Thursday, January 30, 2014

Clean-Label Coloring for Dairy Foods

While researching the latest on color usage in beverages for the next edition of Food Business News, I came across a report entitled “Food Dyes: Rainbow of Risks.” It was published in 2010 and authored by Sarah Kobylewski, a Ph.D. candidate (at the time) in the Molecular Toxicology Program at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Photo source: DuPont

You can access the report HERE.

Though the report is a few years old, its content remains relevant. The comprehensive report functions as testimony to CSPI’s tenacious plea to FDA to ban all synthetic food colors in the United States.

Synthetic food colorings have been the subject of controversy since the 1970s, when a pediatrician first suggested a correlation of intake to children’s behavior. They came under greater scrutiny in September 2007 after the results of a British study from the University of Southampton showed a correlation between artificial food colors and exacerbated hyperactive behavior in children. Even though many medical experts questioned the study’s protocol, it stirred consumer concern and continues to do so.

Since the Southampton study, CSPI has taken the position that all synthetic food colors should be banned in the United States. The reality is CSPI is not a fan of any food colorings. The nonprofit group believes all colorings deceptively enhance the visual attractiveness of foods and beverages.

This, of course, is no secret. Most of us eat with our eyes first, and then taste the food.

Food colorings are not going away…but choosing clean-label food colorings is the direction that many food and beverage manufacturers, in particular dairy processors, are taking as they go forward in product development endeavors.

I wrote an article entitled “Color Considerations for Dairy Products,” which was published in Food Business News this past December. It can be accessed HERE.

One of the key attributes to consider, as mentioned, is clean label.

CLEAN LABEL equates to:
  • Consumer friendly
  • Pure
  • Natural
  • Real
  • Recognizable Ingredients
  • Simple
This is according to Global Food Forum Inc., as outlined at its 2013 Clean Label Conference in Chicago at the end of October.

To view a video on "What Clean Label Means to Consumers," click HERE.

More is less for many consumers when they are examining ingredient labels. And when it comes to colors, this ingredient category is increasingly being scrutinized.

Source: International Food Information Council Foundation, 2013 Food & Health Survey

According to the 2013 Food & Health Survey published by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation, the addition of color additives to food is a growing consideration when making food purchases. When the 1,006 survey participants were asked to think about product attributes influencing their decision to purchase packaged foods or beverages during the past year, 23% of respondents in 2013 considered if the product contained food colors. This is up four percentage points from 2012.

The survey results also indicated that women are more likely than men to consider food colors, as are highly educated consumers (with a college degree or more). 

Source: International Food Information Council Foundation, 2013 Food & Health Survey

Eighteen percent (18%) of the respondents further indicated that they are consciously trying to avoid food colors.

This data, and similar opinions cited in other research, have made color selection critical for dairy foods formulators. After all, most dairy products complement today’s consumers’ desire for clean, simple and natural foods. Undesirable colors can ruin that pretty picture.

To view a video interview on "Label Friendly Natural Flavors and Colors," click HERE

Whole Foods Market’s “Unacceptable Ingredients for Foods” list, which can be accessed HERE, often serves as a guide for manufacturers and consumers regarding what is a clean-label ingredient. The lists identifies the following as unacceptable: artificial colors, carmine, certified colors and FD&C colors. Other than carmine, the other three terms all refer to the same group of synthetic colors. Carmine, on the other hand, is not a synthetic color; however, its source—insects—has deemed it unacceptable by Whole Foods.

Photo source: Baskin-Robbins

Red is challenging

The fact is, carmine is an inexpensive source of vibrant red color. Its use in dairy foods, providing the formulation contains no synthetic colors, allows for a package claim of “contains no artificial colors.”
Dannon uses it and has taken the position that it is a safe and commonly used red coloring that many food makers use. “It is used in many food and other products because it is safe and it delivers the best color,” according to Michael Neuwirth, senior director of public relations at Dannon. Because carmine does cause serious allergic reactions in some consumers, FDA requires it to be identified on the ingredient statement.

Interestingly, others in the food and beverage industry must value the power of carmine, as red has been identified as the most challenging hue to obtain through natural sources.

To gain customer insight, D.D. Williamson (DDW) polled 31 industry technologists at the biennial Food Ingredients Europe exposition held in November 2013 in Frankfurt, Germany. Only those with technical credentials participated in the poll that featured the following question: “Which [one] hue from natural sources is the most technically challenging for [your] new product development?”

Red, selected by 39% of respondents, ranked highest. Green and blue scored 19% and 13%, respectively. Other technologists voted for black, purple, yellow, brown or orange, but none selected white from the list.

“The poll’s data reveal natural red’s challenge, particularly in the meat, dairy and bakery sectors,” says Campbell Barnum, vice president-branding and market development at DDW. “Few choices can deliver a heat-stable, naturally derived, customized red hue in products with neutral to higher pH.”

Seven (23%) of the 31 technologists work in the beverage industry. The confectionery, dairy and meat/poultry/seafood sectors account for 19% each. The bakery/snack/cereal sector represents 13% of participants, and others account for 6%.

Photo source: DDW

Beets to the rescue
If carmine is not an option, ingredients derived from beets are likely a dairy processor’s best bet for red. Betanin is the main coloring compound present in red beets. The colorings responsible for the red hue of red beet juice are a group of molecules called betalains. This group of pigments contains the red and yellow pigments known as betacyanins and betaxanthins, respectively.

Red beet root hues vary further depending on the betalains extracted. Betacyanins are magenta pigments, while betaxanthins are yellow pigments. The distribution of extracted pigments varies due to factors such as beet root cultivar and extraction method. Like most food ingredients, not all beet juice extracts are the same.

To read more about “Color Considerations for Dairy Products,” click HERE.

To learn more about "New Flavors with Incidental Color: Caramelized Apple and Caramelized Onion," click HERE.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Dairy Foods in the News

Photo courtesy of MilkPEP

Due to a debilitating back injury sustained early this week, and the need to rest and medicate in order to be able to fly to the Dairy Forum this weekend, there is no blog this Friday. Please accept my apologies.

I invite you, however, to read three recent articles I wrote for Food Business News and Culinology.

Food Business News: The Role of Dairy Proteins in Recovery Efforts

Culinology: Dessert Trends 2014--Sweet, Single and Ready to Please

Food Business News: The Value of Beverage Clarity

I hope to see many of you at the Dairy Forum! No back jokes, please!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Contemporizing Cottage Cheese

About a year ago, I blogged about the opportunities with cottage cheese, the original high-protein dairy food.

You can read more HERE about cottage cheese making a comeback.

And you can read more HERE about high-quality dairy proteins and their role in the daily diet, especially their importance at breakfast.

It is exciting for me to report on some recent innovations in the category, at both retail and foodservice, in the States and abroad.

But first I must congratulate the Daisy Brand on its amazing cottage cheese product and its dedication to marketing and promoting the product. Made with three simple ingredients—cultured skim milk, cream and salt—the curds in this product are perfect little cubes and the dressing is smooth and clean. It’s the only cottage cheese I buy! For more information, visit HERE.

Kudos goes to Dean Foods for its new cottage cheese packaging. Since the first of the year, the company has been phasing out the traditional plastic round tub and is rolling out a rectangular resin container with in-mold labeling. This one-step package decorating method helps manufacturers save time and money by integrating the labeling process directly into the forming process. It involves the insertion of a pre-decorated label that can be made from a variety of materials and printing processes into a mold prior to injecting the resin. The label bonds to the surface of the molded part when a thin layer of the label re-melts and solidifies with the resin.
The new packages sport a contemporary look and are designed to attract younger consumers to the category. All of Dean’s cottage cheeses will be available in this package, including its low-fat probiotic formulation. For more information, visit HERE.

Accolades also go to Farmer’s Fridge for breaking the mold on fast food by offering healthy and delicious meals that are made daily and sold in innovative refrigerated kiosks throughout the Chicagoland area. Farmer’s Fridge gives people who are looking for healthy foods a new option: gourmet salads and snacks with the push of a button.
Everything is made fresh each morning and delivered by 10 a.m. to an automated kiosk. Farmer’s Fridge offers foods that provide a variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Packaged in recyclable plastic jars, customers can choose from several delicious salad options, as well as breakfast and snack items, each designed to offer various benefits of a healthy diet. 

Dairy highlights on the menu include the Farmer’s Salad, which is cottage cheese, radish, cucumber, sweet pepper, snap peas, tomatoes and chopped dill. The 199-gram salad contains 140 calories, 2.5 grams of fat and a whopping 20-grams of protein. There’s also a Greek Yogurt Parfait made with Greek yogurt, strawberries, blueberries and local honey. For more information, visit HERE.


And finally, U.K. retailer Tesco is launching a new range of healthy foods to help its customers lead healthier lifestyles in 2014. The new brand, Tesco Healthy Living, replaces Tesco Light Choices and Tesco Eat Live Enjoy. It aims to give customers an easy and even more appealing way to control the amount of salt, sugar and fats they eat, without compromising on flavor.
The range includes more than 230 products, from bakery and ready meals to yogurts and healthy treats…and, of course, cottage cheese. About 85% of the whole Healthy Living range is new or improved.

All Healthy Living branded products have controlled levels of salt, sugar, fat and saturated fat and none are red on nutritional traffic-light color coding. Each product has also been benchmarked in customer taste panels against Tesco own-brand range equivalents, to ensure they match on flavor.

The new range offers two options to suit customers’ needs:
  • Healthy Living – Big on Taste, Lower in Calories – for those looking to lose weight. All products contain at least 30% fewer calories than the comparison product.
  • Healthy Living – Beautifully Balanced – for those trying to maintain their weight or wanting to make healthier choices for themselves and their families.
The cottage cheese line comes in a natural formulation, as well as six flavors. Four of them--Cracked Black Pepper, Onion & Chive, Pineapple and Sweet Chili--had previously been offered. Two--Cucumber & Mint and Fruits & Seeds (cranberries, apple and pumpkin seeds)--are new to Tesco's cottage cheese lineup. For more information, visit HERE.

Hopefully you have some cottage cheese contemporizing projects in the works. I would love to hear about it!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Ice Cream Trends 2014

Photo source: McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams

Happy New Year!

Thanks to the many loyal subscribers who emailed this past week wondering when the Friday blogs would resume. Sorry for the three-week hiatus, but don’t think I was just hanging out with family and friends enjoying the gifts of cheese, candies and ice cream that many of you sent. I was also collecting information and organizing my thoughts for the upcoming series of blogs on dairy product trends.

Let’s talk ice cream.

Here’s what I’ve observed within the category, with most noteworthy innovations originating in the States, Europe and Australasia. I also looked outside the freezer…way outside the freezer…and in the cookie and candy aisles…as well as bakery and beverage. I talked with ingredient suppliers to hear what they have in the works, and finally, I conversed with chefs and culinologists who like to walk on the wild side…who use ice cream as a canvas to create showstopper desserts.

For starters, my mantra has long been that dairy is a natural, pure and inherently nutritional base ingredient…don’t mess it up. So it was not surprising that the folks at New Nutrition Business (a number of their analysts are Daily Dose of Dairy subscribers) recently stated that dairy is entering a new “naturally functional” era. You can read their press release HERE.

One of the messages is to only add ingredients to this clean, pure and inherently nutritious base (milk) that make sense. I would like to add that those ingredients should be consistent with the attributes of clean, pure and inherently nutritious. This is the future for ice cream in 2014.

Photo source: Baskin-Robbins

Here are some general ice cream observations:

1)    Flavors should be natural, when possible, and locally sourced…even branded and called out on package labels.

2)    Chocolates should be premium, fanciful and even fairly traded. Call this out on product labels, too. Combining chocolate ingredients is increasingly popular.

3)    Add lots of nuts and fruits, whenever possible, and if you can, let consumers know where they were grown, e.g., California almonds, Georgia peaches, Michigan blueberries and Oregon marionberries.

4)    Decide what your ice cream’s purpose is, and stick to that objective. Do not try to be something for everyone. A high-protein frozen yogurt bar is a meal replacement or a snack, and should come in simple flavors such as banana or strawberry, as well as, of course, chocolate and vanilla. It is not an indulgent dessert. Salty caramel pecan is an indulgent dessert. Don’t add nutrients to it.

5)    If fun and entertaining is what you have in mind…then load ‘er up with the goodies. Don’t skimp…but maybe offer it in a portion-controlled format so when mom and dad offer it as a reward or special treat, the “everything in moderation” message is maintained. With this trend, keep in mind that color source is being highly scrutinized by moms and dads. Choose wisely.

Photo source: DuPont

Here are 10 flavor trends that will dominate this year’s new ice cream products.

1)    Salty Caramel Gets Nutty. Without a doubt, the combo of salt, typically sea salt, and caramel, dominated ice cream innovations in 2013. This year we will see a layer of extra flavor and crunch added in the form of nuts to that dynamic duo. Nuts also add an element of nutrition and are viewed by consumers as a better-for-you inclusion. They complement the natural and pure qualities of dairy and make sense as an ingredient in ice cream. Which nuts will we see the most of in this sweet and salty combo? Almonds, hazelnuts and pecans

2)    Pistachio. This funny looking little green nut has grown in popularity because of its inclusion in Greek yogurt. It’s great alone…ground up and dispersed though an ice cream base…maybe with a little chocolate. It’s also great chopped as part of a topping on gelato. But keep it simple. Pistachio is one flavor that does not fare well with bold flavors.

3)    Butter. The creamy, distinct flavor of butter is being embraced by all food formulators, including ice cream developers. In the frozen sector, butter flavor is being delivered via various inclusions. Examples include, cookie bits, streusel, pie crust, toffee and even popcorn. Let’s not forget that a good caramel should possess the flavor of butter.

4)    Cheese. In forms such as cream, goat and ricotta, soft cheeses are being used as variegates. Much like butter, their natural creamy richness complements a frozen dairy base.

5)    Fibrous Fruits: Banana, Figs and Mango. Though berries and certain citrus/tropical flavors continue to be popular, these three “fruits with substance” are being embraced by ice cream formulators. In puree form, they add texture and body and can even assist with lowering fat contents. They also provide extra nutrition, naturally. Bananas complement caramel and nuts. Bananas love butter. (Think Bananas Foster.) Mango continues to grow in popularity as it rides the Hispanic foods boom, while fig is catching on thanks to the Greek yogurt craze.

6)    Red Grapes—Reduced and/or Fermented. From balsamic to marsala to zinfandel, a little bit adds a lot of flavor to all types of ice cream…especially dark chocolate.

7)    Hot Chocolate. Not the cup of stuff you drink on a cold winter day, rather rich, premium chocolate layered with spices that provide an element of heat. Think chilies, chipotle, wasabi and sriracha, as well as...

8)    Spices: Cardamom, Cinnamon and Ginger. These spices are getting layered into all types of interesting ice cream flavors. Just a touch can turn your rum raisin into an exotic adventure. 

9)    Oreo. Do not underestimate the power of this iconic cream-filled sandwich cookie. Branded, or a generic version, this is one inclusion that never grows old. Even fine-dining chefs recognize the power it possess in ice cream.

10)    Doughnuts. Sounds strange, but it’s really no different than birthday cake, cheese cake and brownies. Doughnuts are making a comeback after their Krispy Kreme hey days crashed and burned. Boutique doughnut shops are popping up around the country, and doughnuts have been described as the new cupcake. Needless to say, doughnut pieces and flavors will be the next wave in twofer frozen desserts, where you get one dessert (the doughnut) mixed into another (the ice cream).  

I would like to conclude with an 11th trend, and that is “Plain and Simple.” Just as the Oreo has staying power, tried and true flavors remain family favorites. During the past decade, ice cream has become a “foodie’s” food, and manufacturers have responded by creating decadent treats designed for adult palates. Little ones have been somewhat ignored. But rightfully so, as youngsters tend to be finicky consumers and at the end of the day, really just want chocolate or vanilla…maybe with some sprinkles or M&Ms. But again, choose those colorful ingredients carefully, as the inclusion of artificial colors can be a deal breaker with many parents. 

Finally here are some awesome inspirations to ponder. These are some of the trend-setters in the category. Photo source: Baskin-Robbins

Baskin-Robbins is gearing up for the awards-show season by introducing its new January Flavor of the Month: Movie Theater Popcorn. This show-stopping flavor features popcorn-flavored ice cream and butter popcorn crisp pieces, wrapped together with a salty caramel ribbon. In scoop shops, one can order this flavor as a special Movie Theater Popcorn Waffle Bowl Sundae with caramel praline topping, whipped cream, a cherry and chopped almonds.

In addition, to help kick off the New Year, Baskin-Robbins is introducing Caramel Banana 31° Below and Caramel Banana Soft Serve Parfait. These tasty treats feature smooth and creamy vanilla soft serve with bananas and caramel praline topping. 

Photo source: Desserts that Matter; photo by: Pierre Klein

Desserts that Matter, a boutique ice cream manufacturing company that services metro-New York’s restaurant and hotel industries, is rolling out some incredible superpremium frozen creations. All the artisanal flavors are 100% natural and sourced from the finest ingredients, including fruits from local New York and New Jersey farmers.

Desserts that Matter products come in 5-quart containers, 5-liter pans and 2.5-gallon tubs. There are three product lines--ice cream, sorbet and gelato--each one featuring classic flavors such as pure vanilla, deep chocolate, strawberries & cream, and pistachio. For the more adventurous restaurateur and chef, there are signature flavor innovations, such as Mexican Chocolate con Leche, Ricotta Fig, Chocolate Zinfandel, Pineapple Cilantro and more.

Photo source: HipPOPs
The Good Humor man has long known the power of bringing the frozen treat to the customer. Today, in many parts of the country, food trucks are changing the foodservice landscape. Here’s a modern-day version of selling frozen novelties on the street.
South Florida’s HipPOPs offers handcrafted gelato bars that are made to order in its food trucks. HipPOPs makes more than 100 gelato, sorbet and frozen yogurt flavors, 15 to 20 of which are featured daily on the truck. Customers choose their base flavor that comes on a stick. Then they select one of three kinds of premium signature Belgian chocolate dips. The third and final step is to “top the POP” with finely crushed pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts or pecans; shredded coconut; crushed pretzels; and, by popular demand, Oreos. For more information, visit HERE.

Here are some frozen treats you may have missed this past month as a Daily Dose of Dairy.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Peters Ice Cream’s iconic Australian ice cream cone brand, Drumstick, the company is introducing three new flavors. The new premium Drumstick flavors are Banana Lounge (banana and honey), Cherry Sunset (chocolate cherry with coconut) and Toffee Tanlines (toffee with biscuit crumbs). For more information, visit HERE.

High Road Craft Ice Cream offers more than 90 chef-inspired flavors, including unique ice cream innovations such as Bourbon Burnt Sugar, Fig & Balsamic, Gen Mai Cha (Green Tea & Roasted Rice), Hibiscus Ginger and Pistachio Honey Ricotta, as well as elevated classics like their hugely popular Vanilla Fleur de Sel and Chocolat Noir. The four new flavors that debuted for fall 2013 are: Honey Black Pepper, Praline Chocolate Tart, Pumpkin Bread Pudding and Smoked Sugar. For more information, visit HERE.

Limited-edition Ambach-branded Tiramisu Kaffee Eiscreme shows the consumer exactly what’s inside. And that is (starting from the bottom up): a layer of tiramisu-flavored ice cream, lady finger biscuits, tiramisu-flavored sauce, coffee-flavored ice cream and cocoa-covered cake pieces. This spectacular creation is finished with a drizzle of marsala wine. For more information, visit HERE.

Happy New Year!