In case you find it as hard to believe as I do, here’s a quick reminder, it’s almost 2016! All I can say is thank God for Amazon Prime, or else my sons would not have much under the tree this Christmas. There’s no time to shop.
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Let’s kick off today’s blog with an innovation idea, a challenge, per se, for your 2016 product development team. This week I wrote an article for commissary insider, a monthly supplement to instore magazine, on boosting protein in ready-to-eat, grab-and-go foods. The reader is the culinary professional who designs the sandwiches, salads, sides and entrees sold at kiosks, coffee shops and retail foodservice merchandisers.
This is a booming segment. With retailers such as CVS, Walgreens and 7-Eleven expanding refrigerator space dedicated to such freshly hand-packed convenience foods.
Here’s the innovation challenge. A growing array of commissary-prepared meals and sides have started touting nutrient contents, most notably protein. Let’s make sure they are choosing dairy proteins. The basic dairy foods staples are great add-ins, but what if you were to formulate a Greek yogurt-style dressing or spread as a high-protein alternative to mayo or cream cheese.
I recently visited My Fit Foods, a Houston-headquartered business that provides fresh, healthful, on-the-go foods in a retail shop environment for take-home consumption. The company emphasizes lean proteins, low-glycemic carbohydrates and heart-healthy fats in all of its meals and snacks. According to the company, a daily average of 40% protein, 40% carbohydrate and 20% fat is the optimal macronutrient percentages for balancing blood sugar and optimal energy production and fat burning.
Photo source: My Fit Foods
The culinary professionals at My Fit Foods make smart ingredient choices to boost protein contents. For example, a small serving (two) of breakfast tacos contains 370 calories and a whopping 29 grams of protein. This is achieved through the use of lean ground turkey with eggs and cheddar cheese.
For lunch or dinner there are enchiladas filled with chicken and spinach held together by nonfat Greek yogurt. They get topped with tomatillo salsa and cheese and come with a side of beans. A small serving contains 360 calories and 25 grams of protein.
A small serving of Fit Nugget Nation, which is described as house-made almond-crusted chicken nuggets with a side of cauliflower mash and green beans, provides 29 grams of protein and 410 calories. One of the little tricks to increase protein is to prepare the mash by blending cottage cheese with the cauliflower.
The protein trend is expected to grow, as is the demand for hand-packed foods. Make sure product designers are packing in dairy proteins.
According to Tammy Anderson-Wise, CEO of the Dairy Council of California, dairy processors are sitting atop one of the hottest trends in nutrition with a product line that naturally delivers what consumers seek more of in the name of good nutrition: foods high in protein.
“While the competition for protein foods, beverages and supplements may be intense, milk and dairy products enjoy a competitive edge with its irreplaceable mix of nutrients,” she says. “Consumers also value milk’s fresh, local and minimally processed attributes. I can’t think of an industry better positioned than dairy to capitalize on the demand for protein-rich foods and beverages.”
The Dairy Council of California recently published its fall Trends newsletter, which contains food and nutrition issues likely to impact the dairy industry in the next one to three years.
Here are some highlights.
- Dietary Guidelines. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, slated to be released before the end of the year, but it’s looking like it could get pushed into early 2016, are more contentious than in the past. The good news is that milk and dairy foods fare well in the Dietary Guidelines as they are included in all three recommended dietary patterns.
- Local Foods Movement. Locally produced natural foods top consumers’ desirable list. Consumers are increasingly vocal about wanting to know where their food comes from. Nutrition and health are not always top of mind as other factors are being considered such as where and how food is produced, how fresh it is and whether sustainable methods of processing and packaging are used. Consumers are skeptical of big food industry practices with regard to animal welfare, genetically modified organisms and use of pesticides and antibiotics. There is a small but growing movement back to whole foods as a way to eat more natural and fewer processed foods. For dairy, this means a growing acceptance of whole milk, butter and full-fat yogurt as dairy fats are perceived more favorably.
- Nutrition Makes Sense. The link between nutrition and mental and cognitive health is gaining steam. Many experts consider foods to assist mental and cognitive health as the next “big thing” in nutrition. The good news is that science shows that dairy plays a role as part of a healthy diet throughout life. Consumption of milk and milk products has been linked to improved cognitive function in children and older people in preliminary studies; however, more research is needed to confirm this connection.
- Cheese Unlimited. Cheese—once shunned for its high content of saturated fat and sodium—is cautiously coming back into favor for its high protein and calcium levels and low sugar and lactose levels. With only a few ingredients, many cheeses are seen as natural and fresh. Research showing that saturated fat is not associated with heart disease as once believed, and that sodium may not be harmful in many people, is also slowly taking the stigma off cheese.