Friday, June 26, 2020

Summer Inspiration Series: Formulating and Marketing for the New Norm School Lunch Rooms and University Dining Halls

Photo source: General Mills/Yoplait

The “Summer Inspiration Series” of Friday blogs is all about stepping out of our comfort zone in terms of innovation. Why not? We’re already operating in an unprecedented manner. Some blogs may explore new concepts in “other” food and beverage categories and discuss how they may apply to dairy, others may focus on new consumer behaviors and brainstorm on how dairy foods processors may respond in coming months. 

Institutional foodservice is getting revamped. For some elementary schools not much will change, as many are supplied with packaged meals from contracted vendors. The story is different for most middle schools and high schools where larger appetites and diet-conscious students pick and choose from an array of featured and ala carte items.

For university dining halls, there will no longer be a taco bar, make a sandwich or create your own pasta. Pre-packaged foods will dominate, with minimal onsite assembly of hot entrees. Schools that had at all-you-can eat meal plan will likely switch to a mini-mart format for carryout consumption.

These institutions need assistance from food and beverage manufacturers, who in turn need their packaging suppliers to provide solutions. Now’s the time to get busy, as many universities have moved up their open date, with campuses opening up in less than 60 days. This is a huge opportunity for packaged goods companies.

The dairy industry does a great job of offering individually wrapped single-serve products. Now’s the time, however, to start thinking of different portion sizes, alternative packages and targeted marketing. Further, production of these products will need to increase.

Think single-serve cottage cheese cups, which have been gaining traction in retail. These now have a place in dining halls. The same for parfaits, dessert cups and overnight oats. Condiments will be portion packs. Think dressings, dips and cheese sauce for chips and fries. Some of these products may require tweaked formulas to better handle the rigor of distribution and handling.

Fountain drinks and milk dispensers will be replaced with packaged beverages. Might the paperboard milk carton become fashionable again? These young adults needs pints of white for breakfast and lower-sugar, fun flavors with their meals. Cartons can be adorned with school colors and trivia. Feature athletes and award winners. Cartons provide an economical canvas to communicate with students.

This may be the first freshman university class to not feel the threat of gaining the freshman 10, as there will be better portion control and readily available nutrition information. Dairy processors must market smart products. Keep sugar content low and protein high. Educate students about protein quality. Keep labels clean and simple because students will be reading them. This is an opportunity to provide young adults with dairy facts and make them customers for life.
Photo source: University of Wisconsin-Madison, Babcock Hall

USDA Announces Flexibilities in School Lunch Programs

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced on June 25, 2020, a range of nationwide flexibilities to ensure America’s children receive the nutritious food they need throughout the upcoming school year. These waivers give states, schools and childcare providers time to plan for how they will serve children in the fall, including allowing for new and innovative feeding options as the nation recovers from the coronavirus.  

“As the country re-opens and schools prepare for the fall, a one-size-fits-all approach to meal service simply won’t cut it,” says Perdue. “The flexibilities announced today give states, schools, and child care providers the certainty they need to operate the USDA child nutrition programs in ways that make sense given their local, on-the-ground situations and ensure America’s children can count on meal service throughout the school year.”

As fall nears, schools are considering many different learning models. This announcement empowers them to operate the School Breakfast Program (SBP) and National School Lunch Program (NSLP) to best serve their students throughout the 2020-2021 school year. It also allows providers in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) to tailor operations to serve the children in their care. USDA is providing flexibilities around meal patterns, group-setting requirements, meal service times and parent/guardian pick-up of meals for kids across all three programs to address anticipated changes for the coming school year. 

USDA is also announcing a new flexibility that waives the requirement for high schools to provide students the option to select some of the foods offered in a meal. While this practice, known as “offer versus serve” is encouraged, social distancing or meals-in-the-classroom models would make this regulatory requirement difficult. Collectively, these waivers reduce barriers to meal service options that support a transition back to normal operations while simultaneously responding to evolving local conditions.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Summer Inspiration Series: Formulating for Empowerment

The “Summer Inspiration Series” of Friday blogs is all about stepping out of our comfort zone in terms of innovation. Why not? We’re already operating in an unprecedented manner. Some blogs may explore new concepts in “other” food and beverage categories and discuss how they may apply to dairy, others may focus on new consumer behaviors and brainstorm on how dairy foods processors may respond in coming months. 

There’s been a lot of self-help, professional help and reflection in my life this past month. I believe it’s important to share, so others know they are not alone. I learned about three weeks ago that I am grieving loss of control of planning the future and loss of relationships (at trade shows and conferences). I would do anything for a long TSA line at O’Hare and a crowded Natural Products exposition where I get bumped every few minutes. (It was very disappointing to learn that the East installment, which was scheduled for late September in Philadelphia, got cancelled this week.)

Most people are grieving loss of some type of control, even though many are not aware. This loss of control fuels the desire to control what can be controlled. And that my friends, is diet. It’s the “what we eat, when we eat and where we eat.” Right now, we still have that power. Savvy marketers will formulate and position foods and beverages to empower consumers to choose their product.

“To combat current feelings of powerlessness, consumers are focusing on things they can control,” says Laurie Demerrit, chief executive officer, The Hartman Group, Bellevue, Wash. “Consumers are not opting out of consumption but are acting more intentionally and seeking out ways to feel empowered in their purchasing behavior.

“The importance of personal empowerment is buoyed by new emphasis on the connectivity of communities in myriad ways, including concern about protecting essential workers, caring for vulnerable populations and supporting local businesses,” she says. “How the ‘me’ directly affects the ‘we’ is a concept consumers won’t quickly forget. However, consumers will increasingly demand visible action—not just lip service—around connecting and caring for communities.

“We are seeing consumers employ distinct strategies to balance their desire for fresh and the need for long-lasting, such as buying fresh and organic in specific categories and seeking quality cues that speak to fresh and less processed when purchasing frozen and shelf-stable formats. And while many companies are questioning whether they placed the right bet by focusing on issues related to sustainability, there is evidence that conscious consumption is actually up during this time.”

Photo source: California Milk Advisory Board

Here’s a great headline in the summer issue of Natural Products Insider: “Sustainable Sourcing: Not ‘Selfies with Farmers.’” The article’s author, Blake Ebersole, president, NaturPro Scientific, writes, “Sustainability means different things to different people, but there’s one thing it definitely is not: a photo-op. In evaluating and improving supply sustainability, real benefits come from real investment.” 

He also wrote: “Regenerative farming practices have arrived at the front of the sustainability discussion.”

Consumers are in control of how they spend their money. Empower them to invest in your sustainability story, not just your happy cows on a happy family farm.

“Consumers are not opting out of consumption but are acting more intentionally and seeking out ways to feel empowered in their purchasing behavior,” says Demerrit.

There’s a renewed focus on the role of individual action and conscientious, making it perfect timing for General Mills, the maker of Yoplait, Liberté and Mountain High yogurt products, to start a three-year regenerative dairy pilot in western Michigan, a key sourcing region for its fluid milk supply. General Mills has partnered with consultants Understanding Ag and dairy cooperative Foremost Farms to pilot regenerative practices and provide support to participating dairy farmers. 

Implementing regenerative practices on dairy farms requires a holistic approach to managing land, cows and manure. This is the third regenerative agriculture pilot that the company has launched--and the first for its dairy ingredient supply--since making a commitment in 2019 to advance regenerative agriculture practices on one million acres of farmland by 2030. 

“As an industry, dairy farms have been especially hard hit in recent months and their resiliency is being tested. We believe regenerative agriculture builds and strengthens farmer resilience so they can better withstand pressures, be it societal, financial or environmental,” says Doug Martin, president of the General Mills U.S. yogurt business. “Consumers increasingly want to support brands and companies they trust are acting as environmental stewards. This pilot with Yoplait is a great example of the role our brands can play in unleashing the scale of our supply chain--supporting farmers, promoting animal welfare, and improving the health of the planet, all while delivering a great-tasting product.” 
Photo source: California Milk Advisory Board

The three dairy farms in the pilot, which collectively manage more than 14,000 acres, were chosen for their proximity to General Mills’ dairy manufacturing facility in Reed City, Mich., which produces a variety of Yoplait products. As the pilot begins, Understanding Ag consultants will meet with each dairy farmer to co-develop and implement custom regenerative management plans for a portion of their operation. Throughout the pilot, partners will monitor data and measure impacts to soil, biodiversity, water, animal well-being and farm profitability. 

This effort is something consumers want to support. On a more personal level, consumers are taking control of their health. Products need to speak to their needs. These needs must be communicated to the shopper so they feel empowered to choose your product. 

In the past few weeks, upon carefully analyzing recent new product entries and supportive promotion efforts, there appears to be four product themes emerging as marketing call outs to shoppers during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Calm/Soothe/Refresh. That’s what you find in new Dunkin’ Refreshers iced beverages. The rollout came with this messaging: After a long and challenging spring, people are looking for much-needed moments of mental and physical refresh. Dunkin’ has prepared the perfect way to give its guests that new glow and a boost of brightness, energy and excitement.

“Dunkin’ has been there to keep our guests running during these difficult months. Now, with the start of summer, it’s the perfect time for something fresh and exciting to energize and enliven people again,” says Jill Nelson, vice president, marketing strategy at Dunkin’, Canton, Mass. “With a combination of iced green tea, B vitamins and bright bursts of flavor, Dunkin’ Refreshers stand apart as the perfect, new choice to help anyone get their glow back.”

Strength/Power. Chobani demonstrates this theme with its new Chobani Complete. Described as “Advanced Nutrition Yogurt” on front labels, the product also boasts upfront that it delivers “20 amino acids” and is “complete protein.” (All dairy yogurt contains this, but it’s the first time, to my knowledge, being called out). Labels also state that the yogurt is lactose free, easy to digest, made with only real fruit, has no added sugars, contains soluble fiber and is prebiotic and probiotic. Key ingredients are: chicory root fiber, lactase, monk fruit extract, stevia and an impressive cocktail of lactic acid cultures.

Protect/Immunity. Danone North America is debuting Super Danimals, a low-fat yogurt created to help support the immune system of kids. While the product was under development for more than a year, its timing is impeccable. The company conducted extensive research, which revealed a priority for parents is to find products that can support children’s immune systems, and this was discovered before COVID-19. 

Super Danimals features probiotics and vitamins C and D, all of which are associated with boosting immunity. It’s also free of artificial preservative ingredients and contains no colors or flavors from artificial sources. One 4-ounce cup contains 80 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 4 grams of protein and 9 grams of sugar (4 grams are added).

“Based on our research, we know children’s health is always on parents’ minds, and families are exploring new ways to help support their children’s immune systems with the snacks they buy,” says Kristie Leigh, senior manager of scientific affairs at Danone. “By regularly adding Super Danimals to a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle, parents can feel good about helping support their children’s immune systems with a tasty snack their kids love.”

Revive/Energy. All three of Trimona’s new organic whole milk Superfood Yogurts complement the four themes of “formulations that empower” consumers. Revive (Turmeric + Ginger) contains maca, lucuma, mesquite, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and black pepper, and is described as a blend to revive your creativity and your spirit. The other two are: Protect (Acai + Beets), with acai, maca root, aronia, beetroot and lucuma, a blend to protect your body and your soul, and Refresh (Matcha + Maca), with matcha tea, maca, lucuma, spirulina and chlorella, a blend to refresh your memory and your day.

Each Trimona Superfood Yogurt cup contains billions of probiotic cultures and no added sugar. A 5-ounce cup contains 110 calories, 6 to 7 grams of fat, 5 grams of protein and 5 grams of inherent sugar. The yogurt is sweetened with monkfruit. 

“We have been working on these products for almost two years and are delighted with the result. Our products combine the healthy benefits of our non-strained, grass-fed organic yogurt and superfoods,” says Atanas Valev, founder. “We’d like to think of our new line as Yogurt 2.0. It is arguably the healthiest yogurt snack in the market. It is a truly innovative line of products that will bring incremental sales to the yogurt isle.”

These are all products with purpose. They empower consumers to mindfully eat, giving shoppers the ability to control what they use to fuel the body.  

Demerrit concludes, “Personal resilience—already gaining footing in health and wellness trends of proactive, holistic medicine and mindfulness—will have enhanced traction as consumers manage the effects of the pandemic on themselves and their communities and face fears about future crises. Specifically, holistic immunity and thrifting behaviors will expand to support physical and economic resilience while calls for systemic change address community resilience.”

Get Educated on Crisis Management.
There is one way to test out your crisis management program and that’s a global pandemic. Crisis management is a critical organizational function. It can be divided into three phases: 1) Pre-crisis; 2) Crisis response and 3) Post-crisis, according to Jane Dummer, consultant to the food industry.
Read more HERE and listen to her short podcast on the topic by linking HERE

Need Help Formulating High-Protein Dairy Foods? 
Thank you to today’s blog sponsor, Idaho Milk Products, which will be offering virtual tours of its Milk Innovation Center that includes a state-of-the-art processing area, an instrumental lab and a multi-purpose room for product evaluations and conferencing. The virtual tours will primarily focus on the process formulations for ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages, protein bars and ice cream. This addition provides customers the ability to work directly with the Idaho Milk Products research and innovation team to build custom applications and work on new product developments based on their individual needs.

“Idaho Milk Products’ fresh, highly functional milk ingredients are tailored to meet the desire to increase the protein load in RTD beverages, yogurts, RTMs (Ready-to-Mix), weight management, and sports and adult nutrition products,” says Dr. Chenchaiah Marella, vice president of research and product development. “With state-of-the-art equipment in our Milk Innovation Center, we assure our customers are receiving expert help in formulating their products with quality ingredients in a timely manner and with confidence.” For more information, link HERE

Federal Dietary Committee Recommends 3 Servings of Dairy Per Day, Puts Dairy in Healthy Foods Category with Fruits, Veggies, Legumes, Whole Grains

The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) released the following statement on June 17, 2020:

“Today, members of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) confirmed dairy products should maintain a central, important role in federal nutrition recommendations for people beginning at a very early age. In addition to maintaining three servings of dairy per day, the committee found strong evidence pointing to positive health outcomes from dairy foods. In fact, a diet including low-fat and fat-free dairy, legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables is considered the ideal, healthy dietary pattern for all ages.

“In other key findings from their draft scientific report presented today, the DGAC highlighted new evidence strengthening dairy’s role in maintaining bone health for adults. For mothers, the committee dispelled misinformation about dairy’s link to asthma, saying there is no association between a mother’s consumption of dairy and the development of asthma in children. And a new topic introduced in these Dietary Guidelines lays the groundwork for clearer nutrition recommendations for children from birth through 24 months of age, with the experts recommending small amounts of some foods including dairy foods, alongside fruits and vegetables, nut and seed products, and whole grain products, beginning at 6-12 months and continuing thereafter. For toddlers, dairy foods are particularly important for the vitamins and nutrients they provide. This recommendation could not be clearer, demonstrating what the American Academy of Pediatrics has stressed for years, that dairy plays a critical role in the diet of children to bolster long-term health.

“Once again, the committee found no linkage between consumption of dairy foods and incidences of breast cancer, which should put an end to a longstanding disinformation campaign to alarm and confuse the public.

“IDFA is disappointed that the reported outcomes today did not include a mention of relevant scientific studies which show the benefits of dairy at each fat level. There is robust evidence to support the inclusion of dairy foods at all fat levels in recommended food patterns. With the DGAC’s role coming to an end, IDFA encourages USDA and HHS to remedy this oversight in the final guidelines to be released this year.

“The conclusions offered today by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee firmly establish dairy as one of the most nutritionally beneficial foods in dietary patterns alongside fruits and vegetables, legumes and whole grains. IDFA is pleased to see federal nutrition guidance continue to affirm the important nutritional contributions made by dairy foods and remind Americans that a healthy diet includes three daily servings of dairy.”

Friday, June 12, 2020

Summer Inspiration Series: Formulating for the Class of 2020

Photo source: Krispy Kreme

The “Summer Inspiration Series” of Friday blogs is all about stepping out of our comfort zone in terms of innovation. Why not? We’re already operating in an unprecedented manner. Some blogs may explore new concepts in “other” food and beverage categories and discuss how they may apply to dairy, others may focus on new consumer behaviors and brainstorm on how dairy foods processors may respond in coming months.

Congratulations to the Class of 2020…the new norm generation. Their lives have been turned completely upside down and are forever changed. They are the customer to focus on.

My heart goes out to all parents who have been celebrating graduations through video streams and drive-by commencement ceremonies. That’s on my family’s plan this weekend when my youngest graduates from high school. Congratulations!

In the past few months during quarantine, curfew and boredom, these young adults had to grow up quickly. Their eating habits have changed. Marketers of all types of products have taken note and are adjusting their offerings and their business to better appeal to this demographic.

It’s no longer Millennials and Gen Z. They are the 2020ers.

Over the next few years while we entertain a recession, their discretionary spending money will be used carefully. It’s time to revisit your business’ learnings from the last recession and adjust accordingly. But, take note, as a society we have changed tremendously over the past decade in terms of our eating habits.

This week the International Food Information Council (IFIC) published its 2020 Food & Health Survey, which was conducted between April 8 and April 16, about one month into the COVID-19 mayhem. The survey showed that 85% of Americans have made at least some change in the foods they eat or how they prepare food.

Among the 85% who have made any change, 60% of Americans report cooking at home more. Respondents also said they are snacking more (32%) and thinking about food more than usual (27%). Consumers under age 35 are most likely to have made changes, both in terms of healthier and less healthy choices. These changes will likely continue as we move forward.

Hindsight is 2020 (as compared to 2010)
Taste and price remain the top factors for purchase decisions, and while there has been movement year to year in the degree to which purchase drivers impact consumers, the comparison of 2010 results to 2020 shows almost no change. Yet, Americans have a different view of themselves and their own evolving purchasing decisions: 54% of all consumers, and 63% of those over age 50 care more about the healthfulness of their choices than they did in 2010.

According to consumers reflecting on their own habits over the past year, 28% are eating more protein from plant sources, 24% are eating more plant-based dairy and 17% are eating more plant-based meat alternatives. Those following a specific diet or eating pattern are huge drivers of these numbers: 41% of dieters say they increased consumption of protein from plant sources (vs. 18% of those not following a diet) and 28% say they eat more plant-based meat alternatives (vs. just 9%).

MORE THAN 50% VIEW DAIRY AS HEALTHY! Also, the number of consumers who view animal protein as healthful has increased. These are important figures to act on. It is paramount that the industry sell the healthfulness of dairy foods.

Fewer Americans are avoiding sugars this year, although it is still a very common practice: 74% are trying to avoid or limit sugars, compared to 80% in 2019. The top ways they are doing so is by drinking water instead of caloric beverages (60%) and limiting consumption of certain foods and beverages (42%). The most popular reasons people avoid sugars include not wanting extra calories (46%), believing that sugar is unhealthy (42%) and thinking it helps them lose or maintain weight (40%).

A “natural” label is most influential both when shopping and when purchasing food prepared outside the home. The Class of 2020 is likely reading more about food and making purchase decisions on product claims.

In my opinion, this is one of the most interesting findings from this year’s survey: Consumers perceive health differences in products even if they have the same Nutrition Facts Panel. Telling them the product is “all natural” does matter. Short ingredient lists, no artificial ingredients and use of familiar, traditional manufacturing technologies are all associated with perceived healthfulness of foods.

The 2020 Food & Health Survey provided an opportunity to examine some of the more significant trends in food attitudes and behaviors since 2010. The factors with the most influence on food-purchasing decisions, tracked by the survey, have remained relatively stable over the past decade, with taste consistently dominating the list, followed by price, healthfulness, convenience and sustainability (specified as “environmental sustainability” since last year).

Nearly 6 in 10 consumers say it is important that the food products they purchase or consume are produced in an environmentally sustainable way (similar to the 54% who said the same in 2019). Four out of 10 (43%) consumers also say it is important that a food manufacturer “has a commitment” to sustainability and 40% say the same about knowing food was produced using farming technologies that seek to reduce the impact on natural resources.

America’s Dairy Farmers Celebrate 2020 Graduates
In case you missed what the U.S. dairy industry did to celebrate the Class of 2020, a few weeks ago on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Fallon announced a pizza giveaway funded by America’s dairy farmers and executed by Pizza Hut. Together, they gave away half a million pizzas to graduates and their families. We enjoyed ours! Thank you.

“Our brand has a long history of celebrating moments that matter--like graduations--and Pizza Hut takes pride in being a part of our customers’ big days. So, it’s only natural that we’d be there for students and their families to help celebrate the accomplishments of the graduating class of 2020,” said George Felix, chief marketing officer, Pizza Hut. “We’re proud to partner with America’s hard-working dairy farmers to bring students who are missing out on their chance to cross the stage with their diploma, an opportunity to celebrate with their favorite Pizza Hut pizza.”

Marilyn Hershey, a Pennsylvania dairy farmer and chair of Dairy Management Inc., said, “America’s dairy farmers have great appreciation and respect for the hard work that graduating students have put in and nothing celebrates that better than cheese and pizza enjoyed with family and friends.”

And in closing…two great quotes for our graduates.

“Never show up late with a coffee in your hand. The message when you do that is, you are not as important to me as this iced vanilla latte.” Jimmy Kimmel

“It’s natural that you may be worried about the future, what’s on the other side of this pandemic, but know that your generation is equal to this moment, and to the unprecedented opportunity for change that is coming. Before any great creation, there will always be chaos. Now go find your new order in it.” Stephen Colbert

Friday, June 5, 2020

Summer Inspiration Series: Make dairy foods recession proof. Help retailers provide shoppers meal solutions, along with a touch of comfort.

Photo source: Dutch Farms

The “Summer Inspiration Series” of Friday blogs is all about stepping out of our comfort zone in terms of innovation. Why not? We’re already operating in an unprecedented manner. Some blogs may explore new concepts in “other” food and beverage categories and discuss how they may apply to dairy, others may focus on new consumer behaviors and brainstorm on how dairy foods processors may respond in coming months. 

Comfort, that’s what a lot of the world needs right now, especially the U.S. We are all fortunate to be working in the food industry because food is the one thing that unites us. Every food and beverage brand right now has the ability to connect with consumers and provide comfort. This may be in the form of nutrition, philanthropy or simply nourishing the soul. Now is the time to strengthen this brand connection in order to keep it recession proof. Because…we will be in a recession very soon.

Ben & Jerry’s is one of the best brands throughout food and beverage to make an emotional connection with consumers to keep them coming back for more. Penzey’s spice company is another that never ceases to amaze me. If you are unfamiliar with this online brand with store locations scattered throughout the country, link HERE.

This week the company introduced salt-free Justice seasoning featuring shallots, garlic, onion, green peppercorns, chives and green onion. Described as “Justice has been the guiding light that has brought us through every storm. It’s also a pretty tasty blend. Every meal is better with Justice. Garden tomatoes, chicken salad, grilled asparagus, salmon, roasted potatoes or even scrambled eggs become something remarkable when liberally seasoned with Justice.”

Sales of Justice have surpassed expectations…mine is on a few weeks backorder. It’s an affordable luxury that gives me a bit of comfort while also helping spice up my cooking, all without extra sodium. (That’s something my ticker appreciates these days.)

Consumers continue to speak with their dollar and are not willing to sacrifice the basics during this time. Increased cooking and baking have contributed to large dairy retail sales increases, as dairy is an ingredient in many home-prepared foods.

This is not expected to change. While June welcomed partial lifting of on-premise dining restrictions in many states, slightly slowing retail sales growth, the dairy category is still being prioritized by shoppers, according to IRI data, provided courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Association. Dairy aisle sales are up 20.7%, outpacing total store dollar growth of 12.4%.

For the week ending May 24, 2020, as compared to the same seven-day period in 2019:

  • Fluid milk sales are up 6.1% (volume sales) and 10.6% (dollar sales). In the previous week, sales were up 7.5% (volume) and 12.3% (dollar).
  • Butter sales are up 50.7% (volume) and 39.6% (dollar). In the previous week, butter sales were up 33.6% (volume) and 38.1% (dollar).
  • Cheese sales are up 18.2% (volume) and 26.6% (dollar). In the previous week, cheese sales were up 22.0% (volume) and 29.6% (dollar).
  • Yogurt sales are up 3.9% (volume) and 4.3% (dollar). In the previous week, yogurt sales were up 2.5% (volume) and 2.1% (dollar).
  • Ice cream sales are up 13.4% (volume) and 21.9% (dollar). In the previous week, they were up 18.5% (volume) and 26.3% (dollar).

Photo source: Dutch Farms

Market research provider Euromonitor International expects per capita global consumer expenditure to decline by approximately 5% in 2020 and the global economy to enter the worst recession since the Great Depression. Meal occasions have come into the home and are expected to stay. For some, it’s because they’ve discovered the art of cooking, but for the majority, it will come down to economics. The dairy industry is poised to position its products as nutrient dense, delicious and affordable components of every meal.

This week Euromonitor published “Six Themes Transforming Consumer Markets Due to COVID-19.” You can download the free report HERE.

The six themes that focus on food and nutrition are:

From Sustainability to Purpose: Initiatives move beyond ethical and eco-conscious to a holistic approach that creates social, environmental and economic benefits. Food waste, animal welfare and food security will be brought to the forefront while packaging sustainability and sustainable sourcing take a back seat.

Hometainment and the New Experiential Consumer: Out-of-home activities are brought online, and these virtual experiences must provide as much value as in-person occasions. Meal occasions are brought into the home and could stay as some consumers find a new love for cooking.

Where and How Consumers Shop: Rapid shift to e-commerce, click-and-collect options and the direct-to-consumer (D2C) channel accelerate digital disruption.  A turning point for e-commerce and a boost for meal kits is tempered by an adverse impact on impulse channels.

Wellness Redefined: Consumers focus on achieving optimal health. Happiness becomes a tangible commercial prospect. Healthy eating will become an even more important topic as the balance of exercise versus nutrition becomes disrupted by sedentary lifestyles.

Innovation and the New Core: Efficiency and value drive product development. Brands need to recognize and align with fundamental consumer needs. There will be an emphasis on economy products and well-positioned premium products that can replicate the restaurant experience in the home.

The New Normal--What’s Here to Stay: Online shopping, remote living, decreased discretionary spending and self-care will shape consumer behavior.

Photo source: Dutch Farms

It’s time to market dairy foods to complement these themes. Here are some suggestions on ways to make dairy foods recession proof.

Cheese presents one of the greatest opportunities, as it’s an affordable way to add deliciousness to meal time. Recipe blends—think macaroni and cheese, lasagna, taco, quesadilla, pizza, etc.—enable retailers to cross merchandise products to provide meal solutions. These products empower consumers to get creative in the kitchen with minimal extra effort. They bring the restaurant experience to the kitchen table.

Cooking creams and sauces are popular in select markets in Europe and present an opportunity to offer meal solutions, again with cross merchandising. These are refrigerated viscous dairy products with extras. Think of ready-to-use pourables for Alfredo, carbonara or stroganoff. Just add pasta, and voila!

Butter should fare well on its own, but with some herbs and seasonings, can be marketed alongside meat and poultry. The goal is to offer consumers meal solutions, especially ones with culinary inspiration. Help them bring the restaurant experience to their home.

Here’s a new one for you to ponder: dunking dairy. Imagine a dome-cup, much like we find in the yogurt department, but maybe a little sturdier. The bottom contains delicious whole milk—maybe even a little richer with some extra cream—the top contains two cookies for dunking. In Europe you can find similar concepts with a ready-to-drink latte on the bottom and a biscuit on the top. Such a concept brings the coffee house to you, while also offering portion control with the sweet treat.

Please stay safe and smart. Let’s do our part to unite through our love of dairy. Sending out a hug to all.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Summer Inspiration Series: Create a Category

Photo source: Organic Valley

The “Summer Inspiration Series” of Friday blogs is all about stepping out of our comfort zone in terms of innovation. Why not? We’re already operating in an unprecedented manner. Some blogs may explore new concepts in “other” food and beverage categories and discuss how they may apply to dairy, others may focus on new consumer behaviors and brainstorm on how dairy foods processors may respond in coming months.

Let’s talk about creating a new category. This is not just a new formulation, such as high-protein ice cream, nor is it as simple as new packaging, such as yogurt in a pouch. Think of it as a concept that IRI, Nielsen and Spins do not know how to categorize. Recent examples among dairy processors would be refrigerated dairy bars.

In the U.S., Kraft kicked off the category in 2011 with MilkBite bars. The concept was ahead of its time and was discontinued less than a year later. Then in 2017, Prairie Farms introduced Milk Snack Bars, which is alive in the marketplace. Take note, similar refrigerated dairy-based snack bars, with fillings ranging from whipped dessert to quark, have been around in Europe for some time. Prairie Farms’ Milk Snack Bar is a two-layer whole milk crème-filled chocolate cake bar dipped in chocolate.

Clio Greek Yogurt Bars debuted in early 2019. Each bar—in full and mini size--is creamy, whole milk Greek yogurt wrapped in chocolate. Varieties are: Blueberry, Espresso, Hazelnut, Honey, Peanut Butter, Strawberry and Vanilla.

Earlier this year, Danone North America announced the rollout of Oikos Pro Bars, which has since been delayed. The bars deliver on-the-go nutrition with 20 grams of protein and 8 grams or less of sugar per 60-gram bar. Made with a Greek yogurt and nut butter base, varieties are: Blueberry Cashew, Chocolate Peanut Butter and Salted Caramel Almond.

That’s creating a category.

Another new category emerging is cheese wraps. Lotito Foods was first to market in June 2016 with Folios, which are par-baked sheets of cheese made from Cheddar, Jarlsberg or Parmesan all-natural cheeses. Folios are free of carbs, gluten and sugar. They presented a new way to eat cheese, as they can be used as a wrap, much like one would use a tortilla or flatbread or they can be the cheese slice in the wrap. They can also be warmed and molded into a crispy cheese bowl. The standalone bowl can be used to serve a cold salad or the cheese bowl can be served in a bowl and be used to serve hot foods, such as chili, pasta or soup. As the bowl starts to melt, it gets consumed with its contents.

Since late 2019, Crystal Farms has offered Cheese Wraps in Marble Jack (Colby and Monterey Jack) and Mozzarella varieties.

One could argue that the many variations of cheese snack packs now in the market are a new category. Some contain hard boiled eggs, nuts, dried or fresh fruit, crackers, spreads, meats and more. They qualify as a new category because, like I mentioned up front, IRI, Nielsen and Spins are not sure how to categorize them and they really need their own grouping.

Dutch Farms, for example, rolled out Protein Packs in the fall of 2019. Designed for consumers seeking high-protein, low-carb snacks, On-the-Go Protein Packs join Dutch Farms’ On-the-Go Snackers and On-the-Go Snack Packs. They come in two varieties: String Cheese with one hard-cooked peeled egg, and pepperoni; and Pepper Jack cheese stick with one hard-cooked peeled egg, and Genoa salami.

So, let’s talk egg bites. Starbucks cafes have been selling eggs bites since early 2017. These fully cooked portable breakfast items warmed by the barista quickly became a hit because of their protein content and premium quality. Consumers who have come to appreciate these flavorful, nutritious mini meals can now choose from a number of retail brands and prepare them at home.

To read more about this emerging new retail category, link HERE to an article I wrote earlier this week for Food Business News titled “Egg Bites Emerging as a Retail Food Trend.”

The newest player is Organic Valley, with the only nationally distributed organic egg bites product in the U.S. The refrigerated heat-and-eat product is made with organic free-range eggs from the cooperative’s small family farms, along with Organic Valley cheese and Organic Prairie meat. The two-bite, 4-ounce package contains 14 to 16 grams of protein and less than 250 calories. They can be popped in the toaster oven or microwave and ready to eat in less than 90 seconds. Varieties are: Feta and Chive, Sausage and Pepper Jack, and Uncured Ham and Swiss. They will start shipping July 27 and have a suggested retail price of $3.99 per pack.
Put your thinking caps on and let’s create more categories. It’s time to get busy in your kitchen.

Chef Nelson Serrano-Bahri (pictured below), innovation and culinology manager, Emerging Business for Ingredion Inc., hosted a Zoom meeting on May 7 (my birthday, what a good time during a pandemic!) titled “Ingredion At Home: The Basics of Recipe Development.”

Chef Serrano-Bahri and The Hatchery will be offering this free event again on June 11, 1:00-2:00pm CDT. Link HERE to register.

He normally is based at The Hatchery, a non-profit food and beverage incubator based in Chicago. Since the stay-at-home orders, he has been working out of his home kitchen. He shared with viewers the tools and tricks to bring your concept to life and get it market ready during quarantine.

He identified the following tools to equip your kitchen for commercial innovation projects.

Blenders and Food Processors: A commercial-grade food processor works better than a blender when working with ingredients, such as fruits and vegetables (to make puree), dough, nuts and dried fruit. Blenders are best for creating emulsions and mixing wet ingredients.

Bowls: Invest in stainless-steel bowls because they are sturdier and less likely to break if they fall. Plastic bowls tend to be more reactive to acids. Weigh the bowls and mark them. You can never have enough. Invest in many sizes.

Mixers: A mixer with a larger motor, such as 600 watts, provides more capacity and more flexibility. A paddle attachment is useful when adding ingredients during the mixing process.

Photo source: Ingredion Inc. 

Pot Holders and Towels: Cotton towels may function as both pot holder and cleaning tool. Slightly dampened, pot holders and towels help keep bowl and cutting boards in place during mixing and chopping. Color-coding pot holders and towels helps to prevent cross-contamination.

Power Cords and Strips: Water-resistant outdoor-style power cords are less of a fire hazard. Avoid power strips, as they may overheat.

Scales: Most home cooks use volumetric measuring devices such as cups and spoons; however, the industrial world is all about weight, so you may as well start your innovation project using the right measurements. Invest in a scale. While an inexpensive kitchen scale should suffice for major ingredients, a more precise scale is important for those “less than 2%” ingredients, which includes colors, flavors, high-intensity sweeteners, preservatives and functional ingredients.

Spatulas and Spoons: Like bowls, you can never have enough mixing utensils. Serrano-Bahri prefers rubber spatulas, as wooden kitchen tools can break or chip.

And last, yet most important, is proper sanitation. Cleaning and washing is on top of mind in this pandemic world we now find ourselves in. To save costs with cleaning solutions, Serrano-Bahri combines one-third a cup of bleach with a gallon of water. He cautions that bleach is reactive and should not be mixed with degreasers, which may create fumes. Properly label all homemade solutions in spray bottles to prevent misuse.

In celebration of June being National Dairy Month, Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) and state and regional checkoff teams around the U.S. are showcasing dairy’s resilience and community impact during the COVID-19 pandemic. The efforts begin on June 1--World Milk Day--with a “Raising Gallons” video that DMI created in partnership with state and regional checkoff organizations. You can view it HERE.

The video features Olympians, NFL players, famous chefs and others raising a gallon of milk to show their appreciation for dairy farmers while supporting the checkoff’s goal of getting nutritious dairy to food-insecure Americans through its Feeding America partnership. The video fittingly is kicked off by Pennsylvania dairy farmer and DMI Chair Marilyn Hershey and concludes with Feeding America’s Director of Dairy Supply Chain Partnerships Jerod Matthews, who encourages consumers to post their own “raising gallons” photo using #UndeniablyDairy. MilkPEP will match donations to its GiveAGallon campaign up to $100,000.

“This pandemic has shown just how essential Feeding America and dairy farmers are to helping feed those in need,” says Hershey. “We’re working toward a common goal, and our checkoff strategy of getting dairy into the hands of those who need it wouldn’t be possible without Feeding America and its nationwide network of 200 local food banks.”

Additional checkoff-led efforts nationally and locally will promote “30 Days of Dairy” throughout June. Each day of the month will be filled with virtual farm tours and content that celebrates the role dairy plays in people’s lives while illustrating dairy farmers’ resilience and contributions to their communities, tagged with a newly created “30 Days of Dairy” badge.

“The celebration of National Dairy Month has taken on new meaning this year given the global pandemic,” says Heather Oldani, executive vice president of communications for DMI. “Despite challenging times, farmers have shown a tireless commitment to waking up each morning to ensure a safe, nutritious supply of dairy is available at our grocery stores, in our homes and in community food banks. The essential role farmers have played has made it possible for the rest of us to continue to enjoy the dairy foods we all love.”

The James Collective, an integrated marketing communications company, provides five “Crisis Communication Tips for Food and Beverage Brands.”

1. Be transparent and communicative with your audience, in any way you can. While brands should be careful with how they cover topics and announcements that are related to a crisis such as the pandemic, it is important to use owned channels (such as newsletters, websites and social media) in addition to other channels as appropriate (such as traditional/digital media) to communicate the company’s commitment to safety, their consumers AND their employees. If your company has put particular programs in place for the health, safety, physical/mental wellbeing of employees, tell people. Communicate the safety procedures you are practicing in your manufacturing and logistics, and explain what that looks like to your consumers. From new sanitation policies at warehouses and manufacturers to updates on takeout options at restaurants, consumers are smart and eager to see how their favorite companies are adjusting service to reach them in these strange times.

2. Be truthful. Now more than ever, it is vital that brands communicate with their audiences in a way that is authentic and honest. Your audience will know and care if the information you share, say and post is true. The trust you build with your audience now will exist long after this crisis is behind us, so take the time now to build it. Tell your audience the what and why behind the actions your company is taking. If you’re using the time to give back to your community and those in need, share the feel-good details. If your business has had to make difficult decisions to weather the storm, explain them with empathy. Now more than ever, people are choosing to support businesses that they feel align with their own beliefs and values, so make sure that your brand is clearly communicating where their values lie.

3. Invoke your company’s voice and spirit wherever possible. While the world is collectively experiencing hard times (and will continue to be for the foreseeable future), that doesn’t mean your messaging needs to be all doom and gloom. If your brand voice is fun and cheeky, use that. If you celebrate beauty, find ways to celebrate the beauty of the current moment. Now is a time to find ways to engage and celebrate your community, consumers and buyers. This could be with grocery retailers, in partnership with non-profits, influencers, your loyal consumers and more. Despite everything going on in the world around us, people are still looking to their favorite brands to provide services and entertainment that speak to the current moment. Get as creative as you’d like.

4. Be proactive and realistic about the future of your business. For many food and beverage companies, the current global health crisis has offered a glimpse into a future where direct-to-consumer (DTC) reigns supreme and the brands that use that glimpse to tailor their business strategy now are the ones that are setting themselves up for security and success down the line. If your company was not utilizing DTC channels prior to the pandemic, now is an excellent time to heed the requests of your customers and find a way to deliver your product to them directly. If your business was already operating DTC, use this time to build on that strategy. Tell your story on all of your owned channels. Surprise and delight. Make customers want to keep interacting with your brand and establish loyalty to your product. This could be anything from providing digital resources/recipes, providing creative and exceptional customer service, aiming for speed in shipping, anything to establish the value your company provides, and to allow your audience to feel that by supporting your business, they are a member of a community. Even once the economy begins to reopen, these trends are unlikely to disappear. Prepare now in a way that ensures you keep customers coming back.

5. Create an emergency plan. If you didn’t prepare for crisis before, do so now. If this crisis has taught one thing, it’s that there’s no such thing as overpreparation. Learn from the mistakes and successes you may have seen over the course of the past few months. Where did your brand unexpectedly exceed or grow? Where was your company left scrambling to quickly adapt to the new regulations and policies necessitated by the pandemic? Now is a time to future-proof your business by using the learnings of this pandemic to prepare for the next crisis. Create a strategic emergency communications plan now so that you’re prepared for any future crises that may come your way.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Summer Inspiration Series: Focus on Lifestyle Foods

This weekend is the official kickoff to summer 2020 in many countries, including the U.S. It’s going to be a different one, with little to no travel and for cautious folks who listen to the scientific experts, no large gatherings and lots of social distancing. That should not stop you from getting outside and making some vitamin D. Use the solitude to start brainstorming on future innovations.

This blog kicks off the “Summer Inspiration Series,” where I will either explore new concepts in “other” food and beverage categories and discuss how they may apply to dairy, or will look at consumer behavior trends and brainstorm on how dairy foods processors may respond in coming months. When possible, I will provide a sneak peek to a dairy processor taking this approach with a new innovation. Today that processor is Chobani with its new Chobani Complete line scheduled to hit shelves late summer or early fall.

Today let’s talk about lifestyle foods. This is a term first used publicly by Chipotle Mexican Grill with its line of Lifestyle Bowls, which were introduced in January 2019. Inspired by wellness experts, the meals are designed to assist diners with their health and fitness goals. The company is now adding five more concepts to the lineup.

Chipotle partnered with YouGov to better understand how consumers’ food behavior patterns have shifted during this unprecedented time of social distancing. The brands’ joint study found more than a third of Americans (35%) are struggling to maintain healthy lifestyles and four in 10 (44%) are not maintaining a regular workout schedule since spending more time at home. Diets have fallen victim to increased snacking and consumption of processed foods, as the study found that more than a third of those surveyed (36%) have been eating more “junk food” during this period. Sixty seven percent of participants indicated they are trying to avoid or limit heading to the grocery store leaving a need for convenient and healthy options.

Lifestyle Bowls are designed to help consumers pursue their dietary goals from home, or on a blanket at the beach with a few family members, no closer than six feet from the next small group. Chipotle collaborated with an inspiring roster of wellness influencers to create the five new Lifestyle Bowls: professional basketball skills trainer Chris Brickley, cycling instructor Cody Rigsby, nutrition expert Dr. Mark Hyman and fitness athletes Tia-Clair Toomey and Mat Fraser. The five new menu items are in addition to Chipotle’s Lifestyle Bowls for specific diet regimens, including a Paleo Salad Bowl, Keto Salad Bowl, Whole30 Salad Bowl, Vegan Bowl, Vegetarian Bowl and High Protein Bowl.

Photo source: Chipotle Mexican Grill

The endorsements are a critical part of the branding and help the diner connect to their meal. They provide inspiration and help motivate. The Chris Brickley Bowl, for example, is a protein-forward meal of brown rice, double chicken, fresh tomato salsa, roasted chili corn salsa, cheese, lettuce and guacamole, while the Dr. Mark Hyman Salad focuses on nutrient density with its mix of super-greens lettuce, brown rice, black beans, chicken, fajita veggies, fresh tomato salsa, tomatillo-green chili salsa and guacamole.

Nestlé is introducing Life Cuisine, a new brand designed to deliver delicious, satisfying meal solutions that help consumer’s varying approaches to eating well. From gluten-free to high-protein, Life Cuisine is made with flavorful ingredients that help one power through the day, their way.

The brand recognizes that through the years, the definition of wellness has evolved from calorie-conscious eating to a more holistic approach that extends well beyond just what’s on the plate. Once-niche dietary trends like gluten free and meatless meals have become more mainstream. This new dynamic has inspired people to learn more about different foods, seek more specific product attributes and balance their lifestyles, according to the company. New Life Cuisine answers that call with a variety of nutritious options catering to four consumer lifestyles: low carb, high protein, meatless and gluten free.

“Eating well is no longer ‘one-size-fits-all,’ so our offerings can’t be either,” says John Carmichael, president, Nestlé Foods Division. “As needs evolve and expand, our team of culinary experts and nutritionists works in lockstep to deliver contemporary meals made for these emerging food lifestyles, from gluten free to meatless and beyond.”

The Life Cuisine frozen brand includes layered bowls, cauliflower-crust pizzas and sous vide egg bites.

Chobani has been evolving into a lifestyle brand as it has grown its offerings beyond the original Greek yogurt cup line. New Chobani Complete will further extend the company’s reach to meet consumers’ lifestyle choices.

Described as “Advanced Nutrition Yogurt” on front labels, the product also boasts upfront that it delivers “20 amino acids” and is “complete protein.” (All dairy yogurt contains this, but it’s the first time, to my knowledge, being called out). Labels also state that the yogurt is lactose free, easy to digest, made with only real fruit, has no added sugars, contains soluble fiber and is prebiotic and probiotic. Key ingredients are: chicory root fiber, lactase, monk fruit extract, stevia and an impressive cocktail of lactic acid cultures.

The 5.3-ounce cups come in Blueberry, Key Lime, Peach, Strawberry and Vanilla and contain 120 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 15 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and 7 grams of inherent sugar. There’s also a 24-ounce vanilla container. The 10-ounce drinks come in Banana Cream, Mixed Berry Vanilla, Strawberry Cream and Vanilla. One serving contains 190-200 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 25 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and 12 grams of inherent sugar.

Lifestyle foods…something to think about. Happy summer!

Friday, May 15, 2020

A Sneak Peek at the Summer 2020 Ice Cream Season; It’s Time to Start Planning for 2021

Ice cream is in demand. While many scoop shops and street vendors remain closed because of quarantine orders, retail and online---yes, online—sales of ice cream are breaking records. It’s no wonder. Ice cream is comforting. I think most of us can appreciate a little mood bolster during these uncertain times.

Ice cream sales were up 27.4% (volume) and 34.9% (dollar), according to IRI data, provided courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Association, for the week ending May 3, 2020, as compared to the same seven-day period in 2019. In the previous week, sales were up 41.5% (volume) and 49.3% (dollar).

Dairy dollar sales overall have outperformed the total store in velocity for each of the past seven weeks and for 2020 year-to-date. In the latest week, total dairy sales were up 26.8% compared to the same week last year, while total store sales were up 15.4%. Consumers are not willing to sacrifice the basics during this time. (Ice cream is proving to be a necessity.) Increased cooking and baking have contributed to these large dairy increases, as dairy is an ingredient in many home-prepared foods.

Online ice cream sales are faring well for many players, as consumers find that sending a cooler (with dry ice) to family or friends for a birthday, graduation or simply for encouragement is a gift well received. (Thanks to a number of you who have offered me a tasting. I just don’t have freezer space.)

Earlier this year, Alden’s Organic had been working with Healthy Goodness, a frozen food fulfillment service specializing in natural foods, to make its newly launched Dairy Free line available for purchase online. When the pandemic hit, instead of pausing, Alden’s knew they needed to go all in and added all 46 SKUs to the e-commerce platform.

“Even during these challenging times we knew we needed to push ourselves to make this happen if we could,” says Eric Eddings, president and CEO of Alden’s. “E-comm frozen sales are up 31% since the COVID crisis, and we think this is a trend that will continue even after we recover from it.”

Alden’s Organic expects e-commerce to supplement its national grocery distribution, which remains and will continue to be the mainstay of the business. The company also has plans to launch new products through both channels in the near future.

Lots of new ice cream products have started rolling out to retail freezers, which may be contributing to some of the sales growth. New products attract consumers’ attention. It raises their curiosity and invites purchase. This is especially true during these trying, boring and repetitive times, which for many feels like Bill Murray’s experience in Groundhog Day. New ice cream products bring a little bit of excitement to the day, breaking up the monotony.

While all of the innovations entering the marketplace were developed and likely even produced prior to that early March closing of the country, there are many noticeable themes, which happen to be relevant to the current situation. Funny how that happens!

1. The first is lots of bright and bold colors. From birthday cake to unicorn, there’s a lot of color in new ice cream products. Color lifts spirits. Pink, red and various berry colors are also prominent. Think ruby red chocolate and rose wine. (Spirits lift spirits, too.)

Häagen-Dazs, a brand of Vevey, Switzerland-based Nestlé, added two new flavors to its Spirits collection. The Rosé and Cream flavor is wine-infused sweet cream ice cream folded together with a refreshingly tart rosé-flavored swirl. The Whiskey Hazelnut Latte ice cream is a spiked-latte-inspired treat, featuring whiskey-infused coffee ice cream blended with ribbons of hazelnut fudge and chocolate espresso flakes. All the products contain less than 0.5% alcohol by volume, according to the company.

The brand is also growing its multi-texture Trio Crispy Layers line with Ruby Cacao Crackle Pistachio Sweet Cream. Ruby cacao combines intense berry fruitiness with fresh, sour notes and a hint of cacao rawness to deliver a sensorial delight unlike anything else, according to the company.

Serendipity Ice Cream is getting magical with Unicorn Bliss Sundae. It is a whimsical combination of vanilla ice cream mixed with pink and blue cookie dough, topped off with a magical glittery unicorn swirl.

HP Hood is growing its New England Creamery sub-brand with limited-edition Unicorn Confetti Light Ice Cream. A number of the brand’s flavors focus on New England nostalgia. New Boston Common Cow Chow, for example, is corn cereal-flavored reduced-fat ice cream with pieces of chocolaty sugar cones, peanut butter swirl and chocolate cookie crumble swirl.

Blue Bell’s newest ice cream flavor is Confetti Cake. It is cake batter ice cream combined with confetti cake pieces and multi-colored sprinkles, all surrounded by a blue icing swirl. This limited-edition item comes in half-gallon cartons.

“We have combined two party favorites, cake and ice cream, to create a flavor that is as colorful as it is delicious,” says Carl Breed, corporate sales manager. “And, it tastes exactly like a cake. Confetti Cake is light and has the perfect amount of sweetness.

“Our Confetti Cake cartons will be hard to miss at your local store,” he says. “The background is a blue icing covered in confetti sprinkles.”

Blue Bell has two other cake-inspired ice cream flavors currently in stores. Cookie Cake is a sweet cream ice cream loaded with chocolate chip cookie cake pieces and swirls of chocolate and vanilla icing. Red Velvet Cake is a red velvet cake ice cream with pieces of red velvet cake and a cream cheese icing swirl. Both flavors are sold in pint and half-gallon sizes.

Color is in foodservice, too. Hamburger Stand and Wienerschnitzel, both part of The Galardi Group, now offers the Froot Loops Dipped Cone and Shake. It’s the company’s creamy soft-serve combined with real Froot Loops.

2. There’s also a great deal of fruit, even some vegetables, finding its way into ice cream. Whole food nutrition gives consumers permission to indulge. Parents appreciate getting some extra produce into their kids’ diets, especially during these activity-deprived times, when many have become couch potatoes.

U.K. grocer Waitrose Partners is debuting store branded Scrumptious Summer Blueberry Crumble Ice Cream. It’s one of 70 limited-edition products designed to uplift spirits. The new range focuses on nostalgic flavors and classic recipes, all with a modern twist.

“This summer, more than ever, we know our customers will be spending more time at home, in their gardens or outdoor spaces, enjoying the sunshine,” says Beth Elliot, brand manager. “Summer dining is a fast-growing area for us, and we know our customers want to shop in more convenient and quicker ways right now. We’ve reflected this by creating a range of ready-to-eat food and quick-to-prepare dishes which are tasty, exciting, foodie and fun, making them the perfect options for carpet picnics and barbecues.

“By putting all our summer products in an eye-catching, bright design, it helps our customers to shop quickly for food and drink and the innovative dishes and playful combinations showcase the very best flavors to brighten up summer with,” she says.

Peekaboo just launched Unicorn Swirl with Hidden Zucchini and Cookie Dough with Hidden Zucchini at Target stores throughout the U.S. With the new flavors comes a packaging makeover with whimsical, eye-catching graphics to better appeal to youngsters. The two new flavors join the original five, which debuted two years ago. They are: Chocolate with Hidden Cauliflower, Cotton Candy with Hidden Beets, Mint Chip with Hidden Spinach, Strawberry with Hidden Carrot and Vanilla with Hidden Zucchini.

3. Many 2020 flavors are “two-fers,” a dessert within a dessert. Think cake, cobbler and cookie.

Velvet Ice Cream is doing this with two new fruit-forward dessert flavors that celebrate the tastes of spring and summer. Blackberry Cobbler is creamy vanilla ice cream swirled with blackberry sauce and chunks of crisp cobbler. Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream is cheesecake ice cream, swirls of blueberry, bits of graham cracker and chunks of decadent cheesecake.

4. There’s not a lot of dark flavor innovation. Of course, chocolate is not going away, but in many instances it’s a layer, a swirl or an inclusion.

Unilever’s is growing its successful Talenti Layers line that launched last year. There are four new offerings, all showcased in the brand’s signature clear pint container.

Coffee Cookie Crumble is the brand’s take on an Affogato. It is made with fair trade Brazilian and Colombian coffee beans and traditional Italian amaretti cookies. The classic coffee and ice cream dessert comes to life with layers of cold brew gelato, chocolate flakes, chocolate coffee sauce, vanilla bean gelato and amaretti cookie pieces.

Banana Caramel Crunch was inspired by the classic southern dessert of banana pudding. Talenti’s unique twist combines indulgent layers of banana pudding gelato, pie crust pieces, dulce de leche and more pie crust pieces.

Lemon Berry Pie is lemon zest steeped in fresh cream, milk and sugar to create lemon gelato. This gets paired with graham pieces, blueberry sauce and pie crust cookies.

The first and only dairy-free Talenti Layers option is Coconut Chocolate Cookie Layer. Inspired by coconut macaroons, the new offering is crafted with real coconuts from the Philippines and features coconut sorbetto, oat crisps, dairy-free hot fudge and chocolate cookie pieces.
Turkey Hill Dairy is adding four varieties to its Trio’politan line, which made its debut two years ago in five varieties. The concept is a blend of three classic and bold flavors in each container that take Neapolitan’s traditional recipe to nontraditional levels.

“Trio’politan is about having choices and having fun,” says John Cox, president. “The flavors were chosen based on their ability to complement each other but also be strong enough to stand on their own for ice cream lovers who might ‘selectively scoop’ to get the flavor they really want.”

The new offerings are: Caramel, Chocolate and Vanilla (caramel ice cream with caramel swirl, chocolate ice cream and vanilla-flavored ice cream with dark chocolate chips); Caramel Macchiato (coffee ice cream with caramel swirl, chocolate ice cream and caramel ice cream with chocolate crunchies); Coffee Cake (cake batter-flavored ice cream with cinnamon graham cracker swirl, vanilla-flavored ice cream and cinnamon ice cream with cinnamon chips); and Triple Vanilla (vanilla bean ice cream, brown sugar bourbon vanilla-flavored ice cream with vanilla cookie crumb swirl and homemade vanilla ice cream).

Wells Enterprises Inc., is adding four new offerings to its popular single-serve Blue Bunny Load’d Sundaes lines. Chocolate Caramel Pretzel is vanilla-flavored frozen dairy dessert, sea salt caramel and fudge swirls, salty pretzel bark, milk chocolaty pretzel balls and chocolaty sea salt caramel bunnies.

French Silk Pie is French silk chocolate-flavored frozen dairy dessert, whipped créme and fudge swirls, dark chocolate flakes, pie pieces, dark chocolate curls and chocolaty fudge bunnies.

S'more S'mores is graham-flavored frozen dairy dessert, marshmallow and graham swirls, chocolaty chunks and chocolaty marshmallow bunnies.

Turtle Cheesecake is cheesecake-flavored frozen dairy dessert, caramel and fudge swirls, cheesecake pieces, chocolaty pecans, pecans and chocolaty sea salt caramel bunnies.

5. And lastly, while better-for-you ice cream remains a healthy sector of the category, pardon the pun, indulgence reigns. In many instances, better-for-you has evolved into simpler, cleaner recipes.

That’s what Crystal Creamery is all about this ice cream season. The Modesto, Calif.-based company is phasing in its new and improved ice cream formulations that also come in updated packaging. The new recipe uses the simplest of ingredients, such as cream, sugar and milk sourced from local family farms, while excluding artificial flavors, coloring, sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, synthetic gums or mono and diglycerides.

“We spent a tremendous amount of time and care listening very carefully to consumers through marketing research and learned more about their desire for transparency and clean ingredients,” says Brian Carden, senior director of sales. “After many product trials and fine tuning, our team is proud to be able to have landed on the most delicious, creamiest formula that consumers have come to expect from Crystal Creamery.”

There are 29 flavors of premium ice cream available including classics like Vanilla and Rocky Road but also newer and indulgent flavors like Caramel Pretzel, Chocolate Avalanche and Moose Tracks.

In addition to the recipe reformulation, the Crystal Creamery ice cream carton has been modernized with a fresh, updated package design that continues the brand’s iconic depiction of its heritage and local roots.

Better-for-you ice cream brand Enlightened has partnered with Delish, one of the fastest-growing food social media sites in the world, to bring keto-friendly P. B. Cookie & Brownie Dough ice cream. It is made with vanilla ice cream packed with peanut butter cookie dough, brownie dough, chocolate chips and a rich peanut butter swirl. Each serving has only one gram of net carbs and less than one gram of sugar. It’s also gluten-free and uses monk fruit and erythritol, which are zero-calorie natural sweeteners that don’t cause spikes in blood sugar.

It sells for about $5.99 at Whole Foods Market. It is also available online through Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods delivery partners, as well as directly from Enlightened.

Expect to see more philanthropic products, too. People feel good when they help others.

Tops Friendly Markets is supporting Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center with the latest flavor in its private-label Tops ice cream lineup. The Williamsville, N.Y.-based retailer has introduced Orange DreamCycle Ice Cream, with a portion of the proceeds from the flavor going to benefit Roswell Park.

The product is being introduced to commemorate the 25th year of the annual Ride for Roswell, which the retailer has long sponsored. The product is a light vanilla ice cream split with a creamy light orange ice cream. It contains no artificial flavors or partially hydrogenated oils, and is free of high-fructose corn syrup.

Get creative. Put your ice cream to work.

Need inspiration? Balchem can help. The company’s lab team members focus on providing customized, personal service to help ice cream innovators create unique flavor and texture experiences to help them stand out in the freezer. Link HERE for more information. Thank you Balchem for sponsoring this blog.

Stay well. Stay Safe. Stay sane.