Thursday, January 19, 2017

Cultured Dairy Product Trends 2017: Whole-ly Cow!

Photo source: USDEC

As the great Harry Carey would have said, Holy Cow, 2016 was one heck of a year. And 2017, Whole-ly Cow, it’s going to be a grand one for cultured dairy products.

The cultured dairy products sector includes fermented dairy foods such as cottage cheese, cream cheese and sour cream. Though it does not include yogurt and similar cup and drinkable products, it does include products made from yogurt, such as dips and spreads. It also is a category that’s on fire.

Here are the top-five trends and 10 recent innovations that complement them.

1. Whole Milk and Cream. Fat is back. When you formulate many cultured dairy foods with whole milk and cream you can often eliminate some or all stabilizing ingredients. Culture selection is paramount. Cultures not only ferment lactose to lactic acid, and thus lower the pH, which in turn coagulates the milk proteins, cultures can also produce exopolysaccharides, which influence product viscosity. The right combination of cream and cultures allows for a very clean and simple ingredient statement, right on par with what today’s consumer is looking for.

2. Worldly Inspiration. Have it be bold and spicy flavors, ethnic herbs and veggies, or simply a recipe from a foreign country, today’s consumer is seeking out food adventure. The simplicity and naturalness of cultured dairy foods melds well with a touch of the unknown or unexpected. Remember, in sweet products, make efforts to keep added sugars as low as possible.

3. Snackable Protein. Cultured dairy foods lend themselves very well to individual portion sizes, with most being concentrated sourced of protein, the macronutrient today’s consumer cannot get enough of. The opportunities to innovate in the snacking space are immense and should not be ignored by any cultured dairy foods manufacturer. High-protein snacks---made with high-quality dairy proteins—have the ability to increase satiety and improve muscle mass. This can assist with life-long weight management and aged-related muscle depreciation. The calcium in these products is an added bonus.

4. Probiotics. These beneficial bacteria have really been resonating with consumers. So much so that the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), and the International Probiotics Association (IPA), an international membership organization of probiotic companies, issued scientifically based best practice guidelines in early January for the labeling, storing and stability testing of dietary supplements and functional foods containing probiotics. The guidelines serve as a roadmap for companies producing and marketing these products to ensure that they meet consistent, high-quality standards. You can access them HERE.

Stressing the importance of providing meaningful information to consumers, the guidelines recommend that the quantitative amount(s) of probiotics in a product should be expressed in colony forming units (CFUs). Labeling probiotic products in CFUs gives consumers the best information possible when it comes to the viable microorganisms present in the product throughout shelf life, according to experts at the organizations. 

Additionally, the guidelines’ stability testing recommendations are designed to ensure that the stated shelf life of a given probiotic product is scientifically supported. Storage and handling recommendations advise manufacturers to consider individual product formulations and packaging, as well as storage and transport environments.   Photo source: Chr. Hansen

5. Simply a Better-for-You Option. Many cultured dairy products can be flavored and packaged in such a way to serve as a more healthful alternative to similar products, such as high-fat dressings and oil-based dips and spreads. Seasoned whipped cottage cheese makes the perfect protein bread or bagel spread and can right the coattails of the popular avocado toast. Non-dairy companies recognize these opportunities. It’s time for dairy processors to get busy.

Recent Innovations

That fifth trend is best exemplified by this product that was just announced yesterday by Campbell Soup Company, which owns the Bolthouse brand. Bolthouse Farms MAIO is a new line of refrigerated, yogurt-based spreads made with clean ingredients. It is scheduled to hit grocery shelves beginning February in Northern California Safeway stores. The MAIO spreads are available in three craveable flavors—Chipotle, Garlic and Plain--and have the same creamy, rich texture people seek in a traditional mayonnaise but with lower fat and calories. Each product in the line contains only 20 calories and 1 gram of fat per serving, and most importantly, delivers on taste, according to the company.

“The popularity of traditional mayo has remained flat over recent years as consumers have steadily turned to alternative options, but they aren’t always satisfied with what they can find on shelf,” says Suzanne Ginestro, general manager, C-Fresh Innovation. “People like mayonnaise for the rich flavor and creamy texture, but are hesitant to indulge because of the calorie and fat content. Our new line of MAIO offers consumers a guiltless, better-for-you, creamy option without the sacrifice.”

The MAIO spreads are non-GMO, gluten free, contain no artificial flavors, have 0 grams trans-fat. They come in 8-ounce bottles with a suggested retail price of $2.99.

Kraft Heinz is rolling out Philadelphia multi-grain bagel chips and cream cheese dip snacks. The 2.5-ounce dual-compartment pack varies in flavor of cream cheese dip. There are four. They are: Brown Sugar and Cinnamon, Chive and Onion, Garden Vegetable and Strawberry.

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 research from Chicago-based Mintel—cheese marketers such as Kraft Heinz are aggressively developing what they believe will be a winner with the growing number of snackers. Mintel data also show that millennials are more likely to be motivated by healthy snack options (68%); and that three in four (73%) consumers are willing to pay extra for snacks made with high-quality ingredients.

A&M Gourmet understands snacking. The company now offers simply simple low-fat cottage cheese blended with herbs and spices into a smooth dip and spread. Two varieties of 8-ounce cups are already in the marketplace. They are Chipotle Lime and Herb & Garlic. More are in development. Both flavors also are available in 2-ounce single-serve portion containers sold in four packs. The 2-ounce portions are currently part of the brand’s Protein Pickup refrigerated snack pack, which also contains quinoa crackers and an energy bar. All of the simply simple dips and spreads are made with GMO-free ingredients and are gluten free.

Muuna cottage cheese is a new concept in curds and whey. The brainchild of Gerard Meyer, the former CEO of Soda Stream North America, Muuna is set to modernize the cottage cheese industry by offering a new taste and creamy texture experience by combining innovative dairy technology with a proprietary recipe and high-quality ingredients, according to the company. The 150-gram cups come in plain, as well as five fruit flavors, all made with 2% milk. Free of artificial colors, flavors and sweetener, as well as gluten, the cottage cheese gets a protein boost from the addition of milk protein concentrate.

“Cottage cheese has been around forever, and mainly thought of as a diet food. The same was true for yogurt, but yogurt innovated while cottage cheese remained stuck in the past,” says Meyer. “At Muuna, we decided to reimagine cottage cheese, inside and out, down to our unique, beautiful cup. Today’s consumers want good food that tastes delicious, but cottage cheese has developed a reputation as boring and bland. So we spent years creating a proprietary recipe that delivers a melt-in-your-mouth, creamy cottage cheese combined with premium, real pieces of fruit, which will surprise and delight your taste buds.”

Seattle’s Darigold just gave its Mexican-style Sour Cream (Crema Agria Mexicana) a makeover to differentiate on shelf and attract home cooks. This topper and cooking cream is not hot or spicy, rather it has a tangy flavor with a thick and rich flavor. The co-op encourages use in dips and savory dishes as well as a garnish.

WhiteWave Foods Co.’s Wallaby brand offers a European-style organic sour cream that prides itself on being made with only two ingredients: cultures and fresh organic cream. This simple recipe yields an ultra-rich sour cream, with luxurious taste and creamy texture. It’s sour cream without the sour, refreshingly redefined, according to the company.
Real sour cream is the name of the game in two new lines of boldly flavored dips. Prairie Farms launched Chef’s Splendor Dips, a specialty dip line that is on-trend with evolving food cultures. The bold and spicy dips, made with simple ingredients, are bursting with flavor and are sure to instantly accelerate taste buds from 0 to 100, according to the company. They are made by blending real sour cream with different vegetables and spices to achieve a delicious, thick and creamy texture. The three varieties are: Roasted Red Pepper, Spicy Ranch and Tzatziki. The full-flavored dips are crafted in small batches with milk and cream from cows not treated with artificial growth hormones, use natural ingredients and are gluten free.

According to Prairie Farms’ Chef Rob Lagerlof, “They’re not just for dipping. I’ve been busy creating quick and easy recipes and serving suggestions using Prairie Farms Chef’s Splendor Dips for my new video series. My tasty signature recipes for Spicy Ranch Chicken Sandwich, Tzatziki Burger and Four Layer Dip will disappear bite by bite, guaranteed!”

“We’re thrilled to add the new dip flavors to our growing line of Prairie Farms Chef’s Splendor specialty products,” says Rebecca Leinenbach, vice president, marketing and communications at Prairie Farms. “The foodie movement is all about creativity in the kitchen, and our specialty line of products provides options for our customers to experience incredible new taste sensations from their favorite brand that has been trusted for over 75 years and is instantly recognized throughout the Midwest. Our line of specialty products will also increase opportunities for new distribution in specialty food stores.”

Lakeview Farms recently introduced Kitchen Crafted Dips. The new line comes in 12 culinary-inspired varieties. They are: Artichoke Jalapeno, Buffalo Blue Cheese, Creamy Jalapeno, Cucumber Garlic Ranch, Dill, Fire Roasted Red Pepper, Mango Peach Salsa, Mediterranean, Salsa Sour Cream, Spicy Three Pepper, Spinach Parmesan & Bacon, and Sweet Onion & Bacon. The dill variety is based on whole milk and cream, while the others are made with real sour cream, with some also including cream cheese. Mediterranean is a unique blend of artichokes, feta cheese, olives, peppers and more.

The Yoplait yogurt brand has extended itself into the interactive snacking sector with Yoplait Dippers. The dome-style container includes sweet or savory nonfat Greek yogurt in one part and crunchy dippers in the other. The new single-serve packs come in six varieties. They are: Caramelized Banana Greek Yogurt and Choco-Drizzled Pretzels, Chipotle Ranch Greek Yogurt and Tortilla Chips, Coffee Chocolate Chunk Greek Yogurt and Cinnamon Crisps, Raspberry Chocolate Chunk Greek Yogurt and Choco-Drizzled Pretzels, Toasted Coconut Greek Yogurt and Honey Oat Crisps, and Vanilla Bean Greek Yogurt and Honey Oat Crisps.

And lastly, Snøfrisk is not a new product, in fact it was introduced during the Winter Olympic Games at Lillehammer in 1994. However, it is new to the States. Snøfrisk is a white, unripened cream cheese made from 80% goat’s milk and 20% cow’s cream with only 1.5% salt added. It is easy to spread and can be used on bagels, with crudites or as a dip or spread. Only the plain variety is entering the States; however, flavored options such as dill, horseradish and forest mushrooms are available elsewhere.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Commit to Sugar Reduction in 2017

If you think sugar is under attack now with the many sugary drink taxes being implemented and more restrictions being placed in school meal programs, just wait. There may be many uncertainties awaiting the food and beverage industries in 2017, in particular in the U.S. with its many unknowns regarding the new administration, but there’s one thing for sure, “added sugars” will continue to be scrutinized, demonized and avoided by many.

This is particularly true in beverages but will trickle down to all foods, including flavored milk, yogurt and quite possibly, even ice cream. The former two are nutrient-dense foods, so reducing sugar further increases nutrient density. Because ice cream is usually considered a dessert or treat, sugar content is typically less of a concern; however, if it can be lowered---and there are companies doing it—this may be an attractive selling point in our growing sugar-phobic society.

Sara Petersson, nutrition analyst at Euromonitor International said, “2016 highlighted the pivotal role of the ever-increasing consumption of sugar in the obesity crisis. The recent World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation for a minimum 20% tax on all sugary soft drinks not only reinforced this message, but also created a platform for further discussions around the importance of good nutrition.”

That’s right, in case you missed it, this past October, WHO wrote that taxing sugary drinks can lower consumption and reduce obesity, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay. Fiscal policies that lead to at least a 20% increase in the retail price of sugary drinks would result in proportional reductions in consumption of such products, according to the report titled “Fiscal policies for Diet and Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCD).”

Reduced consumption of sugary drinks means lower intake of “free sugars” and calories overall, improved nutrition and fewer people suffering from overweight, obesity, diabetes and tooth decay, according to WHO. Free sugars refer to monosaccharides (such as glucose or fructose) and disaccharides (such as sucrose or table sugar) added to foods and drinks by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.
 Infographic source: EcoFocus Worldwide and Evergreen Packaging

“Consumption of free sugars, including products like sugary drinks, is a major factor in the global increase of people suffering from obesity and diabetes,” said Douglas Bettcher, director of WHO’s Department for the Prevention of NCDs. “If governments tax products like sugary drinks, they can reduce suffering and save lives. They can also cut healthcare costs and increase revenues to invest in health services.”

In 2014, more than one in three (39%) adults worldwide aged 18 years and older were overweight. Worldwide prevalence of obesity more than doubled between 1980 and 2014, with 11% of men and 15% of women (more than half a billion adults) being classified as obese. In addition, an estimated 42 million children aged under five years were overweight or obese in 2015, an increase of about 11 million during the past 15 years. Almost half (48%) of these children lived in Asia and 25% in Africa. This is a global concern.

Link HERE for additional statistics on global obesity.

Photo source: Barry Callebaut

The number of people living with diabetes has also been rising, from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014. The disease was directly responsible for 1.5 million deaths in 2012 alone.

“Nutritionally, people don’t need any sugar in their diet,” said Francesco Branca, director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development.
That’s a very strong statement, in fact, a bit unsettling. It makes a consumer really question the added sugars in their everyday foods.

“WHO recommends that if people do consume free sugars, they keep their intake below 10% of their total energy needs, and reduce it to less than 5% for additional health benefits,” said Branca. “This is equivalent to less than a single serving (at least 250 milliliters) of commonly consumed sugary drinks per day.”

In the U.S., yogurt processors need to be aware of new draft guidance issued this week by FDA regarding the use of fruit and vegetable ingredients and their contribution to a product’s added sugars, which must be listed in the upcoming new Nutrition Facts Panel.

Simply, FDA explained in the draft guidance that if sugars in the processed fruit or vegetable ingredient are in excess of what would be expected from 100% fruit or vegetables, those sugars must be declared as added sugars.

The FDA guidance states:
“If the ingredient contains all of the components of a whole fruit or vegetable, but has been processed so that the plant material is physically broken down into smaller pieces or water is removed, we would not consider the sugars contributed from the portion of the fruit or vegetable that is typically eaten which is used to make such an ingredient to be added sugars. However, if a fruit or vegetable is processed in such a way that it no longer contains all of the components of the portion of a whole fruit or vegetable that is typically eaten (e.g., the pulp from the fruit has been removed) and the sugars have been concentrated, the sugars in such an ingredient are consistent with how we have considered the sugars in fruit juice concentrate because the ingredient is a concentrated source of sugars and contributes additional calories to a food when added as an ingredient without additional water.”

The labeling of added sugars is included in FDA’s mandatory nutrition labeling revisions that were published on May 20, 2017. FDA made changes to the content and format of the Nutrition Facts label as well as to the reference amounts that determine the serving sizes of conventional foods. The final rule changes “sugars” to “total sugars” in the Nutrition Facts Panel and requires the amount of “added sugars” to be indented and appear below “total sugars.”

The compliance date for manufacturers with more than $10 million in annual food sales is July 26, 2018. For manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales, they get an additional year to get their labels in order.

The final rule defines added sugars as sugars that either are added during the processing of foods, or are packaged as such, and include sugars (free, mono- and disaccharides), sugars from syrups and honey, and sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices that are in excess of what would be expected from the same volume of 100% fruit or vegetable juice of the same type. The final rule excludes whole fruit, fruit pieces, dried fruit, pulps and purees as meeting the definition of added sugars.

For additional details from FDA, including examples of calculating added sugar when using fruit and vegetable ingredients according to the new draft guidance, link HERE.

Dairy foods formulators must remember that replacing sugar is not a simple substitution. Sugar, and sugar-type ingredients including syrups, provide more than sweetness. They often impact the body and mouthfeel of a food or beverage.

“Sugar is under pressure, although it remains the key ingredient delivering the sweetness and great taste that consumers are looking for,” said Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights. “The quest to combine taste and health is driving new product development, as the industry faces the challenge of balancing public demand to reduce added sugars and create indulgent experiences, while at the same time presenting clean-label products.”

Commit to sugar reduction in 2017! In this scenario, going low makes sense.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Dairy Foods 2017: Make it a Resolution to Own the Year!

Happy New Year!

This past year was an interesting journey, and because we cannot hit a re-do button, it is time to embrace 2017 and own it. That’s right. The dairy foods industry is well poised to own the year.

Butter is back. Whole milk is, too. Cheese and ice cream have never fallen out of favor. Now upscale, specialty and unique varieties are increasingly sought out by consumers and they are willing to pay a premium for them. Fresh and minimally processed have always been dairy’s mantra. Local is the name of the game. The dairy industry has everything going for it in 2017. It’s time to commit to owning the year and I have just the resolutions to assist.

If you aren’t on board yet, then maybe the Real California Milk/California Milk Advisory Board float in this year’s Rose Bowl Parade is the motivation you need. When you read about the dedicated farmers and industry members who volunteered time and resources to make this float a reality, it will hopefully move you. Their passion for dairy is impressive and inspirational.

The float’s message resonated with today’s consumers. The 20-feet high, 18-feet wide and 65-feet long main float featured California cow’s milk pouring into a giant cereal bowl to represent breakfast and the importance of protein to start the day. The float also showed how this milk serves as the base for favorite foods, such as butter, cheese, ice cream and yogurt. 

Five families--from grandkids to grandparents (including twin 80-year-old brothers)--representing the multi-generational history of California dairy rode the float. These families represent California’s 1,300-plus dairy farm families, of which 99% are family owned. This is the kind of farm-to-fork story today’s consumers want to hear.

There was also a small satellite float featuring a life-sized animatronic Holstein dairy cow representative of the 1.8 million California dairy cows that help make California the number-one dairy state. In fact, California dairy cows produced enough milk in 2015 to fill 58 Rose Bowl Stadiums.

Here’s some interesting trivia about decorating the floats that participate in the Rose Bowl Parade. The body of the float is constructed early but the actual decorating takes place only days before the parade. This is because all decorations must be organic, dry or fresh materials, with fresh flowers one of the most common decorations. This year, the Real California Milk/California Milk Advisory Board float was more than 85% fresh flowers.

Every surface of the float must be covered and no coloring of any kind is allowed. Thousands of volunteers spend their days after Christmas working on the floats from dusk to dawn.
In addition to fresh flowers, the dairy float materials included foods that dairy cows eat, co-products of food and fiber production, such as almond hulls and cottonseed. These are items that would end up in landfill but cows as ruminants can turn into nutritious food. This is a beautiful sustainable story that seldom is told. Let’s start telling it.

The float was designed to get consumers thinking about how milk is—with minimal processing—transformed into the delicious dairy foods they eat every day, namely butter, cheese, ice cream and yogurt.

With that, here are three resolutions I urge ever dairy industry member to make for 2017.

1. Communicate to consumers the story of the milk that goes into the dairy products your company manufactures and distributes. Be as transparent as possible. Showcase farmers on your packages and on your website.
Remember Elsie? Though fictitious, Elsie is recognized as one of the most famous marketing mascots ever created. Interestingly, she once led the Rose Bowl Parade! Want to read more about Elsie’s origins, link HERE.

Photo source: Starbucks

Celebrities and athletes can turn into controversial spokespeople. Maybe the time is right to create a mascot, your company’s personal spokesperson. Think about consumers’ fascination with Pokémon this past summer. Think about the digital world we live in. Millennials are social media addicts and Millennials like cartoon characters.

2. Emphasize dairy’s inherent nutrition as much as possible. Though I believe dairy proteins can live harmoniously with plant proteins—in fact I think there’s a great deal of opportunity of mixed protein products, namely beverages--dairy needs to up its game and create a positive story about protein.

Photo source: 7-eleven
It was not that long ago when the dairy industry was constantly defending itself. Programs like Got milk? and “3-a-day” (I really wish 3-a-day returned to the States) helped changed how we marketed dairy and in turn how consumers viewed dairy. Recent headlines about the dairy industry fighting for control of the term “milk” brings back memories of playing defensively. We are better than that. Let’s use those resources to better communicate the power of the protein and essential vitamins and minerals inherent to milk, and the products made from milk.

Flavorful, ready-to-drink protein beverages are all the rage right now. These are the type of beverages that gyms, schools and sporting events want to sell. Do you have a fresh offering in your product line up? Remember to emphasize the source and quality of the protein. The plant protein folks are.

Also, don’t forget to emphasize dairy’s inherent nutrition when you are outside of work. When you order your latte, stress that you want real milk. Make sure it’s butter on those pancakes and real blue cheese in your wing dip. The power of positivity is contagious. You will be amazed at how such simple conversations with your barista or your server resonate with them, and they in turn share the message.

3. Innovate on a regular basis. Limited-edition and seasonal products attract consumers and keep them interested in a brand. Today’s consumers have a growing selection of food channels to choose from and they are seeking services and experiences in addition to just purchasing groceries. The desire for innovative new products makes them want to go shopping.

Photo source: What's in Store 2017, IDDBA

According to What’s in Store 2017, a recently released publication from the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association, despite the growth of e-commerce in food retail, brick-and-mortar stores are most important to the digital-savvy Millennials and Gen Zers, with food retailers being the number-one source for convenient meal solutions, outpacing both restaurant delivery and online meal/ingredient kit channels. Convenient physical stores, a feature-rich website with services such as online purchasing, and mobile apps are critical to attracting and keeping customers. Retailers must have effective and engaging in-store technology, a 24/7 service mentality, real-time knowledge on current inventory in each store, and price and product consistency to achieve a total retail experience. They rely on their suppliers—you—to provide them with products to sell.

Fresh format stores are experiencing the most growth in the brick-and-mortar space. Dairy foods are fresh foods and need to better compete in this space. A recent visit to Fresh Thyme left me very disappointed with dairy’s presence, as did the fresh meal solutions area of Trader Joe’s and the Fresh & Ready department in Walgreen’s.

Would you like to read more about how convenience, experience and freshness is attracting supermarket shoppers, link HERE to an article I recently wrote for Food Business News.

Here’s a new product concept to get you thinking. In February 2017, PepsiCo will be rolling out its new LIFEWTR premium bottled water line, which the company says fuses creativity and design to serve as a source of inspiration, as well as hydration, to usher in a new era of thirst quenchers. Fluid milk processors need to think this way!

The beverage is described as purified water that is pH balanced with electrolytes for taste. (It’s water!) It comes in a plastic bottle enrobed in art. That’s right, the bottle serves as a canvas for art and design and features rotating label motifs created by emerging artists. The brand’s biggest equity--the label--will serve as a platform for emerging and developing artists to be seen and discovered on a broad scale, and their work will serve as a spark of creativity and dose of inspiration and creative uplift.
Released in a series of three, and changing several times a year, LIFEWTR is all about having an authentic connection with the consumer, at a premium. It will be available in two sizes. The 700-milliliter bottle with sports cap will sell for about $2.06, while the one-liter bottle will go for $2.70.

That product concept should get your creative juices flowing. But, if you need more product development inspiration, link below to the six forecasts I wrote for 2017.
Ice Cream Flavor Trends
Clean Process and Clean Ingredients
Dairy Protein Beverages
Cheese Snacks
Functional Dairy Foods 
Dairy-Based Beverages
Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Dairy Foods Forecast 2017: Ice Cream Flavor Trends 2017

Photo source: Baskin-Robbins

This is the sixth—and finalin a series of reports predicting dairy innovation rollouts in 2017.

As the year starts to wind down, food and beverage market analysts issue forecasts for macro trends that will drive innovation. I take those trends and combine them with the knowledge gained throughout the year from attending international trade shows and talking with suppliers and dairy foods marketers. This year the entire dairy foods supply chain is pumped up about the future. And this is thanks to all the dedicated people who work in every link, from farm to table.

Last week I wrote about how the clean food movement in extending beyond ingredients to now encompass process. If you missed the blog, you can link HERE to read it.

The idea of process—from the sourcing of ingredients to the actual production of ice cream--will be an integral part of ice cream innovations in 2017. Think artisan, hand crafted and small batch. In addition, many new ice cream flavors will be lighter and brighter in appearance. There will be a return to less being more in 2017.

Graeter’s has long recognized the importance of process. This family-owned ice cream maker remains dedicated to the small-batch French pot process. Passionate artisans pour and swirl the best ingredients into each spinning, 2.5-gallon French pot freezer. The resulting ice cream is so dense and rich--due to the absence of air--it must be removed by hand with a paddle. That’s how Graeter’s has been hand-crafting ice cream since 1870. The company is right on target with what today’s consumer is looking for.

Here are eight trends driving ice cream innovation in 2017.

1. Preparation Descriptions. Cooking methods are described on all types of foods these days, as it makes the consumer feel more involved, more knowledgeable. Cooking methods also impart unique flavors that entice the taste buds. Expect to see more inclusions described this way. For example, think toasted coconut, grilled pineapple, caramelized banana and smoked apple. In addition, descriptors such as sun ripened, hand harvested and homemade will be more common. But don’t overdo it! Be discerning with how descriptive you are in order to not overwhelm the consumer. 

The 7-Eleven convenience-store chain does a nice job with its latest addition to its private-label 7-Select GO! Yum brand of ice cream. Side panels of pints of new Chocolate Covered Strawberry include this description: Naturally sweet, vine-ripened strawberries combine with fresh cream and chunks of chocolatey goodness for a premium rich indulgence. Bursting with fresh flavor, it’s pure delicious bliss.

2. Fruit and More Fruit. Candies and cookies will still be added to ice cream, but expect to see more real whole fruit being added and often in unique combinations. The challenge with fruit is to keep it soft and intact. Premium juice and sugar-infused fruits keep them malleable and prevent ice crystal formation. Tropical combinations and sweet with a touch of heat will be trending, along with berry and citrus combinations. Think of a Farmers Market series.

3. Butter, Cream and Dairy Variegates. Fat is back and tastes delicious. Think butter flakes (maybe with a touch of see salt), swirls of sweetened condensed milk and mascarpone variegate. Light in color but full of flavor, these ingredients add extra all-natural richness. Buttermilk, cheesecake and even pudding will trend, often in combination with fruit.

4. Sweet Flavors. With added sugars, in particular refined and processed sugars, being highly scrutinized for their negative impact on health, marketers of all types of foods and beverages have started flagging sweetener type in product descriptions to potentially give the product a more healthful halo. Expect to see agave, brown sugar, honey and maple syrup as part of an ice cream’s flavor description.

5. Coffee. Cold-press coffee is all the rage in the ready-to-drink beverage sector and is making its way into ice cream. Expect to see many coffee flavor pairings, such as coffee plus cream…flavored creamer…in the form of a frozen dessert.

Kemps recently introduced Yo2 Frozen Yogurt pints. One of the six flavors is Cold Brewed Coffee, which is coffee frozen yogurt, thick fudge swirl and chocolate chips. There’s also Mudslide, which is chocolate and coffee frozen yogurt swirled with cookies, fudge and chocolaty chunks. And there’s Vanilla, which is described as simply vanilla.

6. Vanilla. Clean, simple, pure, light and bright, that’s what you get with vanilla. Chocolate has long been a dominating base in ice cream innovations. In 2017, it will be vanilla, with an emphasis placed on the sourcing of the vanilla. Bean specks will be more prevalent as well, as they are suggestive of a product more in touch with nature.

7. Chocolate. Chocolate is not going away but in 2017 expect to see chocolate as more of a subtle inclusion rather than a dominating base. The chocolate may also be paired with other ingredients to create unique textures. Think chocolate-covered ancient grain clusters, chocolate-covered almonds and chocolate-covered cherries. Now think of all three of those in a pint of French vanilla ice cream. In keeping with the light and bright theme, there will be more creative uses of white chocolate.

8. Salted Caramel. This flavor continues to evolve and will increasingly be included as an inclusion or variegate rather than be the dominant flavor.

For example, this month, Ben & Jerry’s is debuting One Sweet World in select European markets. The new flavor features Fairtrade coffee and caramel ice creams, marshmallow and caramel swirls, and chunky chocolate ampersands, all lovingly churned together to tantalize the taste buds. And you know what makes this all the sweeter? Ben & Jerry’s has partnered with H.O.P.E. (Helping People Everywhere) not hate. Sales of this flavor will help fund various projects run by the organization, which contribute to more inclusive communities to make One Sweet World.

On that note, this is the last blog of 2016. Happy Holidays to you and yours! I’m praying for One Sweet World in 2017. Sincerely, Donna Berry

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Dairy Foods Forecast 2017: Clean Process will be as Important as Clean Ingredient Legends

This is the fifth in a series of reports predicting dairy innovation rollouts in 2017. 

As the year starts to wind down, food and beverage market analysts issue forecasts for macro trends that will drive innovation. I take those trends and combine them with the knowledge gained throughout the year from attending international trade shows and talking with suppliers and dairy foods marketers. This year the entire dairy foods supply chain is pumped up about the future. And this is thanks to all the dedicated people who work in every link, from farm to table.

Tired of hearing the term clean label? Well, it’s not going away. How a brand chooses to address the clean-label movement is very personal, as there’s no formal definition, yet many companies claim to be doing it.  

“In the 1980s and through much of the 1990s, consumers largely tried to avoid certain substances,
like fats or cholesterol, as they were thought to be harmful,” said Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst, The NPD Group Inc., Port Washington, N.Y. “Around the turn of this century, consumers became more concerned with getting more ‘good’ substances, like whole grains or omega-3s, in their diets. Now, in addition to eating more better-for-you foods, new priorities are coming into focus for consumers, like eating foods in their pure form.”
That pure form is as much about ingredients as it is process. An informed consumer is a satisfied customer.

Moving forward, it may not be enough to be clean and simple. 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.

This is not the original Chobani bicyclist love story, but it still supports the process theory. View the 30-second video HERE.

Now think cold-brew coffee. It’s the hottest trend in the ready-to-drink chilled beverage sector (pun intended). It’s as much about product as it is process, once again supporting the importance of communicating the process to consumers.

Cold-brew coffee, also known as cold press, is coffee brewed without heat. Cold brewing requires steeping beans in ambient- to cold-temperature water for a long period of time. The type of beans, the ratio of beans to water, the temperature of the water and the steeping time all impact the final product. Processors differentiate their product by manipulating these variables and communicate this to consumers. Consumers connect. It makes them feel special to imagine that a batch of beans was steeped almost a half day to make their beverage. It’s artisan. It’s craft. It’s about the process.
In 2017, 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.

Mark your Calendar for ProFood Tech
There may not be any better place in early 2017 to learn about innovative processes to assist with creating a point of differentiation in the crowded marketplace than the inaugural ProFood Tech, which will be held April 4 to 6 in Chicago.

“Shifting consumer preferences for natural, healthy and earth-friendly brands place new demands on the manufacturing operations of food and beverage processors,” says Jorge Izquierdo, vice president of market development at PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies. “Companies must fine-tune product lines to accommodate new ingredients, implement alternatives to chemical preservatives and often build or modify lines for greater flexibility. Additionally, they must do it all while minimizing changeover times and learning curves for operators.”

For more information on ProFood Tech, where the Daily Dose of Dairy Live will take place all three days on the show floor, link HERE.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Dairy Foods Forecast 2017: Dairy Protein Beverage Innovations

This is the fourth in a series of reports predicting dairy innovation rollouts in 2017.

As the year starts to wind down, food and beverage market analysts issue forecasts for macro trends that will drive innovation. I take those trends and combine them with the knowledge gained throughout the year from attending international trade shows and talking with suppliers and dairy foods marketers. This year the entire dairy foods supply chain is pumped up about the future. And this is thanks to all the dedicated people who work in every link, from farm to table.

Whey--once considered a byproduct of cheesemaking is now one of the most in-demand ingredients, in particular in the beverage business. Fluid milk processors would be wise to stop focusing so much on processing and packaging ordinary white and flavored milk and think outside the gallon and half gallon to single-serve bottles, cans, cartons and even pouches of whey (and other dairy protein)-containing beverages. These might be clear water- or juice-type drinks, meal replacements or even energy drinks.

Polly Olson, vice president of new business development, sales and marketing at AGROPUR, confirmed that the use of whey proteins in consumer beverages, as opposed to sports nutrition beverages where whey has long been the shining star, is soaring, and shows no signs of slowing down.

According to a report from BCCResearch, the global whey protein market will reach $13.5 billion in 2020, up from $9.2 billion in 2015, registering a compound annual growth rate of 6.5% for the period of 2015 to 2020. For years, whey protein has been the go-to ingredient in the sports nutrition sector thanks to its anabolic benefits such as increased muscle protein synthesis and muscle growth. However, increased focus on health across age groups and gender is driving use of whey protein beyond athletes and sports enthusiasts.

The report states that while core demand for whey protein comes from the U.S. and the E.U., there is increasing demand in emerging economies, especially in Asia-Pacific and Latin America. In addition to being used in beverages, whey and other dairy protein ingredients are increasingly being used in nutrition bars, infant formula and weight-management foods.

Sunshine Dairy Foods gets it. Known for its use of premium local ingredients and a cold-craft process that may take longer, but produces superior-tasting products, this Portland, Ore., dairy is now playing in the protein beverage space with the recent introduction of Sunshine Power. Packaged in single-serve 16-ounce gable-top cartons, each container delivers 30-grams of high-quality dairy protein—from milk, milk protein isolate and dairy product solids. Each powerful serving packs in 420 calories, 19 grams of fat, including added omega-3 fatty acids, and 24 grams of total sugar, in addition to the 30 grams of protein. To keep total sugars low, and to be able to state the product contains no added sugars, the refrigerated beverage is slightly sweetened with stevia. Through the addition of lactase enzyme, the product is also lactose free.

For Goodness Shakes, a leading ready-to-drink protein shake brand in the U.K., introduced three new products this year. Protein Water contains no sugar or fat and is only 86 calories per 500-milliliter bottle. Packed with 20 grams of whey protein isolate, the beverage is designed to hydrate before, during and after training.

Protein Coconut Water contains no added sugar and no fat. Each 330-milliliter bottle contains 52 calories and 10 grams of whey protein isolate. The beverage base is naturally hydrating coconut and spring water.

For a healthful breakfast on the go, there’s new shelf-stable Protein & Oats, an enriched milk drink that contains 14 vitamins and minerals and packs in 25 grams of protein from whey and casein. Each single-serve bottle also contains 20 grams of finely ground oats, which function as a source of slow-releasing energy. The meal-in-a-bottle has no added refined sugars. The only sugars are those naturally present in the oats and dairy ingredients. The unique formulation is designed to be a satiating first meal of the day and comes in two traditional porridge flavors: Original and Banana & Golden Syrup.

Nestlé USA is rolling out Nesquik Protein Plus flavored milk drink, with each 14-ounce single-serve bottle containing 23 grams of protein to help consumers reach their protein-intake goals for the day. Labels flag “proudly made with real milk,” with ingredient statements identifying low-fat milk as the first ingredient. A protein boost comes form added milk protein concentrate. Nesquik Protein Plus comes in Chocolate and Vanilla flavors. The milk drinks contain no artificial sweeteners and labels make the claim that the drinks have 28% less sugar than the leading protein-enhanced flavored milk. It is shelf stable until opened.

BiPro USA, a consumer brand of AGROPUR, has added a strawberry flavor to its line of whey protein isolate powders. Strawberry joins unflavored, Chocolate and French Vanilla. BiPro’s strawberry iteration stays true to the brand’s clean label. The product contains just six ingredients, 90 calories per serving and zero grams of sugar. Just like every other BiPro flavor, strawberry carries 20 grams of protein per serving and is NSF Certified for Sport, ensuring that it is free of banned substances. The product is naturally sweetened and naturally flavored with real strawberry pieces.

In June, the brand introduced ready-to-drink BiPro Protein Water. Each 16.9-ounce bottle contains one scoop of BiPro (20 grams of protein) and stays true to the brand’s clean label. The ingredient legend includes only five items: water, whey protein isolate, phosphoric acid, natural flavor and stevia extract. A single-serve bottle contains zero grams of fat, sugar and carbohydrates and just 90 calories. BiPro Protein Water comes in Lemon Lift and Peach Power flavors.

PowerBar, the original energy bar, has added Clean Whey Protein Drinks to its rapidly evolving portfolio of real and energizing foods. In response to consumer requests for cleaner ingredient labels, PowerBar Clean Whey products feature no artificial sweeteners and high-quality whey protein for sustained energy. A single-serve 16.9-milliliter bottle of the drink contains 15 grams of whey protein, 0 grams of sugar and 70 calories, as a result of being sweetened with stevia. It is a light, refreshing alternative to a traditional dairy-based protein shake and can be used during or after a workout, as a healthy snack or meal replacement, according to the company. The drink comes in Berry Pomegranate and Fruit Punch flavors.

SmashPack Protein is a new all-natural, high-protein and real fruit nutritional snack. These spouted squeeze packs are for athletes and anyone on-the-go looking for a quick, healthy snack/meal replacement made from real food. Each pouch is packed with 14 grams of high-quality whey protein, one serving of real fruit, 5 grams of healthy fats and is only 180 calories. The line of protein packs come in three flavors—Mixed Berry, Orange Peach and Tropical Fruit--each with a short list of recognizable ingredients. SmashPack Protein is shelf stable and free of soy, gluten, artificial ingredients, and is naturally sweetened by the fruit it holds.

Wisconsin Specialty Protein now offers ready-to-drink Tera’s Whey Protein beverage. This shelf-stable drink comes in two flavors—Chocolate and Vanilla Bourbon--with both packing in 26 grams of whey that originated from milk from grass-fed Wisconsin cows. The protein sources are whey protein isolate, milk protein isolate and nonfat dry milk. Sugars are kept low by using organic stevia in combination with organic unrefined cane sugar.

The whey- and other dairy protein-containing beverage segment is poised for innovation. It's time to get on board.