Friday, March 17, 2017

The Luck of the Dairy Industry: Go Green—and Clean—for St. Patrick’s Day 2017

“Top o’ the mornin’ to ya’,” which is how non-Irish folks like me—trying to sound like the real deal—say “good morning to you on this St. Patrick’s Day!”

(Pictured: Kellogg Company is serving Green Goodness Parfaits in New York City’s Times Square starting today, St. Patrick’s Day, through April 1. The parfaits are made with Greek yogurt mixed with moringa green vegetable powder, Special K cereal, banana, dark chocolate chips, honey, mint and pistachios.)

As I enjoyed a McDonald’s Shamrock Shake on Thursday afternoon while sorting through the stack of materials collected at Natural Products Expo West a week ago, I reflect on the “luck of the dairy industry.” Yes, indeed, the dairy industry is in a very good place.

Though Expo West had ample share of dairy alternatives in fluid, cultured and frozen formats, I do believe there was more REAL dairy at the exhibition this year. And why? Because dairy is inherently, simple, pure and nutritious. It’s just what many consumers want.

Now, as anyone in the food industry knows, distribution and retail merchandising puts stress on foods, dairy foods included, and additives are often necessary to maintain quality and ensure safety. It’s paramount that those ingredients be chosen wisely in order to keep labels clean and simple.

Research from Ingredion reveals what consumers want to see—and not see—on food and beverage labels. U.S. consumers aren’t just reading labels, they’re scrutinizing them. Standing in the grocery aisles with heads bent and products in hand, they are searching for claims and ingredients that make their buying choices easy.

This product goes in the cart; this one goes back to the shelf. Is your product making the cut into the cart? And after that, does it pass the taste test and make it into the cart again and again?
Ingredion’s research shows that the drive for clean and simple continues to expand, with nearly three-quarters of U.S. consumers finding it important to recognize the ingredients used in the products they buy. While the majority of consumers look at front-of-pack claims, many also are interested enough to turn packages over to look for the ingredients that led to the claim—and to see if they can find other reasons to buy or not. Interestingly, the ingredient list helps justify price in the minds of consumers and is of particular interest to shoppers over age 30. This is important to note. It’s not just a millennial thing!

Forty percent of survey respondents ranked the descriptor “natural/all natural” number-one in terms of appeal on the front of packaging. “No artificial ingredients” came in second (31%). This is challenging for marketers who know the term natural is ambiguous and can stir up controversy with watch-dog groups.

However, what is encouraging is that data also showed that 58% of consumers ranked “no artificial ingredients” as the claim most likely to make them consider switching brands. 
(For detailed survey results, please contact Ingredion at 1-866-961-6285.)

Many of the innovations that debuted at Expo West included claims of “natural,” “organic” and “no additives/preservatives.” In fact, all products exhibited at Expo West must meet certain criteria established by the event organizer, criteria that in fact renders the product clean label. It’s like Expo West organizers are the clean-label police.

According to Supermarket News’ Whole Health Survey 2017 of retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers and sales agencies, clean label was the strongest wellness trend in 2016, followed by organic, then natural/organic private label. It’s no wonder the expo floor was packed full of buyers and brokers from around the country and beyond.

Dairy ranked third in terms of the greatest increase in consumer demand for natural/organic/green products. Produce ranked first, while grocery/snacks came in second. Meat was fourth.

Seventy-five percent of respondents said sales in health- and wellness-related categories increased this past year. And here’s something to take note of: only 29% of respondents said that conventional products remain strong in the dairy category. It’s no wonder there were so many new—and improved—dairy products at Expo West. Here’s a sampling.

Lifeway debuted Ceremonial Matcha Organic Kefir. This new kefir variety is packed with protein—11 grams--and 30 milligrams of caffeine (from the addition of organic matcha green tea powder) per 8-ounce serving. Matcha is an antioxidant-rich superfood known for its ability to boost memory, energy, alertness and mood. The product is naturally gluten free, low in fat and 99% void of lactose. The 15 to 20 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) of 12 live and active cultures may help support immunity and digestion.

The company fills the new variety of kefir, as well as its other kefir products, in bottles that are made of plant-based materials. This renders them 100% recyclable.

On Thursday, my friend Julie Smolyansky, CEO of Lifeway, spoke with other industry leaders on the role of “big food” in today’s food world at the Good Food Festival & Conference in Chicago.

“Today’s consumers have lost trust in big food, rightfully so,” she said. “So much so that big food lost 20 billion dollars last year, with many consumers migrating to smaller, community driven, nimble, innovative companies that have soul and passion.”

This includes companies such as Lifeway, as well as most of the other Expo West exhibitors.

“Big food is risk averse, and scaling clean ingredients is challenging, and frankly, they are incapable of innovation for a variety of reasons,” she said. “But what they have is efficiency. They have incredible supply chain know-how and they have incredibly smart multi-national teams. If big food wants to regain the trust of today’s consumer, they are going to have to take a long hard look at themselves, hold themselves accountable and own what they have contributed to.”

This includes obesity and diabetes epidemics, climate change, and malnutrition and famine around the world.

“We have a billion people in the world who are obese and a billion people in the world who are malnourished; 20 million people in the world are at risk for famine this year,” she said. “In 2017, we have the ability to prevent catastrophic starvation of people. Now more than ever we need big food to step up and help solve the greatest challenges of our time in a sustainable way. They need to take the long view and make some investments in local, national and international communities.”

These are many of the communities represented at Expo West.

Straus Family Creamery, the first 100% certified organic creamery in the U.S., is expanding its line of premium organic Greek yogurt. The yogurts are made with simple organic ingredients and live active cultures. The vat-set yogurt is carefully strained, which gives it a thick and creamy texture without the addition of thickeners or stabilizers. New Lowfat Plain and Whole Milk Vanilla are joining Nonfat Plain and Whole Milk Plain. Strauss uses sweet cream buttermilk in its Greek yogurts to add an extra touch of deliciousness.

Last year the company added two refreshingly simple ice cream flavors--Lemon Gingersnap and Strawberry—to its frozen dessert lineup. Both flavors are made from organic milk and cream supplied by local family farms in Marin and Sonoma Counties.

The Lemon Gingersnap features smooth, creamy organic lemon ice cream, blended with gluten-free cookies from Ukiah, California-based Pamela’s Products. The Strawberry ice cream combines organic strawberries with a sweet cream base made from only a few simple, organic ingredients: cream, milk, sugar and egg yolks.

“We are excited to introduce new ice creams made with milk from local family farms,” said Albert Straus, Founder and CEO of Straus Family Creamery. “When consumers enjoy our ice creams, they are also helping to sustain family farming, revitalize rural communities and support a thriving regional food system.”

Organic Valley, the U.S.’s largest cooperative of organic farmers and a leading organic brand, is growing its Grassmilk Yogurt line. The yogurts are made from milk produced by cows that are 100% grass-fed, with no supplemental feed, grain or soybeans in their diet, just lush, fresh pasture and dried forages, according to the company. This diet produces milk that naturally contains calcium, conjugated linoleic acid and omega-3 fatty acids.

Crafted in small batches, the yogurt is minimally processed, cream-on-the-top yogurt made from non-homogenized whole milk. Black Cherry and Peach are now part of the 6-ounce single-serve cup lineup, which debuted a year ago in Plain, Strawberry, Vanilla and Wild Blueberry flavors.

JC’s, a brand known for dreaming up classic frozen treats and decadent candies with a modern twist, added Coconut Cream and Chocolate Peanut Butter to its JC’s Pie Pops frozen novelty line. The brand’s signature JC’s Pie Pops combine the taste of classic pie favorites, topped with crumble, all on a stick. The new flavors join Banana Cream, Caramel Apple Crumble, Caramel Turtle, Chocolate Silk, Key Lime, Mint Chocolate Chip, S’mores and Strawberry Cream.

Morinaga Nutritional Foods introduced Alove, a yogurt snack that contains real bits of aloe. The yogurt is made using Morinaga’s proprietary process of removing fresh aloe from aloe plant leaves, the best and tastiest parts. This then gets mixed into creamy yogurt. The product is made in the U.S. using locally sourced California milk. It does not contain high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors or gluten and is a good source of protein and calcium. Alove comes in Blueberry, Original Aloe and Strawberry flavors.

Morinaga Nutritional Foods is the U.S. arm of Japanese dairy giant Morinaga, which has been successfully selling aloe yogurt in Japan for years. Consuming aloe is associated with internal healing, cleansing and repair. Some studies show an association with boosting immunity and heart health.

Dreaming Cow Creamery, the maker of grass-fed and 100% pasture-raised cream-top yogurt, is introducing a new line of products. LUSH is a nutrient-dense yogurt drink made from the same milk used for its yogurts and combined with fruits, one full serving of vegetables and more than 20 billion probiotics (Bifidobacterium-12), which have been clinically shown to promote immunity and digestive health.

LUSH is a full-fat yogurt drink that contains antioxidants, vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, potassium and B vitamins. It comes in a square-round 12-ounce plastic bottle designed for merchandising in either the refrigerated produce section or the yogurt aisle. The four varieties are: Blueberry, Boysenberry, Purple Carrot & Beet; Lemon, Passionfruit, Carrot & Pumpkin; Peach, Ginger, Pumpkin & Carrot; and Strawberry, Raspberry, Purple Carrot & Beet. A single bottle contains 230 to 250 calories, 9 to 11 grams of fat, 11 to 13 grams of protein and 15 to 23 grams of sugar, depending on variety. LUSH is made with only natural ingredients, without any preservatives or stabilizers.

“We spent some time over the past few years in research and development to define and create a product that aligns with the tastes and attitudes of today’s health-conscious consumers,” said Kyle Wehner, co-founder and CEO. “We found that most Americans are not getting enough fruit and vegetables a day, but they are more thoughtful than ever before about what they’re putting into their bodies. Flavor and convenience seem to be the biggest obstacles. Seeing a major void in the market, our vision and purpose behind LUSH is to bring a convenient and delicious ‘wellness on-the-go’ yogurt drink with noticeable nutritional increases that everyone can enjoy anytime. It’s like a Farmer’s Market in a bottle.”

Dreaming Cow is the only national yogurt brand that exclusively sources its whole milk from its own family dairy farms, which have been focused on the humane treatment of cows and sustainable farming since 1993. Dreaming Cow’s cows are not treated with artificial growth hormones.

“As Millennials become a bigger buying segment in the marketplace, they are demanding better nutrition from the foods they eat. They are driving companies to be more innovative and are challenging the status quo in nearly every category throughout the grocery store,” says Jason Therrien, national account director. “They also want to see complete transparency of how the food they eat is made, and who makes it. We strive for transparency by communicating our commitment to the humane treatment of cows and sustainable farming through our packaging, website and social media platforms.”

It’s time to go clean and green. That includes Big Food, too. May the luck of the dairy industry be with you.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Dairy Foods Snacking: Why Sugar Content Matters

The modern era of snackified eating has fully emerged, according to The Hartman Group. And based on the innovations debuting at Natural Products Expo West today, the snack food industry is in for a real shake up.

Yesterday was the soft-start to Expo West, with attendees able to explore innovations from many of the 600 first-time exhibitors in the Fresh Ideas tent and the satellite exhibit halls. From plant protein bites to meat jerkies to pulse chips, these exhibitors are targeting the growing the snack daypart. They are smart.

Research from The Hartman Group shows that 91% of consumers are snacking multiple times throughout the day. (This figure was 90% less than a year ago.) Snacking is essential to daily eating for most Americans and accounts for 50% of all eating occasions. In fact, about 7% of these snacking consumers forego meals all together and instead graze their way through the day. This is being driven by Millennials, which means it’s a trend that is going to intensify in the next few years.

With snacking being an all-day affair, snacks must be tailored in appearance, calories, nutrition, taste and texture to meet consumers’ expectations. The Hartman Group identified three key snacking drivers—nourishment, optimization and pleasure—that represent a thematic shift towards individualized and intentional snacking. Sugar replacement

“Many companies continue to market to what we imagine when we think of meals and snacks: the bowl of cereal, the lunchtime sandwich, a quick bag of chips and the family to share the meat and potatoes,” writes The Hartman Group in its hot-off-the-presses “The Future of Snacking 2016” report. “By speaking only to these images, companies are missing out on new opportunities emerging from the dynamic changes taking place in American culture (in general) and our eating culture (specifically).”

The report explains that there’s a confluence of several cultural shifts that have led to the prominence of snacking. 

  • These shifts include the erosion of food rituals centered on the nuclear family, rapidly changing wellness and culinary trends, and the growing access people have to food and food types.
  • As eating experiences that tend to be individualized and not shared, snacks are able to address consumer needs in ways that traditional meals often cannot.
  • The boundary between meals and snacks is blurring, but most people understand a meal to be shaped by cultural traditions around timing, setting and food groups. Snacks, on the other hand, are highly personalized and variable.
  • Snacks often punctuate and bridge larger eatings but happen fluidly and spontaneously, often during other activities. As such, they are low or no prep and more easily satisfy demands for immediacy.
  • They are likewise less substantial, often containing fewer than 200 or 300 calories, and people do not hold snacks to the same nutritional standards as meals.

Dairy foods are well poised to take charge of the snacking daypart. There are products that talk to all three drivers: nourishment, optimization and pleasure.

When it comes to nourishment, the inherent, as well as added protein in dairy foods assists with hunger abatement. Dairy’s natural, as well as added sugars, combined with the protein and fat provides sustained energy to help maintain one’s reserves of stamina to meet the demands of life. Dairy beverages address hydration, another critical nourishment need.

Regarding optimization, dairy products can be formulated to provide quick energy, bringing energy back to one’s baseline or even provide an extra boost of strength and vitality. What’s key here is the product should not raise blood sugar and then take the consumer into a quick crash and burn. Sugar management is paramount.

“Lowered sugar contents for optimum energy,” this is a key message being communicated by exhibitors at Expo West. It also speaks to the Nutrition Facts label that will soon require a separate line for “added sugars.”

And finally, there’s the driver of pleasure. Consumers find comfort in dairy foods and can satisfy their cravings with the many varied tastes and textures. This past week at the International Dairy Foods Association Ice Cream Tech conference in Las Vegas, I discussed how ice cream needs to be made into a snack. There are so many options in the novelty format. Load them up with fruits and nuts, keep added sugars low, and you have the ideal “craving” snack.

Sugar content and sugar form matters. Research commissioned by BENEO in 2016 and conducted by Ipsos showed that consumers are gaining a better understanding that not all sugars are alike. The study of 1,000 U.S. consumers was undertaken to obtain a better understanding of consumers’ perceptions of sugar, carbohydrates and the benefits of nutrition that supports a lower blood glucose response and energy management. Those surveyed indicated that along with looking for foods that are natural, clean label and nutritious without “empty calories,” they also pay close attention to the levels of sugar that are contained in their food choices. Consumers prefer nutritional foods that not only sustain energy throughout the day, but also help with weight management, healthy eating and disease prevention.

Additionally, the results revealed that consumer health concerns in order of importance are weight management (38%), stress (35%) and fatigue (33%). Respondents indicated they are aware that the amount and type of sugars play a major role in coping with these health issues. In fact, 57% of the consumers polled said they try to cut their sugar intake. A healthy diet (58%), weight management (56%) as well as tooth decay and diabetes (37% and 28%, respectively) were named by respondents as concrete reasons to limit sugar intake. On the other hand, respondents said they are not prepared to completely forego sugar, with taste being the number one reason at 58%. Twenty-four percent said sugar provides essential energy and 20% indicated that sugar acts as a mood food.

While consumers said they have an ambivalent relationship to sugar, they indicated that there is awareness that some sugars are better for their health than others. Sugar from honey for example, was perceived as the most appealing sweetener in the U.S because it is natural. Furthermore, about two out of three respondents agreed that naturally derived sugars from fruits, vegetables and plants are healthier (64%). A similar number also said they preferred natural sugars to low calorie sweeteners (65%). Finally, 60% of the consumers polled indicated their ideal sweetener would not lead to a “sugar boost and crash effect.”

Many of the products being debuted at Expo West address sugar content. For example, Yooli artisan-style farmer’s cheese, which made its debut at the 2016 expo tweaked its formula over the past year to be lower in added sugars. This protein-packed snack delivers 17 to 18 grams per 4.4-ounce container. The product comes in Honey Lemon Zest (super yummy!), Strawberry and Vanilla varieties, delivering 170 to 180 calories, 2.5 grams of fat and 15 grams of sugar.

The Yooli Bars are all about on-the-go snacking. These are farmer’s cheese with coconut, strawberry or vanilla and enrobed in dark chocolate. A 50-gram bar contains 100 to 130 calories, 10 to 11 grams of sugar and 6 to 7 grams of protein. Check them out at the satellite expo hall in the Hilton at booth 529.

Naturi (booth 8924) is another exhibitor that emphasizes the lower sugar content of its yogurts. The company’s newest flavors are Coffee + Chicory and Pineapple + Coconut, each with 13 grams of protein and a mere 12 grams of sugar per 5-ounce container.

Hope to see you on the Expo floor today or tomorrow. Sugar replacement

Friday, March 3, 2017

Embrace National Nutrition Month: Milk Is Already Great. Here Are Tips to Make Milk Better.

Photo source: California Milk Processor Board

Data show that today’s consumer is more than ever aware of how diet influences short- and long-term health and wellness. Shoppers are seeking out nutrient-dense foods to attain benefits beyond basic nutrition.

Inherently nutritious milk and beverages made with milk or dairy ingredients appeal to these consumers. The correlation of calcium to bone health is ingrained, while an understanding of the many benefits of dairy protein resonates with more and more consumers.

Thank you to my friends at Midwest Dairy for sharing recent USDA Economic Research Service data that show both total and domestic commercial disappearance of milk grew in 2016. In total, it was up 3%, while domestically it increased 2.9%.

Dairy remains a vital part of people’s lives. The numbers show it. USDA-ERS data show milk used in all dairy products continues to increase on a total volume and per capita basis. During the 20-years from 1995 to 2015, average annual growth in disappearance was 1.5%. During this time frame, per capita consumption increased by 57 pounds on milk equivalence. That’s a lot of milk. 

Though I’m sure most of you know this, that milk is being consumed mainly in the form of cheese and yogurt. Per capita cheese consumption increased by 8 pounds during this 20-year period, while yogurt increased by 8.6 pounds. Cheese consumption continues to show healthy growth, yogurt, however, has slowed.

This is my favorite. Butter is back. Per capita butter consumption is at its highest point--5.6 pounds--since 1969. From 1995 to 2015, it grew by one pound.

Then there’s milk. The base ingredient for dairy foods, and an incredible powerhouse beverage all on its own. From 1995 to 2015, per capita consumption decreased by 5.7 gallons. I repeat myself…that’s a lot of milk!

Data analysis by my friends at Midwest Dairy shows that the milk segments that are growing and off-setting part of the milk decline include lactose-free, flavored, refuel and whole. Further, milk as an ingredient is growing through lattes. Think all those ready-to-drink cold-brew beverages finding their way into the convenience channel.

In less than a week, Expo West will take place in Anaheim. I’ve received MANY previews of innovations that will be rolling out at the show, dairy and dairy alternatives. Many of these will be featured as a Daily Dose of Dairy over the next month. These are out-of-the-gallon innovators, something I encourage all processors to be.

Photo source: Starbucks

It’s time to get creative with milk. Here are some tips.

1. Concentrate the protein content. This can be achieved through filtration or protein addition. Flag it on product labels. Talk about the benefits, which range from satiety to refuel.

2. Boost health and wellness attributes. Consider adding DHA omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics and/or prebiotic fibers, among others. Identify your target consumer and formulate a milk beverage to meet their nutritional needs.

3. Go lactose free. Real or perceived lactose intolerance, there’s a (rapidly) growing number of consumers who believe they feel better without lactose in their diet. So just do it already. I believe that all milk beverages should be lactose free. This eliminates a barrier to trial. If you use lactase enzyme to breakdown the lactose, it also assists with building natural sweetness.

4. Reduce added sugar in flavored beverages. Stevia, monkfruit and erythritol are all sensible natural sweeteners. Keep it simple and label friendly. A little sugar in combination with these high-intensity works, too.

5. Make fruits and vegetables work for you. Juices, concentrates and purees add sweetness, boost fiber content and, if added in sufficient quantities, deliver a serving or two of produce. They also provide natural color. Artificial colors are no longer acceptable by many consumers, especially in dairy beverages, which possess a healthful halo.

Give consumers the beverages they are looking for so they can raise their glass and toast to good health. Let them have their own daily dose of dairy.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Fruit Makes Ice Cream Better—Get Consumers to Notice

There’s still time to plan to attend the International Dairy Foods Association’s Ice Cream Technology Conference in Las Vegas on March 7 and 8. Today’s blog touches on part of my presentation titled “The Scoop on Millennials,” which will take place the morning of Tuesday, March 7.

To entice you to attend the conference, here’s the scoop. We all know that Millennials have an insatiable appetite for adventure of all kinds. They are driving flavor and texture innovation in ice cream, too. As these young adults become parents, their preferences and priorities will impact the choices they make about the frozen treats they purchase for their tots. And not to be ignored, Baby Boomers--the grandparents—have their own evolving wish list when it comes to ice cream.

For more information on Ice Cream Tech, link HERE.

As mentioned last week in my blog titled “Ice Cream Trends: Market Overview and Inclusion Innovations,” one of the key flavor trends for innovation inspiration is “Fruit goes upscale.”
To read last week’s blog, link HERE.

Fruit’s role in the three distinct consumer segments identified—Millennials, their children and the grandparents—varies. Let’s talk first about the kiddos.

Remember when frozen novelties were fun? There were Flintstones Push-Ups and Marvel Heroes Popsicles. Most of today’s—and likely tomorrow’s--gatekeepers avoid purchasing such sugar-laden artificially colored treats. Have you noticed the shrinking kids’ section of the frozen novelty shelf?

Let’s get innovative and make fruit work for us in this category. Turkey Hill does a fabulous job with its All-Natural Ice Cream line. Check out the recent blueberry addition, which is made with four simple ingredients. They are: milk, cream, sugar and blueberry puree. The puree’s composition is parenthetically listed as “blueberries, cream, sugar, natural flavor, pectin, fruit and vegetable juices for color.”

There’s also new Raspberry Chocolate Chip. Those all-natural chips could easily be shaped into characters—even emojis—for an adventure. It’s like alphabet soup.

These flavors could go into a tube, on a stick or in a cup. They’re the kind of snack moms want to feed their kids. The colors of the rainbow are possible with fruit (and vegetable) ingredients. The package can make them fun. Educate the shopper that ice cream makes a sensible snack. It contains protein, calcium and other essential vitamins and minerals. Layer in some fruit and you have a powerhouse product.

Baby Boomer grandparents are all about defying aging and getting the most bang for the calorie. To keep them in the ice cream category it is paramount to meet their nutritional needs. There’s a number of marketers in this sector and likely more to follow. 

Enlightened continues to grow its pint line of “the good-for-you ice cream,” with Banana Foster, which is silky ribbons of caramel swirled through banana ice cream. A half-cup serving is only 80 calories, with the whole pint being only 320 calories. A serving contains a mere 1.5 grams of fat, 6 grams of sugar and 7 grams of protein.

This is accomplished through a proprietary base mix including skim milk, milk protein isolate, erythritol, soluble corn fiber and monk fruit extract. The ingredient list highlights the inclusion of real bananas, adding a layer of nutrition to this guilt-free treat.

There’s also Strawberry Cheesecake made with real strawberries. This variety has an even “thinner” nutrition profile at only 70 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 5 grams of sugar and 6 grams of protein per serving.

For some Baby Boomers, organic is a priority. To meet their needs, Snoqualmie Ice Cream is rolling out Snoqualmie Organic ice cream pints. In addition to the standard chocolate, vanilla and cookies n’ cream flavors, there are a number of innovative offerings. One is Organic Mixed Berry. This is a unique, Northwest-inspired flavor made with organic Madagascar vanilla, organic honey from a Northwest supplier and a custom-made blend of organic Northwest berries.

“We’ve been developing our organic line for over a year,” said Barry Bettinger, owner and founder. “We’ve worked very hard to source the perfect ingredients, develop the best recipes and obtain all the official certifications to create a top-tier extension of our brand. We’re seeing a shift in the way people eat and choose their foods--especially in the dairy world--and we want to ensure our customers that we care about these choices just as much as they do. Snoqualmie Organic ice cream truly aligns with the way we (as individuals and as a company) think, operate and live, and we’re so excited and proud to finally share it with the world.”

Look for more on this new line next week when it is featured as a Daily Dose of Dairy.

Now let’s talk about Millennials, the adventurous, snacking demographic that craves flavor innovation. Fruit ingredients can assist.

For Millennials, 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.

Those whole fruit ingredients can be infused with flavor, too. The same is true for purees and variegates. Imagine a chipotle-infused raspberry swirl or a rosemary-lemon puree.

Here’s a brand that understands flavor adventure and convenience. Kayak Greek Frozen Yogurt is now available in single-serve portions for on-the-go snacking. The unique square package even contains a spoon in the lid. Made from 100% real Greek strained yogurt and fresh fruits, without any artificial ingredients, the low-fat stevia-sweetened frozen yogurts come in an array of flavors. One that stands out is Mango & Jasmine. There’s also Red Berries & Acai.

Want to learn more? Plan to attend Ice Cream Tech. See you in Vegas in a few weeks!

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”

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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.