Friday, June 11, 2021

June is National Dairy Month: Seven Newsy Items to Power-Up Your Business as the World Opens Up


We’re almost half way through National Dairy Month, a recognition first bestowed to June in 1937 as National Milk Month that soon evolved into including all dairy foods. National Dairy Month functions as a marketing and promotions campaign for retailers, brands and farmers to encourage consumption of nutrient-rich dairy foods. 

This June has been full of interesting dairy news, and like I stated, we are not even half way through it. Here are seven newsy items you will want to catch up on. 

1. Is it time to reevaluate organic dairy production standards? An article published in the May 2021 issue of Journal of Food Science, and made available to me last week, suggests it may be time to change the rules governing the use of antibiotics in organic livestock. Read more in an article I wrote for Food Business News HERE.

2. The FDA has amended the standard of identity for yogurt. On June 9, FDA issued a final rule to amend and modernize the standard of identity for yogurt by allowing for greater flexibilities and technological advances in yogurt production. This is something that has been long overdue. It’s nice to see FDA back in action. (The industry has been waiting for this for more than a decade!) This initiative is part of FDA’s Nutrition Innovation Strategy, which has as one of its goals to modernize food standards to maintain the basic nature and nutritional integrity of products while allowing industry flexibility for innovation to produce more healthful foods. 

Currently, FDA has separate standards of identity for yogurt, low-fat yogurt and nonfat yogurt. Under the final rule, low-fat yogurt and nonfat yogurt will be covered under FDA’s general definition and standard of identity, which allows nutritionally modified versions of traditional standardized foods. The final rule expands the allowable ingredients in yogurt, including sweeteners and reconstituted forms of basic dairy ingredients. It establishes a minimum amount of live and active cultures yogurt it must contain in order to bear the optional labeling statement “contains live and active cultures” or similar statement. Additionally, the final rule supports the many innovations that have already been made in the yogurt marketplace, including continuing to allow manufacturers to fortify yogurts, such as adding vitamins A and D, as long as they meet fortification requirements. The rule also allows various styles or textures of yogurt as long as they meet the requirements in the standard of identity. The compliance date of this final rule is January 1, 2024. For more information, link HERE.

Photo source: Dairy Management Inc.

3. The USDA rolls out the Build Back Better initiative. The USDA is back in action, too. Thanks Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. 

Citing lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and recent supply chain disruptions, on June 8, the USDA announced plans to invest more than $4 billion to strengthen critical supply chains through the Build Back Better initiative. The new effort will strengthen the food system, create new market opportunities, tackle the climate crisis, help communities that have been left behind and support good-paying jobs throughout the supply chain. Today’s announcement supports the Biden Administration’s broader work on strengthening the resilience of critical supply chains as directed by Executive Order 14017 America’s Supply Chains. Funding is provided by the American Rescue Plan Act and earlier pandemic assistance such as the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

“The COVID-19 pandemic led to massive disruption for growers and food workers. It exposed a food system that was rigid, consolidated and fragile. Meanwhile, those growing, processing and preparing our food are earning less each year in a system that rewards size over all else,” said Vilsack. “The Build Back Better initiative will make meaningful investments to build a food system that is more resilient against shocks, delivers greater value to growers and workers, and offers consumers an affordable selection of healthy food produced and sourced locally and regionally by farmers and processors from diverse backgrounds. I am confident USDA’s investments will spur billions more in leveraged funding from the private sector and others as this initiative gains traction across the country. I look forward to getting to work as co-chair of the new Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force and help to mobilize a whole-of-government effort to address the short-term supply challenges our country faces as it recovers.” To read more, link HERE.

4. The USDA is also focusing on food security for all Americas. Vilsack is on a roll. (Thank you!) A week earlier, when he first announced the Build Back Better initiative, he shared USDA’s plans to purchase healthy food for food-insecure Americans and build food bank capacity. This $1 billion brings the total amount dedicated to food bank efforts to more than $5 billion.

“Hunger is on the decline thanks to aggressive action by the Biden-Harris Administration, but we must do more to improve partnerships and infrastructure that power emergency food distribution to ensure the food provided is nutritious and supports a better food system,” said Vilsack. “Now is the time to apply lessons learned from food assistance activities early in the pandemic to improve how USDA purchases food and supports on-the-ground organizations with The Emergency Food Assistance Program. We will put special emphasis on reaching rural, remote and underserved communities, local and regional food systems, and socially disadvantaged farmers.”

As someone who volunteers regularly at a food bank in Chicago, I am especially grateful for the up to $100 million being dedicated to infrastructure grants to build capacity for food banks. This is a lot about refrigeration storage. The food bank hub where I volunteer—where donations and purchased food comes in and volunteers separate and then distribute to outreach facilities—has very limited refrigerated space for, you guessed it, all things dairy. Imagine my struggle with this fact. Looking forward to positive change. To read more, link HERE.

5. Innova data affirms that whey and milk proteins shatter new product launch records in 2020. That’s right, on June 1—World Milk Day--The U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) shared data from Innova Market Insight’s Database showing an upward growth trajectory in the number of new global food and beverage product introductions made with whey proteins and with milk proteins. A record 7,409 whey protein products were introduced around the world in 2020, with annual launches nearly doubling from 2015. This represents a double-digit (13.9%) compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2015 to 2020, demonstrating that food formulators are tapping into these nutritional and functional ingredients to fuel innovations that deliver on consumer desires. 

Milk protein product launches also smashed prior year records, reaching 9,413 products in 2020, a 3.7% CAGR from 2015 to 2020. Aggregated dairy protein product introductions outpaced plant proteins in 2020 by over 3,000 products (17,652 dairy proteins and 14,584 plant proteins), maintaining a consistent lead held for the past decade. 

“This impressive growth in whey, milk and dairy protein introductions aligns with other Innova Market Insights’ survey data showing strong consumer demand for proteins from both animal and plant based sources,” said Lu Ann Williams, global insights director at Innova Market Insights. “Innovation potential remains bright across global markets and diverse product categories for these versatile ingredients from cow’s milk, offering formulators the sweet spot of nutritionally high-quality proteins that complement today’s plant forward lifestyles.”  Photo source: Dutch Farms

Kristi Saitama, vice president, global ingredients marketing for USDEC, said, “Consumer interest in protein for health is no longer just in Western markets where the protein trend started but is gaining momentum and driving new product introductions around the world. Launch activity is likely to accelerate in coming years as manufacturers in Asian, Latin American, Middle Eastern and African countries further discover and seek out whey and milk protein’s powerhouse nutritional package to develop local-friendly products supporting consumer health and wellness goals, such as fitness, weight management and healthy aging.”  For more information, link HERE.

6. There’s a new guide out to assist marketers with making cheese relevant for generations of snackers. Snacking has become a way of life. For some, snacks are mini meals, as the consumer is mindful of nutritional value. For others, the snack may be a treat, an indulgence or a quick boost of energy. Cheese is all of this and more. To learn more, link HERE.

7. And lucky #7, a recent survey shows that Americans love dairy. The International Food Information Council (IFIC) conducted an online survey April 1 to 6, 2021, which included 1,014 adults ages 18 to 80 who consume dairy at least a few times a year. The results were weighted to ensure proportional results. The research was supported by the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA). 

The results showed that despite the ever-growing options available for dairy alternatives, dairy itself remains overwhelmingly popular among dairy consumers. According to the findings, nearly three-quarters (72%) of adults who consume dairy foods or beverages do so several times a week, compared to about one-quarter (28%) who say the same of nondairy alternatives like nut-, oat- or soy-based milk, ice cream, yogurt or cheese.  

Older adults have the strongest preference for dairy compared to other age groups, with four in five (80%) of those age 55+ saying they consume dairy foods or beverages multiple times per week, compared to two-thirds (67%) of 18- to 34-year-olds and 73% of those ages 35 to 54. Conversely, only 10% of adults age 55+ consume plant-based alternatives multiple times a week, compared to about one-third of younger people (34% of those ages 18 to 34 and 31% of those 35 to 54). Half of adults age 55+ say they never consume nondairy alternatives, standing in stark contrast to just under 8% of 18-34-year-olds who say the same. 

When the results are broken down by specific foods, Americans prefer cheese made from dairy over plant-based versions. (This is no surprise!) About three-quarters (74%) said they always choose the dairy version of cheese, while 20% sometimes choose nondairy. Photo source: Dutch Farms

Comparing other products, 68% always choose the dairy version of butter, while 23% sometimes choose nondairy; 66% always choose the dairy version of ice cream, while 26% sometimes choose nondairy; 64% always choose the dairy version of milk, while 26% sometimes choose nondairy; 62% always choose the dairy version of yogurt, while 22% sometimes choose nondairy; and 45% always choose the dairy version of yogurt-based smoothies or drinks, while 27% sometimes choose nondairy. Women are significantly more likely than men to sometimes choose both dairy and plant-based versions of milk (29% of women vs. 23% of men), though overall product preferences are mostly similar by gender. For more information on the survey, link HERE

Friday, June 4, 2021

Dairy Foods Innovation 2021: Ten-Plus Ice Cream Brands that Provide Inspiration for Innovation


Photo source: Milk Cult

While it’s not officially summer, for many readers of today’s blog, it’s time to get outside and enjoy the sunshine and mask-free fresh air. Once again, the marketplace is changing and marketers are pivoting to adjust. To help maintain the momentum of retail sales’ gains during the pandemic, brands are getting creative with formulations, marketing and messaging. This is very apparent in ice cream, with the retail freezer a hot spot in the supermarket.  

Shoppers are increasingly choosing to grocery shop inside the store as COVID-19 concerns abate, according to the April IRI survey among primary grocery shoppers. Additionally, shoppers are spending more time in the store, which once again makes it paramount that your product gets their attention. 

“Consumers who have been vaccinated are more likely to do all shopping in-store and are the ones driving the more relaxed in-store mindset,” says Anne-Marie Roerink, president, 210 Analytics. “This points to potentially ongoing shifts back to pre-pandemic behaviors as more people get vaccinated. As retail demand continues to be elevated, some categories squeezed out gains over 2020 whereas others fell short of matching the 2020 records.”

210 Analytics, IRI and the American Frozen Food Institute partnered to understand how the frozen food department fared relative to their 2020 and 2019 performances. Data show that with the exception of prepared vegetables, all areas tracked ahead of the 2019 pre-pandemic sales levels. Not surprisingly, however, is that 2021 vs. 2020 numbers are down, as more consumers venture out to eat and treat themselves. Still, retail ice cream sales were up 6.8% in April 2021, as compared to the 52 weeks ended April 30, 2019. Only two areas, frozen novelties and desserts, grew dollar sales in April 2021 versus year ago levels. And impressively, frozen novelty sales were up 31% in April 2021 as compared to the 52 weeks ended April 30, 2019.

Frozen novelties are booming thanks to the constant innovation taking place in this space. Formulators are prioritizing texture differentiators, along with pushing the envelope on flavor exploration. 

Source: IRI, courtesy of 210 Analytics 

Milk Cult, a Washington, D.C.-based ice cream company, has rolled out four handcrafted, made-from-scratch frozen novelties. There are two sandwiches: vanilla ice cream with chocolate chip cookies and vegan avocado with chocolate wafers. 

Photo source: Milk Cult

“We reworked our own version of the public school cafeteria lunch cookie and paired it with a custard base French vanilla ice cream. Except the cookie had to be soft when frozen, with natural ingredients, and salty as hell,” according to the company. 

There are also two Dippy Boys novelties: vanilla ice cream with a chocolate shell and potato chips (opening image) and vegan Makrut lime in a candy shell and crispy rice.

The inspiration for the flavor profiles came from collaborations with a few of D.C’s Michelin-starred restaurants and James Beard award-winning chefs. 

“It’s taken eight years and a lot of trial and error to hone in on the four distinct flavors for our ice cream novelties,” says Ed Cornell, co-founder and co-owner of Milk Cult. “We put attention into every detail and step of production from the flavor profiles to the selection of ingredients, the assembly process and resulting texture.”

Founded in 2013 in Washington D.C., by two friends turned co-founders, Milk Cult began as a mobile vending ice cream company. The duo noticed the ice cream food category lacked innovation from the natural food perspective. Since then, Milk Cult has grown through local grocery channels and was met with intense consumer demand. 

“Consumers are smart and can tell when something is hand-crafted, yet there was a lack of options and choices in ice cream novelties,” says Pat Griffith, Milk Cult co-founder. “It was a space where we thought better products could be made, and we wanted to build something from scratch. We were always intentional about the product.”

The concept of providing unexpected textures in ice cream really started to resonate with U.S. consumers when mochi went mainstream. Today there are a number of mochi brands in the frozen novelty space, all of which continue to innovate with flavors. 

My/Mochi, for example, is expanding its portfolio with three new globally inspired flavors that include the brand’s signature chewy, sweet rice dough shell. Flavors are: Coconut, Guava and Horchata.

Chewy textured ice cream is not unique to mochi. Brown Sugar Boba Ice Milk Bar from Taiwanese Company I-Mei Foods was available in Costco this past spring. Boba, also known as bubble tea, is an Asian beverage that combines milk-based tea with chewy tapioca pearls. The multi-textured novelty mimics the real deal through creative use of ingredients, including milk powder, coconut oil and a range of stabilizers to mimic the tapioca pearl eating experience.

Turkish ice cream, known as dondurma, is known for its unique texture. The slightly stretchy, chewy texture helps with savoring the flavors a bit longer, as dondurma does not melt in the mouth as quickly as other types of frozen dairy desserts. In fact, sometimes it is served like a slice of cake: on a plate with a knife and a fork.  

Gallivant Mawa Ice Cream has been named one of five finalists in the ice cream/frozen dessert category in the World Dairy Innovation Awards 2021. Mawa ice cream is made with milk and mawa, which are South Asian milk solids. Mawa is prepared by slow cooking full-fat milk for many hours, reducing it to one-fifth its volume by removing moisture. The solids have rich, silky caramelized notes, which when used in the manufacture of ice cream, results in a “creamier than gelato” frozen dessert, according to Snehee Chaplot, founder and CEO.

Chaplot created nine flavors of Gallivant Mawa Ice Cream for the initial rollout. They are: African Chocolate, Chinese Black Sesame, Guatemalan Cardamom, Indian Mango, Japanese Matcha, Madagascar Vanilla, Persian Pistachio, Thai Coconut and Vietnamese Coffee.

Another finalist in the competition is N!cks Ice Cream, which is described as Swedish-style ice cream that is so creamy, so light and so Swedish. Swedish-style is low-fat, low-calorie and keto-friendly, as the product contains no added sugars. The brand’s unique formulation—including sweeteners, fibers and texturants—results in a creamy mouthfeel that compares to mainstream ice cream, according to the company. The brand further differentiates with many of its flavors, such as Swedish Lemon Bar, which is cheesecake ice cream with a ribbon of lemon puree. (This product line will be featured next week as a Daily Dose of Dairy.)

“In North America, we continue to target new business in attractive subcategories. One subcategory is low-net carbohydrate ice cream,” said Nick Hampton, executive director and CEO, Tate & Lyle plc, at the company’s Full Year 2021 Earnings Presentation on May 27, 2021. “Last year, we started discussions with a customer who wanted to reformulate their low net-carb ice cream to use an alternative fiber and improve its mouthfeel. Using our prototype pantry approach, we created several ice cream variations to optimize the formula and meet our customers’ requirements.”

The system includes a blend of stabilizers, allulose, soluble corn fiber and monk fruit extract. 

Well Enterprises embraces the concept of multiple textures and flavors in its Blue Bunny Load’d brand. The brand commenced in 2018 with Load’d Sundae Cups, followed by Load’d Cones in 2020 and now Load’d Bars. 

The bars are described as having “two times the mix-ins” and are loaded with “ooey-gooey” swirls and pieces in every bite. The five varieties:

Bunny Tracks: vanilla frozen dairy dessert filled with caramel swirls and chocolate-flavored peanut butter bunnies topped with caramel sauce dipped in milk chocolate-flavored coating and peanuts.

Cookie Dough: cookie dough frozen dairy dessert filled with chocolate fudge swirls and cookie dough pieces topped with fudge sauce dipped in milk chocolate-flavored coating and cookie crunch.

Salted Caramel: salted caramel frozen dairy dessert filled with salted caramel swirls and salted caramel bunnies topped with caramel sauce dipped in milk chocolate-flavored coating and cookie crunch.

Strawberry Shortcake: strawberry-flavored frozen dairy dessert filled with strawberry swirls and shortcake pieces topped with strawberry sauce dipped in whipped cream-flavored coating and shortbread crunch.

Super Fudge Brownie: chocolate frozen dairy dessert filled with chocolate fudge swirls and brownies topped with fudge sauce dipped in milk chocolate-flavored coating and chocolate cookie crunch.

The brand continues to grow the cups and cones lines, too. For example, there’s new Load’d Sundae Caramel Fudge Brownie Cup, which is vanilla-flavored frozen dairy dessert, fudge brownie and caramel swirls, fudge brownie pieces, fudge chunks and caramel-filled bunnies.

When Unilever decided to expand the Klondike brand from square chocolate-covered frozen dairy dessert treats into cone novelties, the company knew it had to stand out among others in this space. How? By providing multiple textures in one product. New Klondike Cones feature a distinctive swirled-shape top with sauce that travels throughout the entire center of the crispy cone. It includes flavorful toppings and a chocolate cone tip. Varieties are: Classic Chocolate and Nuts for Vanilla, Double Down Chocolate and Classic Chocolate, and Unicorn Dreamin’ and Vanilla Chillin’. Unicorn is a green cone filled with strawberry and bubblegum frozen dairy dessert, strawberry sauce core, and chocolatey coating.

Award-winning chef Christina Tosi has long appreciated the ability to manipulate texture and offer innovative flavors in the ice cream she developed for Milk Bar, the rule-breaking dessert company she founded and operated through stores mainly in New York City. Of course, the pandemic required that she pivot her business and now four of her ice creams flavors are available in retail pints.  

Like novelty cups, pints present a package size that readily accommodates lots of inclusions along with unique textures, as compared to larger multi-serve containers that may get too messy when overwhelmed with extras that impact the frozen state.   

Milk Bar’s Birthday Cake is birthday cake-flavored ice cream, birthday cake crumbs and ribbons of birthday frosting. The Cereal Milk ice cream base tastes like the bottom of the cereal bowl with some extras in the form of a salty-sweet cornflake crunch. Cornflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow is an ode to the Milk Bar’s bestselling cookie. It combines cornflake crunch, chocolate chunks and gooey marshmallow swirls throughout a cookie dough ice cream. Lastly, there’s Milk Bar Pie. This is vanilla ice cream with swirls of a gooey butter filling and toasted oat crumble.

“I have dreamed about bringing Milk Bar to the freezer section (the holy grail of the supermarket in my opinion) for nearly a decade. I knew coming in now, we’d need to do more than bend pieces of our finished treats into an ice cream pint. So we toiled and tinkered, taking our favorite flavor profiles and imagining them through ice cream bases, swirls, gobs, fudges, frostings, crumbs and crunches to create our proudest on-shelf creation yet,” says Tosi. “Our ice creams are meant for the unapologetically indulgent moments and mean serious business, no two are alike. Whether we already have a place in your heart or you’re looking for even more joy and spirit in your ice cream bowl, we got you!”

Chef-inspired ice cream at retail has always been a niche, but the pandemic inspired many culinary professionals to package their product for the masses. This is no easy feat, as hand-crafted ice cream sold on premise is easier to manage for quality than packaged pints going through the supply chain where they may encounter temperature abuse multiple times during distribution. 

That’s something Tosi and others have learned during the scaling process. What works in foodservice may not work for retail. 

Until the pandemic, Chef Liz Rogers only sold her homemade Creamalicious Ice Cream online and at her Southern-style restaurant, Wing Champ, in Sharonville, Ohio, just outside Cincinnati. She prides herself on being truly innovative with her whimsical two-in-one desserts that pair fresh-baked pastries with homemade ice creams. As you can imagine, these unique textures require extra care.

Chef Liz crafts her Southern artisan desserts by celebrating her roots and community. The award-winning flavors are inspired by her family’s recipes and have been passed down four generations. Varieties are: Banana Pudding, Gigi’s Sweet Potato Pie, Mama Poonie’s 3 Layer Caramel Cake, Pecan Pie, Pineapple Upside Down Cake, Porch Light Peach Cobbler and Red Velvet Cheesecake.

The Ben & Jerry’s and Häagen-Dazs brands have long emphasized the multi-texture, varied inclusion ice cream experience. The brands both continue to innovate. Earlier this year, for example, Häagen-Dazs Duo rolled out to the U.K. marketplace. The two-in-one format combines complementary yet contrasting flavors and textures of ice cream in one container. The concept debuted in three varieties. They are: Belgian Chocolate & Strawberry, Belgian Chocolate & Vanilla Crunch, and Dark Chocolate & Salted Caramel Crunch. These novel ice cream products were created in response to the growing consumer demand for interesting eating experiences.

Staying relevant to consumers in a discretionary category such as ice cream and frozen novelties will require innovation. Delivering unique eating experiences is one way to get there. 

It’s time to grab me a scoop!

Thursday, May 20, 2021

What’s Next? “Transparelocalicious”


Photo source: California Milk Advisory Board

Transparelocalicious. This is a term coined by Morgan Spurlock, the documentary filmmaker of the 2004 film: Supersize Me. It’s also a term that’s about five years old, but its significance accelerated with the pandemic. 

Ah, the pandemic. What a difference a year makes! Right? We must all be patient as many of us take baby steps when we reenter a mask-free, in-person world at the gym, shopping, dining and eventually, travel and trade shows. 

Speaking of trade shows, I’ve purchased my ticket and booked my hotel for Anuga, the biennial food exposition hosted by Koelnmesse GmbH. The 2021 installment is scheduled as a hybrid event taking place October 9 to 13 in Cologne, Germany. The digital Anuga@home event will enhance the physical platform, allowing more food industry professionals than ever before to participate in the world’s largest trade fair for foods and beverages. Hopefully, you will plan to attend. 

For more information, link HERE

THE LARGEST GLOBAL TRADE FAIR--ANUGA--takes place Oct. 9-13 in Cologne, Germany.

Back to the moment and how we can build on what we learned this past year. Let’s not forget about the toilet paper shortage one year ago, along with the milk that got dumped and the crops that were buried. 

Michael Pollan wrote in an article in the Washington Post

“The first teachable moment of the pandemic, for me, had to do with the supply chain…It became clear that we have two distinct supply chains for toilet paper, as we do for food…As one sector (schools, offices, etc.) collapsed, the other (retail) came under extraordinary pressure. You might think a company could say, ‘We’ll move all this toilet paper over from institutions to supermarkets.’ The companies just couldn’t adjust. Efficiency is a wonderful thing. It can result in benefits such as lower prices and better uses of resources. But a hyperspecialized system is more vulnerable to disruption; it is not resilient. This is also the case with our food supply.”

He concludes with: 

“The (food) system was incredibly specialized and efficient, but that made it not resilient enough to adapt during a crisis…One of the positives that came out of last year was that many consumers realized that local farms and food producers that were detached from this hyper-efficient food supply chain are great alternatives.”

Link HERE to read the entire article.

Now, while many of you are part of this hyper-efficient food chain, many are not. And, at the same time, you big players are doing a great job of investing in start-ups through incubator programs. Thank you. But that might not be enough. 

Let the COVID-19 pandemic serve as a warning sign of what the world will continue to face with climate change. Farmers and ranchers must act now, and they need the support of all players in the supply chain. 

Here’s a very informative VIDEO on why “Eating Less Meat Won’t Save the Planet.” It’s equally relevant to milk and dairy products. 

Infographic Source: HealthFocus International 

“Brands Sourcing Ethical Animal Proteins” is an excellent read by Jennifer Barney, who I had the pleasure of meeting a few years ago at the inaugural California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) innovation competition incubator. (There’s a call for entries to the third incubator. Information below.)

Jennifer Barney, who owns an advisory company for ag producers and startups, writes: 

“The mania for plant-based equivalents has resulted in grocery store sets being way oversubscribed on these products. There’s only so much real estate on store shelves and retail buyers are recognizing they’ve gone overboard. A correction is impending at the next reset.”

I fully agree! 

“Conscious consumers are calling the shots. They buy natural/premium products. They are the most influential and vocal in food.”

I fully agree!
She writes about meeting with Stephanie Alexandre of Alexandre Family Farms, the first certified regenerative and organic dairy in the U.S. To learn more, link HERE.

Regenerative dairy farming is not just necessary for the manufacture of “regenerative” dairy foods, but it is also necessary for manufacturers that rely on dairy ingredients, namely whey and milk proteins. We want the innovators of sports nutrition products, energy bars, beverages, etc., who want to include sustainable ingredient sourcing in their marketing campaigns to keep dairy ingredients in their products.  

To read Jennifer’s article, link HERE

And formulating with dairy is a bright spot for the future of innovation. The CMAB is ready for the return of its annual dairy innovation competition. It has a new name and increased focus on advancing excellence in functional dairy product development. 

The Real California Milk Excelerator, the 3rd edition of the CMAB dairy product innovation competition with innovation consultancy VentureFuel, will award up to $650,000 in prizes for new dairy products that support performance and recovery benefits.

The 2021 Real California Milk Excelerator taps into the thriving functional foods market, a market that has grown significantly over the past year and is projected to reach over $275 billion globally by 2025, according to Grandview Research.

With consumers prioritizing personal health and wellness in response to the pandemic, the competition will seek out early-stage startups that utilize two of California’s great resources: an abundant supply of sustainably sourced California milk and the state’s entrepreneurial spirit.

One of the biggest dairy competitions in the world, the competition seeks early-stage, potential for high-growth applicants with a cow’s milk-based product or working prototype that plays a critical role in personal performance (e.g., focus, energy, exercise, strength, etc.) and/or recovery (e.g., rejuvenation, relaxation, gut health, sleep, etc.).  

Up to twelve applicants will be selected to join the RCM Excelerator program with each receiving a $10,000 stipend and support to refine and scale their individual business as well as benefit from group resources including the development of sales and marketing tools. They will also be entered into the CMAB/VentureFuel Mentor Program, which includes elite counsel from successful founders, investors, leading corporate executives, and experts across design, marketing, sales, manufacturing, distribution, farming and processing industries. The first place Excelerator winner will receive up to $150,000 worth of additional marketing support from CMAB to accelerate their product growth in the marketplace. Second place will receive $100,000 of marketing supports from CMAB. To further advance opportunities for finalists, a private, Buyer/Investor Day event will be hosted for finalists to pitch actual clients to drive business development and secure financing. The value of the competition awards is $650,000.

For the first time, CMAB and VentureFuel also will be awarding up to three companies entry into the new Real California Milk Incubator Boot Camp, an option for companies that have great ideas but are too early for the competition. Led by executives at CMAB, VentureFuel and the California Dairy Innovation Center, Boot Camp participants also will gain entry into the VentureFuel Mentor program as well as review of products, tweaking of pitch, introductions to food labs, nutritionists, etc. (a value of $50,000).

“Consumers are redefining what health and wellness means and looking for foods that provide not only flavor but functionality to help them achieve optimal health. Whether to maximize daily performance or replenishment after physical activity, dairy is the ultimate functional food supplying quality protein plus several vital nutrients that translate to the products consumers are looking for today,” says John Talbot, CEO of the CMAB. “With the Excelerator and Incubator platforms, we will be able to support companies as they innovate with dairy to bring more of these products featuring milk from California dairy farmers to market.”

Competition rules and application documents are available HERE. The deadline for application is June 25, 2021.

Dairy can be transparent, local and delicious, otherwise known as “transparelocalicious.”

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Fad vs. Part of the New Norm: Don’t Let Another Chobani Sneak Up on You!


A few weeks ago when I spoke on fad vs. trend at the International Dairy Foods Associations’ Ice Cream Technology and Yogurt and Cultured Innovation conferences, I took attendees back more than 30 years to discuss prioritizing product development and marketing today by looking at what worked, what did not work and what might be the way to go as we enter the post-pandemic world. I apologize in advance if I offend a few with my theories, but please remember, I’ve been reporting on dairy foods trends and innovations since 1993! That’s 28 years, longer than I want to admit and more years than the age of many of you reading this. (By the way, today is my birthday, so pardon the liberties I take in today’s blog. I feel like ruffling a few feathers with some observations I have made through the years.) 

Facts with Opinion

  • Birth rates are down but pet adoptions--and pet food sales--are up. (This does not mean dairy processors should all be making doggy ice cream nor does it mean you should stop focusing on developing nutrient-dense products for babies, toddlers and tots.)
  • While plant-based innovations are all over the media—business, consumer, social and even political-- U.S. meat consumption is at an all-time high. Further, U.S. beef and pork exports established new records in March 2021. (This does not mean you should stop making plant-based dairy-wanna-be products and go into butchering. More on this later.)
  • Pet rocks were a fad. Fidget spinners were a fad. Mobile phones are here to stay. (Just in case you were wondering.)
  • Fat-free was one of the longest living fads in the food industry, starting out in the late 1980s and in full force by the early 1990s. (I know from my formulating experience during my tenure at Kraft from 1990 to 1993 that the words “fat-free” do not belong in front of the word “cheese.” Challenge me. I dare you!) 
  • Gluten-free foods are a necessity for those with celiac disease and gluten intolerance, giving this label claim longevity. (But, gluten-free dieting is a fad for many, thanks to unproven celebrity endorsements and media hype.) 
  • Complete protein is necessary for development and biological function, as well as overall health and wellness. (Yes, it is!)

More on Protein 
A protein is considered nutritionally complete when it contains the nine amino acids essential in the human diet in a ratio that matches the requirements of the body. Dairy-based protein sources are nutritionally complete; however, the majority of plant-based protein ingredients are not. The most noteworthy exception is soy, which has long been the plant of choice for dairy alternatives. Other complete plant proteins include amaranth, buckwheat, chia seed, hemp seed, quinoa and spirulina. 

In addition to amino acid profile, another consideration is the quality of the protein, which reflects amino acid bioactivity, among other attributes. Currently protein quality is measured by the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS), which is an adjustment for the quality of the protein. It is based on the types and amounts of amino acids in the food as well as the overall digestibility. The PDCAAS values range from 0.0 to 1.0, where values are truncated to a maximum score of 1.00, which cows’ milk, casein, whey, eggs and soy protein all possess. Most plant protein sources have much lower values. 

Some Fact, Some Theory 
Phil Dunphy is the patriarch of Modern Family. He developed quite a list of Phil’s-osophy advise over the show’s 11 seasons, including "pourenting." When my husband—Timothy—shares his grand insights to me and our sons, we refer to it as Tim’s-otheory. It works! You are stuck with Donna’s Dose of Dairy today. 

Let’s talk clean label and plant based. These are two concepts currently fueling product innovation, and rightfully so. After all, a diet with fewer artificial and chemically processed ingredients, along with more fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains makes nutritional sense. These two terms; however, should be limited to your internal communications.  

They are not legally defined. They are cousins with “natural” and have an attitude. While many food and beverage marketers may be using these descriptors on their products, please don’t. They are an invitation to a class-action lawsuit. 

Clean-label and plant-based formulating will be part of the new norm, just proceed with caution. I am not as worried about clean label as I am plant based. The term is being over used and causing confusion in the marketplace, because the descriptor is appearing on everything from vegetable oil to dried spices to bagged lettuce to wine! These products have always been plant based. Nothing has changed.

“Plant based” is sitting in a space similar to “healthy” near the end of the fat-free movement. This resulted in the development of the “jelly bean rule” by FDA in May 1994. It says that just because foods are low in fat, cholesterol and sodium, they cannot claim to be “healthy” unless they contain at least 10% of the Daily Value of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, protein, fiber or iron. The FDA also made a policy that companies could not fortify foods with the sole intent of making that claim.

I would like to see plant-based labeling mean the product contains whole plants, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains. 

The dairy industry is in a good place when it comes to nomenclature. We can use words such as “non-dairy” to assist those avoiding dairy with enjoying like products simulated from plants. Even vegan is a safer term than plant based. 

Consumers want non-dairy options. Oatly avoids “plant-based” language on its packaging and most marketing materials; however, my preference would be not to include “dairy alternative” language on the label. But the company is not a dairy, so I get it. Chobani focuses on the ingredient used in the non-dairy dairy-like product. 

That brings me to my headline: Don’t Let Another Chobani Sneak Up on You. This is not a reference to Chobani’s non-dairy products, rather it’s where the dairy industry was in 2005 when Chobani was started.

This is the year that Activia yogurt debuted, and the big buzz word was probiotics, and soon prebiotics, yet, not only were these terms new to consumers, but processors were also unsure on how to use them. And while everyone was obsessed with figuring out digestive health, and getting pitched by suppliers to start “cleaning up labels,” Hamdi Ulukaya, founder and CEO of Chobani, bought Kraft’s yogurt factory in Upstate New York…and, well, the rest is history. 

Oh, and by the way, Chobani just became the first in the U.S. dairy industry to be certified with the Fair Trade seal of approval. The certification, bestowed by a nonprofit trade group called Fair Trade USA, indicates that Chobani—a $1.5 billion (2020 revenues) company with 2,200 employees—has been working with U.S. farms and cooperatives to improve working conditions. It's a seal consumers are starting to value. 

What’s my point? Don’t get hung up on “plant based” just because it’s all over the media. Include non-dairy options in your product portfolio. Think of dairy and non-dairy bases as carriers for nutrients and functional, beneficial compounds that the post-pandemic consumers wants to include in their diet. 

This week HealthFocus International provided a sneak peek to insights from its 2021 USA Trend Study “Shoppers’ Journey Towards Living & Eating Healthier.” (Check out the infographic above.) I suggest you focus on functional ingredients for health and wellness. Add them to your dairy and non-dairy bases. 

Here's something to ponder from IRI. “Due to recent cost increases and shopper behavior shifts stemming from COVID-19, CPG manufacturers--especially premium players--need to strengthen their margins and justify their price positioning,” said Ray Florio, executive vice president and partner of IRI Growth Consulting. “Shoppers have become far more cynical about product claims and benefits, requiring brands to take a more sophisticated approach to communicate their true value and avoid commoditization.”

Friday, April 30, 2021

Explore the Pop Up Grocer for Food Innovation Inspiration


Photo source: Pop Up Grocer

Tomorrow is May Day, a secular public holiday that makes Spring official and Summer imminent. While I won’t be dancing or singing in a garden of early-blooming flowers as the day historically was celebrated throughout Europe, I plan to attend a “food event.” That’s right. Chicago, a foodie destination, is opening up again. 

The event—the Pop Up Grocer—is the world’s first-ever traveling pop-up grocery store concept. Since launching two years ago, Pop Up Grocer has opened shops in New York, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas. A portion of profits from sales are donated to The Pop Up Grocer Fund, which supports emerging consumer brands. 

The Pop Up Grocer is best described as an experience-oriented grocery store and a destination where shoppers discover new products from the “buzziest brands on Instagram,” according to founder Emily Schildt. 

She told my colleague Monica Watrous at Food Business News that there are three criteria when choosing products to sell at the Pop Up Grocer. The first and most important is the product’s uniqueness and its story. If it’s a food product, nutrition, ingredients and responsible sourcing are evaluated. And last, aesthetics matter. To read more, link HERE.

The Chicago installment of this event shows that dairy foods and dairy proteins are an important component of the future of food. 

Clio Snacks is at the Pop Up Grocer. The company’s most recent innovation is the Clio Granola and Yogurt Parfait bar. The refrigerated product combines Clio’s signature creamy Greek yogurt with a layer of crunchy granola, transforming the traditional parfait into a ready-made hand-held product that functions as a convenient breakfast, satiating snack or better-for-you dessert. Available in two varieties--Strawberry wrapped in yogurt and Coconut wrapped in chocolate—each bar is packed with 10 grams of protein from dairy in the form of yogurt, nonfat dry milk and whey.

The Granola and Yogurt Parfait bars join the original Clio Greek Yogurt Bars, which debuted a little more than two years ago and are the creation of Sergey Konchakovskiy, founder and CEO of Clio Snacks. While prepping a Greek yogurt rub for a lamb roast, Konchakovskiy put the rub in the refrigerator and forgot about it until several days later when his kids discovered the highly strained yogurt. It had developed a feta-like consistency and in an a-ha moment, he realized that this textured yogurt would be a great way to get his kids to eat yogurt, especially if it was wrapped in chocolate. 

To his surprise, Konchakovskiy learned that no U.S. dairy companies had the capabilities to make this yogurt bar. He leveraged his savings to purchase cheese-making equipment from Europe and after two years of learning, research and development, Clio Snacks was born. This is the type of story Pop Up Grocer wants to include in its product lineup.  

The original Clio Greek Yogurt Bars consist of creamy, whole milk Greek yogurt wrapped in chocolate. They combine the nutritional benefits of yogurt with the convenience of a bar. Varieties are: Blueberry, Espresso, Hazelnut, Honey, Peanut Butter, Strawberry and Vanilla. A 50-gram bar contains 140 calories, 6 grams of fat, 10 grams of sugar and 8 grams of protein. (The peanut butter flavor is 170 calories, 8 grams of fat and 13 grams of sugar.) 

About a year after rolling out the original line, the company introduced Clio Less Sugar Greek Yogurt Bars in Mixed Berry and Peach flavors. With 100 calories, 7 grams of fat, 1 gram of sugar and 8 grams of protein, the Less Sugar bars deliver the same rich dairy flavor and cheesecake-like texture. The inside of the bars are made with whole milk yogurt enriched with whey protein and sweetened with allulose, erythritol and stevia leaf extract. The bar is enrobed in a no-sugar-added chocolate coating.

Cloud & Joy is also at the Pop Up Grocer. This brand entered the retail ice cream freezer with a better-for-you treat right before the pandemic shut the world down. It still managed to get distribution in a number of East Coast markets. The ice cream is all about having a low sugar content, and with some varieties, no added sugars. None of them contain sugar alcohols.

The innovative base starts with organic non-fat milk that is combined with various gums and tapioca flour. Sweetness comes from a unique blend of allulose, organic agave inulin fiber, stevia leaf extract, monkfruit and mushroom extract. The five varieties are: 

Boozy Bee Vanilla is vanilla with bourbon and honey swirls.
Cafecito Coffee & Cocoa Nibs is reminiscent of thick, sweet Cuban coffee with added cocoa flakes.
Peppermint & Brownies is peppermint ice cream with hazelnut-infused dark chocolate brownies with hazelnut slices. This variety also contains spirulina superfruit for a health benefit.
Sea & Smoke Chocolate is dark chocolate ice cream with cherrywood smoke flavor, sea salt and roasted, glazed, salted pecans.
Summer Camp is a s’more inspired mix of vanilla ice cream with chocolate and cinnamon spice graham cookies. 

Part of Cloud & Joy’s story that got it into Pop Up Grocer is how 10% of profits go to Heifer International, which helps support the core of the company: dairy. Heifer International’s mission is to end hunger while caring for the environment. It is a perfect fit for Cloud & Joy and Pop Up Grocer. 

Picnik is at the Pop Up Grocer, too. This Austin, Texas-based company markets an array of functional beverages, many of which are made with grass-fed butter and whey. The company says grass-fed butter fuels the body with a sustained, clean energy that satiates appetite and reduces cravings, while the grass-fed whey protein absorbs rapidly into the body to reduce hunger and sustain muscle growth. 

You will also find whey proteins in some unlikely applications at Pop Up Grocer. Kodiak Cakes, for example, prioritizes protein in many of its grain-based products. The Power Cakes flapjack and waffle mix includes whey protein concentrate and milk protein concentrate, along with buttermilk powder for a rich, homemade taste.  

One of the company’s most recent introductions is a line if no-bake protein ball mixes. Available in dark chocolate and oat chocolate chip varieties, the dairy-protein enriched mix gets combined by the consumer with water, honey and nut butter and rolled into a dozen balls that pack in 10 grams of protein per serving.  

Grass-fed butter and grass-fed mozzarella are key ingredients in Snow Days Pizza Bites, also at Pop Up Grocer. The company uses only organic, unprocessed, clean ingredients, protein and vegetables to make this classic “stuck at home because of snow” treat. 

This past year, for many, it was “stuck at home because of the pandemic.” Each bag of the treats carries the message: “Today is gonna be a good day.” 

Get inspired to kick off May by browsing the Pop Up Grocer website showcasing the more than 400 new products that will be on sale by linking HERE.

The Pop Up Grocer is currently open in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago from April 30 to May 30 at 1555 N. Milwaukee Avenue. Hours are 9AM-7PM daily. (I don’t live far. Let me know if you plan a visit. I would love to visit.)

Friday, April 23, 2021

Mindful Breakfasting Innovation Opportunities


Photo source: The California Milk Advisory Board

The concept of mindful snacking became mainstream a few years before COVID-19 disrupted our lives. The pandemic moved it into high gear as more folks founds themselves nibbling throughout the day of their new-norm office and classroom. 

Mindful snacking is all about choosing better-for-you foods as mini meals, rather than traditional snacks from years ago, which tended to be high-carb, high-fat, nutrient-void treats. Now let me introduce you to mindful breakfasting. But first, some wise words to ponder as we move into the post-pandemic phase of life.

“Health is a state of complete mental, social and physical well-being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” World Health Organization, 1948

A healthful breakfast helps with all five states. That’s why it is often called the most important meal of the day.

The California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) recognizes that the pandemic has put a lot of pressure on the morning meal. The CAB has introduced an array of marketing campaigns showcasing the importance of dairy and quality protein for breakfast. During August and September, for example, there was a back-to-school “Mornings Mean More” retail flashpoint with fluid milk in the spotlight. And in October, the CMAB rolled out two “:30 Day Can Wait segments.” You can view “Video Conference” HERE and “Emails” HERE.

The commercials focus on the importance of taking a moment with family for breakfast before the hustle, bustle and technology of the day begins. Produced by Deutsch LA, the spots graphically showcase the digital distractions that often start in the early mornings, from email notifications to ringing phones and video calls, compared with the satisfying and calming elements of enjoying California dairy for breakfast.

“Despite breakfast being the most important meal of the day, it often gets lost in the rush of morning and all of our pending commitments,” says John Talbot, CEO of the CMAB. “With more people working remotely, recent findings showcase that breakfast is back. With dairy at the heart of many breakfast items, Real California Milk continues to help families make mornings mean more with California milk and dairy foods.” 

This is breakfast messaging that dairy processors across the country need to communicate. It also invites innovation.

A few weeks ago I shared insights from Chris Riddell, an innovation and futurist speaker from Australia. It is appropriate to reemphasize them now as it relates to breakfast innovation. 

“You cannot have a finite mindset [in the way you approach your business],” he said. “Innovation is no longer a luxury.”

He explained that we now live in a non-linear world, as no one stays in their lane anymore. And, if you are staying in your lane to maintain legacy—the way it was always done—you will not make it. 

It is time to reinvent experiences that consumers crave. This includes the breakfasts they might have been enjoyed at the coffee shop after dropping kids off at school, dashboard dining through a drive-thru or the office building buffet.

Breakfast during the pandemic is decidedly central to how consumers boost their resilience, and consequently it’s become more complex, according to The Hartman Group. 

“Even before the pandemic, we were noting some distinct characteristics and shifts within the breakfast occasion, namely, that health needs tended to be more elevated at breakfast relative to other dayparts, with consumers focusing on sustained energy and an overall desire for breakfast to ‘do more,’” said Danielle Kanter, a consultant with The Hartman Group, during the recent podcast “Breakfast: Reliably Routine and Becoming More Complex.” “Fast forward through the effects of the pandemic, and breakfast has taken on several characteristics that include a heightened need for convenience, as consumers report that ‘busyness’ has actually increased with their hectic work/life schedules during COVID-19.”

Along with another Hartman Group consultant—Abby Cullinan—the two discussed how needs that relate to health and wellness, such as an increased desire for fresh and less processed, and moderation have increased significantly during breakfast occasions as consumers look to proactively support their health and immunity with food and beverage choices. You can listen to the 11-minute podcast HERE.

The two explained how health needs are more elevated at breakfast than any other daypart, presenting innovation opportunities for dairy processors to target the morning meal. Consumers might need it spelled out to them, too. Don’t shy away from marketing specific dairy foods as being powerhouse products to jump start the day. 
“Morning occasions like breakfast and early-morning snacks are much more likely to be focused on health, a focus that declines throughout the day,” said Kanter. 

Breakfast has become the most routine meal of the day. Many consumers have finite options on hand that provide convenient, sustained energy without feeling the pressure to cook. Moderation is paramount with the convenience factor, so single-serve units are desirable. Consumers are looking for just enough fuel to get them settled into their day.  

Jon Nudi, president-North America Retail for General Mills identified three food trends that will likely stick post-pandemic. (See infographic.) He believes that more time at home will be an ongoing part of consumer routines, which means there are more opportunities for at-home eating. 
Recognizing the room to play in this space, Chicago-based Dutch Farms Inc., has entered the refrigerated egg bites category. The company jumped out of its lane and is using sous vide technology to produce its new egg bites. This culinary technique involves vacuum-sealed food that is immersed in water and cooked at a precise, consistent temperature to lock in flavor. Milk, cheese and eggs are the dominant ingredients. 

Need some innovation inspiration? MilkPEP is here to help. The education program funded by U.S. milk companies and dedicated to educating consumers and increasing consumption of fluid milk, is getting ready to roll out “You’re Gonna Need Milk For That (YGNMFT). The new marketing campaign is bolder than ever before. This extensive program comes with a lot of details and information. To ensure you know all the ways to leverage YGNMFT for your brands, MilkPEP is hosting a deep-dive workshop on its do’s and don’ts.

At the “Bringing YGNMFT To Life” webinar on April 29th at 1:30pm EDT, presenters will highlight toolkit assets and how to use them; examples of logo and layout management, digital, social, packaging and more; and powerful new ways to talk about milk, including USDA-approved messaging.
Register HERE.

Breakfast is back! Be part of the morning ritual.