Friday, August 19, 2016

Clean Label Dairy Does Not Need to be Complicated

Photos courtesy of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 12, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Co-Packer Considerations for Dairy Foods Innovators

The dairy foods industry is overflowing with entrepreneurs, which is a beautiful thing. Innovative product development and healthy competition keeps the dairy case exciting and consumers interested in all things dairy.

Startups must decide whether they want to invest in processing, packaging and warehousing (to have control over the operation as well as secure any proprietary technology) or to partner with a contract manufacturer, a.k.a. a co-packer.

More time than not, entrepreneurs and smaller manufacturers choose to partner with an expert to manufacture their products. There are many reasons why this is the smarter option.

The most obvious reason is that this option reduces capital investment and assists with cash flow, freeing up dollars for marketing efforts to build brand awareness. Co-packers are also experts at what they do. This frees up man power and brain time, reducing energy spent on learning the process and troubleshooting common production issues.

Before you begin interviewing potential co-packer partners, it is paramount that you identify those criteria that are non-negotiable and those where there’s flexibility. Keep in mind, co-packers vary in capabilities. Decide if you want to source ingredients and packaging, or if you prefer the co-packer do this for possible bulk pricing benefits.

Speaking of pricing, determine your cost structure. Discuss potential hidden expenses.
Set quality standards. Identify product and package specifications, including shelf life requirements, as well as certifications such as allergen-free lines, kosher, organic, etc.

Safety, quality and record keeping are not negotiable in this day and age. Do your homework. Evaluate the co-packer’s safety and sanitation procedures. Do they have a HACCP plan? Are they compliant with the Food Safety Modernization Act? Is the manufacturing facility regularly audited by an accredited firm? Is the co-packer prepared to properly handle a recall?

Ask for referrals. Find out how reliable the co-packer is for scheduling production. How far in advance do you need to confirm schedules? 

Then there’s that gut feel we all have when doing business. Do you feel that the co-packer will work with you when issues arise? Troubleshoot with you? Communicate in a timely manner? In general, the more transparent a co-packer is willing to be, the more trustworthy the partnership will be. This is even more important when proximity is an issue.

Remember, if you are prepared and do your homework, it will be easier to identify the best co-packer for your innovation. Your chance of success increases.

Link HERE to a list of co-packers that specialize in milk and dairy foods manufacturing.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Cheese and Other Dairy Foods Snacking Trends: Less is More, and Worth It!

Food waste is a major global concern, at the same time so is hunger. If we waste less, we could feed more. But I’m not here to talk about feeding the world’s growing population. What I will address is portion control and smaller packages, and how this can assist with reducing waste.

During a phone interview this week, I was asked about opportunities in the dairy industry, specifically cheese. I gave my example of how pints of ice cream cost more than half gallons, and how consumers willingly dip into their pockets to pay more for less. They do this when they know the story of the product, understand the ingredients in the product and, when they know it’s just the right amount to satisfy their craving without feeling guilt for over consumption or waste.

With a growing number of single households, package sizes of many staples need to be reduced. This is likely why snack sizes have become so popular. They are just the right size.

Think shredded cheese. For long the norm has been the 8-ounce bag because family-size recipes often call for two cups. But what if you live alone and just want some shredded mozzarella to make a couple of pizza bagels. Maybe it’s time for a 4-ounce bag?

Kraft Heinz gets it. That 2-pound Velveeta loaf is too much of a commitment for most households these days. Velveeta tends to be a recipe cheese…melted with salsa for a queso dip, stirred into mashed potatoes or baked into a casserole. Two pounds of Velveeta is a commitment to cook. The company just rolled out Velveeta Mini Blocks. The 20-ounce box contains five individually wrapped 4-ounce cubes.

Indeed, committing to three square meals is just not the norm. Today’s consumers have moved away from traditional meal occasions and are snacking more throughout the day. They are seeking out healthier snacking options, with many dairy foods increasingly a convenient option.

With snacking now ubiquitous, more than three in five (64%) consumers agree that snacking is necessary to get through the day, including 77% of Millennials, according to new research from Mintel. Millennials are also more likely to be motivated by healthy snack options (68%).
Mintel data suggest that three in four (73%) consumers are willing to pay extra for snacks made with high-quality ingredients. This includes snacks based on cheese.

Recognizable brands play a role when choosing snacks, as seven in 10 (69%) consumers say snacks with branded ingredients prove to be higher quality than other snacks. Moreover, seven in 10 (71%) Millennials say snacks are best eaten while on the go.

The recently published report “Healthy-Ingredient Snacks in the U.S., 2nd Edition” from Packaged Facts confirms that healthy-ingredient snacks offer the perfect convergence of many important modern food industry trends and as a result the segment is thriving. Portable? Check. Healthy? Check. Transparent labels and packaging? Check. As a result of these factors, among others, the past five years has seen steady growth for healthy-ingredient snacks. The market’s compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.7% has outpaced overall food and beverage sales growth.

Packaged Facts projects the healthy-ingredient snack segment will continue enjoying steady growth in sales. A CAGR of 5.7% is expected between 2016 and 2020.

A variety of industry trends are responsible for this bullish outlook. One of them is that protein, bite-sized snacks and innovative flavors are in high demand. Cheese can be all this and more.

Indeed, Millennials are a major driver of snacking. More than a third of consumers globally say they snack regularly, with the figure rising to just over 40% for young people aged 18 to 34, as the practice of modular eating becomes more accepted as an alternative to eating three main meals a day, according to consumer insight firm Canadean.

“Manufacturers are increasingly experimenting with a range of proteins, formats and gourmet flavors to elevate consumption from convenience-store snacks to an exciting taste experience and even credible meal replacement,” says Katrina Diamonon, principal-consumer insight at Canadean. “Improved sourcing transparency and ethical production of such offerings is also enhancing premium credentials.”

Here’s what a number of cheese marketers are doing to make sure cheese is part of the snacking menu, have it be in the car, at the desk, in the lunchbox, afterschool or even in front of the television unwinding after a long day.
Recognizing the need for a convenient snack or easy entertaining solution, Dutch Farms jumped on the opportunity to better serve its customers. This month, Dutch Farms Cracker Cuts cheese hit retailers’ shelves in the Chicago area. Each 10-ounce package contains 20 pre-cut slices of pure, Wisconsin-made cheese. Cracker Cuts come in three varieties: Marble Jack, Pepper Jack and Sharp Cheddar. Dutch Farms Cracker Cuts are packaged in a re-sealable container so Cracker Cuts cheese can be enjoyed on more than one occasion without sacrificing grade-A freshness.
The Sincerely, Brigitte brand also recently debuted a cracker-cut tray of its flavorful cheeses. Each 12-ounce tray contains about 10 squares of four different cheeses. They are: Chipotle White Cheddar, Garlic Basil Monterey Jack, Orange Ginger Monterey Jack and Tomato Olive Monterey Jack.

Brigitte Mizrahi, CEO of Anderson International Foods Inc., is a French cheese connoisseur and the inspiration behind these unique flavors of cheese. She also is rolling out three varieties of individually wrapped cheese sticks that target mature taste buds. The varieties are: Chipotle White Cheddar, Garlic Basil Monterey Jack and Tomato Olive Monterey Jack. Each 4.5-ounce bag contains six 0.75-ounce sticks. The sticks are also available in merchandising units for individual sale.

Sargento is growing its multi-serve bags of snacking cheese. Sargento Snack Bites come in 6-ounce bags containing about 42 sticks. The line debuted earlier this year in four varieties: Chipotle BBQ Cheddar (mild cheddar with smoky BBQ seasoning), Colby-Pepper Jack (Monterey Jack with habanero and jalapeno), Savory Garlic & Herb Jack (Monterey Jack with garlic and herb seasoning) and Wisconsin Sharp Cheddar. Most recently, the company added Sweet Pepper Jack, which is Monterey Jack cheese seasoned with a mild sweet pepper blend. This variety was a limited-time offering sold through Costco variety packs.
The company also added two varieties to its Balanced Breaks line. This dual compartment package resembles ying yang, showing that opposites do attract, and in fact, complement each other quite well in these snacks. One compartment houses cheese bites and the other dried fruits and nuts. The new varieties are: Colby-Jack Natural Cheese with Sea Salted Peanuts & Blueberry Juice-Infused Dried Cranberries and Gouda Natural Cheese with Honey-Roasted Peanuts & Dried Cranberries. They join: Natural Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Sea Salted Cashews & Cherry Juice-Infused Cranberries; Natural Sharp White Cheddar Cheese, Sea Salted Cashews & Golden Raisin Medley; Natural White Cheddar Cheese, Sea Salted Roasted Almonds & Dried Cranberries; and Pepper Jack Natural Cheese, Honey Roasted Peanuts & Raisins.

“Our Balanced Breaks snacks was the most successful product launch in Sargento history and has exceeded sales expectations,” says Chris McCarthy, director of marketing for the Sargento Foods Consumer Products Division. “Expanding the available flavors is a natural move to give consumers the variety and convenience they want in snacks.”

Balanced Breaks snacks come in a package of three 1.5-ounce snacks for a suggested retail price of $3.69.

Arla Dofino Snack Cheese retails in 18-ounce packs containing a dozen or each Havarti Bars and Gouda Bars. Each individually wrapped bar is 0.75 ounces. The company also sells 6-ounce bags containing eight 0.75-ounce bars of Fontina, Gouda, Havarti or Medium Cheddar.

Saputo Specialty Cheese has introduced Organic Creamery Organic Light String Cheese for those snackers seeking out organic options. The single-serve sticks are conveniently packaged as six 1-ounce individual portions in a 6-ounce bag.

The cheese is hand-crafted by award-winning Wisconsin cheesemakers with organic milk from Wisconsin family farms that practice humane management and pasture grazing. With 50% less fat and 25% fewer calories than regular string cheese, Organic Creamery Light String Cheese has a mild and buttery flavor with a fun, pull-apart texture that serves a great addition to lunch boxes and afternoon snacks.

New Pro2snax single-serve snacks from Reichel include fresh produce paired with a healthy protein. Varieties are: Sweet Gala Apples with Almonds, Sliced Apples with Mild Cheddar Cheese, Carrots & Sriracha-Jack Cheese, Carrots with White Cheddar Cheese & Almonds, Apples & Cheddar w/Cranberries & Cashews, and Sweet Gala Apples, Cheddar Cheese & Pretzels.
Schuman Cheese now offers Yellow Door Creamery Brilliant Blue blue cheese. Handcrafted in Wisconsin and cellar-aged for 60 days, Brilliant Blue comes in individually wrapped 2-ounce portions and 5-ounce and 1-pound deli cups as mini cubes. Perfect for sandwiches, salads, cheese plates and more, Brilliant Blue can be easily stored for later use with a shelf life of 90 days. The mini cubes are clump free and sold with a flip top lid for ease of use. The 2-ounce single-serve cubes are great for slicing and melting.

Go ahead, snack on some cheese this weekend.

Friday, July 22, 2016

IFT16 Trend: Feeding the Evolving Consumer. Think Lifestyle Fortification.

This was a week of quotes...some familiar and others brand new. This blog contains a number of them.

One of my favorites, the one that inspires me as a food scientist, was obtained while researching an article for Food Business News on formulating convenience cocktails.

Keith Davis, founder of Nebula9 LLC, a Portland, Ore.-based company that will very soon be rolling out a namesake healthful vodka beverage that’s distilled four times and infused with organic drinking vinegar and sweetened with stevia, said:

“People don’t change. They evolve. We did not set out to re-invent the drinker, rather to re-invent the drink and change the game.”

This profound statement was alive and thriving on the show floor of IFT16: Where Science Feeds Innovation, the annual meeting and food expo of the Institute of Food Technologists that took place this week. It was so wonderful to see so many of you in Chicago, my hometown. I hope you enjoyed your stay and returned to your offices and homes with great ideas for future innovations.

If you were at the expo, you are likely as tired as I am. Hopefully you are taking the day off and have your feet up relaxing. I’m actually in Salt Lake City to speak this afternoon at the American Dairy Science Association (ADSA) annual meeting. The title of my presentation: “Getting in the Driver’s Seat, Marketing Milk and Dairy Products to Today’s and Tomorrow’s Consumers.”

It’s all about formulating and marketing dairy to the evolving consumer. The reality is:
than consumers did during the past 100 years.
There’s no going back. If the consumer is evolving, food manufacturers and marketers must evolve, too.

There’s a tremendous shift in the way we eat and drink and we are in the pinnacle of it, according to Melisa Abbott, vice president of culinary insights, The Hartman Group, Bellevue, Wash. Consumers want more from their food and beverage choices, with wellness and deliciousness going hand-in-hand.

That “more” Ms. Abbott refers to is suggestive of nutrients that go beyond basic nutrition. This is not to be confused with the “more” that comes from traditional food fortification, which continues to be of upmost importance in preventing deficiencies that can lead to disease. Rather, this new “more” refers to lifestyle fortification. It’s personalized nutritional enhancement for a specific life stage or health condition.

Lifestyle fortification presents processors with an opportunity to differentiate in the crowded marketplace by giving their products a boost of extra nutrition. This is either by adding isolated vitamins, minerals and micronutrients, or selecting whole food ingredients concentrated in the vital components today’s consumers want for their bodies to function as best as possible.  

Fortification refers to the act of supplementing foods with nutrients not previously present in the food or not naturally occurring at high enough levels to serve a functional purpose in the body. The term is often confused with enrichment, which describes the practice of adding back nutrients lost during processing.

“Fortification of foods helps millions of people meet their nutrient requirements annually,” says Hugh Welsh, president, DSM North America, Parsippany, N.J. “Before food fortification, deficiency diseases were prevalent in the U.S.

“Research consistently shows that people who avoid fortified foods are at increased risk of micronutrient deficiencies,” he said. “It is very difficult to eat a nutritionally dense diet, meaning one that provides all the required nutrients in recommended amounts and maintain a healthy body weight. When people are restricting the amounts they consume to maintain a healthy body weight, then the goal of meeting essential nutrient requirements becomes even more difficult. This is even more challenging when on a weight-loss diet. Fortification increases the nutrient density of foods and makes it easier to obtain essential nutrients and maintain health.”

From what I observed at IFT, there’s tremendous opportunity for dairy processors to offer “more” in everything from milk to yogurt to even ice cream.

Think omega-3 fortification to improve brain development and enhance memory. Fiber addition for gastrointestinal health, heart health and improved nutrient absorption. The list goes on.

Even FDA recognizes we need to consume more vitamin D for better health. Just last week, the agency announced updated food additive regulations allowing manufacturers of milk and plant-based milk and yogurt alternates to add more vitamin D to their products. The update will allow milk to continue to claim to be an excellent source of vitamin D, even after the Daily Value for vitamin D is raised in the updated Nutrition Facts label.

This allowance for increased vitamin D levels goes into effect immediately. Processors will want to get on board and add more vitamin D, as it will be a nutrient that must be declared in the new Nutrition Facts label starting in 2018.

The food additive regulations for vitamin D now allow double the maximum level of vitamin D previously allowed in milk, up to 84 IU per 100 grams of milk or 800 IU per quart of milk. However, no changes were made to the standard of identity for milk, which still provides for only 400 IU of vitamin D per quart of milk.  In order to fortify with the higher levels, milk must be named with a nutrient content claim, such as “high vitamin D milk,” according to Cary Frye, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the International Dairy Foods Association. You can read more HERE.

With that, we must never forget that there’s a whole world out there filled with many hungry populations. So where lifestyle fortification appeals to the many with dollars in their pockets, safe, nutrient-dense food appeals to so many more.

Mark Hughes, president of Anderson Partners Food Ingredient Marketing, Omaha, said it very well during an IFT session on clean label. He said:

“Make sure to look at the entire world, not just what 50 million people in North America want.”

He emphasized we must never forget the needs of the global population.

“If you really want to look at megatrends, look at the entire planet,” he said. “A lot of things will be fads or trends for elite developed countries that can support them, but there are 10 billion people coming in the rest of the world that we have to feed, and they’re not going to use Google Glass or Q.R. codes to read labels on products. They’re going to get up in the morning and wonder where their food is coming from.”

To read an excellent article on the clean label session in Food Business News entitled “The complicated reality of simple ingredients,” link HERE.

My colleague Monica Watrous at Food Business News is on a roll with her IFT reporting. Here are a few other great articles she wrote this week with links.

 Rest up my IFT-attending readership! Mark your calendars for IFT17, June 25 to 27 in Las Vegas.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Glocal Dairy Indulgence: Adding Culinary Inspiration to Future Innovations

Let me introduce you to glocal. It’s the melding of globally inspired flavors with local ingredients. Or, as my industry friend Lisa Stern explains—and she is the one who introduced me to the term, thank you--they are worldly flavors with a hometown spin.

Glocal in the dairy industry is all about east meeting west and heat meeting sweet with farm-fresh milk from down the road. Indeed, it is the locally sourced nature of milk, and the often perishable nature of dairy products, that positions dairy so well for the glocal movement. Consumers want to explore worldly flavors, but at the same time, they prefer that the majority of their food comes from no more than a tanker truck away, rather than a plane, train or ship.  

To read a Food Business News article I recently write on the glocal culinary movement and the impact it is having on dairy, link HERE.

Glocal feeds into what Innova Market Insights has identified as an opportunity for dairy, and that is the indulgence factor.

According to Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova, adding elements of ultra indulgence, such as new textures and more experimental flavors, is trending in dairy. New opportunities for product hybridization and eating occasions are emerging. All of this is an opportunity with that farm-fresh milk delivered daily.

Think Ancho Mango Sunrise Ice Cream from Baskin Robbins. The product description says: Take a ride on the spicy side and enjoy chamoy mango flavored ice cream with mango pieces swirled with an ancho chamoy ribbon for some sweet heat. (It’s delicious! I had it when I visited their offices yesterday. It’s all-you-can-eat-and-drink coffee, doughnuts and ice cream while waiting in the lobby of Dunkin Brands headquarters. Talk about a sugar rush!)

Heat and sweet have long been attracted to each other. For many consumers, it’s a sprinkling of red pepper flakes here and a dash of hot sauce there. But as borders continue to blur, either by real travel or social media, we are increasingly craving food adventure. Sweet fruits are a great carrier for heat, while the white, creamy, neutral flavor of milk and products made from milk, make dairy an ideal carrier for sweet with heat.

You can expect to see many worldly flavors in prototypes at IFT16: Where Science Feeds Innovation, the annual meeting and food expo of the Institute of Food Technologists kicking off this weekend in Chicago, my hometown.

For example, the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) has developed a cottage cheese mango dip. This concept complements many trends, including consumer desire for high-quality protein, and having access to that protein throughout the day.

According to USDEC, many consumers know the general benefits of protein, but a majority are unaware that not all proteins are created equal. Dairy proteins offer benefits that make them a higher-quality option than plant proteins. Further, protein is often consumed only at certain times of the day, primarily at dinner. However, it’s important that high-quality proteins are consumed throughout the day in order to meet recommended protein intake amounts. Therefore, consumers look for snack items to increase their protein intake between meals and often use them as meal replacers.

Today’s consumers are also exploring their ethnic palates with flavors from around the world. They want to experience new, bolder flavors. Versatile U.S. dairy ingredients fuse with global ethnic flavors to yield unique flavors and textures for wide cultural appeal, according to Vikki Nicholson, senior vice president of global marketing for USDEC.

She explains that dips are a booming dairy category. They attract the many millennials who mix flavors to spice up popular everyday finger foods with unique tastes. U.S. dairy ingredients aid in this evolution by offering flavor, functionality and nutrition.

Just look at the recently introduced Chobani Meze Dips line, which features real veggies, herbs and spices blended with creamy Greek yogurt made with New York State-sourced milk. Varieties are: Chili Lime, Roasted Red Pepper, Smoked Onion Parmesan and Three-Pepper Salsa.

In the cheese department, Schuman Cheese now offers a series of hand-rubbed fontina cheeses under its new Yellow Door Creamery brand. The semi-soft, mild and creamy cows milk cheese come in three varieties: Habanero and Lime (a citrus finish with every bite of heat), Harissa (a smoky blend of chili, cumin and caraway seed) and Tuscan (a classic blend of Italian herbs and spices).

Made using fresh Wisconsin milk, expert cheesemakers use traditional methods to create fontina cheese, according to the company. The Fontina wheels are hand rubbed with vibrant spice blends from around the globe.

World Dairy Innovation Winners

Needs some worldly ideas for your next glocal innovation? Here are some of the winners of the World Dairy Innovation Awards 2016, the leading global dairy product innovation award. It is coordinated by FoodBev Media. This year, winners were recognized at the Global Dairy Congress in London at the end of June. The judging panel considered 211 entries from 37 countries, with winners and finalists in a total of 18 categories.

“The pace of change and real innovation demonstrated in the wide variety of entries in the 10th annual World Dairy Innovation Awards is evidence that the international food and beverage industry continues to deliver for the consumer,” said Bill Bruce, director, FoodBev Media. “From exciting new flavors and ingredients to clever convenience packaging and measurable advances in environmental responsibility, the awards highlight the best of the best from both established companies and a growing number of start-ups. If you want to spot the coming trends in dairy, the World Dairy Innovation Awards provide all the clues you need.”

Here are some of the winners. I am proud to say that most of these products had been previously featured as a Daily Dose of Dairy. (Links are provided for product details.)

The Best Ice Cream or Frozen Yogurt Award went to Koupe, which is described as an alternative to ice cream. This dairy-based frozen dessert is high in protein and fiber, while also lower in fat, added sugars and calories, as compared to traditional ice cream.

The Best Butter or Dairy Spread Award went to Pinar Dairy Company for its Breakfast Cream with Pistachio Purée. This Turkish spread is an alternative to butter or cream cheese and intended to be consumed together with kunafeh and baklava.

The Best Functional Dairy Product Award went to Dairy Farmers of America for Live Real Farms, a new concept in energy drinks. The beverage is described as “made with real dairy and fruit juice.”

The 11-ounce aseptically packaged shelf-stable cartons list fruit juice blend as the first ingredient. The formulation also contains lactose-free skim milk and whey protein isolate. Energy comes from the naturally occurring sugars in the juices, the skim milk and added fruit purees, as well as green tea extract and vitamin 12.

The Best Children’s Product Award went to Arla Foods for Arla Big Milk. This is the UK’s first fresh milk enriched with essential nutrients to help support children’s growth and development as part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. It’s made with 100% British whole cows milk finely filtered for freshness. The creation of Arla Big Milk is part of Arla’s strategy to support British farmers by developing innovative products to add value to the milk category.

For a complete list of World Dairy Innovation Awards 2016 winners, link HERE.

To view a video of all entrants, finalists and winners in every category, link HERE.

Hope to see many of you at IFT this coming week. I’m a local focal who is all about glocal…so if you need some inspiration, explore these foodie destinations:

Mariano’s New City location. Mariano’s is unlike most supermarkets and you actually can get lost in the New City location. It is two floors of retail meets food court, including sushi bar, real barbecue, cheese cave and wine and beer on tap. The butcher here not only cuts your meat, it can be cooked for you while you shop.

Within walking distance (very safe) is one of the largest Whole Foods Markets. The Lincoln Park location is home to one of the city’s largest hot food bars, which features foods from Chicago’s many ethnic neighborhoods. You can grab a pierogi, an egg roll, lasagna and taco all in one trip.

Two other must visits are Eataly and Latinicity. The former focuses on the flavors of Italy, while the latter explores Latin cuisine, both in a combination retail and foodservice format. To read more about Eataly, link HERE.