Friday, October 22, 2021

Building Better Dairy Foods


As a degreed food scientist who focuses on dairy, it is frustrating to see the potential for dairy innovation in today’s marketplace, accompanied by the hesitancy of dairy processors to get out of their comfort zone. Before I delve into future-proofing dairy, I must share a link to an amazing article written by my colleague Monica Watrous at Food Business News. Link HERE to read “Stop marketing products as ‘guilt free.’” My favorite line: Guilt is not an ingredient.

The fact is that the pandemic has made consumers more aware of not only where food comes from, but also how it comes to be. As Monica writes, “Food choices are not a measure of one’s virtue. Cravings do not indicate weakness. Ordering a salad rather than a burger does not confer moral superiority. There are numerous ways to highlight a product’s potential health benefits, identifying measurable attributes consumers may care about, such as high-fiber, low-sugar or gluten-free.”

Those attributes are made possible by food science. Guilt is studied in the scientific field of psychology. 

“Even in this era of real and clean foods, there is global acceptance of science in the food supply,” according to HealthFocus International. “Consumers want more from their foods and beverages, and added nutrition and health benefits to a product through the use of unrecognizable ingredients is driving this broad acceptance.”

That’s right. The use of unrecognizable ingredients might just be acceptable, but what is key is likely explaining the science behind the ingredient, including where it comes from, what it does and why one should be consuming it. To build better dairy foods we need to better communicate the science. 

Attending SupplySide West/Food Ingredients North America? Visit Agropur at booth 1820. 

Research from HealthFocus International shows that 63% of consumers are willing to accept scientific and technical improvements to foods and beverages if they provide desirable benefits and 57% believe processed foods and beverages can be made healthier. 

The reality is that convenience often means processed, and convenience is not an attribute that most consumers can afford to discount in today’s hectic and uncertain world. I write this after media has been reporting on a recent study from Ohio State University showing that highly processed foods harm memory in the aging brain. (Brain, Behavior and Immunity, Volume 98, November 2021, pages 198-209)

Source: HealthFocus International

The study showed that four weeks on a diet of highly processed food led to a strong inflammatory response in the brains of aging rats that was accompanied by behavioral signs of memory loss. Researchers also found that supplementing the processed diet with the omega-3 fatty acid DHA prevented memory problems and reduced the inflammatory effects almost entirely in older rats. It’s this type of science that must be used and communicated to consumers. 

This past Saturday, October 16, 2021, was World Food Day, which carried the theme: Our actions are our future. Better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life. This highlights the economic, social and environmental dimensions of agri-food systems and recognizes that the ways we produce, prepare and store the food we eat everyday makes us an integral part of our food systems. However, most of our current food systems are unsustainable and contribute to environmental degradation and climate change.

Source: HealthFocus International

The Food and Agriculture Association (FAO) of the United Nations defines a sustainable food system as one that delivers food security and nutrition to all in such a way that the economic, social and environmental security of future generations is not compromised. This requires science. 

Science is that intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. It’s something that the pandemic has shown us to be something many folks do not believe in, especially in the U.S. (This is so disturbing. Please get vaccinated. I got my booster this past week and am ready to take on the world!)

HealthFocus’ research shows North Americans to be the least accepting of food science. We need to change this mindset. The research shows that consumers become more accepting of food science when the ingredient in question has been shown to have important health benefits and contributes to improved nutrition. This education might require baby steps, but now is the time to take a step back and start building better dairy foods, all while communicating the steps along the way to consumers. 

The first in-person U.S. ingredient exposition will take place this week in Las Vegas. Food science, and other scientific disciplines, will be alive and on display at the combined SupplySide West/Food Ingredients North America show. (Crazy keeps me sane, which is why I am taking only a day trip on Thursday to walk the expo for about six hours. Hope to see you there!) 

If you are attending, today’s blog sponsor, Agropur, will be showcasing science in action at booth 1820. One concept being sampled is a new low-calorie, fudge-flavored frozen dessert made with three Agropur whey protein ingredients. BiPRO 9500 whey protein isolate offers complete solubility and clean flavor. Processed by cold microfiltration, the ISO Chill 9000 whey protein isolate contains a full balance of undenatured bioactive whey proteins, while BioZate 8000, a hydrolyzed whey protein concentrate, offers rapid digestion and absorption and a creamy taste. The concept includes 1.8 grams of SlimBiome, a natural, patented functional food ingredient scientifically proven to promote digestive health and reduce food cravings though a feeling of fullness. Chromium and konjac gum are components of SlimBiome and help consumers maintain normal blood glucose levels.

There’s also a new snack shake concept at this year’s show. This low-calorie beverage includes Agropur’s ISO Chill 8000, a spray-dried whey protein concentrate, and ISO Chill 9000 whey protein isolate along with SlimBiome. One serving contains 100 calories, 15 grams of protein and 3 grams of SlimBiome. 

Other scientific news recently in the dairy world includes research showing that dairy fat might actually be good for heart health, contradicting years of other messaging. Published in the September 21, 2021, issue of PLOS Medicine, the study involved an international team of scientists who challenged the perception that full-fat dairy products should be avoided because of their high-saturated fat content. They investigated the dairy fat intake of 4,150 60-year-olds in Sweden--a country with one of the world’s highest levels of dairy production and consumption--by measuring blood levels of a specific fatty acid that is mainly found in ruminant foods, such as dairy foods, and that correlates with dairy fat consumption. Experts then followed the group for 16 years to observe how many had heart attacks, strokes and other serious circulatory issues. They did not find a higher blood level of this particular fatty acid to be linked with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease or with overall increased death. This observational study has an added benefit since it shows the use of fatty acid biomarkers. These biomarkers are thought to provide a more objective and precise measure of dairy fat intake compared to the use of food questionnaires.

The researchers confirmed these findings in other populations after combining the Swedish results with 17 other studies involving a total of almost 43,000 people from the U.S., Denmark and the U.K. 

“We found those with the highest levels actually had the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease,” said Matti Marklund, senior researcher at the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney and joint senior author of the paper, in a statement. “These relationships are highly interesting, but we need further studies to better understand the full health impact of dairy fats and dairy foods.

“Our study suggests that cutting down on dairy fat or avoiding dairy altogether might not be the best choice for heart health,” he said. “It is important to remember that although dairy foods can be rich in saturated fat, they are also rich in many other nutrients and can be a part of a healthy diet. However, other fats, like those found in seafood, nuts and non-tropical vegetable oils, [e.g., omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA] can have greater health benefits than dairy fats.”

Hmm, seems to me that DHA in dairy makes a lot of sense!  

The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) is on board to help dairy innovators use science and sensibility to future-proof the industry. The IDFA recently completed a pre-competitive strategic planning process led by IDFA members to determine the forces shaping the industry and to update IDFA’s strategic focus to prepare the industry to grow and thrive over the next decade. The IDFA Vision for the Future identified several possible, plausible scenarios that could positively and negatively impact the future of the dairy industry. Industry leaders then made strategic choices that will best position the industry to thrive in the long term while avoiding pitfalls that could hamper the industry’s potential.

“I applaud our IDFA members for spearheading the IDFA Vision for the Future planning process so that the dairy industry is better prepared than ever to chart our own path toward growth and success,” says Michael Dykes, president and CEO of IDFA. “Like other sectors within food and agriculture, the dairy industry has been and is undergoing rapid and substantial transformation driven by major forces of change and disruption, including consumer preferences and behaviors, retailer channel environment, global trade and political dynamics, regulation and science and technology. These forces are complex, interrelated and can be highly uncertain. I’m grateful to our IDFA members for taking this important initiative to better prepare the U.S. dairy industry for future challenges and opportunities.”

And the State of California is investing heavily in dairy foods innovation, back by science. 
The California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) announced this week the 12 entries in its Real California Milk Excelerator competition that will move into the semi-finals scheduled for this coming week. The virtual final competition takes place on November 18, and once again, I am honored to be a judge. 

The 2021 Real California Milk Excelerator taps into the thriving functional foods market, a market that has grown significantly over the past year and is projected to reach over $275 billion globally by 2025 and focused on early-stage, high-growth companies with a cow’s milk-based product that plays a critical role in personal performance and/or recovery.

“This is where it all comes together. Our finalists have honed their pitches and will be putting it all on the line to showcase how their products best integrate the natural ingredients, flavor and nutritional profile of milk and other dairy products to deliver a functional benefit to consumers,” says John Talbot, CEO of the CMAB. “We are excited to see any of these 12 innovative products make it to the final four.” 

Fred Schonenberg, founder of VentureFuel, a corporate innovation consultancy that partnered with CMAB to run the program, identified and recruited applicants from their global network of investors, founders and academics, says, “How do you determine if a startup has breakthrough growth potential? You look to see if retailers will shelve it, if consumers will buy it, if reporters will write on it and investors will invest in it. Each of our judges have unique vantage points on what’s next, that when combined, gives us a holistic view on what will succeed tomorrow.” 

The 12 semi-finalist applicants competing this week are: 
  • Alexandre Family Farms: fourth-generation California dairy farmers with functional brand extensions for liquid milk, powder and yogurt focused on properties for anti-anxiety and gut health.
  • Boba Guys: trendy tea brand Boba Guys, with 15 brick and mortar locations in California, is developing a bottled milk tea latte with key nutrients, vitamins and caffeine to optimize performance and recovery.
  • Churn: the pioneer of chef-crafted, health-conscious, flavor-driven grass-fed butter, Churn is bringing innovation and education to the dairy industry with flavored butters meant to empower elevated cooking at home and inspire the happiness that comes along with it.
  • Kefir Lab: Kefir Lab takes kefir and makes it more effective with organic milk cultured with 24 live and active potent protein strains for a bottled kefir that boosts immunity, metabolism and brain health. 
  • Nightfood: Nightfood ice cream delivers great taste for those nighttime cravings and a sleep-friend nutritional profile to help promote quality sleep. 
  • Positive Chemistry: a dissolving pouch that melts in the bath, releasing a bubbly, fizzing mixture of real milk and salts to promote recovery for skin, muscles and the soul. A hidden exfoliating sponge with a message of positivity is designed to float to the top of the bath.
  • Rizo Lopez Foods: award-winning and family-owned, Rizo Lopez utilizes Old World recipes and traditional techniques for their Ready2Go Whey products derived from a specially processed whey protein concentrate for a creamy, delicious and gut-healthy drink. 
  • ReThink Ice Cream: low-sugar, stomach and diabetic-friendly ice cream that is infused with fiber and sourced from lactose-free A2 dairy, ReThink Ice Cream is a decadent source of natural nutrition. 
  • Sweetkiwi: founded by a McKinsey 2021 Black Executive Leader and certified cultured dairy professional, Sweetkiwi makes whipped Greek yogurt that is low in calories and high in nutrition. Sweetkiwi pints are under 320 calories and formulated with fiber, protein and probiotics for better gut health with fewer calories. 
  • The Indian Milk & Honey Co.: sugar-free probiotic lassi with Ayurvedic immunity supporting herbs and spices, that also support mental clarity, in an environmentally friendly carton.
  • Top O’ the Morn Farms: A California-owned dairy farm with an expansive line of fresh products, Top O’ the Morn’s Cow-Pow chocolate milk is a clean-label, pre- or post-workout beverage fortified with whey protein isolate and natural caffeine. 
  • Wonder Monday: a 2020 RCM Snackcelerator finalist, Wonder Monday returns with a new protein keto cheesecake snack bar with 10 grams of clean protein to indulgently refuel.

  • Attending SupplySide West/Food Ingredients North America? Visit Agropur at booth 1820. 

Friday, October 15, 2021

Anuga 2021: Showcasing a World of Colorful Food and Beverage


Hope you had a great week. I was one of more than 70,000 visitors (proof of vaccination required to enter expo) from 169 countries who traveled to Cologne, Germany, to attend Anuga 2021, the world’s largest food and beverage exposition that is held every two years. There were approximately 4,600 exhibiting companies representing 98 countries at the expo, with the dominating theme throughout the 11 halls being plant based. But wait, there’s more to what I mean by plant based. Yes, there were tons of meat and dairy alternatives. Snacks, condiments and ready meals also were touting their plant-based nature, but so were vegetarian products – that means those containing dairy – bragging about their plant components, everything from functional ingredients such as turmeric and matcha to the use of plant-derived natural colors and fruit and vegetable concentrates. There was this overarching theme of taking care of the planet, the body and each other. This was being conveyed through earthly colors in the green, brown and orange family, with purple (representative of immunity-boosting anthocyanins, and in many cases, specifically elderberry) often used as a secondary hue in script or background. These color schemes were not something apparent at first, but day after day while exploring the exposition, and perusing through the many photos I had taken, the visual trend became very apparent.  

To read more about Anuga 2021 and to view a slideshow of 10 products that stood out to me at the expo, link HERE to a Food Business News column I wrote yesterday. 

These earthy color schemes complement the #1 trend for 2022, according to Innova Market Insights. This is “Shared Planet” and focuses on how everyone can play their part in shaping a sustainable and prosperous future. 

Consumers tell us they want to be ethically and environmentally conscious, so brands need to work alongside consumers to breed confidence in the claims attached to products, says Innova’s Global Insights Director Lu Ann Williams. Trust and transparency are must-haves for any brand wishing to find common ground with an increasingly educated, forward-thinking and interconnected consumer base. For many, it helps to communicate with color. 

A sense of joint responsibility for our shared planet is guiding the choices consumers make and the lifestyles they wish to lead. Innova’s study, conducted across 11 countries, revealed that when it comes to food choices, the top-two environmental actions people are taking are reducing waste (43% of respondents) and eating in moderation (32%).

“One of the biggest shifts we are seeing is that the health of the planet is now the top concern of consumers,” says Williams. “Personal health has been the big concern for the past few years, but consumers now tell us that this has been surpassed by global issues. Sustainability is no longer just a Wall Street issue. It might not be the top purchase driver for all consumers, but for many it clinches the deal when it comes to choosing between products.”

The coming year is going to be all about doing one’s part to build a better future. You will see a palette of earthy, grounding hues be met with fresh takes on primary colors. It’s all about embracing the unexpected. 

This already started in 2021, when Pantone identified gray with illuminating yellow as the “Color of the Year for 2021.” This provider of professional color language standards explained that these two independent colors highlight how different elements come together to support one another. They are practical and rock solid but at the same time warming and optimistic. Their union illuminates a mood of strength and positivity. It is a story of color that encapsulates deeper feelings of thoughtfulness with the promise of something sunny and friendly.

Another trending color for 2021 based on Pantone’s research is shades of marigold, which are both cheerful and comforting. They are sweet and nurturing colors that feel like warm honey and are an ideal color choice for customer-facing brands that want to emphasize their caring brand personality. 

One product that really stood out to me at Anuga was the Starlight Love bar from Dione Ice Cream in Lithuania. While the vibrancy of this product is anything but earthy, the messaging is, as this ice cream novelty product is all about connecting with color, natural color. This heart-shaped premium vanilla ice cream has a “Belgian white chocolate coating that reflects colors of the universe.” Every bar has an original design and all come from natural colors, which is part of the products branding. “Most beautiful things are natural and our modern technology allows us to create iconic colors for each piece using only and truly natural colors,” according to the company. 

How food presents itself visually has always influenced its appeal both before and during consumption. A recent study by Emerald Insights found that 90% of shoppers decide whether to buy a product solely based on color and perceived taste. 

Today’s blog sponsor, Lycored, shows how its all-natural gold color solution can help formulators achieve cleaner labels with orange, yellow and golden hues. Think French vanilla ice cream and eggnog. Think ready-to-drink protein beverages as well as yogurt smoothies. 

Lycored demonstrates its all-natural stabilized beta-carotene in a beverage. Look how just 0.05% makes such a big difference. For more information, link HERE

Checkoff Unveils Undeniably Dairy Campaign Evolution to Reach Gen Z
The dairy checkoff is launching a new wave of the Undeniably Dairy campaign to create deeper connections between Gen Z (ages 10 to 24) and dairy and give them new reasons to choose it over other products. 

“Resert Yourself with Dairy” is a youth-centric evolution of the checkoff’s consumer campaign and will use a variety of media channels and marketing strategies, including gaming, social media influencers and digital content, to engage with Gen Z to grow sales and trust of dairy. The effort launched Oct. 13.
“This is a visible example of the checkoff’s laser focus on reaching consumers who can have the biggest return on investment for dairy farmers and importers,” says Beth Engelmann, chief operating officer, Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) “This campaign reflects the integration of science, partnerships and innovation to secure the next generation of dairy consumers and ensure impact for decades.”

Anne Warden, DMI’s executive vice president of strategic integration, adds: “We’ve been pivoting our marketing and communications activations to not only create relevancy with younger audiences, but to also show up in the right places. To compete in today’s environment, we will create big, disruptive moments that reassert dairy’s place in young people’s lives in a way that is in the social media and entertainment spaces they love and speaks their language.”

The strategy centers on four aspects of dairy’s wellness benefits that checkoff-led consumer research found resonates and drives purchase decisions with Gen Z. These territories are immunity, calm, energy and digestive health and can meet this generation’s changing perceptions and behaviors for what they believe foods and beverages should deliver.

Dairy’s role in offering these wellness benefits will be featured on a variety of media channels. A broad approach is critical as Gen Z tends to jump from one channel to the next instead of consistently remaining in one place. 

Dairy content will appear on Spotify, where Gen Z heads for music and podcasts, as well as across YouTube and Google video searches and via television streaming providers including Hulu, Roku and Vevo.

Check out this VIDEO.

There will be continued outreach to the gaming community where the checkoff will work with Twitch, which has about 15 million users daily. The content will be available on TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat and the checkoff will work with social media influencers, who Gen Z finds to be authentic. The effort also includes a partnership with Kroger Digital and Instacart for content to appear in their retail apps and mobile sites.

In addition to these virtual strategies, the campaign will have activations on about 400 college campuses, including on TV screens in recreation centers and cafeterias.

“‘Reset Yourself with Dairy’ will show Gen Z all that dairy can offer and that they can feel good about their choice,” says DMI Chair Marilyn Hershey, a Pennsylvania dairy farmer. “It’ll remind them that real milk makes them feel better and offers wellness benefits that can help get them through their day.”
DMI and the 16 state and regional checkoff organizations have begun a push surrounding the feeling of calm people can experience from consuming dairy. Calm has universal Gen Z appeal, especially for students returning to school or young professionals back at the office. Content, including humorous videos that relate to Gen Z’s hectic lives, has been unveiled with the hope of making them seek a reset moment with dairy.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Eliminating Lactose Helps Keep Dairy in the Diet


Last week I wrote:

Real dairy, real eggs and real meat are not going away. Alternative dairy, alternative eggs and alternative meat are not going away. What is going away, slowly but surely, are nutrient-void, overly processed, unsustainable and “yucky-tasting” products in both the real and alternative sector. 

To read the blog, link HERE

What is also going away in many value-added real dairy foods is lactose. That’s because, real or perceived, a growing number of consumers claim to be lactose intolerant. As a result, they avoid all dairy products. When processors eliminate lactose—a disaccharide unique to all mammalian milk—from dairy foods, it helps prevent consumers from switching to dairy alternatives when the sole reason for the swap is to avoid lactose. 

Approximately 65% of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose, according to the National Institutes of Health. This is due to the lack of the enzyme lactase, which is responsible for breaking lactose down into the monosaccharides glucose and galactose. When lactose does not break down in the small intestine, it passes into the large intestine, where it may cause diarrhea, bloating and gas. 

Dairy foods processors can help lactose-sensitive consumers keep dairy in their diet by simply adding lactase to the milk during manufacturing. A side perk to this process is that glucose and galactose are sweeter than lactose, and in products such as flavored milk, ice cream and yogurt, an “added-sugar” reduction may be possible.

“For some consumers, having more lactose-free dairy choices, especially organic milk options, is a real boon,” says Kara Nielsen, director-food and drink, WGSN. “With so many non-dairy beverages proving to be lacking in essential nutrients as well as body and flavor, real milk without lactose is a great solution for those that have digestive issues but still value milk’s many benefits.” 

Market experts anticipate that lactose-free dairy products will become more mainstream and show an increase in market penetration due to rising consumer awareness. Promoting digestibility is part of the messaging. This has become easier with the use of high-quality lactase enzyme systems. 

The global lactase market size was valued at $185.2 million in 2019 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.1% from 2020 to 2027, according to a report from Grand View Research. Lactose-free claims on dairy products is driving this growth. 

It’s no wonder that global sales of lactose-free dairy products are estimated to grow at a similar CAGR (5.3%) during this period. The category is expected to reach a valuation of $17.8 billion by the end of 2027, according to “Lactose Free Dairy Products Market: Global Industry Analysis (2012-2016) and Opportunity Assessment (2019-2027)” published by Future Market Insights. This growth is being fueled by a variety of factors, including new product innovation of value-added dairy products, including better-for-you, functional and organic. Europe currently leads the global lactose-free dairy products market.

So, having arrived in Germany to attend Anuga, where I am sure there will be a plethora of lactose-free dairy innovations, I visited a market and found two relatively new items. Both are beverages. 

Barebells is a Swedish functional food company that launched in 2016 and offers a range of protein-enriched products, including refrigerated milkshakes, which are limited in distribution in select European countries. There are also Barebells Bars that are made in Sweden and available in more than 30 countries. They’ve been in gyms and specialty food stores in the U.S. since 2020. The milkshakes come in single-serve 330-milliliter plastic bottles with front labels boldly stating they are lactose free and contain no added sugars. Made with milk, milk protein concentrate and, of course, lactase, the beverages come in five flavors: Banana, Chocolate, Creamy Pair, Strawberry and Vanilla. One bottle contains 190 calories, 4.6 grams of fat, 13 grams of inherent sugar and 24 grams of protein. 

yfood is a German company that was founded in May 2017 and started with an online shop to sell its This is Food shelf-stable ready-to-drink meal replacements. In August 2018, the company made the leap into brick-and-mortar retail in the Munich area. About a year later, the company added powder mixes and bars to its lineup and in July 2020 expanded distribution to other European countries. 

The ready-to-drink line is a true meal replacement, boasting 26 vitamins and minerals and 100 calories per 100 milliliters. Depending upon nutritional needs, the drinks come in 330- and 500-milliliter plastic bottles. They are made with low-fat milk and milk protein from Germany and Austria, plus oats, corn, rice, sunflower and rapeseed oil. They were formulated to supply a balanced distribution of macronutrients (27% of the total energy comes from carbohydrates, 27% from proteins, 42% from fats and 3% from fibers). In short, everything your body needs and no-added sugars. The lactose gets broken down through the addition of lactase and helps naturally sweeten the beverage. Sucralose adds a little extra sweetness. Flavors are: Apple Cinnamon, Banana, Chocolate, Coconut, Cold Brew Coffee, Fresh Berry, Hazelnut, Salted Caramel and Vanilla.

Back in the States, Beckon has introduced Lactose-Free Ice Cream Snack Cups. The new 3.5-ounce single-serve cups are sold in packs of four, with each cup including a dome of mix-ins. The three varieties are: Dark Chocolate Brownie with Chocolate Cookie Gems, Mint Chip with Chocolate Creme Cookie Crumble, and Vanilla with Rainbow Sprinkles. One cup contains 150 to 210 calories, 9 to 12 grams of fat, 12 to 18 grams of fat and 2 to 3 grams of protein. 
Co-founded by female entrepreneurs Katy Flannery and Gwen Burlingame, Beckon has distinguished itself as an ice cream favorite for those who are lactose intolerant. Beckon’s unique process allows its ice cream to be made from traditional ice cream ingredients, including milk and cream, but without the lactose thanks to the addition of lactase enzyme. Beckon sources high-quality dairy from a co-op in the Northeast that is 100% farmer-owned and sweetens every flavor with non-GMO pure cane sugar.

Danone North America now offers Yogurt Licuado. The 7-ounce drinks come in four flavors inspired by traditional Mexican recipes. Three of them—Mango Coconut, Strawberry Cinnamon and Strawberry Banana Honey--include oat bran. The fourth—Banana—is made with the grain amaranth. Containing live and active cultures, each single-serve bottle provides 110 to 120 calories, 6 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber. Lactase is added to render the beverage lactose free. The beverage is positioned as an on-the-go snack. 

Good Culture, the B-corp-certified, clean-label cultured foods brand credited with revolutionizing cottage cheese for the modern age, continues to deliver disruptive innovation with the debut of Lactose-Free Cottage Cheese and Lactose-Free Sour Cream. The latter comes in a new squeezable pouch and a traditional tub. The new products are made with simple ingredients, including gut-friendly live and active cultures as well as pasture-raised milk sourced from small family farms in the Midwest. 

The Lactose Free Cottage Cheese boasts 14 grams of protein per serving and is made with just five simple ingredients: pasture-raised milk, cream, sea salt, live and active cultures and lactase enzyme. The 15-ounce tub sells for about $3.49. Good Culture’s Squeezable Lactose Free Sour Cream Pouch and Lactose Free Sour Cream Tub are simply lactose-free versions of the brand’s rich, simple, cultured sour cream currently in market today. It’s available in a 12-ounce pouch for a suggested retail price of $2.99 and a 15-ounce tub for $2.99. 

Campaign to Recycle Milk Jugs Debuts
The California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) just launched a public information campaign aimed at increasing awareness of the recyclability of milk jugs made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) or #2 plastic. The “Recycle the Jug” campaign is designed to drive sustainable behavior change across the state by addressing misconceptions to ensure plastic milk jugs make it into the recycling stream. 

A 2021 perceptions study conducted by a dairy industry coalition revealed that while 70% of California consumers said recyclability is important to them, nearly half (47%) found the milk jug difficult to recycle and 32% of those consumers reported they didn’t trust it will actually be recycled. 

“California consumers are dedicated to doing their part to recycle but many don’t understand that the HDPE used for plastic milk jugs is one of the most widely accepted plastics in recycling programs across the United States. It’s highly desirable by recyclers because of its value and ability to be turned into new materials,” says John Talbot, CEO of the CMAB. “We want to encourage consumers who buy milk in the jug to make sure that jug makes it to the recycling bin to help keep plastic out of landfills.”

Working closely with the dairy, retail and recycling industries, the Recycle the Jug campaign encourages consumers to take three simple steps to recycle their plastic milk jugs: Pour it. Cap it. Bin it. A new site launched in collaboration with the Milk Processor Education Board (MilkPEP) provides complete information on milk jug and other recycling. And, a new recycling icon with the website address will soon appear on milk jugs at retail stores across California as a reminder to consumers to recycle the jug in their local curbside recycling program. 

U.S. Dairy Industry Publishes Biennial Sustainability Report
The checkoff-founded Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy released its biennial 2020 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Report inclusive of progress made in 2019 and 2020 within environmental stewardship and broader social responsibility commitments to people, animals and communities.
The report provides a transparent accounting of the progress and impact that the dairy community has made against the U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment since its launch in 2018. Those dairy companies and processors that have voluntarily signed onto the Stewardship Commitment represent 75% of U.S. milk production and are dedicated to nourishing a growing global population with responsibly produced dairy foods and beverages.

Key highlights include:
  • More than 95% of resources from processors was recovered, redirected and put to beneficial use such as donated to feed hungry people, repurposed for industry purposes and to feed animals and sent to composts (vs. sent to landfill).
  • U.S. dairy provided 1.538 billion servings of nutritious milk, cheese and yogurt in 2020 to food banks in the Feeding America network, a 33% increase over 2019 and a 107% increase since 2016.
  • The dairy industry supported 3.3 million jobs in the U.S. and contributed $752.93B in total economic impact.
  • By making use of the water present in milk, U.S. dairy processors were net positive for water, returning more than they withdrew from municipal and other sources.
For information about the industry’s sustainability work and the dairy checkoff, link HERE

Thursday, September 30, 2021

More Dairies Include Dairy-Free Options.


Photo: General Mills grows its Oui by Yoplait brand with a seasonal Dairy Free Pumpkin Caramel offering. 

It’s been a week since Expo East and as I review my notes, photos and materials—as well as catch up on the couple hundred press releases I received this past week on new product rollouts (across all food and beverage)—a few things have become very apparent. Real dairy, real eggs and real meat are not going away. Alternative dairy, alternative eggs and alternative meat are not going away. What is going away, slowly but surely, are nutrient-void, overly processed, unsustainable and “yucky-tasting” products in both the real and alternative sector. 

When I say yucky, I am being kind. There were many yucky alternatives sampled at Expo East. I’m showing my age with this Valley Girl phrase, “gag me with a spoon,” but yes, I gagged and spit. But, there were also some very yummy alternatives. And here’s the interesting angle, they were from dairy companies. 

Sales across the natural and organic products industry increased this past year and there’s room for growth and innovation, for both the real deal and plant-based alternatives. To read more about innovations showcased at Expo East, link HERE to read “Expo East: The real deal vs. plant alternatives,” a column I wrote for Food Business News.

If you missed last week’s blog titled “Natural Products Expo East: Dairy is doubling down in the natural and organic segment. Read about the opportunities,” link HERE. One of those opportunities is plant-based products. 

Congrats to my friends at Lifeway Foods Inc., with the rollout of Lifeway Oat. This certified vegan perishable beverage offers consumers probiotic benefits to help support a healthy gut and immunity. Each Lifeway Oat product is organic, gluten-free, made with 100% whole grain oats and contains heart-healthy beta-glucans plus 10 live and active probiotic cultures to help promote a balanced and diverse microbiome. The Lifeway Oat line comes in Apple Cinnamon, Berries and Cream, Blueberry Maple, Peaches and Cream, Plain, Strawberry Vanilla and Vanilla flavors. 

“Lifeway has always shown category leadership, so I’m excited to bring our probiotic cultured oat drinkables to the market and reach new consumers who are thirsty for plant-based nutrition,” says Lifeway Foods’ CEO Julie Smolyansky. “By introducing a probiotic drink with an oat base, we’ve created a great-tasting wellness drink that combines some of the hottest industry trends that are anticipated to have strong growth over the coming years. We expect to see our new Lifeway Oat line become a staple on retailers’ shelves and in consumers’ refrigerators across the country.”

Sales of oat milk in the U.S. are up almost 1,200% in the past two years, according to Nielsen. Furthermore, market research from Reports and Data projects that the global probiotic drinks market will reach $23.9 billion by 2028. 

Another dairy at Expo East showcasing vegan options was Valio USA. New Oddlygood Oat Yogurt comes in 5.3-ounce cups in Blueberry, Plain, Raspberry and Vanilla flavors. Each yogurt has 3 grams of protein per serving and contains live and active cultures. Calories range from 110 to 120 per container. The yogurt is made from an oat blend of water, gluten-free oat flour, cane sugar and pea protein. It’s enriched with vitamins B12 and D and calcium. 

The yogurts garnered top scores for flavor, texture and aroma versus leading U.S. oat milk yogurt brands in a March 2021 consumer taste test conducted in Northern California by Curion, a consumer products testing firm, according to Valio. The Finish dairy also markets Oddlygood Original Oat Drink, Barista Edition for coffee, cooking ingredients and sliced and shredded mozzarella, cheddar, gouda and smoked gouda plant-based cheeses. 

Erring on the side of caution during the pandemic, Pillars Yogurt opted not to exhibit at Expo East, but still used this time to join the burgeoning plant-based yogurt category with the launch of Pillars Plant Organic Coconut Probiotic Yogurt. Pillars founder, Eric Bonin, spent three years developing the product, which started rolling out a month ago. 

“The majority of plant-based yogurts that have come to market over the last few years have tasted awful and lack the nutritional value and functionality of dairy yogurt. This is partly why the category hasn’t taken off quite like other plant-based segments, such as plant milks,” says Bonin. “Pillars Plant solves all this. It tastes like dessert and delivers the nutritional value people want, need and now expect from their food.

“Much like how our original product line of Drinkable Greek Yogurts disrupted the drinkable segment as the first full drinkable yogurt line on the market without added sugar, we saw a similar opportunity in plant-based yogurt to create a product that better meets the needs of a wellness lifestyle: lower sugar, higher protein, functional fats and our unique blend of pre- and probiotics, which help support gut health. We’re expanding our product mission of being the category leader in removing unnecessary sugar, this time, in the plant-based yogurt game. Pillars Plant has dramatically less sugar than what’s on the market now but tastes incredible and has this super thick creamy texture that’s out of this world. We nailed this innovation.”

Pillars Plant comes in 16-ounce multi-serve containers in Mixed Berry, Strawberry Banana and Vanilla flavors. A 5.3-ounce serving contains 180 calories, 14 grams of fat, 8 grams of plant-based protein, 3 grams of prebiotic fiber, 1 gram of total sugar and 30 to 60 billion live and active probiotic cultures including the scientifically validated BB12 strain. The base is an organic cultured coconut blend fortified with organic pea protein. Cassava root and fructan fiber function as prebiotics and contribute to a smooth, creamy texture. Organic stevia adds sweetness without calories. Pillars Plant is USDA certified organic, vegan, keto, non-GMO, OU Kosher, gluten-free and features a fully recyclable, BPA-free and phthalate-free cup.

“We really leaned into sourcing and sustainability. The ingredients in Pillars Plant are sourced from suppliers who follow regenerative agriculture practices and the cups and lids are 100% recyclable,” says Bonin. “Our tagline, ‘Naturally simple, Naturally good’ has been our core ethos since day one and applies more than ever with this new product line.”

Danone North America did not exhibit at Expo East either. The company, however, just announced that it will be rolling out two new concepts--Silk nextmilk (beverage) and So Delicious Wondermilk (frozen)--in January 2022. The products are designed to help close the gap between traditional dairy and plant-based consumers.

Danone’s formulators deconstructed dairy attributes and sensory experience, including mouthfeel, and then recreated them by blending a mix of familiar, high-quality plant-based ingredients. The result is a what the company says will be a new plant-based “dairy-like” segment. 

Speaking of dairy like, animal-free dairy continues to grow. Modern Kitchen, a new brand from The Urgent Company, is rolling out animal-free cream cheese in three chef-inspired flavors: Harissa Pepper, Spring Onion + Chive, and Strawberry. (Look for more details next week when this product line is featured as a Daily Dose of Dairy.) The launch of Modern Kitchen marks the first cream cheese made with Perfect Day animal-free milk protein. The company’s first Perfect Day product, Brave Robot ice cream, debuted in 2020.

“By applying science and technology, we’re able to make better versions of the same dairy products consumers love,” says Paul Kollesoff, co-founder and general manager at The Urgent Company. 

And, yes, consumers love dairy. Direct from the nation’s capital: U.S. Dairy Consumption Beats Expectations in 2020 and Continues to Surge Upward Despite Disruption Caused by Pandemic

The USDA just released its annual per-capita dairy consumption and the story, despite major shocks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, remains America’s growing love for dairy products of all shapes and sizes. The information from USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) adds 2020 data to an accounting of per-capita dairy consumption dating back to 1975 when the average American consumed just 539 pounds of dairy foods per year. Last year, the average American consumed 655 pounds of dairy in milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, butter, and other wholesome and nutritious dairy foods, demonstrating a resilient and growing love for all things dairy. The 2020 figure represents an increase of 3 pounds per person over the previous year. 

“What 2020 shows us is that Americans are choosing to include dairy in all parts of their day because it’s delicious, nutritious and fits almost any occasion,” says Michael Dykes, president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association. “Despite challenges posed by the pandemic to all parts of the supply chain in 2020—including the near-overnight loss of the foodservice sector—per-capita dairy consumption continued to surge upward thanks to growth in ice cream, butter and yogurt. Last year’s consumption figures are nearly 70 percentage points above the annual average, showing America’s growing appreciation for their favorite dairy products.”

Ice cream continued to rebound and grew by 6% year-over-year in 2020. Meanwhile, yogurt consumption jumped 3% and butter notched a 2% increase. Milk and cheese remained resilient throughout 2020 despite the closure of restaurants, cafes, schools and other institutions that drive demand. Overall, ERS data show American dairy consumption continuing its growth trajectory. Since USDA began tracking dairy consumption in 1975, per capita consumption has grown 22%. 

“How we consume our dairy is different than a generation ago,” says Dykes. “Americans eat more dairy than we drink and we include dairy in all meals and occasions as well as for fitness and recovery, to live a healthy life and to celebrate those special moments. With a greater focus on producing sustainable foods, dairy will continue to grow as a category well into the future.”  

Remember, real dairy, real eggs and real meat are not going away. Alternative dairy, alternative eggs and alternative meat are not going away. Winners will deliver on nutrient density, minimal processing, sustainability and deliciousness.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Natural Products Expo East: Dairy is doubling down in the natural and organic segment. Read about the opportunities.

About photo: The new Trickling Springs Creamery is rolling out South Mountain Creamery Old-Fashioned Custard. The beverage is made with milk and cream from grass-fed cows and has a clean ingredient label that includes eggs, whey and nonfat dry milk.  

Live from Natural Products Expo East in Philadelphia…The vibe is amazing at this in-person, mandatory mask (being enforced) and proof-of-vaccination or negative-COVID-test result exposition. The event kicked off with a keynote presentation on “The State of Natural & Organic,” with the theme of “increasing sales mean the natural and organic industry can have a bigger effect on reducing poverty, promoting equality and protecting the planet.” It’s the kind of messaging that makes one proud to be involved in the better-for-you food and beverage industry. And dairy is doubling down in this space! 

Sales across the natural and organic products industry increased significantly this past year and there’s tons of room for growth and innovation. During the keynote address, which is available for viewing by linking HERE, the speakers highlighted the industry’s accomplishments, weaknesses and possibilities. (Thanks to my friends at Chicago-based SRW Agency for sponsoring the keynote.)

Nutrition Business Journal predicts that sales will continue to grow from 2020’s $259 billion valuation to $423 billion in 2030. Dairy processors cannot afford to ignore the opportunities. 

Sales of natural and organic foods grew three times faster than sales of conventional foods, according to SPINS. The segment continues to thrive with many consumers trading up for health and wellness by purchasing natural and organic rather than conventional. A growing awareness of sustainability and social responsibility is also fueling growth.

“People tried new brands [during the pandemic] and stuck with them, especially in the food and beverage categories,” said Carlotta Mast, senior vice president of New Hope Network, during the keynote. 

Natural and wellness continue to lead growth across the store, according to SPINS. Conscious consumers are placing a premium on ensuring their health and well-being and increasingly looking towards social responsibility and sustainability. Opportunities exist for farmers to adopt more sustainable and regenerative practices and for ingredient suppliers and food and beverage manufacturers to work closely with them in communicating these efforts.  

“While we know there are definitely headwinds with plant and lab-grown proteins, we all have a responsibility to get behind telling the powerful story of dairy proteins,” said Daragh Maccabee, chief executive officer of Idaho Milk Products, during a session on value-added proteins at the joint annual conference of the American Dairy Products Institute and the American Butter Institute, which took place virtually in August. 

Those efforts were in full force at Expo East, where more than a dozen dairy companies took on the dozen or so alternative brands by emphasizing sustainable practices, social responsibility, nutrient density, and yes, deliciousness.  

You can read more about dairy proteins HERE in an article I wrote for Food Business News titled “Dairy protein fueling functional food innovation.”

The Expo East keynote speakers emphasized that shoppers are making more holistic choices by seeking out maintainable diets featuring whole, minimally processed foods to construct a strategy that works for their health goals. This demand is driving nutrition-focused innovation. (This is dairy!)

McCoy said that the world’s most pressing problems revolve around the Earth and its people. That’s why it should be no surprise that plant-based products continue accelerated growth. While consumers initially sought plant-based foods for their health benefit, the positive impacts to the environment are undeniable, he said.

Data also shows that consumers are motivated to shop their values. Dairy foods can deliver on these values. We just need to communicate them better. 

And like I said, the dairy foods exhibitors (as well as meat marketers) that attended Expo East are doing this. In fact, SPINS data shows that meat and dairy brands are more aggressively address increasing demand for improved practices. (See chart.)

I highly encourage you to listen to the entire keynote HERE. And a shout out to all the exhibitors, buyers and attendees that made their way to Philadelphia for Expo East. This is such an important place for dairy to be and I am fully confident that many more dairy processors will embrace the natural and organic space. It’s the future.  

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Dairy-free Ice Cream: Opportunity or Threat? It’s All About the Story.


Source: Cascade Glacier

Heading to Expo East this week? I am. Typically the smaller—and much more manageable—of the two Natural Products Expos in the U.S., this one will be unlike any other, as entrepreneurs are anxious to show off their innovations. Last year’s in-person Expo East, as well in-person Expo West 2020 and 2021, were all cancelled because of the pandemic. Without a doubt, plant-based and keto are sure to be dominant themes, but so will regenerative agriculture and sustainability. I expect to hear lots of “stories” and brands banking on buyers to listen and respond with a purchase order. 

Folks, less than five years ago--with high-protein ice cream—you learned that just because a concept is doing well in the freezer does not mean every brand needs to play in this space. When it comes to dairy-free ice cream, there are some very good chocolates and vanillas in the retail marketplace. That’s enough!

 It’s not the same story in foodservice. Eugene, Oregon-based Cascade Glacier recognized this opportunity and is making it easier for foodservice operators to offer plant-based and allergen-friendly options that will satisfy a variety of ice cream consumers. Available in both Classic Chocolate and Vanilla, Cascade Glacier Dairy Free comes in three-gallon tubs for foodservice. The neutral base is intentionally crafted to blend seamlessly with the decadent flavors, eliminating any aftertaste such as coconut or almond that is common in other non-dairy alternatives. This formulation makes the product more versatile, allowing retailers to serve dairy-free versions of everything from scoops and sundaes to smoothies and milkshakes.

My friends at McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams are also embracing the concept of a very neutral base in its new Dairy-Free Frozen Desserts. Like all the company’s offerings, the new line is made from scratch at McConnell’s Family Dairy, using a proprietary and innovative base of oat milk, cocoa butter and coconut oil to approximate the indulgent, unique and creamy mouthfeel of McConnell’s ice creams without the coconut, oat or nutty aftertaste or smell customers so often find in dairy-free offerings. And like McConnell’s other products, there are no artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners. 

The oat base has a neutral taste, which gives McConnell’s the flexibility to incorporate other ingredients and flavors without overpowering them. All flavors are allergen free, kosher and non-GMO and are described as being delicious for customers and good for the planet. 

McConnell’s Dairy-Free Frozen Desserts come in six flavors. They are: Chocolate Fudge & Cookies, Coffee Cookie Crumble, Cookies & Cream, Passion Fruit Lemon Swirl, Salted Caramel Chocolate Swirl, and Vanilla Bean, with more to come. Flavors have been gradually rolling out across McConnell’s scoop shops starting with Peanut Butter Chocolate Crunch, Cookies & Cream and Passionfruit Lemon Swirl. 

That’s because the plant-based consumer is craving flavor innovation. Many favorite ice cream flavors—like mine, Pralines and Cream—cannot be applied to vegan frozen desserts. The key for this category is to explore eye-catching flavors—that taste delish—and include a story about them. They don’t have to be a threat to dairy ice cream. They present an opportunity. 

I’m a huge fan of KIND bars, not because they are plant-based, but because they are delicious and the company has a great story. It’s a brand I feel good about purchasing and eating. I’m a huge fan of their frozen products for the same reasons. The novelty bars are amazing, and the pints give new meaning to the phrase “permission to indulge.” As much as KIND FROZEN products are dairy-free ice cream, they also are healthy snacks. 

“At KIND, we’re always striving to challenge conventional wisdom and eliminate false compromises,” says Daniel Lubetzky, KIND Founder. “We tried to think differently about what we would want in a frozen treat. We discovered what was missing was an offering that tasted delicious, and delivered premium, plant-based ingredients that we can feel good about putting in our body.”

“While we’re best-known for nutrition bars most often consumed on-the go, we’re continuing to prioritize innovation that cuts across categories and day-parts. As we look to close the taste gap in health-focused aisles and the health gap in taste-focused aisles, we will stay true to how we’ve always created new products with an eye to elevate people’s overall experience, while adhering to our KIND Promise.”

KIND’s Frozen Pints come in seven flavors. They are: Dark Chocolate Almond Sea Salt, Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter, Cherry Cashew, Coffee Hazelnut, Caramel Almond Sea Salt, Pistachio and Strawberry. 

Bubbies, a leading mochi brand, now offers three non-dairy options in six-pack retail boxes: Vegan Strawberry Mochi, Vegan Chocolate Mochi, and a newly created flavor, Vegan Mango Mochi. They are made with a base of coconut milk and wrapped in sweet mochi dough.  

“We’ve seen a huge surge in demand from consumers seeking comforting indulgences over the past year, so it’s natural that ice cream would be one of the first foods they turned to,” says Katie Cline, vice president of marketing at Bubbies Ice Cream. “Not only are shoppers looking for ice cream as a comfort food, but also as a unique experience, from texture to flavor discovery and natural ingredients. We want to make our beloved mochi ice cream accessible to as many people as possible, so we’re thrilled to be launching our new Vegan Mochi Ice Cream. For us, it’s extremely meaningful as this opens up new opportunities to provide value to consumers and deliver small moments of joy.”

Wildgood takes a Mediterranean diet approach to its non-dairy frozen dessert. It’s made with extra virgin olive oil for a rich, smooth and heart-healthy indulgence. Varieties are: Chocolate, Coffee, Chocolate Hazelnut, Mango, Mint Chocolate Chip, Pistachio, Sea Salt Caramel and Vanilla. 
Sacred Gelato is one of the most recent start-ups to enter this space. This new gelato brand gets its creamy texture from a base of coconut meat that is sourced directly from Thailand. It includes adaptogenic herbs and medicinal mushrooms for a health and wellness story. The brand is making its debut in five flavors. They are: Chaga Chocolate, Coconut Salted Caramel, Matcha Mint, Saffron Chai Spice and Tigernut Cookies N Cream. 

SweetPea is exhibiting at Expo East and I cannot wait to sample. The brand relies on chickpeas to make its base mix and touts the nutrient density of the legume. The line is making its debut in nine varieties. They are: 3 Parts Chocolate, Cookies ‘N Cream, Cookie Dough, Mango Tango Peach, Must Do Cold Brew, Peanut Butter Bomb, T.G.I. PieDay Raspberry, Vanilla Bean, and, wait for it, Salted Caramel Praline. Hmm…has my beloved Pralines and Cream met its match?