayed but will never happen. There will be a COVID-19 baby bust.”

Early childhood nutrition company Gerber, part of NestlĂ©, is on it. The company is launching subscription-based food boxes designed to meet a baby’s nutritional needs as baby ages. The service includes nutritional education to guide the parents with selecting other ala carte items. The new program comes amid a growing demand for healthier infant and toddler foods, while consumers are also embracing food delivery services. 

The subscription box service is designed to make introducing new foods and flavors more convenient, especially while parents are busy juggling childcare when working from home. The boxes only contain organic, shelf-stable foods, which limits dairy’s presence to ambient yogurt fruit pouches, yogurt melts and cheesy snack puffs. 

Here’s another rather recent innovation: Healthy Height protein shake mix. Healthy Height was developed and tested by pediatricians to give a holistic solution to nourish growing children, predominantly in the 3 to 9-years age group, including those children who lack nutrition due to health issues that may impair eating. It also helps support nutrition in picky eaters, a universal problem that causes a lot of stress to families.

The drink mix contains 12 grams of whey protein per serving, with no artificial ingredients, corn syrup or chemically sounding additives. It is gluten-free, soy-free, no GMO’s and includes 350 milligrams of the vital amino acid arginine per serving. It also is low in sugar and sodium. “Picky-eater approved,” Healthy Height can be mixed into ice cream or pancake batters, as well used in shakes and smoothies.

Two top medical professionals in pediatric endocrinology, gastroenterology and nutrition were behind the research and development of the Healthy Height formulation. While genetics plays the most significant role in an individual’s height, with studies showing this accounts for up to 80% of final height, researchers believe that environmental factors fill that gap, with nutrition being the most dominant factor. Healthy Height was designed by these medical professionals to fill the gap.

Just this past week I received announcements of numerous new baby, toddler and kids’ dairy foods making their way into retailers’ refrigerators. These products command a premium, and moms and dads are willing to pay to keep their offspring healthy.

Stonyfield Organic and Nature’s Path, for example, have teamed up to offer Stonyfield Organic Kids Yogurt with EnviroKidz Cereal Toppers. Available in two varieties--Strawberry Yogurt & Choco Chimps and Vanilla Yogurt & Koala Crisp—the yogurt and cereal combos are a nutritious breakfast or lunch, as well as an afternoon snack. The new line contains 25% to 35% less sugar than the leading yogurt with toppings, while also offering 10 grams of protein per serving. Both varieties are also USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project verified. A four-pack of 4-ounce cups retails for about $6.49.

New Organic Valley Lowfat Chocolate Milk is described as “yummy,” and is designed to keeps kids drinking flavored milk. The product will roll out in January. The beverage offers the same nutrition and pasture-raised goodness as the cooperative’s regular milk with a new chocolate flavor and no artificial sweeteners. It said to have kid-friendly taste. Because it is lactose free, it is gentle on digestion, an attribute many health-conscious moms and dads want, according to the company. It comes in 64-ounce gable-top cartons with a suggested retail price of $5.29 to $5.99.

“Organic Valley formulated its new chocolate milk with a better overall taste profile that is specifically kid-friendly, while slightly reducing the sugar content and making it lactose free,” says Minh-Quan Huynh, brand manager.

Earlier in the year, siggi’s, a forerunner in lower-sugar yogurt with simple ingredients, introduced its first-ever kids’ yogurt pouches. The products contain 50% less sugar and 30% fewer ingredients than leading kids’ yogurts, according to the company. siggi’s kids’ pouches feature creamy, non-tart 2% milkfat yogurt in two flavors: Blueberry and Strawberry & Banana. 

“When I started siggi’s in my New York City apartment, I focused on simple yogurts with less sugar. So I am now excited to introduce a product that kids will love to eat, and parents will love to serve,” says Siggi Hilmarsson, founder. “I feel this is perfect for families-a- tasty, simple yogurt pouch with no mess and less sugar.”

Over the summer, Danone North America grew its Horizon Organic Growing Years brand with yogurt pouches. The brand first made its debut in refrigerated milk and quickly grew into the shelf-stable, single-serve box space. Now the brand is expanding into pouch yogurt in Blueberry and Strawberry flavors.

The Horizon Organic Growing Years milk is organic whole milk with specially selected nutrition for growing kids. The company partnered with pediatricians to identify key nutrients for ages 1 to 5, so every serving provides docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), choline, prebiotics and other key nutrients. The yogurt includes the same key nutrients; however, it is made with cultured low-fat milk. DHA is an essential omega-3 fatty acid that supports brain and eye health. 
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, choline is an essential brain nutrient. It aids in the transport and synthesis of lipids (or fats), and it helps transport DHA throughout the body. Prebiotics are dietary fiber that feeds friendly gut bacteria. A 3.5-ounce pouch of Growing Years yogurt contains 50 milligrams of DHA, 55 milligrams of choline and 2 grams of prebiotic chicory root fiber. A pouch contains 80 calories, 1 gram of fat, 3 grams of protein and 6 grams of sugar (3 grams are added sugars). The pouches are sold in boxes of four.

The company also now offers Super Danimals, a low-fat yogurt created to help support the immune system of kids. The company conducted extensive research, which revealed a priority for parents is to find products that can support children’s immune systems, and this was discovered before COVID-19.

Super Danimals features probiotics and vitamins C and D, all of which are associated with boosting immunity. It’s also free of artificial preservative ingredients and contains no colors or flavors from artificial sources. One 4-ounce cup contains 80 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 4 grams of protein and 9 grams of sugar (4 grams are added).

“Based on our research, we know children’s health is always on parents’ minds, and families are exploring new ways to help support their children’s immune systems with the snacks they buy,” says Kristie Leigh, senior manager of scientific affairs at Danone. “By regularly adding Super Danimals to a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle, parents can feel good about helping support their children’s immune systems with a tasty snack their kids love.”

Iconic Protein now offers Iconic Kids, the only kid-focused line of ready-to-drink products on the market with zero grams of sugar and one full serving of organic greens. The initial flavors are: Chocolate Carnival, Fruity Fiesta and Vanilla Vacay. Each serving provides 8 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber. Ingredients include grass-fed milk protein isolate, prebiotic chicory root fiber and a greens blend consisting of kale, broccoli and spinach. The drink is sweetened with stevia leaf and monkfruit extract. The shelf-stable drinks come in 8-ounce prisma packs and retail for $2.29 to $2.49 each, and $26.99 to $29.99 for 12-packs cases.

About two years ago, when ice cream brands for health-conscious consumers were flooding the market, Nicole Frankel saw a void: The new products catered to adults, not the demographic that was the most likely to scream for ice cream—children. She developed a nutrient-dense ice cream that always has a fruit or vegetable as the primary ingredient and contains 40% less sugar than other leading brands. Yum Actually’s unique flavors include Butternut Squash Butterscotch, Caramel Sweet Potato, Creamy Honey Banana and Yummy Mango. 

It wasn’t the void in the market that initially got Frankel into the ice cream-making business, rather, it was her very young daughter who simply refused to eat fruits and vegetables. Frustrated but determined, she resorted to mashing up various superfoods, such as bananas and sweet potatoes, and transforming them into something that her daughter would never turn down: ice cream. At first, she eyed the frozen snack with skepticism, but after taking a couple of tastes, she looked up at her mom and said, “It’s yum, actually!” A product was born. 

Two weeks ago, Peekaboo Ice Cream took home the grand prize of $200,000 from the California Milk Advisory Board’s Real California Milk Snackcelerator contest. The company plans to bring a 3.6-ounce mini cup of its organic ice cream with hidden vegetables to the snacking category. Flavors are: Chocolate with Hidden Cauliflower, Cookie Dough with Hidden Zucchini, Cotton Candy with Hidden Beets, Mint Chip with Hidden Spinach, Strawberry with Hidden Carrot, Unicorn Swirl with Hidden Zucchini, and Vanilla with Hidden Zucchini. WATCH THE COMPANY ON SHARK TANK ON FRIDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2020. 

Friday, November 20, 2020

Dairy Foods Innovation: Two thoughts to fuel product development and marketing in 2021


Photo: Jessica Weiss Levison, founder and CEO, Peekaboo Ice Cream

For the majority of us, this year has been unlike any other. All aspects of life were disrupted and continue to evolve. Our agile nature enabled most of us to pivot and adapt, as best as possible. 

Last night while judging the virtual semi-finals of the Real California Milk Snackcelerator, I concluded that while the dairy industry is already amazing, the two areas where we excel can be summed up with two terms: clean and relationships. 

What we all learned in 2020 is that clean hands and surfaces have never been more important. We also learned the power of strong relationships with family, friends, neighbors and colleagues. Clean and relationships are not something to take for granted. There’s no price tag to put on either. 

For the dairy world, clean and relationships have additional meanings. Communicating these concepts through product innovation and marketing will keep dairy thriving in 2021.  

To mark its 90th anniversary, Anderson Erickson (AE) Dairy, for example, is serving up some nostalgia by bringing back vintage carton designs for its AE French Onion and Party dips. It’s all about connecting with the consumer. It’s one type of relationship where regional dairies excel.

Clean: Think nutrient-dense white canvas that can be consumed as milk or simply converted into delicious foods—butter, cheese, ice cream, whey, yogurt and more—with the help of just a few natural ingredients, stainless steel machinery and a dedicated team. 

Relationship: Think of that dedicated team, from the farmer to the retailer to the customer. 

Clean: Think farm to table transparency, often on a local level.

Relationship: Think of how cows (ruminant animals) contribute to healthy soil through regenerative agriculture practices. 

Clean: Think of how our virtuous nature helps entrepreneurs bring dairy innovations to market to keep dairy foods relevant.

Relationships: Think of how small the dairy industry is and how much we care and look out for each other. 

Last night the four finalists of the California Milk Advisory Board’s (CMAB) Real California Milk Snackcelerator presented to a panel of eight judges, me included. There was an instant connection among all the judges, even though most of us had never met and now were only doing so through a screen. But the fact that we were giving up almost three hours of our evening to help grow the dairy industry was pretty darn impressive. 

Honestly, if felt fabulous to be involved, albeit remotely. The thing about all this remote communicating is that it requires two (or more) agreeable parties to commit to clicking that link and connecting. It’s not like a convention or exposition where you start random conversation with someone at their booth or over a glass of wine and canape. The dairy industry is a relationship-driven business and gives us leverage over so many other food and beverage categories. 

With that said…all four finalists presented delicious concepts with clean ingredient labels. All four were winners in my book. But because there can only be one winner, once all votes were counted, Peekaboo Ice Cream took home the grand prize of $200,000 to bring a 3.6-ounce mini cup of its organic ice cream with hidden vegetables to the snacking category.

Flavors are: Chocolate with Hidden Cauliflower, Cookie Dough with Hidden Zucchini, Cotton Candy with Hidden Beets, Mint Chip with Hidden Spinach, Strawberry with Hidden Carrot, Unicorn Swirl with Hidden Zucchini, and Vanilla with Hidden Zucchini. 

Want to know how Peekaboo tastes? Watch THIS.
Congrats to Jessica Weiss Levison, founder and CEO, and her team!

Peekaboo's mission is to solve the parental dilemma of getting children to consume more vegetables by putting them into a format they can't get enough of: ice cream. As the owner of a popular ice cream scoop shop in Miami, she turned her frozen dairy knowhow into flavorful superpremium ice creams hiding a nutritious, vegetable secret. The products are currently available in pints at select retailers but Levison is looking forward to introducing the single-serve snack line and expanding distribution with Real California Milk at the core. 

“Like many of our fellow startups, we confronted what seemed like insurmountable challenges this year. This win validates our innovation, our mission and our team’s hard work and resilience,” said Levison. “We learned so much from this Snackcelerator experience and cannot wait to launch Peekaboo minis into the market, made with Real California Milk, of course! Much gratitude to everyone involved.” 

It’s all about relationships.

The first runner-up was Yummy Industries for its line of Cheese Bits snack packs. The start-up company received $100,000 towards the same goal. These innovators are producing all-natural, fresh and wood-smoked scamorza and chechil cheeses, conveniently shaped and packaged for snacking fun.

“Being selected as a semi-finalist really was significant for us because we were associated with a tremendous caliber of founders and snack concepts,” said Yummy Co-Founder Stefen Choy. “Throughout this process, the feedback and mentorship sessions have really helped move our business forward significantly. We have changed our strategic plan and even added a broker based on this competition. The bonus of continued support as a runner up is icing on the cake.”

It’s all about relationships.

The two other finalists were:
Petit Pot, which developed an indulgent, clean-label refrigerated chocolate mousse dessert made with organic ingredients and sold in two packs of glass jars. 

Sach Foods Organic Paneer, which plans to make a snack-size bar of its flavored artisanal paneer cheese. 

“This was a tough decision, all four of these finalists presented products that fit the needs of our current consumer and each with their own unique take on snacking. Peekaboo just had a slight edge because of its unique concept marrying two things that normally don’t go together like ice cream and vegetables and then executing the producer perfectly in terms of creative flavor combinations,” said John Talbot, CEO of the CMAB. “Not only are we excited to grow the dairy snack portfolio offered with Real California Milk by helping to expand distribution for Peekaboo ice creams, we look forward to continuing our relationship with all of our finalists and semi-finalists to see what they are able to achieve.”

Fred Schonenberg, CEO and Founder of VentureFuel, managers of the event, said, “Innovation is the ultimate growth accelerator for any business or category and this competition continues to deliver a flywheel of new ideas, new products and new ways to think about dairy from a consumer perspective. When my family begged me for more samples between the semi-finals and finals, I knew we had chosen four winners all, of which can make an impact on-shelf. Peekaboo’s cotton-candy with beets flavor dominated the pre-judge chatter as one of the most delicious and unique desserts the judges had ever tasted, meanwhile Cheese-Bits was the product everyone was snacking on behind the scenes. They are making premium cheese easy to snack on and introducing new styles and flavors that will stand out.”

To watch the taped event, link HERE. (There were some technical difficulties with background noise near the beginning. Don’t let that deter you from watching. There’s a lot to learn from others. It’s all about relationships.) 

Ready to expand your expertise? Link HERE to some quick-bite videos on ingredient solutions, consumer insights and helpful applications advice to keep dairy foods relevant. 

got a great new product idea?  
Five years after launching its initial Accelerator program, Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) is gearing up for its 2021 program with the announcement of a new name, DFA CoLab Accelerator, and continued focus on helping accelerate and grow ag-tech and dairy food product companies. With the latter, DFA has worked with a number of startups including Cheddies, an all-natural, protein- packed cheddar cheese cracker; RifRaf ricotta cups, a first-of-its-kind ricotta cheese snack cup; and Wheyward Spirit, a new clear liquor that takes excess whey from dairy and turns it into a smoother, better-tasting and more sustainable farm-to-flask spirit.

“As we start thinking about recruiting companies for our fifth year program, what’s really exciting is that we continue to work with many of our past participants, which is the end goal, to hopefully help and partner with them in some way,” says Doug Dresslaer, director of innovation at DFA. “On the food front, the sky is really the limit as long as one of the main ingredients is dairy. This last year, we had several entrepreneurs who had developed products using dairy by-products like whey, which is really exciting because these types of innovative products go beyond the traditional dairy case, which is helping drive industry growth.” 

For the 2021 program, DFA is looking for early-stage food product companies that are dairy-focused or dairy-based, including products using milk, cheese, butter, whey or other milk-based ingredients. The DFA CoLab Accelerator includes: a 90-day immersive program, with both in-person and virtual training and mentorship from April 2021 to June 2021; access to top executives at DFA, with each startup having a senior-level DFA contact relevant to their business area; educational sessions on a variety of topics important for startup growth, including finance, business development, distribution and supply chain, product development, brand building, sales and marketing, packaging and pricing; and additional workshops that focus on areas such as leadership development, team building and creating company culture. 

For more details and the 2021 application, link HERE.