Thursday, February 16, 2017

Ice Cream Trends: Market Overview and Inclusion Innovations

Ice cream innovations for 2017 have been confirmed and product for this summer selling season is likely already being produced. Yes…we are halfway through the month of February. How did that happen?

Now is the time to plan for 2018. I will share some insight from industry observations to give you an idea of what will likely be hot next year. But before I do that, here’s a brief market overview from the hot-off-the-presses 9th edition of Ice Cream and Frozen Desserts in the U.S., from Packaged Facts.

Market overview
“Ice cream and frozen novelties remain among the top-10 food categories in supermarkets. More than 85% of U.S. household use ice cream or sherbet,” says David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts. “And despite the maturity of the ice cream market, a lot is happening in terms of new product innovation.”

Packaged Facts estimates that in 2016 the market for all ice cream and frozen dessert sales, including packaged ice cream and frozen novelties sold through retail channels and ice cream purchased at foodservice outlets, was just shy of $28 billion. Foodservice sales outpaced the retail channel by slightly more than $3 billion. Both segments are expected to see gains going forward, with the total category projected to approach $30 billion by 2020. Retail dollar sales are projected to grow to almost $13 billion while foodservice will surpass $16.3 billion.

“The forces currently shaping the ice cream market are likely to be the same ones that will determine its direction through the next several years. These include the introduction of products that fit in with the ‘free-from’ trend in the food and beverage industry in general; an increase in gelato and superpremium ice cream introductions and sales; reduced sales of packaged frozen yogurts; and more variations on already popular flavors,” says Sprinkle. “In addition, the market will continue to see new packaged ice cream and frozen dessert products emerging that feature successful local or regional foodservice brands.”

Packaged Facts’ research confirms something I’ve written in this space many times.

“Recent innovation in frozen desserts is all about re-interpreting conventions,” says Sprinkle. “It’s combining old-fashioned themes with on-trend ingredients, blending sweet flavors with savory, shifting from diet products to those with nutritional and functional benefits.

“Until recently, claims of ‘low-fat’ and ‘fewer calories’ were the main better-for-you product positioning, but now the focus is evolving to getting more nutrition from every calorie you consume,” he says. “Among the nutritional virtues today’s consumers are seeking in snack and dessert products are protein, healthy fats, antioxidants, probiotics/prebiotics, and natural sweeteners.”

For more information on the report, link HERE.

Here are five trends for innovation inspiration:

1.    Mild base flavors and very bold, rich inclusions. This is not new, but the twist is that the flavors will be more adventurous. Think burnt whiskey-flavored variegate, espresso-filled chocolate cups and blood orange cheesecake chunks.

Chocolate is not going away but what appears to be trending is chocolate being more the inclusion rather than the dominating base. Chocolate may also be paired with other ingredients to create unique textures. For a healthful twist, think dark chocolate-covered ancient grain clusters or nuts.

Turkey Hill Dairy showcased this in limited-edition Dark Chocolate Caramel Espresso this past year. This product is espresso-flavored ice cream with dark chocolate caramel truffles and a sea salted caramel swirl.

2.    Brown, burnt and toasted. Ben & Jerry’s nailed it with its new Urban Bourbon flavor hitting freezers this month. This burnt caramel ice cream comes loaded with almonds, fudge flakes and bourbon caramel swirl. The flavor name is a nod to big city millennials who are embracing whiskeys and other spirits, which had been shunned by the previous generation of wine and beer drinkers.

“Deep brown liquors are enjoying a renaissance right now,” says Eric Fredette, a flavor innovator at Ben & Jerry’s. “Millennials are embracing classic cocktails like Manhattans and bartenders are being super creative with bourbon. Dessert was the obvious next step. The caramel swirl in this ice cream complements the sweet caramel notes in the whiskey.”

Included in this brown, burnt and toasted flavor trend are variations of caramel. Think bourbon infused, smoky bacon and even cold-brew coffee caramel.

Brown also plays into peanut butter. Despite being a major allergen, peanut butter goes so well with ice cream that manufacturers are willing to take the extra steps in food safety and sanitation to keep peanut butter on the menu.

Wells Enterprises Inc., has a number of new products rolling out for the summer. This includes PB ‘N Cones (pictured), which is vanilla-flavored ice cream, peanut butter swirls and chocolate-dipped cone pieces.

3.    Cold-brew coffee. This cold-processed coffee is hot, especially in dairy products, as coffee and milk are very complementary.
Millennials are driving the growth of cold-brew coffee, as they appreciate the smoother, less acidic taste of cold brew to its iced coffee counterpart. Recognizing this as a growth opportunity, Starbucks has started selling ice cream in select stores to allow for creations such as cold-brew floats and cold-brew malted shakes.

This is what’s on Starbuck’s menu. It’s time to figure out how to translate this into a packaged product?

Affogato is a trio of beverages celebrating the classic Italian dessert. The Classic Affogato is made with two shots of Starbucks Reserve espresso poured over a scoop of ice cream, resulting in the drowning creaminess of the ice cream in rich espresso. The House Affogato adds a touch of demerera syrup and a dusting of cinnamon, while the Shakerato Affogato is made with Reserve espresso shots shaken to an icy froth, poured over ice cream, lightly finished with vanilla syrup and a mint sprig.

Cold Brew Float is Starbucks cold brew poured over ice cream. This is also available with the company’s nitro cold brew. The float menu will include a seasonal specialty, the Vesuvius, which combines cold brew shaken with orange peel, orange-piloncillo syrup and ice. Named after Mount Vesuvius in Italy, when the cold brew is strained over the ice cream, it’s reminiscent of a subtle volcanic eruption, then finished off with a dusting of mocha powder and an orange twist.

Cold Brew Malted Shake is a nostalgic nod to the corner malt shop. It is cold brew blended with ice cream, malt and bourbon barrel-aged bitters. (This is all about brown flavors.)

4.    Salty other stuff. Salty caramel has become mainstream in the ice cream sector, so it’s time to make other inclusions salty. Ben & Jerry’s is leading the way with new Truffle Kerfuffle. This is vanilla ice cream with roasted pecans, fudge chips and a salted chocolate ganache swirl.

“The salty-sweet combination is a hard one to resist, especially in desserts,” says Fredette. “Salted caramel burst on the scene a few years ago, and now salted chocolate is getting some well-deserved attention.”

What else can get salted? Well, just about anything perks up with a little bit of salt. Some ideas are salty lime, salty pretzels and salty peanut butter (instead of the sweet peanut butter typically used in ice cream.) For something more extreme, think salty tortilla pieces or salty chocolate-covered potato chips.

Salty plays well into spice, with cinnamon being the dominating spice. Cinnamon is a characterizing flavor of speculoos cookies, which is trending along with its many variations.

Hudsonville Ice Cream is rolling out Windmill Cookie Butter (pictured), a spin on speculoos and also a nod to its hometown of Holland, Michigan, where windmills are everywhere. This product is cookie butter-flavored ice cream with crunchy cookie pieces flavored with a unique spice blend of nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and ginger.

5.    Fruit goes upscale. I’ve saved the best for last. Fruit ice creams are going upscale, with higher-quality whole fruits (usually infused with a sugar solution to stay soft) being incorporated, with or without additional inclusions. This rides the coattails of the gelato trend, and supports a better-for-you positioning by making a more natural, from Mother Nature impression.

This is showcased in some of the recent rollouts by Nancy’s Fancys, which is the namesake product created by two-time James Beard Award-winning chef and author Nancy Silverton. Created from recipes inspired by the well-loved desserts served at her acclaimed restaurants, Nancy’s Fancy is the chef’s first-ever product line in her distinguished career.

Her three new flavors are: Amarena Cherry with Amaretti, Passion Fruit and Zabaglione with a Citrus Caramel Swirl. The latter is a traditional Italian egg custard flavored with Marsala wine and swirled with citrus-infused caramel. Here’s that flavored caramel concept mentioned in trend #2.

Many of these five trends can be combined to create signature ice cream flavors. The time is now to start getting creative for 2018.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Dairy Foods Processors Take Note: It's the Year After “The International Year of Pulses”

Photo source:

A lot happened in 2016, and I’ll just say 2017 has been quite eventful thus far. There’s no doubt there will be lots of change this year, in the dairy industry and beyond. It’s time for dairy processors to embrace change, namely the types and formats of foods and beverages today’s—and tomorrow’s--consumers want.

If you have not read how the “Dairy industry prepares for Trump administration” in this week’s Food Business News online, please link HERE.

Back to 2016, that’s the year that the United Nations designated as the International Year of Pulses. Pulses are the dried seeds of plants from the legume family, such as peas, edible beans, lentils and chickpeas. Pulses have special properties that make them particularly suitable for today’s health-conscious consumers. They are naturally very high in protein and dietary fiber, and are a rich source of minerals, including iron, zinc and phosphorus. They are also a source of B vitamins and folic acid. They are considered non-allergenic proteins, and are gluten free, non-genetically modified and have a low-glycemic index. In other words, they are powerhouse foods and food ingredients.

Numerous food industry forecasts for 2017 state that pulses and plant proteins will be big. They have already been drivers of innovation for the past few years.

From April 2014 to March 2015, U.S. households had 34% penetration of pulse ingredients, according to consumer data based on sales at Kroger. There was a 74% increase in new product launches with pulses from 2010 to 2014, according to Innova Market Insights.

Those innovations span the store, according to Kroger data. (See infographic.) In the dairy case, they are only appearing as vegan products, most notably as milk and yogurt alternatives. It’s time for dairy processors to embrace pulses and develop non-standardized products that combine the best of cows milk and the best of plants.  

Research firm Packaged Facts stated in its report “Food Formulation and Ingredient Trends: Plant Proteins” that consumer interest in boosting protein intake remains strong with more attention being paid to the specific types of protein being consumed. The desire for clean labels, ease of digestion, the need or desire to avoid allergens, compatibility with vegetarian and vegan lifestyles, and concerns about sustainability among the general population are putting the spotlight on plant proteins. 

“Consumer notions of what constitutes a good protein source are expanding to include a wider variety of plant protein ingredients,” said David Sprinkle, research director and publisher.

Today’s consumers, in particular millennials, are demanding more protein, and varied protein, for a range of reasons, including weight management, allergies, sustainability and ethical/religious beliefs.

About 10% of millennials consider themselves vegan, according to the Packaged Facts report. Dairy processors are poised to produce dairy alternatives with pulses to appeal to this consumer base.

Mintel data show that there’s been a steady increase in the number of dairy alternatives entering the marketplace. (See infographic.) Many of these products are made on the same equipment as their dairy counterparts. Many are made by dairies. Think WhiteWave with its Horizon Organic and Wallaby organic dairy brands and its Silk and So Delicious dairy-free brands. I would not be surprised if WhiteWave has something in the works with a dairy- and plant-based product. 

Indeed, there’s plenty of opportunity to blend dairy and plant proteins. I’ve tasted a yogurt-style product made with cows milk and enhanced with pulses, and guess what, it was pretty darn good! I’m thinking smoothies make a lot of sense, in particular “breakfast on the go.” Dips are a no brainer. Greek yogurt and hummus go so well together.

As former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, said as last week’s Dairy Forum, the dairy industry needs to “collaborate, cooperate and communicate.” This is just as true in policy as it is in innovation.

It’s time to explore the many new pulse ingredients available to formulators. They have clean flavor profiles that enable processors to formulate across a broader range of applications more easily without having to compromise flavor or sacrifice taste, while addressing growing consumer demand for nutritious, protein-packed foods and beverages.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Dairy Innovation: Opportunities Highlighted at Dairy Forum 2017 Focus on Protein, Fat, Fiber and Chocolate Milk!

In between discussions regarding policy uncertainties at Dairy Forum 2017, which took place earlier this week in Orlando—so nice to see so many of you there—there was a great deal of upbeat conversations regarding innovation. As one speaker pointed out, “The trend is a friend.”

Indeed, consumers’ insatiable appetite for protein and their rekindled relationship with fat make milk and dairy products relevant. They are delicious, nutritious and enticing powerhouse foods. Add in a layer or two of extra nutrition, from omega-3 fatty acids to dietary fiber to vitamins, and you’ve got yourself a winner.

Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, who served as the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 2009 until 2017 (leaving this position one week before inauguration day), told attendees during a luncheon presentation that he was attracted to working with the dairy industry because of all the innovation.

“Dairy has led the opportunity for new product development,” he said. “I believe this will continue to increase demand. We need to collaborate, communicate and cooperate.”

He acknowledged challenges and opportunities. “Growing the global market for U.S. dairy products is essential to the future of the dairy industry and America’s dairy farmers,” he said Vilsack. He sees more opportunities for U.S. dairy exports. “That’s why this job is exciting. There’s room for us to grow and expand.”

Innovation opportunities are infinite.

When asked by Michael Dykes, president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association, another newcomer to the dairy industry, what his favorite ice cream was, Vilsack chuckled, “How can you pick one? I love them all.”

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

He went on to say that when given the choice between white and chocolate milk, hands down, he picks chocolate.

A day earlier, Dykes addressed the 1,100-plus executives attending the Dairy Forum and said his plans not only include working on trade policy, food safety and food labeling, but also collaborating with allied partners, such as retailers, and being supportive of innovation.  
“We can’t do it by ourselves,” he said. “We are in a new food culture.”

That new food culture must be nourished by each and every person reading this blog, from product developers with the great ideas to company presidents, who must invest and support bringing innovative new products to the market.

That’s what you get with fairlife’s most recent innovation, which was featured as a Daily Dose of Dairy during the busy week of Dairy Forum. The product is fairlife SuperKids ultra-filtered milk and comes in chocolate and white varieties in multi-serve 52-ounce bottles, as well as four packs of 8-ounce single-serve bottles.

Lactose-free and made with 2% reduced-fat ultra-filtered milk, an 8-ounce serving of the chocolate variety contains 140 calories, 5 grams of fat, 12 grams of protein, 12 grams of sugar, 3 grams of fiber, 35% of the Daily Value for calcium, no added sugar, plus 125 milligrams of DHA omega-3 fatty acids. The product is sweetened with stevia leaf extract and monk juice concentrate.

This is innovation! We need more of this in milk and all dairy product categories.

In a separate session at Dairy Forum 2017, Julia Kadison, CEO of MilkPEP said that 2016 was an exciting year for the milk industry. There was increased product innovation, sustained growth of chocolate milk and whole milk sales, and resumed growth of organic milk. Milk volume sales performance was the best in the past six years.

“The industry is at a pivot point,” she recently wrote. “Driven by continued innovation, milk brand engagement and smart marketing, and industry alignment against common priorities--namely driving more fluid milk sales and regaining consumers’ trust in dairy--2017 has the potential to even outpace 2016.”

Here’s the thing with chocolate milk and other flavors of milk. You have to watch the added sugars, which was another topic of conversation at Dairy Forum 2017.

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

By now you should be fully aware that on May 20, 2016, FDA released mandatory nutrition labeling revisions. FDA made changes to the content and format of the Nutrition Facts label as well as to the reference amounts that determine the serving sizes of conventional foods. One of those changes includes having an added sugars line on the Nutrition Facts.

There are many varied technologies that can assist with keeping added sugars low, and likely the most successful strategy is to include multiple ones. That’s what you see in fairlife SuperKids chocolate milk: real milk that is ultra-filtered milk to provide more nutrition and also includes enzyme, fiber and high-intensity sweeteners to allow for a no-added-sugars claim.

Some fibers, such as chicory root inulin, can assist with taking sugar out and putting fiber into dairy foods. These are dietary fibers that provide natural sweetness, at only two calories per gram, vs. sugar’s four calories per gram. Some ingredients provide more sweetness than others, and their ability to work synergistically with other no-added-sugar sweetening systems varies, too.

To read a recent blog on this topic, link HERE.

Back to opportunities in milk, MilkPEP continues to focus on driving consumer demand for milk. Through extensive research, marketplace and consumer understanding, the organization has identified a number of strategic priorities to help ensure that the milk category achieves success over the next three years.

One of them is to win with kids. The fact is, children love milk. They know it’s nutritious and good for them. According to a recent MilkPEP study of 2,400 moms and 1,500 children, 41% of kids said they would drink more milk if they could.

Another priority is to maximize Milk Life’s five-year sponsorship of Team USA to demonstrate the unmatched role milk plays in the lives of athletes. The message is that milk assists athletes with fulfilling their potential.

Aligning milk with food culture is paramount. “Consumers today have an emotional connection to their food choices, as it has become an integral part of our lives, our identity and what we stand for,” Kadison wrote. “The demand for real, fresh food is stronger than ever.”

Milk is real. Milk is fresh. Milk is local. Milk is nutrient dense.

And finally, MilkPEP plans to help build brands. “The milk category will not grow unless milk brands grow, so it is crucial that milk companies have the tools and assets to help them succeed,” Kadison wrote.

The future is bright for all things dairy! Keep innovation alive!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Functional Dairy Foods Made Simple with Dairy Proteins

FACT: Dairy proteins are multi-functional ingredients that can assist with making dairy foods a leading clean and simple functional food. 

Hmmm, I think it is safe to say it’s been an interesting week. At times all that keeps me going is my passion for all things dairy. The industry is my happy place and I feel rather certain many of you share this sentiment.

Pardon this digression, but can you believe Nick and his guests visited a Wisconsin dairy farm? That made my Monday! If you know what I am referring to, please link HERE and send me a quick email with a thumbs up. I can sure use one.

Now back to the facts. I’ve said it many times and I could not be more thrilled to see many dairy foods formulators taking action by putting dairy proteins back into dairy. From beverages to cottage cheese to yogurt, dairy proteins, namely whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate, are being added to these products for nutrition and performance. (You will see some recent innovations highlighted during the next few weeks as a Daily Dose of Dairy.)

FACT: Dairy proteins are multi-functional ingredients that may help make dairy foods a leading clean and simple functional food. (Yes, I know I am being repetitive. But this is HUGE!)

The concept of functional foods—with clean, simple and as close to what Mother Nature intended—appears to have resonated with consumers.  Protein, namely dairy proteins, are a major driver of this platform.

Consumer interest in protein, sustainability and functional foods are among 2017’s top U.S. food and nutrition trends, according to the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation. Drawing from its in-house survey research and health professional expertise, along with other data and observations, the IFIC Foundation has identified several hot topics for the New Year. I’ve included some below, including the role of dairy proteins in the product platform.

A Functional Place for Foods
Once a little-known concept among the public, functional foods—or foods with health benefits beyond basic nutrition—are becoming a subject of high interest and high demand. The IFIC Foundation’s 2016 Food and Health Survey found that nearly half of consumers said that “weight loss/management” is a health benefit they are interested in getting from foods. About one-third of Americans listed “increased energy,” “cardiovascular health,” “healthy aging” or “digestive health.”

In addition, Google cited “Food with a Function” as one of its top-five food trends in 2016. Searches for functional foods and ingredients such as turmeric, jackfruit and kefir were reported to have especially high volumes.

A “Healthy” Debate
Food labeling has been more broadly discussed and debated in the past several years, from organic certification and “absence labeling” to changes in Nutrition Facts labels. In 2017, the spotlight will shine on what qualifies a food to be marketed as “healthy.” The FDA is currently working to redefine what qualifies as a “healthy” nutritional claim on package labels.

The 2016 Food and Health Survey found that for more than one-third of consumers, a “healthy” food is defined in part by what it does not contain rather than what it does contain. That’s where multi-functional dairy proteins come into play. They not only provide protein, they assist with texture and mouthfeel, and can assist with simplifying labels by allowing for the removal of chemical-sounding ingredients.

The Acceptability of Sustainability
When it comes to the factors that play into consumers’ food and beverage purchasing decisions, the 2016 Food and Health Survey found that “sustainability” marked its largest increase since the question was first asked in 2011. In 2016, 41% of consumers listed it as a factor influencing purchasing decision compared to 35% in 2015. About three-quarters believe it’s important that food products be produced in a sustainable way.
Milk and products produced from milk have a great sustainability story. Tell it. Talk about local farmers and their production practices.

Protein Still a Powerhouse
There are no signs that the health halo around protein will be knocked off in 2017. According to the 2016 Food and Health Survey, nearly two-thirds of Americans are trying to consume more protein or as much as possible, up significantly from 54% in 2015 and 50% in 2014.

One-fifth of Americans view plant protein as more healthful than they did the previous year, compared to 8% who see it as less healthful. Views of animal protein, however, were split, with 12% perceiving it as more healthful than the previous year and 15% perceiving it as less healthful.
Now’s the time to talk about the healthfulness of dairy protein. Don’t just add it to your products, communicate to consumers why you are adding it.

Weight Loss Making Gains
The 2016 Food and Health Survey showed glimmers of hope in America’s “battle of the bulge.” There was a significant uptick over 2015 in the number of Americans trying to lose weight—57% vs. 52%—at the expense of the number of people trying merely to maintain their weight, which fell significantly to 23% in 2016 from 29% in 2015. In addition, according to the survey, the number of overweight and obese Americans (as judged by body mass index) fell to 60% in 2016 from 64% in 2015.

Photo source: Starbucks
When it comes to weight loss, Americans clearly have the will. But will they find a way? Dairy proteins can assist. Explain this to consumers, judiciously, using positive language such as “keeps you fuller longer” rather than “diet” or “weight loss.” Again, explain the healthfulness of dairy proteins. Consumers want to add healthful foods to their diet.

“Despite the fact that we’re seeing such a widespread and growing interest in healthy foods, relatively few Americans believe their diet is healthy. With consumers largely wary of even regulator-approved health food options, marketing healthy foods to skeptical consumers requires far more than merely an on-pack promise,” says Billy Roberts, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel. “The key to attracting these consumers is convincing them that products actually deliver on the healthy attributes they promise and that they are truly good for consumers and their families.”

Mintel data show that today’s health-conscious consumers are staying away from products containing high-fructose corn syrup (50%), sugar (47%), trans fat (45%) and saturated fat (43%). What’s more, over one quarter (28%) believe a food is unhealthy if it has artificial ingredients, with consumers actively avoiding products with elements described as “artificial,” such as artificial sweeteners (43%), artificial preservatives (38%) and artificial flavors (35%).

While genetically modified (GM) appears farther down on the list of ingredients consumers avoid when shopping for healthy foods (29%), consumer dislike of GM foods nearly matches their dislike for foods with artificial ingredients. More than one in five (22%) Americans say that they would not feed GM foods to people in their household. What’s more, nearly half (46%) agree that GM foods are not suitable to eat, rising to 58% of consumers with a household income under $50,000.

Well ahead of other ingredients, consumers are interested in protein (63%), fiber (61%) and whole grains (57%) when purchasing foods they consider to be healthy. Protein is particularly of interest to more than half (54%) of iGen (between the ages of 9 and 21 years) consumers, while consumers age 71 and older are most interested in whole grains (50%).

When making food purchase decisions, more than one quarter (27%) of consumers say that health concerns influence their choice of food and nearly as many (23%) indicate that they are more likely to buy food with a health claim on the package than food without. Looking at American families, Mintel research reveals that fathers are more likely to purchase food with a health claim (30%), as compared to 23% of mothers.

“While many consumers are avoiding certain ingredients when purchasing better-for-you foods, Americans are seeking out foods with added health attributes, namely protein, fiber and whole grains, indicating an opportunity for foods with added-health attributes to target consumers with health claims on-pack,” concludes Roberts.

Remember, it’s a FACT. Dairy proteins are multi-functional ingredients that may help make dairy foods a leading clean and simple functional food.

I hope to see many of you in Orlando this coming week for the Dairy Forum. The program is packed with informative presentations. A must-see session takes place Tuesday from 10:45am to noon.

Panelists partaking in the “The Dairy Nutraceuticals Boom” will discuss how dairy companies are well poised to benefit from the rapid growth of the booming nutritional and nutraceutical ingredients market. Through innovation, companies are using dairy ingredients, namely dairy proteins, in value-added products for infants, athletes and the elderly.

Hope to see you there.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Cultured Dairy Product Trends 2017: Whole-ly Cow!

Photo source: USDEC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recent Innovations

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

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

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

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

With snacking now ubiquitous--more than three in five (64%) consumers agree that snacking is necessary to get through the day, including 77% of millennials, according to research from Chicago-based Mintel—cheese marketers such as Kraft Heinz are aggressively developing what they believe will be a winner with the growing number of snackers. Mintel data also show that millennials are more likely to be motivated by healthy snack options (68%); and that three in four (73%) consumers are willing to pay extra for snacks made with high-quality ingredients.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And lastly, Snøfrisk is not a new product, in fact it was introduced by Norway's Tine Dairy during the Winter Olympic Games at Lillehammer in 1994. However, it is rather new to the States. It is being imported by Norseland.

Snøfrisk is a white, unripened cream cheese made from 80% goat’s milk and 20% cow’s cream with only 1.5% salt added. It is easy to spread and can be used on bagels, with crudites or as a dip or spread. The plain variety is now being joined by Dill, Horseradish, Ramson Garlic and Red Onion & Thyme, flavors indigenous to Norway.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Commit to Sugar Reduction in 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link HERE for additional statistics on global obesity.

Photo source: Barry Callebaut

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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