Thursday, October 25, 2012

Real Resources for Dairy Product Developers and Marketers

The beauty of the blog is that it can be long or short, personal or impersonal, on schedule or not. It’s the internet, and there are few restraints.

With that said, today’s will be short and personal, as my husband’s grandmother of 102 years just passed and I am rebooting and rescheduling (especially with Pack Expo in town) in order to attend the out-of-state services.

Over the years I’ve written about this incredible lady numerous times. When it came to food, she believed everything delicious can be consumed in moderation. As a French Canadian, this 90-pound petite lady enjoyed REAL cream with her coffee, spread REAL butter on her bread and snacked on REAL cheese with crackers. Need I say more?

Resource #1: The REAL Seal.
Summary: As part of its efforts to revitalize one of the most recognized product symbols in the food industry, the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), the organization driving this effort, says that the REAL Seal is undergoing a makeover. The first step is the launch of a revamped website. Visit it HERE.

The previous website existed primarily as a resource for dairy product manufacturers and marketers interested in putting the REAL Seal on their packaging. This, of course, is a great thing. But the new website is so much more. It contains content to educate consumers about why they should look for the REAL Seal on the foods they buy, while also continuing to provide information for those companies using the REAL Seal to enhance their product marketing.

“Research has found that 93% of consumers know of the REAL Seal, and that many people find it useful in making buying decisions,” says Jerry Kozak, president and CEO of NMPF. “Imitation products made from vegetables and nuts, but packaged like real dairy products and often using dairy names, have proliferated in the last few years. For example, frozen desserts made out of soybeans are packaged the same as real ice cream made from cows’ milk, with pictures that make it look like real ice cream. The only way a consumer would know the product isn’t ice cream is by reading the ingredients label.”

The same is true for other processed foods made with imitation dairy products, notes Kozak. “Currently, frozen pizza is essentially the only processed food that uses the REAL Seal. We intend to expand the products eligible to use the REAL Seal beyond that that category.”

To address expanded use of the REAL Seal, the seal itself is in the process of being tailored to other applications. Terms like “Made With” real dairy, and “American Made,” along with specific dairy product names, will be stacked above and below the basic REAL Seal.

“Our goal is to have a fully integrated program up and running early in 2013,” Kozak says. “We know dairy farmers are enthusiastic about the REAL Seal, and we’re excited about the tremendous potential this has for expanding sales of REAL dairy products made from U.S. dairy farmers’ milk.

“Consumers continue to express an interest in food quality and integrity, through the choices they make at grocery stores and restaurants,” Kozak says. “Labeling is an integral part of creating and maintaining a dialogue with them.”

The revitalized program strives to educate new generations of dairy consumers about the significance of the REAL Seal, revitalizing the brand and talking to them about the good taste, nutritional value and wholesomeness associated with dairy foods and dairy food ingredients.

Apparently, Great Grand-Ma-Ma had this knowledge!

Resource #2: Ingredient Info

Here’s a tool from the International Food Information Council (IFIC) to help communicate information about ingredients.

Summary: We enjoy a food supply that is safe, convenient, healthful, flavorful and affordable. Food ingredients--both those that have been used for centuries, as well as those developed more recently--help to make that possible. Connect HERE.

Resource #3: Interested in understanding the sweetness of ice cream?
Summary: An article on the relative sweetness of ice cream has been added to the Dairy Science and Food Technology website. Connect HERE.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Is Pumpkin the New Bacon?

During the past month, consumer media have posed the question: Is pumpkin the next bacon?

Here are two worthwhile reads: CNBC on September 21 and New York Magazine on October 14.

While pumpkin is showing up this autumn on menus across the country—from McDonald’s milkshakes to Cracker Barrel’s custard  to Starbucks’ latte—many agree that it is a seasonal flavor, but one that is increasingly being embraced by consumers because of pumpkin’s healthfulness.

Did you know?
  • Pumpkins owe their bright orange color to their high carotenoid content. These antioxidants assist in staving off free radicals in the body, which helps fight off various diseases and slows signs of aging.
  • They are also high in lutein and zeaxanthin. These are the same nutrients found in egg yolks and are associated with protecting the eyes against free radical damage and preventing formation of cataracts and degeneration of the eye tissues.
  • Pumpkins are loaded with vitamins and minerals, most notably vitamins A and C, magnesium, potassium and zinc.
  • And finally, pumpkin flesh is a concentrated source of soluble fiber, making it very low in calories.  (Though it usually only tastes good when it’s combined with sweeteners and other caloric, flavorful ingredients.)
Many dairy processors recognize the value of formulating with pumpkin, especially at this time of year. For example, Kraft’s Limited-Edition Philadelphia Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese recently returned to grocer’s refrigerators for its third season.

And this month, private-label retailer Aldi dedicated an entire refrigerated section and dried goods shelf to fall seasonal products, most of which were pumpkin flavored. Under the company’s Fit & Active brand, the pumpkin pie nonfat yogurt is to die for. A 6-ounce cup contains 90 calories and sells at Aldi for 39 cents! (I made an oat-based granola with dried cranberries and pecan pieces and used it to make pumpkin pie yogurt parfaits as a healthful dessert for some moms at a recent school committee meeting. They loved it!)

In the refrigerator, Aldi offers quarts of indulgent Friendly Farms Pumpkin Spice Milk, while in the freezer there are 1.5-quarts of Belmont Premium Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream. The ambient aisle has 9.5-fluid-ounce glass bottles of Pumpkin Spice Iced Coffee. Aldi has its own pumpkin-flavored cream cheese, too. (Photos below.)
And though not pumpkin, Aldi’s new Apple Harvest Cheddar Cheese is definitely a winner that they better bring back next year. (Photo below.)
Back on the foodservice side, TCBY is encouraging Americans to indulge guilt-free with three new frozen yogurt flavors: Pumpkin Spice, Apple Spice and Eggnog Super Fro-Yo.  A single serving delivers a minimum of 3 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, seven types of live active probiotic cultures, and 20% of the Daily Value for vitamin D and calcium. At a 120 calories or less per serving, as well as 1 gram or less of saturated fat and a minimum of 20 billion live active probiotics, it’s easy for consumers to get into the spirit of the season.

So, is pumpkin the next bacon? No…not if you are in the dairy business, as bacon has only had a limited presence in dairy (a few dips, some cheeses and an artisan ice cream or two). Pumpkin is bigger than bacon in dairy. So if you are not marketing a pumpkin flavor this autumn, consider it for next year.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Make Dairy Products Convenient

Monday was a very exhausting day, as I flew to Vegas in the wee hours of the morning and spent the afternoon walking the two massive halls of the NACS Show (convenience store show). The effort paid off, as I discovered many innovative new dairy products that will be featured as a Daily Dose of Dairy during the next month. (There were many, and you won’t want to miss any. And these are all real dairy products, not snack foods flavored with cheese or sour cream.

Though c-stores continue to be a destination for parents in need of a quick gallon of milk (view the “got milk?” commercial HERE), there are so many more opportunities for dairy processors to merchandise their wares.

Did you know?
  • There are 148,126 c-stores in the United States—one per every 2,100 people.
  • Other competing channels have far fewer stores, according to Nielsen TDLinx, such as supermarkets (32,924 stores), drug stores (38,526 stores), dollar stores (22,782 stores) and superettes (13,234 stores).
  • The U.S. c-store industry alone serves nearly 160 million customers per day.
  • Cumulatively, in 2011, their $681 billion in sales were more than the sales of the country’s supermarkets ($563 billion) and restaurants ($583 billion) and far greater than drug stores ($222 billion, not including prescriptions).
  • C-stores offer speed of service to time-starved consumers who want to get in and out of the store quickly.
  • The c-store industry also is increasingly a destination for on-the-go refreshment and meals. The average store has more than $20,000 a month in “foodservice” sales.
  • These shoppers recognize this channel of trade for its convenient locations, extended hours of operation, one-stop shopping, grab-and-go foodservice, variety of merchandise and fast transactions.

Are your dairy products convenient? Think cheese cubes and cracker packs, bagels and cream cheese, carrot sticks and sour cream dip, yogurt parfaits, etc.   Are you selling in the c-store channel? The time is now to get on board.  

Other opportunities include partnering with the c-store to offer your branded products as part of their various fresh foodservice programs, including fresh yogurt bars, pizza programs and build-your-own sandwich. And don't forget to offer your branded creamers with their coffee.    

And what best accompanies all of these convenience food options? It’s a single-serve bottle of flavored milk.    

Did you know?
  • Approximately 7.1% of all fluid milk sales occur in c-stores.
  • Almost 10% of milk sold in c-stores is flavored, a higher share than any other retail channel.
  • In 2010, 456-million gallons of milk were sold in c-stores, but unfortunately this figure has declined by more than 10% since 2008.
  • Single-serve milk now represents 10% of all milk in c-stores. Two-thirds of that is flavored milk.
Kudos goes out to Shamrock Farms for their efforts in the c-store channel. This ad appeared in a c-store magazine I picked up at the show.    

Friday, October 5, 2012

What a Week for Fluid Milk!!!

I try not to be too personal on these blogs, but I must share with you that I had an amazing day on Tuesday when The Fair Oaks Farms Brands Inc., Chicago-based team brought me up to speed (some info will remain in my confidence until they give me the thumbs up to share) on their business and then took me on a personal tour of their Indiana farming operation. This group of dynamic individuals IS changing the way the American consumer will view, use and consume fluid milk in the future. Think out of the gallon jug!

Did you know that their Core Power Strawberry Banana Light high-protein recovery drink uses monk fruit juice concentrate and stevia leaf extract as low-calorie natural sweeteners? Read more HERE.

The next day, Cary Frye, vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs at the International Dairy Foods Association, shared the following LINK of her interview on WUSA-TV for a story on milk in schools. Cary does a fantastic job of discrediting the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a vegan group more concerned with the welfare of animals than of school kids’ nutritional status, and delivering the dairy industry’s messages. She does an excellent job of explaining how impractical it would be for kids to consume enough greens in lieu of milk to receive the same amount of calcium. 

But the industry needs your help to support Cary’s comments. Under the video link is a script of the broadcast and room to post comments. As of this morning (October 5, at about 6:30am CDT), there were two comments, both supporting Cary’s views. Please consider making a positive comment.

Also, prior to the broadcast and again afterwards, the anchor solicits feedback from parents and asks them to go to the WUSA Facebook page to post comments. As of this morning, there are 21 comments. They are quite varied, with many packed full of misinformation, such as “everyone is lactose intolerant and milk should be removed from school.”

Please consider linking HERE and posting a positive comment about milk. (You need to scroll down to the Tuesday, 9:17pm, posting. It appears that the presidential debate and the Fonz being a guest anchor on the network trumped the school milk story.)

And here’s some great info to end your week. Chocolate milk sales for the months of July and August rose significantly, according to two recent reports.

IRI/Symphony, a market research firm, reports that sales volume for chocolate milk sold in grocery, drug, club, dollar and military outlets grew 8.3% for the 13 weeks ending September 9, 2012, when compared to the same period in 2011.

USDA statistics for the month of July also showed strong sales volume with an 8.6% increase across all channels selling flavored milk. This is the highest sales gain reported by USDA since early 2010 and possibly longer, according to Julia Kadison, MilkPEP vice president of marketing. “These numbers are clearly a bright spot on the milk landscape.”

The timing corresponds with a major new initiative introduced by the Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP) in March that highlights chocolate milk as a sports recovery drink. The “Refuel with Chocolate Milk” program highlights chocolate milk as a cornerstone of the after-workout rituals of some of the world’s best athletes, underscored with the tagline “My After.” For more information, link HERE.

Without serving as an official sponsor of the 2012 Summer Olympics, MilkPEP took advantage of the games as Olympic athletes and others delivered messages about the importance of refueling with chocolate milk. Chocolate milk as a recovery drink of Olympians was covered in three national morning talk show segments, three national newspapers and a plethora of mainstream online stories. The combined reach for these stories was more than 32 million impressions.

The science behind refueling with low-fat chocolate milk presents a new usage occasion for milk. MilkPEP believes changing the patterns of adult athletes will help convert new milk drinkers and provide lapsed users with another reason to drink milk. It also may create a halo effect that could lead to more in-home consumption of chocolate milk among all family members.

Speaking of chocolate and other flavored milks, please check out the archives of the Daily Dose of Dairy for new milk products HERE. There’s been a great deal of activity in new flavored milks and from what my industry contacts have been telling me, there are many more new flavored milk products in the pipeline.

Remember chocolate milk is the official drink of Halloween. For more information, visit HERE.

This TruMoo half pint retails at my local supermarket for 50 cents. It would be great if they were sold in 10 packs to make it easier for me and other parents to purchase as a healthy snack to help their kids refuel after their sporting events. There’s an idea!