Friday, February 23, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hopefully these three concepts provide innovation inspiration.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 9, 2018

Cold Brew Coffee and Milk Make the Perfect Match

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 2, 2018

Next-Generation Dairy Snacks: Processors Need to Play the Convenience Card

Just the other day I read this recent stat: 17% of consumers who purchase soup through a foodservice channel consider it to be a snack. This is up from 11% percent in 2015, according to Technomic. Soup? As a snack?

Think about soup, specifically soup at retail foodservice. It’s the perfect example of perception vs. reality and the ignorance of today’s shoppers.

Many shoppers believe that hand ladling hot soup into a to-go paper bowl at the front of store is a healthier choice than walking to the center of store and purchasing a microwavable bowl of soup for half the price. The reality is both versions of soup are high in sodium and far from minimally processed. But it does not seem to matter. They think it’s a healthy snack.

Most of the time the soups sold hot come from the same companies that produce the branded soups found in the ambient grocery aisle. Shoppers do not know this. (FYI, the soups served in the United Club are from Campbell’s Foodservice.)

I can promise you most of the hot soups contain preservatives—artificial or natural—to prevent everything from warmed-over flavor to microbial growth. And depending on the soup system, stabilizers are often necessary to keep dumplings from disintegrating and creamy solutions from separating. Hot soups sitting in a kettle are not simple, clean-label formulations. But shoppers love them. And they are snacking on them because they are conveniently located at the front of store in the fresh department, where shoppers increasingly are purchasing foods for immediate consumption.

It’s all about speed, experience and personalization.

And here’s where dairy foods are challenged, in particular at grocery stores. This is because many dairy foods—think yogurt cups, string cheese, frozen novelties, etc.—have long been merchandised in single-serve formats. Why would retailers relocate these lower-margin products from the back of the store—that’s usually where the dairy case is located—to the front of store where consumers are willing to pay $7.99 per pound for a scoop of yogurt on the salad bar? And, that’s not even touching on “slotting fee” bribery schemes. (Just calling it what it is!)

It’s time to reinvent dairy snacks and go after other channels, namely convenience stores, gas stations, coffee shops, school cafes, health clubs, and more. I emphasize the “reinvent,” because the convenience shopper is looking for products that catch their eye and meet their personal needs, emotionally and physically.

About a year ago, Nielsen research showed that U.S. convenience stores have boasted relative strength and sales growth in recent years. Built on the premise of speed, convenience stores are modeled to deliver on specific consumer needs that competing channels don’t fully meet. Convenience stores are highly relevant to consumers’ on-the-go lifestyles and are well equipped to deliver products that meet their immediate needs. Have you seen what you can now purchase at a neighborhood CVS or Walgreen’s? These stores are no longer just cold medicine and birthday cards.

The same is true for Target. Many have recently been remodeled and their fresh food offerings are quite impressive. Who would have thought just two years ago that you could run into Target and get a premium snack pack of imported charcuterie and cheese?

With 91% of consumers snacking multiple times throughout the day and 8% of these consumers forgoing the traditional three-square meals in favor of all-day snacking, according to research from The Hartman Group, food and beverage marketers are down-sizing packages and getting creative with flavors and nutrition profiles in efforts to make their products the ones grabbed for this growing dining daypart. Dairy foods manufacturers are no exception.

I recently wrote an article and slide show on dairy snacks for Food Business News. You can read it HERE.

The challenge is to get dairy foods merchandised in the grab-and-go case for immediate snacking needs. You need to be creative. It is wise for dairy foods manufacturers to have a team that separately works on the snackifying of its product lines. Retailers are not going to relocate products from the dairy case.

Research from The Hartman Group explains that while the phenomenon of snacking is messy and at times hard to fully describe, coherence is brought to snacking by examining how three key drivers represent a thematic shift in food values and are connected to the needs driving snacking occasions. The first driver is nourishment. This is snacking that meets needs for daily sustenance, long-term wellness and health management.

Source: The Hartman Group

The second is snacking that fulfills emotional desires for enjoyment, craving and comfort. And lastly, the third is optimization. This is snacking that helps one fulfill physical and mental performance demands. 

Dairy can do all this. Add a little flavor, boost up the protein, fortify with vitamins and minerals, etc. You get the idea.

And here’s my advice: call it a snack! Why are the meat and cheese combo packs doing so well at retail? They look like snacks. They are called snacks. They are described as meeting the needs of one of the three drivers of snacking.

Also, it has to look different than your other products. It has to look like a snack. With products such as yogurt, it has to look like a freshly prepared snack.

One of my favorite examples comes from the U.K., where Waitrose markets blended yogurts in clear cups. The yogurts are made with fruits, veggies and botanicals and the packages clearly showcase the content while they also simply describe the contents.

It’s time to develop new snacks, not new dairy case foods.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Never Underestimate the Power of the Package; Are You Due for a Redesign?

The Winter Fancy Food Show starts in two days. During the past few weeks I have received many sneak peaks of food and beverage innovations to debut at the show. Many product descriptions sound enticing, and then, yikes, I see a photo of the packaged product.

It’s truly amazing how so many innovators think so little of the package.

Today’s innovators have these great new product concepts. These are products they are passionate about and consume their life. (Think Shark Tank.) Then they package it in a low-quality, generic container with non-descriptive graphics.   

Repeat after me: The package is the first thing the potential customer sees. It’s the first step to a sale.

You must make package selection a priority. And when possible, make the package work for the product.

When I was in research and development at Kraft more than 25 years ago, the 3 P’s of innovation—product, process and package--were the foundation of every project. All three departments worked together from concept to execution. Make package development part of your first day of innovation.

At the beginning of February, Unilever will roll out Magnum tubs to the U.S. market. This product made its global debut this past October in select European markets. It is one of the best examples ever of having the package work for the product.

Until now, the Magnum brand was limited to premium stick bar novelties. These ice cream bars were known for their signature crunch as one bites into the outer shell of exquisite chocolate. The company believed it was important for the consumer to experience this interaction in a tub container. This new concept takes the signature Magnum chocolate and silky ice cream from the classic bar and reimagines it into a scoopable format.

This first-of-a-kind indulgent ice cream experience relies on the internal sides of the Magnum tub to be encased in a shell of chocolate, which preserves the iconic chocolate crack that ice cream lovers hear upon biting into a Magnum ice cream bar. The consumer squeezes the sides of the tub to crack the chocolate shell and then break into the top thick chocolate layer, for the perfect mixture of rich chocolate shards and silky ice cream in every spoonful. The four varieties are: Dark Chocolate Raspberry, Milk Chocolate Hazelnut, Milk Chocolate Vanilla and White Chocolate Vanilla.

“Magnum tubs offer a new, multisensory way to enjoy Magnum ice cream that is unlike anything available in the category today,” says Bruno Francisco, marketing director of ice cream at Unilever. “It is truly a revolutionary ice cream experience that our fans are going to love.”

One must never forget the purpose of the package, as I explained to attendees of the inaugural Frozen Dessert Conference sponsored by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Food Science this past October. 

The purpose of the package is to contain, protect product, distribute, merchandise, showcase, protect consumer with tamper evident feature, and allow the consumer to store and use as needed. But it can do more.

The first questions every ice cream innovator must answer during the development process are:
  • Paper or plastic?
  • Size: 10-, 12-, 14-, 16-, 32-, 48-, 64-ounces or ???
  • Square flat, round, squround?
  • Clear?
  • Mixed materials?
  • Extra functions, e.g., easy open, tamper evidence?
Influencing the answers to these questions will be decisions regarding graphics and brand identity.

Clearly Magnum’s message is premium indulgence, unlike anything you ever experienced before.

This past fall, with the competition growing from national and regional competitors, United Dairy Farmers (UDF) decided to redesign the graphics on its ice cream packaging. The goal was to communicate the unique emotion of the brand’s story.

“We needed someone who could translate the pride we have in our legacy brand to a complete redesign that conveys our commitment to producing the best ice cream for our customers and making it relevant to a new generation of families,” says Brad Lindner, president and ceo.

According to Simon Thorneycroft, founder and ceo of Perspective: Branding, San Francisco, the company that did the redesign, “This is a story about a classic American family with a rich history that has always been devoted to producing the best quality and a commitment to always deliver great products and excellent service. It’s the singular idea of ‘passing down the good stuff,’ that speaks to the brand character, the product and the origins of the recipes.”

After an extensive strategic visual audit, Perspective: Branding revamped the UDF’s Homemade Brand line starting with a new distinctive identity: the image of a father and son gazing out to the future sitting atop the brand name.

“We are paying homage to the wholesome values and family history, the passing of the baton from generation to generation,” Thorneycroft adds.

The design includes a white contemporary font with a twirl in the letter ‘o’ on a solid black rectangle, which represents the creaminess and the act of mixing in all of the quality ingredients. Photography of a luscious and large ice cream scoop and natural ingredients used to make the product cues the high-quality ingredients (many of which UDF makes itself) that go into the creation of the ice cream and its’ unforgettable taste appeal. A white marble background evokes a modern kitchen countertop, or a slab where the ice cream is cut, to check for quality and consistency. Each flavor is written on a recipe card to highlight the homemade ingredients and allude to the traditional passing down of recipes. Finally, the lid color was changed from a generic black to a premium gold reflecting both the quality and a cue to dairy.

Speaking of colors, here are some generalizations regarding color considerations.
  • Green=warm, friendly, good-for-you
  • Orange, Red and Yellow=action colors to attract younger consumers
  • Gold or Silver=premium, upscale
  • Black or Metallic=slick, modern
  • Clear=purity, naturalness
And the newest addition to this list is
  • Blue=high protein content

Packaging and graphics showcase what’s inside. It gets the mouth watering.

La Terra Fina recently did a redesign as well. The goal was to better communicate the real, premium ingredients and fresh flavors in their dips to further differentiate on shelf.

Ripe artichokes, deep green spinach, lemons and chunks of Parmesan cheese are among the fresh ingredients that adorn the brand’s new look. La Terra Fina’s brand revitalization marks a shift for the company to include a food-inspired focus, with a fresh, contemporary and worldly vibe. The brand has a new logo, too, with packaging showcasing vibrant, real food photography that highlights the fresh ingredients used in each product. 

“A fresh look at our packaging was long overdue,” says Stephanie Robbins, director of brand development. “Our goal is to reflect our emphasis on premium ingredients and flavors, along with our passion for making food you’d be proud to call homemade.”

Another ice cream package recently redesigned comes from Tillamook County Creamery Association. The 108-year-old farmer-owned cooperative from the Pacific Northwest has a new look for its superpremium line. The redesign features a cleaner, bold font, and places an emphasis on flavor, with each of the 14 flavors in the series owning a unique color. Re-named “Special Batch,” a cream band around the lid ties the entire line together to help consumers identify Tillamook Special Batch items on-shelf.

“As a farmer-owned co-op, it is important to us that our farmer-heritage is reflected within the package redesign, while still achieving the playful tone that is consistent with our brand character,” says Stephanie Carson, ice cream category manager. “This line is a celebration of specialty flavors made with real artisan ingredients so the new look puts flavor front and center.”

And then there’s Chobani. In celebration of its 10th anniversary, the brand had a makeover.

Chobani’s in-house creative team spent more than a year developing the evolved brand look and feel.
 This differentiates the brand at shelf and reflects its founding mission to provide better food for more people. The brand’s creative expression—Fighting for Happily Ever After—is shaping everything from the brand’s packaging, website and campaigns to its cafés, and more.

I love that: fighting for happily ever after.

Does your package talk to the consumer? Does it compel them to buy? Maybe it’s time for a makeover.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Sugar will be a Leading Label Claim on Dairy Foods in 2018

Two weeks into the New Year and I am confident in stating that sugar content will a leading label claim on dairy foods in 2018. If reducing or eliminating added sugar is not a priority for you yet, it’s time to make it one.

HealthFocus International reports that consumers around the world have decreased their use of sugar. The International Food Information Council (IFIC) 2017 Food & Health Survey shows that the majority (76%) of U.S. shoppers are trying to avoid or limit their sugar intake. They are doing so by eliminating certain foods from their diet. Let’s make sure it’s not dairy.

Further, six in 10 consumers view added sugars negatively, according to IFIC research.

The dairy industry, in particular yogurt marketers, are responding. Just look at the new products rolling out to assist consumers with their New Year health and wellness resolutions, which for many is avoiding or limiting sugar intake.

On January 3rd, siggi’s launched 4% No Added Sugar Yogurt. The new yogurt comes in 4.4-ounce flat containers, with a single serving containing 4 grams of fat, 10 grams of protein, 5 grams of sugar (from the milk and fruit), and 110 to 120 calories, depending on variety. There are two initial flavors. They are: Banana & Cinnamon and Peach & Mango.

“We have always been at the forefront of reducing sugar in yogurt, and we are constantly pushing ourselves to use even less sugar while still making delicious yogurt with no strange additives,” says Siggi Hilmarsson, founder. “We understand that consumers today more than ever want less sugar. For example, in a recent survey we conducted, over 80% of participants noted that they are actively trying to reduce their sugar consumption. Our hope in launching this no-added-sugar line of skyr is to provide everyone with a tasty new yogurt that takes one step further in sugar reduction. We’re excited about it and hope our fans are too.”

All siggi’s yogurts are made without any artificial preservatives, sweeteners, flavors or colors. The new product has a suggested retail price of $1.69.

DanoneWave is introducing Happy Family Organics branded yogurt. Happy Baby Organics Whole Milk Yogurt is a “baby’s first” yogurt and is described as the “perfect size for tiny tummies.” With no added sweetener, and enhanced with vitamin D and probiotics, this non GMO-certified yogurt comes in four varieties. They are: Banana & Sweet Potato, Blueberry, Peach & Mango and Plain. The yogurt comes in six packs of 1.76-ounce containers.

There’s also new Happy Tot Whole Milk Yogurt in 4-ounce cups and 3.5-ounce pouches. The cups come in six packs and the pouches in boxes of four. The tot line, designed for toddlers up to three years old, is also void of added sweetener and is enhanced with vitamin D and probiotics. The cups come in Apple & Pear; Apple, Mango & Carrot; and Strawberry, Banana, Oats & Chia varieties. The three pouch flavors are: Apple & Blackberry; Banana, Mango & Spinach; and Strawberry, Banana, Oats & Chia.
General Mills is following suit. The company will soon be rolling out Annie’s Homegrown No Sugar Added Whole Milk Yogurt in pouches. Varieties are: Banana, Blueberry Avocado; Mango Sweet Potato; Peach Pumpkin; and Raspberry, Strawberry Spinach.

Icelandic Provisions, which sweetens its skyr with just a “little bit” of cane sugar, proudly boasts sugar content on front panels of its newly redesigned package. The company has the tagline of “rich in culture, not in sugar.” This month the company is rolling out a Cherry Black Currant variety, which was crafted in partnership with Chef Gunnar Gislason, one of Iceland’s most acclaimed chefs and a pioneer ushering in the Nordic food movement in the U.S. The new flavor combines naturally sweet ripe black cherries with the tart punch of black currant, both of which are commonly found throughout the Nordics.

“Eating skyr with ripe berries is a tradition in Iceland that goes back centuries. For this flavor, we wanted to craft a cherry that was more complex than what Americans currently have access to and pay homage to that Nordic food tradition of being playful in ingredient pairings,” says Chef Gunnar regarding how the flavor was approached.

Here’s what formulators need to address when reducing or eliminating added sugars in dairy foods.

1)    If fruit is part of the product, a higher brix, more premium fruit may be necessary. This will deliver extra natural sweetness to the product.
2)    When you are removing or reducing added sugar, you are decreasing solids. Something needs to be added to replace the bulk in order to maintain desirable texture, mouthfeel and product consistency through shelf life. Clean-label options include everything from organic tapioca starch (used in many of the baby and tot products because tapioca is easy on sensitive tummies) to pectin and locust bean gum. Various fibers are also an option, with some adding natural sweetness.
3)    In frozen desserts, sugar impacts freezing temperature of the mix. Extra stabilization is required when sugar is reduced or removed. Protein helps. That’s the secret to the low-sugar, high-protein frozen dairy desserts in the market.
4)    Lastly, a little all-natural, high-intensity stevia sweetener may just be what the formulation requires to meet the sweet threshold of today’s consumers. Don’t be afraid to try the next-generation of stevia ingredients in the market. 

Now, don’t believe the data that sugar content is important to today’s shoppers? Here’s one of my famous real-life educational encounters that support the data. (Sometimes these scenarios, and they are true, make me feel like I am on a Saturday Night Live skit. It sure makes my job fun!)

The stage: The other day while relaxing at a pedicure salon, I was catching up on my reading of food industry publications. The 40-something woman next to me queried about my profession because of my reading materials. After I explained, here’s how the conversation went down:

“So tell me about fairlife milk. How come it has less sugar?”

“Sure, I would love to explain. It’s really quite simple. Similar to how when all milk is delivered fresh from the farm to the processing plant and gets separated into skim milk and cream, and then the cream gets added back to make products such as 1% low-fat milk and 2% reduced-fat milk, fairlife uses similar separation technology to remove other nutrients, namely lactose, which is milk sugar, and protein. The company then combines the desired amounts of all these milk components to have a product with half the sugar, of which none is lactose, and 50% more protein. It’s a pretty straightforward, yet quite sophisticated system.”

“Well, I was buying unsweetened almond milk because it has no sugar. See, I am trying to cut sugar out of my diet wherever possible so I can still enjoy some dessert and wine, of course. But I don’t really care for almond milk and it also does not have much protein. I’m thinking of switching to fairlife, but it is pricey.”

“It costs more because you are paying for the technology to concentrate the protein and remove sugar. Kool-Aid is cheaper than orange juice, but are you going to serve your family orange Kool-Aid for breakfast?”  

I think I returned her back to milk. (Is that pedicure a business expense???)

Commit to reducing the sugar content of your dairy products in 2018!

Hope to see you in less than two weeks at either Fancy Food in San Fran or Dairy Forum in Palm Springs!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Dairy Foods Innovations: Five Opportunities for Dairy Foods Innovating and Marketing in 2018

Photo source: DMK Group

Happy New Year!

Love. Peace. Hope. My personal mantra for 2018.

Professionally, let’s commit to make 2018 dairy’s best year ever by working together to promote dairy’s deliciousness, wholesomeness and nutritional superiority. Let’s never forget that when the dairy industry works together we become stronger and have a more believable message. Competition keeps us motivated. It’s time to embrace the current food and beverage landscape with a unified positive dairy message.

Here are five suggestions to include in your innovation and marketing plans of dairy foods this coming year.

1. Qualify the protein. It’s time to not just flag protein content but flag that it's dairy/milk/whey protein. Talk about the quality and complete amino acid profile. Why? Well, I have to say, watch what you ask for. Many non-dairy/dairy alternative/nut juice product marketers are no longer using the word milk on their products because they’ve discovered more powerful words: plant based.
The Specialty Food Association’s Trendspotter Panel identified plant-based foods as the hottest food trend in 2018. Consumers have been hearing and reading nutritional advice to have a more plant based diet, and as a result shoppers are gravitating to alternative dairy products because they are “plant based.” Let’s not waste time trying to dispute this message, rather, let’s explain why dairy protein is superior to plant protein.

MOPRO Nutrition does a great job of doing this. This cultured dairy product, which is making its debut in a vanilla flavor, is made with only six ingredients. They are: whole milk, whey protein isolate, soy lecithin, organic blue agave syrup, vanilla extract, and live and active cultures, including probiotics.

A 5.3-ounce cup contains 24 grams of total protein. The majority (13 grams) of this comes from cross-flow microfiltration (CFM) whey protein isolate. The other 11 grams is inherent to the yogurt. CFM is a proprietary membrane technique used to yield a highly pure, nutritionally superior and undenatured whey protein isolate.

Each container also has 3 grams of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are essential nutrients that the body obtains from proteins found in food, especially meat, dairy products and legumes. They include leucine, isoleucine and valine. “Branched-chain” refers to the chemical structure of these amino acids. There is research that indicates BCAAs promote muscle synthesis and increase muscle growth over time as well as help with fatigue from athletic training.

A container of MOPRO has 250 calories, 13 grams of fat and 4 grams of sugar, of which 1 gram is classified as added sugar. All of the ingredients in this gluten-free product are non-GMO. And it’s delicious. (Congrats Michael!)

2.  Probiotics and prebiotics need to take center stage. Consumers historically have associated probiotics with yogurt and other fermented dairy foods. This has evolved over the past decade as scientists gained a better understanding of how these microorganisms survive, thrive and exert health benefits on the host. Researchers also continue to learn how prebiotics, which are fuel for probiotics, selectively influence probiotic activity in the gut. Together, probiotics and prebiotics are recognized as a natural solution for overall wellness, as research suggests the gastrointestinal system is at the center of metabolic health and disease prevention.

Roughly a quarter of U.S. adults seek out foods and beverages with high amounts of probiotics or prebiotics, according to a 2017 national consumer survey conducted by Packaged Facts, Rockville, Md. This interest is motivating innovation in the food and beverage industry.

From April 2016 to April 2017, nearly 2% of new food and beverage products globally contained probiotics, rising to 3% in the U.S. market, according to Innova Market Insights. The number of probiotic product introductions globally grew from less than 100 in 2002 to nearly 1,800 in 2016, with U.S. by far the leading market, followed by the U.K. and Canada. Cup yogurt, drinkable yogurt and similar beverages, infant products, and sports powders are the top probiotic food and beverage categories globally. It’s time to better market the inclusion of probiotics and prebiotics in dairy foods. Those plant-based food and beverage marketers are doing it.

To read more about next-generation probiotics and prebiotics, link HERE to a special report I recently wrote for Food Business News.

3. Make dairy foods more accessible. Fruit and granola parfaits at Starbucks and single-serve bottles of milk at McDonald’s are not enough. It’s time to brainstorm with local retailers and foodservice operators to identify ways to make dairy foods more accessible. The plant people are doing it.

Just this week I received a press release from Interstate Hotels & Resorts, a leading global hotel management company, about the launch of 27 new vegetarian and vegan culinary menu items for its managed hotels.

“We recognized a shift in the growing demand of consumers craving healthier options and it is our job to cater to the desires of our guests and meeting attendees,” said Interstates Vice President of Food & Beverage Operations Bradley Moore. “There is a clear need to offer plant-based menu items and we are thrilled about the quality, variety and benefits our hotels will be able to provide to travelers seeking healthy alternatives while on the road.”

I bet these travelers would buy more dairy-based snack and on-the-go foods if they were made accessible.

A few months ago I reported on what DMK Group, Germany’s largest dairy cooperative, is doing to shake up the convenience market. This innovation is the Milram to-go concept “Frischer Genuss.” Way to go DMK (Hi Oliver!)

The assortment consists of three products: quark-creme, classic rice pudding and skyr. Each Milram-branded 185-gram clear plastic cup is filled half way with one of the products. The cups are sealed to maintain freshness for about three-weeks. Retailers, or foodservice operators, receive the sealed cups, along with dome lids and sealing tape, so they can turn the product into fresh parfaits with fruits, nuts, granola, etc., on an as-needed basis. This decreases waste in terms of on-site scooping of product into cups as well as reduced shelf life because of opened perishability.

“Ready-to-eat snacks with fresh ingredients are totally on-trend. Consumers expect ultra-fresh products with a hand-made character in this segment,” says Matthias Rensch, chief operating officer at DMK Brand. “With Milram Frischer Genuss, our retail partners can respond to their customers’ continuing demand from now on and give sales an added boost. The new to-go concept combines ultra-fresh convenience with well-known brand quality and minimal handling.”

My Dutch friends at De Zuivelmakers (Hi Niels!) have been very aggressive in their efforts to offer fresh dairy to on-the-go consumers. Congrats. Most recently they debuted a yogurt bar concept, which is now in more than 150 stores--both foodservice and retail--around the Benelux. This VIDEO shows you what the yogurt bar is all about.

4. Be transparent in your process. I just submitted a beverages trends special report to Food Business News. It publishes next week. When conducting my research, numerous beverage processors emphasized that consumers want transparency in their beverage brands. They want clean label with minimal ingredients, and minimal processing is also being marketed to the consumer. Think “cold brew,” “cold press” and “high-pressure processing.” One juice beverage marketer said that 2018 will be the year that the relevancy of processing becomes mainstream.

Consumers increasingly want full disclosure regarding food additives, including source and function, as well as how a product is made. Think about Greek yogurt. This is something we missed when trying to figure out what made Greek yogurt such a game changer. Yes, it’s higher in protein. Yes, it tastes different. Yes, it has a different texture and mouthfeel than mainstream yogurt. And YES: authentically produced Greek yogurt is made using a more hands-on approach, a different process. Consumers were as fascinated about the product as the straining process. They likely imagined Greek dairymen standing around a strainer watching the product thicken for hours at a time.

In 2018, commit to clean label and clean process. The two are the perfect marriage. And the dairy industry is well poised to be a leader in the clean-food movement. Today’s shoppers want to understand how their food was made. Tell them. Engage them.

5. Protect your product. Part of that transparency in ingredients and process includes the steps you take to ensure food safety. Further, new portable formats require special attention to food safety, as exposure to the elements exposes product to contamination.

Protect. Promote. Protein. Probiotics. Portability.
Love. Peace. Hope.