Friday, November 21, 2014

Ice Cream Flavor Forecast 2015

It’s that time of year when food industry analysts release their predictions of what we will see in the upcoming year. Most forecasts are umbrella statements, covering the entire food industry. Lucky for you, I focus on dairy and dairy only. Today’s blog is all about ice cream flavors.

Flavor trends often start in beverage and confection, making their way down to bars and snacks, and soon after, dairy. (The exception would be the Greek yogurt flavor. We started that one!)
Photo source: Coolhaus

After conferring with ingredient suppliers and manufacturers around the world (my Fit Bit’s readings are  proof I walked the walk at the many trade shows representing all these product category during the past couple months), I am very comfortable with the following forecast of what ice cream flavor concepts Americans will be consuming in 2015.

But first, the science behind ice cream is revealed by the Institute of Food Technologists Student Association (IFTSA), which produced a video explaining how food science plays an important role in the creation of ice cream. View the video and fact sheet HERE.

Berry On Dairy’s Seven Flavor Trends Driving Ice Cream Innovation for 2015 and Beyond

  1. Salty Caramel: Watch out vanilla and chocolate, you have some competition. Salty caramel is no longer just a flavor of ice cream. It has become a base flavor to which layers of flavors and inclusions are added. The sweet and salty combination is the perfect back drop for all types of additions, including bitter, crunchy, heat and savory. A touch of brown sugar, honey or maple can provide a subtle differentiation.
  2. Coconut Water, Milk, Cream: Building on the coconut craze that has taken over the beverage aisle, real coconut ingredients combined with dairy are proving to make a nice base flavor for frozen desserts. Coconut appeals to the health- and wellness-seeking consumer and complements the growing trend of tropical and citrus flavors. Coffee and tea flavors also work very well with coconut. Think energy and sports recovery in a scoop of ice cream.
  3. Craft Brews and Other Libations. Like coconut, the flavor of beer, wine and spirts can serve as a canvas to layer other on-trend flavors. This is being driven by the Millennial consumer who has an obsession with mixology. While Millennials still enjoy microbrews and wine tastings, they have embraced spirits and mixed cocktails, something the generation before them (Gen X) had ignored. Think Bourbon Pecan Pie, Buttered Rum, Cinnamon Whisky and Salty Tequila.
  4. Pepper: Black, Cracked and Hot: Milk has long been used to mellow heat levels in the mouth after consuming hot and spicy foods. As a frozen dessert, the milk allows the flavors of peppers to be tasted and not overpowered by the sensation of heat. Peppers also add visual appeal. With cracked peppercorns, you even get crunch. Think Chipotle Chocolate.
  5. Burnt, Charred, Roasted and Smoky: Umami cooking flavors add an element of surprise to everything from nuts and seeds to chocolate and…you guessed it…salty caramel. Think bacon, but without the piggy. 
  6. Herbs and Spice Make Ice Cream Nice: Herbs and spices provide an element of health and wellness to an indulgent dessert. A little goes a long way in terms of taste. Building on the salty caramel trend, the flavor of speculoos, a cookie from the Netherlands, is starting to become popular in the States. This shortcrust cookie has a sweet butter flavor and contains a spice blend consisting of cardamom, cinnamon, clove, ginger and nutmeg. The speculoos flavor works great in ice cream and also makes a flavorful inclusion, possibly coated with caramel or chocolate. Ginger, which is an important flavor in speculoos, is driving all types of flavor innovation because it provides two types of heat, one that’s refreshing and another that’s spicy. There’s also a healthful halo surrounding ginger, and it has strong ethnic associations. Think Caramelized Ginger Cheesecake.
  7. A Bountiful Harvest: The bigger the better, the more the merrier…fruits, vegetables and nuts give consumers permission to indulge on ice cream.
Some additional suggestions:

  • Don’t forget to claim an ingredient’s origins in the product description.
  • Limited editions or a seasonal positioning create an urgency to purchase.
  • Tell a story. Take the consumer on an adventure. 

Let’s take a look at some recently introduced products that are ahead of the flavor game. 

Hudsonville Ice Cream has Sea Side Caramel, which is vanilla ice cream with caramel sea salt truffles and a salted caramel ribbon. 

Bulla Dairy Foods has launched a new line of Coconut Frozen Yogurts in Australia. The frozen novelties feature a creamy coconut center and a tropical fruit frozen yogurt shell. There are three flavors: Lime, Mango and Pineapple.

Victory Brewing Company, a popular Philadelphia-area craft brewer, now makes ice cream with wort, the flavorful, non-alcoholic liquid that results from the brewing of malted barley and fresh Brandywine water, is the base of some of Victory’s most popular beverages. The three concepts are: Hopped Up Devil (flavors of cayenne, cinnamon and coffee along with chocolate flakes), Storm Drop (chocolate drops against a creamy chocolaty-stout base reminiscent of malted milk balls) and Triple Monkey (with banana and pecan swirl).

Coolhaus, the architecturally inspired gourmet ice cream company, recently rolled out Dad’s Secret Stash, which is scotch spiced-flavored ice cream with M&Ms, marshmallow and smoked salt. Also new is Grapefruit, Tarragon and Gin, which, as the name suggests, is made with fresh organic grapefruit, tarragon and Adirondack gin from upstate New York.
Tillamook adds roasted Oregon hazelnuts and a salted caramel swirl to creamy hazelnut ice cream.

Portland, Oregon’s booming cocktail culture, as well as the state’s famous berries, vegetables, meats, and drinks, provide artisan ice cream maker Salt & Straw endless possible combinations. If these recently introduced concepts don’t provide inspiration for your next flavor creation, then I don’t know what will.

(By the way, I happen to be in Portland at the moment to speak at an Oregon State University dairy innovation conference. I had a chance to taste a number of these concepts yesterday. All of them impressed me.)

For this month, the company is offering Salted Caramel Thanksgiving Turkey. It’s a head rush of sweet and salty with a pinch of adventure. It’s all the flavors of a roasted turkey, its juices and the caramelized onions underneath, packed into a turkey fat caramel ice cream, then speckled with handmade fried turkey skin brittle.

Rhubarb & Saffron Champagne Cocktail Ice Cream is subtly yeasty from the champagne with a tart and carefully flavored ribbon of saffron and rhubarb jelly.
Strawberry with Cilantro Lime Cheesecake Ice Cream uses locally grown strawberries and refreshing cilantro.

Goat Cheese Marionberry Habanero Ice Cream uses Sweet Fire flavored chevre from Portland Creamery and swirls of Marionberry jam infused with habanero peppers.

Black Raspberries and Pork Belly Ice Cream takes advantage of Oregon black raspberries, which can only be harvested for three weeks out of the year, making for an incredibly rare and unique berry experience. Taking advantage of their deep flavor, the berries are paired with a salty, smoky pork belly ice cream.

Tomato Water Olive Oil Sherbet uses Portland-grown ripe tomatoes with locally produced olive oil (yes, olives do grow along the West Coast) and a touch of lemon zest.

And the flavor to end with is Bone Marrow & Bourbon Smoked Cherries Ice Cream. Slow roasted and clarified bone marrow brings a new and interesting texture and flavor to ice cream. The company adds some smoked Oregon Bing cherries cured in spices and Portland distilled bourbon for extra depth.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Opportunities with Functional Dairy Foods

Have you noticed how much the retail food and beverage landscape has changed in the past decade? In every department of the supermarket, better-for-you foods maintain a prominent position. Even chips, well known for being a concentrated source of fat and sodium, can now be found with better-for-you attributes such as “baked,” “lightly salted” and “whole grain.” 

The concept of functional foods, or those foods that provide benefits beyond basic nutrition, are now expected as an option by today’s consumers. Such foods are typically fortified with functional ingredients such as plant stanols and sterols, novel fibers, whey proteins, omega-3 fatty acids, resveratrol, green tea extract, botanicals and more.

According to the 2013 Functional Foods Consumer Survey from the International Food Information Council, half of consumers think fortified foods are more worthwhile than non-fortified foods, while only one in 10 feel they are less worthwhile. Not surprisingly, consumers who are very concerned about not getting enough nutrients/healthful food components are more likely to think fortified foods are most often or always more worthwhile.

Source: International Food Information Council (IFIC), 2013 Functional Foods Consumer Survey

Nearly two-thirds of consumers trust that functional foods will provide health benefits and have confidence that they could make the necessary changes to integrate these foods into their diet.

Source: International Food Information Council (IFIC), 2013 Functional Foods Consumer Survey

What’s key with functional foods and beverages is science-backed claims and results. This is what you get with many of the functional ingredients being added to dairy foods, including calcium, fiber, and plant stanols and sterols.

To learn more about plant stanols and sterols, please link HERE to access a fact sheet from the International Food Information Council Foundation.

Targeting the aging population
Though there are dairy foods enhanced with functional ingredients for every segment of the population, market research firm Canadean believes there is a huge opportunity to develop products specifically for the aging population.

Consumers 55 years of age and older consume more than 20% of all dairy foods in the U.S., according to Canadean. Like with many foods used by today’s older consumers, they want more bang for their buck. Products that help defy the aging processing, physically and mentally, are very appealing to this demographic.

The human body requires an array of nutrients that it simply cannot produce enough of, and as one ages, this typically becomes a greater issue. Dietary supplements are an option, but research shows that an increasing number of consumers prefer to get their nutrition from foods.

Older consumers appreciate milk’s inherent calcium to support bone health and protein to prevent sarcopenia. And if they are already going to have a glass of milk or a cup of yogurt, marketers are wise to add additional nutrients to these dairy foods to appeal to this demographic.

Catherine O’Connor, senior analyst at Canadean cautions marketers to be sensitive in how they position products to the older population. Functional dairy food should carry both a preventative and therapeutic message to target healthy consumers and meet the needs of those already suffering from issues such as bone decay. “Manufacturers should communicate the health benefits of products by centering campaigns around keeping active and health maintenance, rather than focusing on older consumers’ vulnerabilities,” she says.

Canadean tracked the influence of 20 consumption motivators in the U.S. dairy market and found that 34.6% of yogurt and 32.0% of milk consumption volume was tied to the consumers’ age requirements. “Marketers should look at this as a good opportunity to focus on the older consumer by producing functional products that offer a health boost and cater specifically to the needs of an aging population,” says Joanne Hardman, analyst at Canadean.

According to the United Nations Population Division, the world’s older generation, those aged 60 and over, is expected to more than double, from 841 (11.7%) million people in 2013 to more than 2 billion (21.1%) in 2050. These numbers open doors to product innovation. More dairy products with age-specific benefits need to be on the market to encourage older consumers to reach for dairy products more frequently.

“It is all about the different approaches being taken by manufacturers,” says Erica Shaw, beverage analyst at Canadean. “On the one hand, across Western markets in particular, manufacturers are launching more products with active ingredients to address health and vitality issues, but similarly, companies are looking into the more practical aspects of growing older, such as being able to lift and carry the products without a difficulty and designing more convenient packaging.”

According to a 2012 Gallup study of nutrient knowledge and consumption, six in 10 U.S. adults consume specially formulated functional foods or beverages at least occasionally. Yogurt for digestive health and cereal for heart health are the most-consumed items, followed by cholesterol-lowering butter and margarine, cholesterol-lowering orange juice, shakes and bars for satiety, orange juice for joint health, immune-boosting dairy beverages and medicinal teas.

Without a doubt, beverages, often times dairy based because of milk’s premier proteins, are the fastest-growing sector in the functional foods market, with growth being driven by ease of use, lifestyle trends and advances in ingredient technology. Drinkable nutrition is convenient and quick, like supplements, but is more satisfying while also hydrating.

Whatever the format, functional foods and beverages must appeal to a consumer’s needs, with those needs changing through the lifecycle. This is why demographic-specific formulations are key. Functional nutrition is not a one-size fits all business.

Check out these recently introduced functional dairy foods.

Olympic Dairy Products in Canada is launching Olympic Chia Balkan-style yogurt. Sold in 500-gram multi-serving tubs, a 175-gram serving of the vanilla-flavored product contains one billion live probiotic cultures and 2 grams of the prebiotic inulin, both of which contribute to a healthy intestinal flora. The chia seeds provide additional protein and omega-3 fatty acids. A serving contains 170 calories, 4 grams of fat and 10 grams of protein.

The Benecol brand, most associated with cholesterol-lowering bread spreads, can be found on an array of dairy foods in different parts of the world.

In the U.K., there’s Benecol Plus shot-style yogurt drinks. Drinking one little bottle (67.5 grams) per day contains just the right amount of plant stanols proven to lower cholesterol. In addition to an Original and lower-calorie Light version, the drink comes in four flavors: Blueberry, Raspberry, Strawberry and Peach & Apricot.

The brand recently introduced the Benecol Plus brand. Benecol Plus Bone Health contains plant stanols along with a boost of added calcium and vitamin D, proven to support bone health. Benecol Plus Heart Vitamin B1 contains plant stanols and a boost of heart-healthy vitamin B1, which is proven to help heart function, as well as vitamin B6, B12, E and folic acid.

In Indonesia, Kalbe recently introduced Nutrive Benecol Smoothies, which boast the fact that they contain no added sugars. In additional to containing plant stanols, the smoothies are sweetened with isomaltulose, a fully, yet slowly digestible low-glycemic carbohydrate. Derived from sucrose of the sugar beet, isomaltulose provides balanced and prolonged energy, making it suitable for diabetics. It has about half the sweetening power of sucrose.

Dannon Light & Fit Protein Shake comes in four flavors: Banana, Mixed Berry, Strawberry and Vanilla. Sold in four packs of 10-fluid-ounce bottles, the nonfat yogurt drinks are enhanced with milk protein concentrate and polydextrose to provide 12 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber, respectively, per bottle. Each bottle only contains 14 grams of sugar, including lactose, milk’s inherent sugar. Added sugars are kept low through the use of two high-intensity sweeteners: sucralose and acesulfame potassium. Added lactase also assists with keeping added sugars low, as the lactase enzyme breaks down lactose into its constituent monosaccharides, glucose and galactose, which are sweeter than lactose.

Cyclone Milk combines dairy proteins with creatine to assist consumers with strength and power goals. Marketed by MaxiNutrition, a division of GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare in the U.K., patented-pending Cyclone Milk contains 3 grams of the purest form of creatine monohydrate and 30 grams of Max Pro high-quality protein in a convenient 330-milliliter format. The chocolate single-serve bottle contains 200 calories, while strawberry has 190.
Both varieties tout the fact that a serving delivers 7 grams of branched-chained amino acids, which have been shown to stimulate muscle synthesis.

Creatine is a non-essential dietary compound found naturally in foods such as meat and fish. It is also produced in small quantities in the body and stored in muscle cells where it is used to power high-intensity muscle contractions. The company includes creatine in this protein milk beverage to help support physical performance in successive bursts of short intense exercise. Although creatine is naturally present within the muscle, many factors such as age, gender, dietary intake and muscle type, may affect the total amount of creatine within the body, according to the company.

Cyclone Milk joins Protein Milk Recover with 30 grams of milk proteins per 330-milliliter serving and Protein Milk Extreme Recover with 50 grams of protein per 500- milliliter serving.
The shelf-stable milk beverages are made using skimmed milk and milk protein. Calories and carbohydrates are kept low by the sweetening power of sucralose.

In Brazil, Laticinios Bela Vista markets Piracanjuba Dieta+ Leite Desnatado Fonte de Fibra, which is skim milk enhanced with fiber. The aseptic UHT-product comes in 500-milliliter containers. A 200-milliliter serving provides 3 grams of fiber from inulin.

Cooperativa Agricola y Lechera de La Union Ltda, in Chile is introducing Colun Kids Yoghurt Squeeze in Grape, Strawberry and Strawberry Lemon flavors. The pouch yogurt, which is described as being whipped yogurt, is naturally sweetened with stevia and enhanced with DHA omega 3 fatty acids. Sold in six packs of 90 grams pouches, each pouch contains 56 calories, 1.3 grams of fat, 3.3 grams of protein and 32 milligrams of DHA.

Link HERE to watch a video promoting the launch of Kids Colun.

LoCol in the U.K., markets a namesake cholesterol-reducing processed cheese alternative. LoCol is manufactured the same way as traditional cheddar cheese using fresh cows milk and traditional farmhouse cheese making methods and recipes, according to the company. The only difference is that the butterfat in the milk is removed and replaced with wheat germ oil. LoCol is aged in the same manner as cheddar to develop a mature cheese flavor.

U.S. retailer Safeway is growing its O Organics dairy label with DHA omega-3-enhanced organic milk. The refrigerated product comes in half-gallon cartons in two varieties: whole and 2% reduced fat.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Cheese: Make Sure it’s on Everyone’s Holiday Menus

Tis’ starting to be that time of year. Between the heavy discounting of ghoulish fare--even before Halloween--to make room for tinsel and everything red and green, and the onset of family emails for planning holiday get-togethers, I was quickly reminded this past week: tis’ that time of year.

This time of year also happens to be one of biggest sales seasons for specialty and cooking cheeses. From cheese platters to veggie casseroles, cheese plays an integral role in the winter holiday season.

According to IRI’s custom Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB) cheese sales database, total cheese volume sales in U.S. traditional grocery stores typically surge during the holidays compared to the rest of the year. Overall, cheese sales peak in the weeks leading up to both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

  • With an index of 121 for Total Cheese in the week ending 11/24/13, cheese sales were about 20% above average leading up to Thanksgiving compared to the rest of the year.
  • With an index of 137 for Total Cheese in the week ending 12/22/13, cheese sales were about 35% above average in the week leading up to Christmas compared to the rest of the year.
 “That makes the week before Christmas the biggest week of the year for cheese sales,” according to Abby Despins, public relations manager at WMMB. “Certain varieties sell particularly well during the holidays.”

Sales of brie, Edam and specialty blues, such as stilton and Roquefort, are strong from mid-November through December, as consumers seek out unique cheeses for holiday parties or gift giving. Other varieties that sell particularly well around Thanksgiving include cream cheese, Gournay, gruyere, mascarpone and flavored cheese spreads.

Christmas is the main focus. Sales jump 50% or more above average, compared to the rest of the year, for these cheeses: brick, butterkase, camembert, cream cheese, fontina, fontinella, Gloucester, gorgonzola, Gournay, gruyere, mascarpone, ricotta and variety packs, which includes cheese trays made up of slices, cubes, chunks or wedges of different cheeses. Many of these varieties continue to sell well through the New Year’s holiday, according to WMMB.

“When it comes to the Super Bowl, we also see a spike in sales for a number of varieties, but there is less emphasis on specialty varieties,” according to Despins. “Instead, cheeses like cheddar/jack blends, Italian blends, mozzarella and other cheese blends rise to the top. This suggests the focus is more on prepared foods that can feed a crowd, and everything’s better with melted cheese!”

All of these cheeses sell well on their own, but of course, holiday-themed graphics, convenient party formats, gift packages and seasonal flavors attract consumers, often even creating an urgency to buy.

To read a recent article I wrote for Food Business News on “Creating an Urgency to Buy” via limited-edition and seasonal products, link HERE.

Here are some innovations—some old, some new—that make cheese extra exciting for the holidays. Hopefully some of these concepts will provide inspiration to assist with your holiday marketing efforts.

Hook’s Cheese Co., makes a 15-year old cheddar that it only sells during the winter holiday season, with limited retail distribution. Sartori Company only makes its Cannella BellaVitano cheese available during the holiday season, too.

During the months of November and December, Cannella BellaVitano can be found in specialty cheese shops across the U.S. and online. Each cheese wheel is hand-signed and dated by a Sartori Master Cheesemaker. Sartori’s Cannella BellaVitano was first introduced after receiving a Gold Medal at the 2011 World Cheese Awards held in the U.K.

“We typically enter the most competitive and prestigious national and international competitions out there,” says Susan Merckx, marketing director. “The competitions provide valuable insight and feedback from top-notch cheese connoisseurs. The fact that Cannella won a Gold at the Worlds in the U.K., well that’s pretty special.”

Cannella BellaVitano is crafted by taking sweet, buttery BellaVitano, aged well over a year, and steeping it in a cinnamon liqueur. “The cinnamon flavor does permeate throughout the wheel, but it is incredibly well balanced--the aged BellaVitano is such a wonderful cheese, we want the cinnamon to be in concert with the cheese,” she says. “Cinnamon tends to bring out the holiday spirit in folks and gives them a feeling of warmth, which is the perfect companion for the upcoming winter months.”

Sartori creates unique food, beer, and wine pairings for every cheese they make as well as recipes. This month, Cannella BellaVitano is featured in a Cannapple Grilled Cheese Sandwich that is being promoted on Sartori Cheese’s Facebook and Pinterest pages.

The company also markets a limited-edition Peppermint BellaVitano, which is BellaVitano hand- rubbed with peppermint candy. This creates a pink, tangy cheese with a sweet peppermint kiss. The cheese is only available in limited quantities in October, Breast Cancer Awareness month, with $1 per pound sold donated to breast cancer research. (Smart shoppers purchase a few extra wedges and save for Christmas. Think candy cane cheese!)

Henning’s makes an array of flavored cheese spreads that have been a part of holiday celebrations for years. The company also now makes Cinnamon Apple Pie Heritage Cheddar and Sweet Cranberry Cinnamon Heritage Cheddar for a flavorful addition to cheese platters.

Carr Valley heats up that cheese platter with its festive Cranberry Chipotle Cheddar while Sugar Brook Farms provides new formats for enjoying pumpkin. Under its Kelly Kitchen’s brand, the company offers Pumpkin Spice Gourmet Dessert Cheese Spread and Pumpkin Pie Gourmet Dessert Cheesecake Bites.

Old Tavern Food Products offers seasonal 20-ounce crocks of its sharp cheddar cheese spread during the winter holidays. The company also has a decorative glass bowl filled with 17 ounces of cheese spread. Both are ready for use on a holiday buffet, as well as function as a tasty hostess gift.

Stocking stuffers don’t have to be sugar-laden candies. In the U.K., children look forward to holiday-inspired Mini Babybel cheeses. Over the years there have been varied designs, including a Christmas tree, Santa Claus, holiday stocking and reindeer.

Debuting just in time for the holiday season is new Martha’s Chile de Arbol Pimento Cheese Spread, which joins Traditional and Jalapeno. Produced by Mighty Fine Food LLC, this zesty cheese spread recipe is a specialty of the product’s namesake: Martha Davis Kipcak. A Texan who moved to Milwaukee, a few years ago Martha decided to commercialize her southern specialty using Wisconsin cheese. Just this past year, she has expanded beyond Wisconsin’s borders can now be found—much to my delight—in select Chicagoland stores. (The cheese is amazing!!!)

Interesting in making flavorful cheese? Here’s a unique concept from Flavorseal: flavor-transfer sheets and casings. The sheets have been around for about two years, but the casings are a new concept for processed (pumped) cheese. Both formats utilize Flavorseal’s patented seasoning transfer technology that involves seasonings being pre-applied to packaging using a food-grade adhesive. The moisture in the cheese transfers the flavors and seasonings from the sheet/casing to the product. When the sheet/casing is removed, the seasoning surface is left on the product.
It’s an easy, one-step process that results in a perfect amount of seasoning every time, giving consistent flavor to each bite. It eliminates the mess and waste of applying topical seasonings, as well as extra wash downs and changeover times. Depending on the application and the desired end result, other ingredients can be included in the seasoning, such as antimicrobials, ground nuts and even dehydrated granules of fruits and vegetables.

Cheese…It’s what I bring to every holiday party. Cheers!