Friday, September 23, 2016

Expo East 2016 Highlights for Dairy Foods Processors: Value-Added Dairy Products that Appeal to Millennials

Expo East, the conservative counterpart to the West Coast natural products show held annually in March in Anaheim, is taking place right now in Baltimore. I had the opportunity to walk the show floor on Thursday and can confidently report that dairy is thriving—and growing--within the natural products sector.

Rightfully so, as dairy foods are a “natural fit” for the label-reading, health-and-wellness consumer who wants simple foods from Mother Nature. Milking a cow is much more real than milking a soybean, an almond or even a coconut. Interestingly, unlike in years past where non-dairy alternatives were more prominent than the dairy foods they were intended to replace, this year there was definitely more real milk, more real yogurt, more real cheese and more real ice cream.

Here are seven themes observed at Expo East, all of which work for dairy.

1. Not Too Sweet. From beverages to snack bars, “not too sweet” has become very common packaging lingo. The emphasis is not on added sweeteners or even the use of no- or low-calorie sweeteners, rather it is directed to taste. Many manufacturers, dairy processors included, are talking about their use of higher quality fruits, flavors, enzymes and even cultures (in fermented products) to assist with the reduction of the sweet taste, which at the same time allows other real flavors to get tasted and appreciated by the consumer. One bar manufacturer explained that high-quality dark chocolate, which is loaded with antioxidants, is not as bitter as lower-quality chocolate, and this enables the use of less sweetener to mask the bitter.

2. Protein. It is no surprise that grams of protein per serving of all types of foods and beverages are being prominently called out on package fronts. Many products are combining dairy protein with plant protein to achieve concentrated levels. With one gram of protein in every ounce of milk, flagging protein content on dairy foods makes real sense.

According to the Natural Marketing Institute, the general population of consumers has more protein awareness than ever before, as the percentage of those seeking foods high in protein grew from 39% in 2006 to 53% in 2014. This is driven by two factors, a wider availability of products boasting high-protein claims along with consumers’ heightened awareness of protein’s benefits, such as increased energy, optimized weight management and increased muscle mass and strength.

3. Whole Milk. Fat is no longer the enemy. Even dairy alternative manufacturers are boosting up fat levels with vegan fat sources.
4. Clear Packaging. Transparency is two-fold. Marketers are not only communicating the sourcing of ingredients, they are showing them off as well.

5. Ingredient Sourcing. Being the natural products show, terms such as organic, non-GMO, Fair-Trade and more are typical. What has become increasingly common is flagging the country of origin of certain ingredients, most notably fruits and vanilla. And within the animal protein segments—from chicken nuggets to ribeye steak and milk to yogurt—100% Grass Fed is becoming increasingly popular.

6. Coconut. Real coconut shavings/shreds, and coconut cream, are making their way into chips, snack mixes, protein shakes and cultured dairy. I’ve been told it is one of the most popular flavors with Millennials, the demographic who grew up drinking coconut water instead of isotonic drinks for hydration.

7. Cultured Dairy Beyond Yogurt. Kefir, skyr, cottage cheese and quark…there were numerous new product introductions in each of these cultured dairy foods categories at Expo East. Savory, spicy and coffee—cold-brew coffee, to be exact--flavors also continue to make inroads in these categories. This complements the “not too sweet” theme.

Here are seven products showcased at Expo East. Watch your inbox this coming week for the Daily Dose of Dairy, which will feature some real show stoppers.

B’More Organic continues to revolutionize the functional beverage industry by packing in a powerful punch of real, clean, sustainable dairy protein in its Organic Skyr Smoothie line. With no added sugar and up to 40 grams of protein per bottle, this gluten-free, low-lactose, probiotic cultured dairy beverage is made with milk from grass-fed cows. At Expo East, the company debuted B’More Coconut, which joins Banana, Caffe Latte, Mango Banana, Plain, Strawberry and Vanilla.

B’More Coconut includes coconut cream, making it the first smoothie in the product line with healthful plant-based fat to support endurance, boost energy and tantalize taste buds with the creamy, delectable real coconut flavor.

“We love developing products that have the power to change lives, providing the delectable nutrient boost needed to inspire and enable people to fuel their fitness and B’More,” says Andrew Buerger, co-founder of B’More Organic. “We are thrilled to share the launch of B’More Coconut as it continues to demonstrate our commitment to creating innovative, clean protein smoothies that are delicious, clean, organic, ethically sourced and completely free of the junk ingredients so typical of the category. Our goal is to make it easy to enjoy great health.”

Every 15-ounce bottle of B’More Coconut contains 16 grams of healthy, plant-based fats. To date, there are more than 1,500 studies proving coconut oil and coconut to be one of the healthiest foods on the planet. Coconut cream differs from coconut milk as it contains less water and more coconut. An excellent source of minerals, namely manganese, iron, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, potassium and zinc coconut cream also contains B-vitamins including folate, thiamin, vitamin B6, niacin and pantothenic acid.

Coconut cream is a great source of medium chain triglycerides, which turn to fuel in the liver and forgo stomach storage. Coconut cream has a unique combination of fats that has been found to be highly nutritious, according to Buerger.

Congrats to B’More Organic for its continued expansion into the Southeast and the Pacific Northwest regions with Publix Super Markets and Market of Choice. B’More partnered with distribution companies UNFI and KeHE to ensure fast and efficient delivery of its product into these regions.

Icelandic Provisions, which produces cup-based skyr made using an original heirloom skyr culture (Streptococcus thermophilus Islandicus) from Iceland, is adding two new flavors: Coconut and Strawberry. Made with milk from grass-fed cows, the new flavors join Blueberry & Bilberry, Peach & Cloudberry, Plain, Strawberry & Lingonberry, and Vanilla.

Maple Hill Creamery is growing its product lines with new flavors and formats.

The 12-ounce whole milk drinkable yogurt line now includes Coffee, Mango Peach and Strawberry flavors. Made from milk from 100% grass-fed cows, the new flavors join Lemon, Maple, Orange Crème, Plain, Vanilla and Wild Blueberry. Each bottle contains 12 to 15 grams of protein, depending on variety. Bottle labels prominently state “not too sweet.”

Oregon’s Springfield Creamery grows its Nancy’s cottage cheese line with a whole milk variant. Unlike many other cottage cheeses in the market, Nancy’s delivers billions of live probiotic cultures and is made without rennet or thickeners. Ingredient legends are very simple: Organic skim milk, organic cream, organic nonfat dry milk, L. acidophilus, B. bifidum, four strains of lactic cultures, salt.

Orgain Inc., offers protein beverages to meet all protein preferences. Its Kids Protein Organic Nutritional Shake is made with a proprietary organic protein blend of grass-fed milk protein concentrate and whey protein concentrate. There are a number of plant-based protein beverages for adults. At Expo East, the company debuted Organic Cold Brew Coffee + Protein. Available in Iced Coffee and Iced Mocha varieties, the beverages contain protein from grass-fed milk protein concentrate, cream and rice bran extract. Each 11.5-ounce bottle contains 5 grams of fat and 10 grams of protein. There’s also only one gram of sugar, which comes from the cream. The product is sweetened by erythritol and stevia.

The Liberte team at General Mills partnered up with the company’s Annie’s team at Expo East. The company sampled its new Liberte Whole Milk Yogurt line. The Sweet Cream (unflavored) variety starts with pure, organic whole milk sourced from a co-operative of family farms. It’s then lightly sweetened with organic cane sugar. A 5.5-ounce cup contains 190 calories, 13 grams of fat and 5 grams of protein.

The other seven flavorful offerings, made using the same local organic milk, come in an array of worldly flavors. They are: Californian Pomegranate, Baja Strawberry, Ecuadorian Mango, French Lavender, Lemon, Philippine Coconut and Washington Black Cherry. Each single-serve container, which is in clear plastic to showcase the layered ingredients, contains 210 to 220 calories, 11 to 13 grams of fat and 4 to 5 grams of protein.

In January, the brand will be adding Indonesian Vanilla Bean to the line. There will also be two limited-edition flavors making their debut soon. They are: Chai and Nicaraguan Coffee Bean. 

Congratulations to Kourellas Dairy for being a Best of East finalist. This company ships Greek fruit, authentic cultures and even packaging to New York to make its new Organic Greek yogurt line. Using the company’s traditional strained Greek yogurt recipe with origins in Grevena, Greece, Kourellas Dairy is entering the U.S. market with a small-batch, handcrafted Greek yogurt line that is made by real Greek dairy processors. That’s right, every batch of this artisan yogurt is produced with a minimum of two Greek-passport-owner dairy processors. This allows the company to make the label claim: Made by Greeks.

Made with New York State milk, with everything else having Greek origins, the new line comes in six varieties. They are: Apple, Blueberry, Clementine, Kiwi, Orange and Strawberry. The yogurts contain no added sweetener of any type. They are naturally sweetened by the premium fruit puree imported from Greece.  The low-fat organic blended yogurts have a simple ingredient statement: milk, cultures and fruit.

Although Clover Stornetta Farms, a third-generation family owned and operated California dairy, did not exhibit at Expo East, it’s appropriate to recognize this dairy’s recent announcement to convert its conventional milk products to be Non-GMO Project Verified over the next two years. Clover will be one of the first Non-GMO Project Verified conventional milk products produced in California on a large scale. The first Non-GMO conventional milk products will hit shelves in the first quarter of 2017 and these will likely be on sampled at Expo West.

“We’ve always taken an innovative approach to elevating dairy through driving industry progress, building trust with consumers and setting our own high standards,” says Marcus Benedetti, president and CEO. “Our focus on Non-GMO reaffirms our commitment to invest in the future of our dairy cows, family farms and communities. Our hope is to lead the way by creating an industry-wide movement towards more Non-GMO feed options for our dairy cows. We look forward to working closely with our dairy partners to make this goal a reality.”

Friday, September 16, 2016

10 Reasons to Formulate with Dairy Proteins

Here are 10 reasons why dairy processors should include dairy proteins in product formulations.

1. Consumers want more protein.
Numerous surveys show that consumers are trying to increase their protein intake, as they understand protein satiates and builds muscle. According to the 2016 Food and Health Survey from the International Food Information Council Foundation, 64% of Americans are seeking out protein in the diet, a statistically significant increase compared to 2015.

2. Dairy proteins are high-quality, complete proteins. Not all proteins are created equal. Consumers are starting to understand that dairy proteins offer benefits that make them a higher-quality option than plant proteins.

Dairy proteins have long been the protein of choice among athletes and frequent gym-goers. There are two types of high-quality dairy protein ingredient options: whey proteins and milk proteins. Both are high-quality, complete proteins that contain all of the essential and nonessential amino acids the body needs. The difference lies in the dominant protein found in each one. With most milk protein ingredients, such as milk protein concentrates and milk protein isolates, casein is the dominant protein. The typical composition of these ingredients reflects what you find in cows milk, which is about 80% casein and 20% whey protein.

Whey protein ingredients, as the name suggests, are a concentrated source of whey proteins. For example, whey protein concentrate typically contains 34% to 89%, while whey protein isolate contains 90% or more.

Protein quality is quantified through the Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score (DIAAS) and the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS). The latter has long been the standard measurement. The newer DIAAS is proving to be a more accurate assessment of protein quality.

Dairy proteins have an exceptionally high DIAAS score because of the presence of branched-chain amino acids, which help stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Each dairy protein has more branched-chain amino acids than egg, meat, soy and wheat proteins. Whey protein, specifically, is seen as higher quality because of the presence of leucine, a branched-chain amino acid accountable for muscle synthesis.

3. Dairy proteins are versatile. They have a neutral, bland taste that complements most foods and beverages. They readily dissolve in systems, with some proteins contributing creamy, dairy-rich whiteness, while others becoming invisible.

To read a Food Business News article titled “Functional dairy foods—beyond basic nutrition,” link HERE. The article discusses the opportunities in boosting the protein content of dairy foods, along with adding other functional ingredients.

4. They are clean-label ingredients.
The IFIC survey shows that Americans want to know more about their food and are changing their behaviors based on what they learn. This year, almost half of all American (47%) said they look at the ingredients list when deciding what to purchase, up from 40% just a year ago.
When Americans define what makes a food healthy, it’s becoming more about what is not in a food rather than what is in it. The presence of artificial ingredients and preservatives is a leading deal breaker when it comes to purchase intent.  Photo source: Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board

Dairy proteins have a positive image and are considered simple, clean, natural and wholesome ingredients. This is why formulators of all types of foods and beverages are seeking out dairy proteins for their product development efforts and making package claims such as “made with real dairy” and “contains quality dairy proteins.”

The U.S. Dairy Export Council offers a technical report titled “Dairy Solutions for Clean-Label applications.” You can view it HERE.

5. They provide functionality.
Some dairy proteins assist with water binding. Thus, they can stabilize food systems, such as cheese spreads, cultured dairy products and ice cream, while also increasing protein content. Whenever possible, it makes sense to put dairy back into dairy, instead of using carbohydrate-based hydrocolloids.

6. Dairy proteins can assist with weight management.
An improved understanding of appetite regulation mechanisms has enabled formulators to develop food products that help consumers feel full and satisfied, which in turn helps them eat less and ultimately lose weight, and then maintain weight.

According to “Optimizing foods for satiety” in the February 2015 issue of Trends in Food Science & Technology, a food’s satiating power is dependent not only on its nutrient composition but also the consumer’s sensory and cognitive appraisal of the food. The review concluded that numerous features of a food product can be manipulated to enhance the consumer’s experience of satiety, with the combination of these features ultimately determining the effect on appetite control. Taking this integrated approach to satiety will optimize the development of high-satiety foods, with dairy foods well poised as satiety-inducing foods.

Biochemically speaking, satiety is all about signals that feed into specific areas of the brain in response to the expansion of the stomach. Hormonal signals are also released in response to the digestion and absorption of certain nutrients.

According to research from Nizo Food Research, The Netherlands, foods behave differently in the stomach, depending on their structure. This behavior impacts stomach volume and the rate at which the stomach releases nutrients to the small intestine for absorption, both important physiological parameters by which the body estimates the time to stop eating.

With protein, research shows that not only does this macronutrient exert appetite regulation mechanisms, consumption is also correlated to lean muscle building and maintenance.

7. They build lean muscle mass.
Numerous studies show that high-quality protein, most notably whey proteins, demonstrate a greater ability to stimulate muscle protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise. This is because whey is quickly digested and helps immediate protein synthesis by stimulating muscle growth and recovery. Casein protein provides similar effects in terms of muscle growth but is more slowly digested, providing longer-lasting protein synthesis.
Photo source: U.S. Dairy Export Council

8. They optimize athletic performance.
According to Donald Layman, professor emeritus of nutrition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, data indicates all humans need about the same amount of dietary protein every day for basic lean muscle repair and remodeling. To reap other benefits—those for optimum performance—one must consider the quality of the protein and the quantity of the protein at every meal, in particular breakfast.

Simply, data suggests that every meal should include 30 grams of high-quality protein, including protein that is high in the branched-chain amino acid leucine. This is the amount of protein for the body to function at its best. Of all the protein ingredients available to food and beverage manufacturers, whey protein isolate contains the most leucine: 11%. Milk protein concentrate comes in second at 9.5%, followed by egg protein at 8.8%.

What does this mean for dairy processors? For starters, marketers need to promote the inherent high-quality protein content of fluid milk so that more consumers reach for a glass at every meal. In fact, the inherent protein content of all dairy foods is a great marketing tool.
On the innovation side, by starting with a source of high-quality protein—milk—and boosting protein with one or more of these ingredients, dairy foods become the ideal product to get many consumers to that magic number of 30 grams of protein at every meal. Photo source: U.S. Dairy Export Council

9. Dairy proteins assist with increasing strength and physical function in older age.
Research shows that older people tend to consume less protein due to decreased appetite or digestive and metabolic change. Lack of high-quality protein—protein that contains all the essential amino acids—is a factor contributing to loss of muscle mass. This in turn contributes to a decline in health and loss of strength and physical function. Consuming a moderate amount of high-quality protein at each meal can also be a useful strategy to help maintain muscle mass and to help protect against the debilitating effects of sarcopenia, the age-related progressive loss of muscle mass and function that can begin as early as age 40. For more information, link HERE.
10. Maintain bragging rights.
All types of foods and beverages are being formulated with dairy proteins. You can find them in cereals, chips, cookies, crackers, noodles, soups, sauces and even veggie burgers. Put them back into dairy and brag about them.

“Dairy proteins, in particular whey proteins, are recognized as the gold standard in quality protein,” says Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights. “Dairy processors need to flag their inclusion in dairy products. Think low-fat ranch dip with xx grams of whey proteins. What about a ready-to-drink latte with a dairy protein boost that’s described as filling you up to get through the morning?”

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Don’t Ignore Baby Boomers! Formulate Value-Added Dairy-Based Beverages for their 2017 New Year’s Resolutions

Every day we hear and read about Millennials, and increasingly, their successors, Gen Z. We get it! These two populations are changing the food landscape and we, the dairy industry, need to change with it.

But let’s not forget the Baby Boomers. Many of them have dollars and want to spend them on defying the aging process, inside and out. Even those who are retired and living on fixed incomes still want to live long and live well.

According to a September 2015 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor, a majority of consumer spending is done by people more than 50 years old. Yet, something has gone awry, as the 50-plus demographic is the target for only 10% of marketing activity. On the other hand, marketers spend five times as much money marketing to Millennials, the obsession of most every marketer on the planet, according to the Natural Marketing Institute.

“Whenever I ask marketers why they’re so obsessed with Millennials, I get the same answer: because they represent the future of business,” says Peter Hubbell, CEO, BoomAgers. “The last time I looked, the future wasn’t here yet. Smart marketers are embracing the demographic realities of today’s market and are executing bridging strategies that retain an emphasis on the Boomer audience until Millennials eventually appear as earnest consumers.”

I’m over the fact that almost no one bats an eyelash at my generation—the X’ers—even though we are getting up there in age and are seeking out secrets to longevity and vitality, much like the Baby Boomers. But here’s something marketers need to realize: Gen X’ers and Boomers uphold traditions, such as New Year’s resolutions. Now’s the time for dairy-based beverage manufacturers to get creative and offer these consumers the health and wellness products they want.

According to new insights from The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation’s 2016 Food and Health Survey, perceptions of the healthfulness of certain foods vary dramatically between generations, especially Boomers versus Millennials. Boomers are more likely than Millennials to rate whole grains (80% vs. 70%), protein from plant sources (75% vs. 63%) and omega-3 fatty acids (71% vs. 59%) as healthy.

Boomers are also looking for different health benefits from their food compared to other generations, particularly Millennials. Boomers are more likely than Millennials to be interested in health benefits associated with foods such as weight management, cardiovascular health and digestive health. Millennials are more likely to be interested in benefits such as mental health, muscle health and immunity associated with foods.

These findings confirm what most of us in the food industry have known for a long time: diet is not a one size fits all. This is especially apparent across the generations.

Take note, Boomers have a distinct definition of a healthy-eating style compared to other generations. Boomers (32%) are more likely than the general population (22%) to define a healthy-eating style by moderation/serving size and portions. Additionally, Boomers (30%) are more likely than Millennials (17%) to define a healthy-eating style as including certain foods they define as healthy. This includes dairy!
Dairy-based beverages are easily portioned in single-serve containers and readily formulated using a toolbox of functional ingredients to assist with weight management, cardiovascular health and digestive health. Think protein, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics and more.

And don’t even think twice about the IFIC stat showing that Boomers appreciate protein from plant sources. They simply appreciate and welcome extra protein. After all, research shows that historically there’s a decline with intake of all types of protein with aging. This is due to decreased appetite or digestive and metabolic change. Boomers (and X’ers) are looking for innovative and delicious ways to get more protein in the diet. Why? Because lack of high-quality protein—protein that contains all the essential amino acids—is a factor contributing to loss of muscle mass and in turn a decline in health and loss of strength and physical function. Consuming a moderate amount of high-quality protein at each meal can also be a useful strategy to help maintain muscle mass and to help protect against the debilitating effects of sarcopenia, the age-related progressive loss of muscle mass and function that can begin as early as age 40.

To read more, link HERE

Take note: ignoring Baby Boomers (and those of us just a little younger) could manifest itself in missed opportunities. 
Here’s a dairy in Singapore that gets it! Magnolia, an almost 80-year old dairy, markets fresh milk products that speak to the needs of the older population. Singapore reigns as the country with the third oldest life expectancy: 83.1 years; for women, Singapore ranks second at 86.1 years; for men, the country ranks 10 at 80 years.

The dairy’s newest product is Oats Lo-Fat Hi-Cal Milk, which is based on fresh milk and oats, with less than half the fat but 67% more calcium than regular milk. There’s also Omega Lo-Fat Hi-Cal Milk, which is fresh milk enhanced with omega-3 DHA, vitamin D and calcium.

Dairy-based beverages, with a boost of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, oat beta-glucan and other nutrients, can help mitigate the age-related loss of muscle faced by today’s senior population. Check out this VIDEO.

Make Boomers (and Gen X’ers) a priority for 2017.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Probiotics and Lactose Free: Product Attributes Driving Innovation in the Cultured Dairy Products Sector

According to research by Zenith International, there are a number of trends shaping the future of yogurt and related cultured dairy foods. Two key drivers are probiotics and reduced/lower sugar, with the latter including growth in lactose-free formulations.

In the past couple of years, there’s been an industry shift in the marketing of probiotics in dairy products. While some products do identify strain and cite clinical trials that establish a specific benefit, more products are choosing to simply market the inclusion of probiotics, which a growing number of consumers understand to have a positive effect on health and wellness. 

According to an expert consensus document published in the August 2014 issue of Nature entitled “The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics consensus statement on the scope and appropriate use of the term probiotic,” the simple term “probiotic” is useful and accepted. The panel recommends that any specific claim beyond “contains probiotics” be further substantiated; however, “contains probiotics” is a useful product descriptor providing that the probiotics meet a more grammatically correct definition, as compared to the 2001 definition issued by FAO/WHO. The minor change now defines probiotics as, “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”

“This definition is inclusive of a broad range of microbes and applications, while capturing the essence of probiotics, which is microbial, viable and with a documented benefit to health,” says Mary Ellen Sanders, a global authority on probiotics and co-author of the consensus document.

Formulating cultured dairy products with probiotics makes sense, as consumers understand that probiotics are good for them. According to the 2012 Food & Health Survey, commissioned by the International Food Information Council Foundation, 14% of consumers surveyed said they were trying to get more probiotics in their diet. In the 2016 edition of the study, this number jumped to 33%, and is expected to continue growing. (See chart.)

Beyond probiotics, there’s a growing global trend to formulating dairy products, most notably fluid milk, to be lactose free. This is a trend that cultured dairy foods marketers need to embrace.

Lactose-free dairy products appeal to lactose-intolerant consumers, those consumers who are unable to breakdown lactose due to the body’s inability to produce any or enough of the enzyme lactase. Lactase is responsible for converting the disaccharide lactose to galactose and glucose, monosaccharides readily absorbed by the body for energy.

Lactose intolerance is thought to be one of the key drivers of dairy consumers switching to alternative dairy products. To keep them in dairy, processors need to offer lactose-free products.

One way to eliminate lactose is filtration technology, which requires capital investment. Another less committal option is to formulate dairy products with the lactase enzyme. The added bonus of including lactase is that processors can often reduce the amount of added sugars and still achieve the same degree of sweetness in lactose-free dairy products. This also allows for more attractive product labels with claims of reduced added sugars.

The use of lactose-free claims has been rising in recent years, according to research by Innova Market Insights. In the past year, the claim was featured on 6.7% of all global dairy introductions, rising to nearly 11% in the U.S. and 8% in the E.U.
Interest in lactose-free dairy products extends beyond clinically diagnosed lactose intolerant consumers. Many consumers are starting to choose lactose-free dairy products to assist with digestion.

Probiotics and lactose free are complementary and make sense for dairy. To read an article I recently wrote for Food Business News entitled “Cultures and enzymes: clean-label workhorses,” link HERE.

Here are some recent global innovations designed to appeal to the health- and wellness-consumer.

The Collective Dairy in New Zealand adds limited-edition Rhubarb ‘n’ Custard to its gourmet probiotic yogurt line made with natural ingredients. It is free from artificial additives and preservative, as well as gluten, and is described as being suitable for vegetarians.

In South Africa, the Lancewood brand offers a range of cottage cheese products—smooth and chunky—that are preservative free and tout the fact that they contain probiotics.

Dannon is rolling out the Activia Fruit Fusion line to the U.S. marketplace. This 1.5% milkfat probiotic yogurt is also fortified with vitamin D. Most U.S. milk processors voluntarily fortify fluid milk with vitamin D. Adding it to yogurt is not common. Dannon is changing that. The layered Activia Fruit Fusion product comes in four varieties. They are: Blueberry & Blackberry, Cherry & Vanilla, Peach & Mango and Strawberry & Raspberry. The yogurt is sold in four packs of 4-ounce cups.

In South Korea, the Yoplait brand, which has historically not touted the inclusion of probiotics or made any digestive health claims, is rolling out a product called Yoplait By Me. Managed and manufactured by Binggrae, the new cup product comes in no-sugar-added plain, as well as sweetened blueberry and peach varieties. An individual serving claims to contain 50 billion Yo Flex Creamy Lactobacillus cultures for intestinal health.

Back in the U.S., noosa is introducing multiple sweet and spicy yogurt combinations. The “sweet heat” combination is an emerging trend and noosa is one of the first to experiment with it in the refrigerated yogurt category. All noosa yogurt is made in small batches on a family farm in Bellvue, Colorado, with all-natural whole milk from happy cows (not treated with rBGH), fresh fruit puree--made using the ripest, juiciest fruits--and infused with a touch of wildflower honey, and probiotics, according to the company. Six varieties rolled out last month. There are five flavors in 8-ounce cups. They are: Bhakti Chai (limited batch), Blackberry Serrano (This flavor rolled out exclusively in noosa’s home state of Colorado in January. Now it’s available nationwide.), Mango Sweet Chili, Pineapple Jalapeno and Raspberry Habanero. The sixth flavor--Mexican Chocolate--comes in four packs of 4-ounce cups. This flavor combines cinnamon, chocolate and a pinch of chili spice.

Probiotics + lactose free = innovation opportunity.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Clean Label Dairy Does Not Need to be Complicated

Photos courtesy of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board

“Clean label,” it was the most prominent theme at IFT16, the annual meeting and food expo of the Institute of Food Technologists held in Chicago this past July. And no wonder, did you know that 73% of consumers find it important that they recognize a product’s ingredients?[1]

 [1]Ingredion proprietary research, MMR, Consumer Study, 309 consumers, USA, April 2015

When it comes to clean label, dairy foods dominate the packaged foods sector. With minimal processing along with the addition of just a handful of ingredients, fluid milk may be converted into many different products, from cheese to ice cream to yogurt.

Dairy foods, by design, should be clean and simple. Take cheese for example, most natural cheeses are made with four simple ingredients: milk, cultures, enzymes and salt. It’s the exact same ingredient statement for cheddar, mozzarella and Parmesan.

It’s the specific selection of milk, cultures, enzymes and even salt, that influences flavor, texture and appearance. To read more about cultures and enzymes as the clean-label powerhouses behind dairy foods innovations, link HERE to an article I recently wrote for Food Business News on the topic.

There’s an incredible opportunity to get creative with cheese when you formulate non-standardized products, some of which are considered to be “process” cheese. I’m not talking the individually plastic-wrapped slices that often top a burger. Rather, many non-standardized cheeses encompass a range of premium, gourmet products that might contain a few more than those four simple ingredients, but they can be clean and simple ingredients nonetheless.

What most Americans don’t understand is that cheese terminology, including the term process, is highly regulated in the United States, but not elsewhere. (This is not taking into consideration common food names. That’s an entire different conversation. For the U.S. perspective on why U.S. cheesemakers should be able to call feta cheese feta and Parmesan cheese Parmesan, link HERE.)

The fact is, process cheese products can be clean label and natural, per definitions recognized by the industry. They are not “processed,” per the definition some consumers use interchangeably with “Frankenfoods” and laboratory experiments.

“Process cheese is not flagged as such in most countries,” says Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation, Innova Market Insights, The Netherlands. “In Europe, especially, such soft, spreadable cheeses are used as flavorful condiments in sandwiches. They are also used as dips and for snacking. Process cheese technology allows for a great deal of flavor and texture innovation, something not typically possible with natural cheese, which is a living system.”

Process cheese products are also highly regarded by prepared foods manufacturers and foodservice professionals, as these cheeses typically provide superior meltability and improved versatility in a wide array of applications, as compared to natural cheeses.

Process cheeses, as well as non-standardized cheeses, can serves as a base for innovative dairy foods formulators to add layers of flavors.

Take for example this new gourmet spreadable cheese product from Lactalis American Group Inc. President Rondele Gingerbread cheese will be available from October 1 through December 31. This is the company’s first-ever, limited-time seasonal flavor. This spreadable cheese with a cookie-inspired flavor, features hints of molasses and ginger. It comes in an attractive disposable cup that resembles a white ramekin and can easily be placed right on the table for a convenient presentation.

The Code of Federal Regulations
Most natural cheeses, which are living systems that evolve over time in terms of flavor and texture, are made from only four ingredients: cultures, enzymes, milk and salt. In Title 21 Part 133 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), FDA legally defines cheese and outlines the requirements for more than 90 standardized cheeses, including natural varieties such as cheddar and mozzarella, as well as various process cheeses, including those that undergo heat treatment as well as those comminuted without the aid of heat.

Though natural cheeses can be and are used in food processing, more often than not, formulators rely on pasteurized cheeses. The heat treatment these cheeses undergo enables better control over functional properties. 

Pasteurized cheeses start out by blending a minimum amount of specified natural cheese with other ingredients, including those with emulsifying properties. The pasteurization (high-heat treatment) step deactivates the enzymes and cultures, which stops the cheese from changing.

As mentioned, the CFR provides standards for a number of pasteurized cheeses, but there are also many such cheeses that are non-standardized, allowing for additional ingredients and process modifications to meet finished product specifications. This includes functional properties such as restricted melt, enhanced flavor and controlled browning. Because of the ability to control functionality, most cheeses used in food processing tend to be pasteurized.

The CFR provides a number of standards for pasteurized cheese based on total cheese solids content. This includes pasteurized process cheese, pasteurized process cheese food and pasteurized process cheese spread. Cold-pack and club cheese are also considered by many as process cheeses.

These products are comminuted without the aid of heat.
Process cheeses almost always requires the use of texturants and stabilizers. Clean-label native starches and select gums can assist with texture and melt management, without compromising key sensory attributes and consumers acceptance.

When formulating clean label, think simple. Products should be:
  • Free from additives: remove or replace food additives.
  • Feature a simple ingredient listing: choose recognizable ingredients that do not sound chemical or artificial.
  • Minimally processed: process foods using traditional techniques that are understood by consumers and not perceived as being artificial.
Today’s consumers want convenience foods and beverages with no compromise. They should taste great and use only ingredients that they understand, recognize, trust and like. Clean-label formulating efforts balance rising concerns about what goes into a food product and the negative perception of highly processed foods.

U.S. Italian Cheese Industry Debuts Trust Mark
Following widely covered news reports of adulteration and fraud in some sectors of Italian cheese, a leading company in the U.S. cheese industry, Schuman Cheese, announced in early August 2016 plans to introduce the industry’s first trust mark. The on-package seal is intended to verify product quality and manufacturing integrity.

The True Cheese trust mark will appear on Schuman cheeses and snacks sold in supermarket and mass retail channels. The company reported newly labeled products are already appearing in some stores and will be phased in as customer orders are filled. The announcement follows recent news reports of an investigation of Castle Cheese Inc., by the FDA. According to the report, Castle’s grated cheese was labeled as “100% Parmesan Cheese,” yet it contained no Parmesan cheese, a standardized product.

The first quality seal of its kind in the cheese business, the move follows similar food industry initiatives for olive oil, honey and fresh fish, intended to help consumers know the product they are purchasing is real, and indeed what it claims to be. The True Cheese label will mean the verified product is made only with milk, cultures, salt, enzymes, is aged as required, and that any use of an anti-caking ingredient is at or below industry accepted levels and properly labeled.

Schuman Cheese also announced a product testing agreement with Covance Food Solutions to independently test True Cheese labeled products. Periodic testing of randomly selected products taken from retail locations will be performed at Covance’s laboratory in Madison, WI.

“We guarantee that all of our products are properly labeled and produced in accordance with the strictest regulations. Our partnership with Covance provides us with an objective, third-party verification of that promise,” says Neal Schuman, third-generation CEO of his family-owned company headquartered in Fairfield, NJ. “Our goal is to assure consumers that they’re getting real Parmesan, Asiago and Romano cheeses when they buy cheeses with the True Cheese trust mark.”

According to the company, apart from the seal and related testing of items displaying the mark, there’s no real way for consumers to self-determine exactly how a cheese is made or if excessive fillers might be included in the package. To learn more, link HERE.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Yogurt in the U.S.: The Dairy Case is Evolving; Most New Innovations are Non-Greek

Pictured here is a yogurt case in a Western Michigan beach town, a community of less than 2,000 households and home to four supermarkets. This is quite the impressive spread with many varied options.

Granted, during the summer months (I took the picture yesterday), the population of this town jumps from about 5,000 to 20,000, and product moves off the shelf fast. But what is to be noted is that the size of this yogurt case has not changed in the past two years. Winter, spring, summer or fall, it holds a lot of SKUs.

What has changed in the past two years is the yogurt case’s composition, as this retailer continuously brings in new products and uses shelf tags to flag them. If they sell, they stay. If they don’t, room is made for something else new. And just yesterday while visiting the story, it was very noticeable that Greek yogurt no longer jumps out at you.

According to data from IRI provided to Dairy Management Inc., and courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Association, Greek currently maintains 38% share of volume sales of refrigerated yogurt. Non-Greek is the remaining 62%, with sales declining. However, I believe the non-Greek players (many of them are active in the Greek segment, yet believe in the power of their core yogurt franchise) are actively fighting back to regain control.

Data source: IRI provided to Dairy Management Inc., and courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Association

Let’s look at Dannon, the nation’s leading yogurt maker. Just a month ago, the company announced that in response to evolving consumer preferences, it is implementing the first of many major changes to provide more choice to consumers. To start, Dannon and Oikos branded products now include options labeled as being made with non-GMO ingredients.

Additionally, starting now and expected to be completed within several months, all Dannon products in the U.S. that have GMO ingredients will be clearly labeled as such. Further, starting in 2017 and completing the transformation by the end of 2018, Dannon will go one step further to ensure that the cows that supply Dannon’s milk for the company’s three flagship brands (Dannon, Danimals and Oikos) will be fed non-GMO feed, a first for a leading non-organic yogurt maker. This will involve the conversion of an estimated 80,000 acres of farmland to produce non-GMO crops.

“Shoppers are our main ingredient, and what is important to them drives what we do. For this reason, the range of products we make is evolving to provide even more choices,” says Mariano Lozano, CEO, Dannon. “Transparency is the key word for this shift. To show to our consumers that in order to make a real choice, we need clear labels. Today we are making a bold change and candidly discussing how transparency from brands is essential for shoppers to make real choices.”

This transparency includes clear packaging to see what’s inside. That’s what you get with the company’s new Activia Fruit Fusion line. This 1.5% milkfat probiotic yogurt is also fortified with a nutrient of concern: vitamin D. Most U.S. milk processors voluntarily fortify fluid milk with vitamin D. Adding it to yogurt is not common. Dannon is changing that.

The layered Activia Fruit Fusion product comes in four varieties. They are: Blueberry & Blackberry, Cherry & Vanilla, Peach & Mango and Strawberry & Raspberry. The yogurt is sold in four packs of 4-ounce cups.

Data source: IRI provided to Dairy Management Inc., and courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Association

“Choosing to purchase foods with fewer or more natural ingredients, or with or without GMO ingredients, is an important individual decision, and we feel strongly that people have the right to know how companies are making food,” he says. “This is just the first of many steps towards our continued transparency and one that we hope others will follow.”

The company is also jumping on the whole milk yogurt bandwagon. According to IRI data, whole milk yogurt is growing rapidly and currently has 10% volume share. (See graph.) Consumers are embracing the deliciousness and nutrient density of whole milk yogurt and it shows in sales and the number of products entering the category.

Dannon’s new whole milk offering is a blended product made with all-natural, non-GMO ingredients and fortified with vitamin D. The 5.3-ounce cups come in eight flavors. They are: Blueberry, Cherry, Mixed Berry, Peach, Raspberry, Strawberry, Strawberry Banana and Vanilla. Each single serving contains 140 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 5 grams of protein and 15 to 16 grams of sugar.

Another area of activity is in yogurt drinks. I’ve commented on this segment numerous times throughout the years. In the past, it seemed as if all the major brands rolled out a drinkable yogurt at the same time and because U.S. consumers were not all on board, sales expectation were not met and the brands pulled out. Might the time finally be right for drinkable yogurt?

Dannon is now serving up two drinkable product lines designed for adult palates. Dannon Dairy Drink, a cultured milk formally sold exclusively through foodservice channels, is making its way into the retail sector. The 7-ounce bottles come in flavors that have a Hispanic-flavor edge to them, with the goal of attracting this demographic who has long been drinking yogurt, more so than spooning it. The flavors are: Mango, Peach, Pecan, Pina Colada, Strawberry and Strawberry Banana.

There’s also a new drinkable yogurt under the Oikos brand. Oikos Yogurt Drink contains no fat, no added sugar and no artificial sweetener. It is sweetened with stevia, gets a boost of protein from milk protein concentrate and is a source of another nutrient of concern—fiber—thanks to the addition of chicory root fiber. Interestingly, the Oikos brand is all about “Greek,” yet the packaging does not promote the product as such. Each 7-ounce bottle contains 110 calories, 11 grams of inherent sugar, 10 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber.

Not to be outdone, General Mills is upping its game in the yogurt case. The company is promising huge changes to get competitive again. During an investor day presentation held in mid-July, General Mills President and COO Jeff Harmening admitted that “right now our product portfolio is not aligned with the trends.”

He told investors that the company is planning to “renovate” 60% of the company’s yogurt business within the next year. This includes reinventing the company’s flagship Yoplait brand, as well as growing its Annie’s and Liberté offerings. Many of these new products complement the growing whole milk category.

For example, the Liberté brand now includes eight varieties of whole milk yogurt, including one unflavored variety. The Sweet Cream offering starts with pure, organic whole milk, sourced from a co-operative of family farms. It’s then lightly sweetened with organic cane sugar. A 5.5-ounce cup contains 190 calories, 13 grams of fat and 5 grams of protein.

The other seven flavorful offerings, made using the same local organic milk, come in an array of worldly flavors. They are: Californian Pomegranate, Baja Strawberry, Ecuadorian Mango, French Lavender, Lemon, Philippine Coconut and Washington Black Cherry. Each single-serve container, which is in clear plastic to showcase the layered ingredients, contains 210 to 220 calories, 11 to 13 grams of fat and 4 to 5 grams of protein.

To read a Fortune article on General Mills’ plan to renovate its yogurt offerings, link HERE.
Another comprehensive article was published in Food Business News. Link HERE to read it.

To appeal to youngsters, the company has aggressive plans for its recently acquired Annie’s brand. At the beginning of this year, General Mills introduced Annie’s Organic Whole Milk Yogurt. Sold in four-packs of 4-ounce cups, the yogurt comes in three varieties: Berry Patch, Summer Strawberry and Very Vanilla. The probiotic yogurt is described as being sweetened with organic fruit and a touch of cane sugar.

More recently, the company added 32-ounce tubs of Plain, Summer Strawberry and Vanilla whole milk yogurt to the Annie’s brand. There’s also eight-packs of 2-ounce tubes. The three varieties are: Berry Patch, Strawberry Banana and Summer Strawberry.

To appeal to older kids and adults, the company has plans to enter the yogurt-based smoothies sector, too. “We’ll introduce several Yoplait yogurt beverages in cities with large Hispanic populations,” Harmening told investors.

And because toddlers who grew up on tube yogurts continue to enjoy the interactivity of squeezing yogurt into their mouth (and probably on their siblings), the company now offers Yoplait Go Big. These 4-ounce tubes of low-fat, vitamin D-fortified yogurt come in four varieties. They are: Cherry, Mango, Mixed Berry and Strawberry.

What else is trending? It’s grass-fed milk yogurt.

Though still a small niche, a number of brands are trying to differentiate through the use of milk from grass-fed cows. Organic Valley has started offering 6-ounce cups of grassmilk yogurt in four varieties. They are: Plain, Strawberry, Vanilla and Wild Blueberry.

Dreaming Cow has redesigned its package to emphasize the grass-fed cows milk message. The whole milk, cream top yogurt now comes in eight dreamy flavors. They are: Blueberry Cardamom, Dark Cherry Chai, Honey Pear, Maple Ginger, Peach Mango, Plain, Strawberry Pomegranate and Vanilla Agave.

Dreaming Cows reside in Jumping Gully Dairy, one of three family-owned, grass-based, New Zealand-style rotational grazing dairies in Southern Georgia, according to the company. The climate here allows the cows to graze year round on lush green pastures, producing milk with a distinct taste that is naturally higher in healthful fatty acids, including omega-3s and conjugated linoleic acid.

I think you will agree that the refrigerated yogurt case is undergoing a major transformation. The focus is on simplicity and back to nature, with a delicious twist on flavors.

And, of course, protein remains a focus in the yogurt case. The Midwest Dairy Association is offering dairy foods processors, marketers and educators use of its Power of Dairy Protein online communications toolkit to help educate consumers about the importance of including 25 to 30 grams of protein in every meal, including breakfast, for best performance at school, at the office or during your daily activities.

Link HERE. This communications kit includes a variety of tools, including a customizable news release/newsletter article, blog postings, protein-related FAQs, recipes and recipe videos and suggested social media posts that can be customized for varied communications channels now and throughout the year.

Thanks to my friends at Midwest Dairy, who explain in the toolkit that yogurt is a flexible nutrient powerhouse that knocks out hunger throughout the day. It is extremely versatile and a smart choice for quick and easy meals and snacks, as well as a healthful base ingredient for making dips, sauces and smoothies. Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium and potassium and provides numerous vitamins and minerals. What’s more, research shows kids who eat yogurt have improved nutrition and weight status.