Thursday, August 27, 2015

Innovative Yogurt Concepts: Adding Flavorful Bits and Pieces

It’s less than three weeks until the International Dairy Show takes place in Chicago (September 15 to 18). Today’s blog sponsor—Parker Products—will be exhibiting at booth 8416. Inclusions for both yogurt and ice cream are always a big part of the Dairy Show. Parker will be showcasing its extensive range of flavorful inclusions that can be customized by color, flavor, size and texture. For more information, link HERE.

This overview of the global refrigerated yogurt category suggests that there are many textures and flavors for processors to explore to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. We’ve only just begun!

In the U.S., yogurt volume sales as well as yogurt prices are up. Although the Greek segment continues to mature, it still is posting growth, while both Australian and Icelandic styles are gaining traction.

Data Source: IRI DMI Custom Database, Courtesy of Midwest Dairy Association

Recent Innovations

Canada’s first crunchy Greek yogurt, Liberté Greek Seeds and Fruit, is a carefully crafted mix of whole sunflower, pumpkin and flax seeds with fruit, which complements the creamy texture of the 2%-milkfat Greek yogurt. The yogurt line made its initial debut in two varieties—Pineapple & Banana and Strawberry—and comes in the increasingly popular 150-gram bowl format, also referred to as a tub.

Sold in packs of two, a single-serve bowl contains 180 calories, 5 grams of fat, 1 gram of fiber (from all those seeds!), 18 to 19 grams of sugar and 12 grams of protein (from both the seeds, the milk and the added milk protein.) The product is positioned as a mini meal or snack.

In the States, General Mills recently introduced Yoplait Plenti. This bowl-style product is based on nonfat Greek yogurt, with the nutrient-dense inclusions adding fat back to the formulation. The yogurt is blended with fruits (except the vanilla variant), whole grain oats, flax and pumpkin seeds.

At 5.5 ounces, the single-serve containers are a little larger than standard Greek yogurt cups, which are 5.3 ounces. Each serving provides 140 to 150 calories and 1.5 to 2 grams of fat, depending on variety, as well as 1 gram of fiber, and 12 grams of both protein and sugar. To read more, link HERE.

Savory yogurts are starting to become more popular, especially with consumers trying to keep their sweet tooth in check in order to decrease added sugars in the diet.

Since its debut in May 2013, Sohha Yogurt has become known in the New York metro area as the one-of-a-kind savory yogurt made from just three simple ingredients: locally sourced milk, probiotic cultures and sea salt. Developed by a husband and wife team when their daughter was six months old and they were dissatisfied with the too-sweet yogurt options in the marketplace, Sohha Yogurt made its debut in two varieties: Original and Tangy.

Recently the company rolled out Everything Bagel and Za’atar & Sumac. The new flavors combine seeds, pine nuts and spices with extra virgin olive oil, for a unique, flavorful twist. For more information, link HERE.

In Denmark, Arla has introduced Go’Start A38, a unique combination of organic low-fat yogurt with organic strawberries and rye bread sprinkles. The product melds sweet with savory, a first for the category.

There’s lots of innovation going on in Brazil. Vigor Alimentos is rolling out two very unique savory yogurts, which really shows that anything is possible when you start with a great base like cultured milk. These yogurts, with dome lid, come in two flavorful combinations. There’s a black olive-flavored yogurt with plain croutons as the mix-in. There’s also a parsley and chive seasoned yogurt with parmesan croutons. With a 100-gram pack containing about 100 calories and 1 grams of protein, this product concept is definitely designed as a mini meal or snack.

Sometimes you want a sweet treat. The company also offers a more indulgent option. Greek yogurt gets blended with indulgent chocolate flakes. Each 100-gram serving contains about 175 calories and 4.5 grams of protein. It’s permission to indulge.

Beauty-conscious Brazilians will likely find this new Vigor Beauty yogurt appealing. Sweetened with stevia to keep calories and added sugars down, the yogurt is blended with collagen powder, which is said to have skin-rejuvenating properties. The attached dome contains Brazil nuts and chia seeds, both rich in essential fatty acids. A serving provides just under 100 calories, and 5 grams of both fat and protein and 2.4 grams of fiber.
Indulgence is delicious. Germany’s Zott recreates popular “sweet baked goods” flavors in its new line of yogurts. The blended products contain real pieces of baked goods and come in four varieties: Apple Pie, Blueberry Muffin, Cherry Muffin and Mandarin Cheesecake.

In the U.S., Müller Quaker Dairy introduced a line of decadent yogurts. The Dessert-Inspired line features creamy, signature Müller yogurt on top of a layer of fruit or caramel in one compartment, served with goodies on the side. The four varieties are: Dulce De Leche Delight (low-fat vanilla yogurt over a caramel sauce with a side of crunchy hazelnuts and waffle crisps), Peach Cobbler (low-fat yogurt over juicy peach pieces with a side of crunchy pecan clusters), Raspberry Brownie Supreme (low-fat yogurt over tart raspberries with a side of chewy brownie pieces) and Strawberry Cheesecake (low-fat cheesecake-flavored yogurt over strawberries with a side of graham crumble). Each 150-gram container provides 200 to 220 calories, 4 to 6 grams of fat and 7 to 8 grams of protein, depending on variety.  For more information, link HERE.

In select markets throughout Europe, U.K.-based Tesco sells private-label indulgent yogurts that come with chocolate inclusions: chocolate-covered raisins or chocolate-covered cereal balls. These split-pot yogurts provide permission to indulge on chocolate, even at breakfast!

Chobani has an indulgent side as well. This summer, the company introduced new waistline-friendly Greek yogurts designed to satisfy consumers’ sweet tooth. The new offerings come under the brand’s Flip line, which features a side-by-side compartment, one containing yogurt the other containing the sweet mix-ins. Coffee Break Bliss is coffee low-fat yogurt with biscotti pieces and chocolate. Peanut Butter Dream is vanilla low-fat yogurt with honey-roasted peanuts, peanut butter clusters and milk chocolate. Strawberry Summer Crisp is strawberry low-fat yogurt with graham crackers and white chocolate. For more information, link HERE.

Colombian children are having a fun time enjoying new Alpina Bon Yurt Mini. These smaller-portion packs are designed for kids’ appetites…and their taste buds as well. The mix-ins include chocolate candies and chocolate-covered puffed rice.

Watch this video to experience the excitement of the new line. Link HERE.

Life is not always fun and games…but yogurt can be. The YoCrunch brand in the States is all about inclusions…some fun, some games and some better for you.

As summer fades into autumn, football (the U.S. version—that brown oval ball moved around a field by over-sized athletes) enters the scene. Families say goodbye to the beach as they watch this time-intensive sport. YoCrunch makes it fun (for those of us who have no idea what it is going on) with a low-fat yogurt that comes with chocolate-shaped football inclusions.

Earlier in the year, the brand was all about welcoming in summer-time favorites. The pink lemonade offering gives a healthy spin to a favorite summertime flavor. These inclusions are flavored, sweetened pieces that make protein-rich yogurt taste like a beat-the-heat refreshment.

And, now that it’s back-to school time, the brand is rolling out a co-branded dome-lid inclusion product with Kellogg’s granola. Sold in four-packs of 4-ounce cups, the new line comes in Blueberry and Strawberry options. Each individual cup provides 110 calories, 1 gram of both fat and fiber, and 3 grams of protein. 

To all those parents out there…I wish you an easy transition back into school hours, sports schedules, volunteer hours and…yes, the dreaded homework. Yogurt might help. If only it came spiked!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Dairy Beverage Innovation Trends: Protein, Tea Lattes and Flavored Milk

It’s less than four weeks until the International Dairy Show takes place in Chicago (September 15 to 18). Today’s blog sponsor—TIC Gums—will be exhibiting at booth 8219. At the Dairy Show, TIC Gums will be showcasing its extensive range of stabilizing ingredients for dairy products, in particular, systems that assist with the development of the booming category of dairy protein-fortified beverages. 

Often times during the Q&A that follows my presentation on dairy foods innovations I am asked by an audience member: "what can we do to get consumers to drink more white milk?" I proceed with caution in my reply because part of me wants to scream “have you not heard a word I just said?”

Here’s the deal. I very much appreciate all the efforts to make milk cool and to educate consumers about milk’s inherent powerful nutrient package. I do believe the positive message in these campaigns trickles--actually pours—down to all dairy foods, from butter to cheese to ice cream to yogurt. But--and this is a big but--until you can tell me that you are pouring yourself another glass of the white stuff--you, the dairy industry professional--how can we expect highly influential consumers to do the same.

But--and this is an even bigger but--there’s so much we as an industry can do to make milk more attractive in terms of flavors and formulations. Look what the folks at Shamrock Farms are doing.

Yesterday (August 20, 2015) they announced All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green is joining Team Rockin’ Refuel, putting a new face on the brand’s “Rockin’” national advertising and public relations campaign. The company released a behind-the-scenes video telling fans why he chooses Rockin’ Refuel as part of his healthy nutrition routine. You can view it HERE.

“Drinking Rockin’ Refuel helps me build and maintain the muscles and strength needed to succeed on the football field,” says Green. “As a professional athlete, I have to pay close attention to my diet, especially when it comes to high-quality protein. Rockin’ Refuel not only tastes great, but because it’s made with real milk, I know it’s a healthy protein drink with ingredients I can trust.”

Starting with pure, fresh milk—the white stuff—Rockin’ Refuel contains up to 30 grams of high-quality protein active people of all fitness levels need to build muscle or help muscles recover after a hard workout. To learn more about the complete line of Rockin’ Refuel products, link HERE.

The company is making strides with its On-The-Go mmmmilks. At the beginning of summer, the brand made its way into select Walmart stores nationwide. The retailer will be offering 12-ounce single-serve sizes of Shamrock Farms protein-packed regular (the white stuff), chocolate and strawberry milk. Each Shamrock Farms mmmmilk variety offers more than 25% of the daily recommended value of protein, along with eight other essential nutrients naturally found in milk.

The Fuel Station in The U.K., markets an array of products under the Fuel Your 10K brand, including a line of shelf-stable Liquid Breakfast beverages. Made with 50% to 65% skimmed milk, depending on variety, along with soy protein and milk protein, each 330-milliliter container provides 20 grams of protein. Varieties are: Banana, Caffe Latte, Chocolate, Strawberry and Vanilla.

According to data generously provided by Beverage Marketing Corp. (thanks Gary!), protein drink volume and dollar sales have been steadily climbing the past decade. But at the same time, bottled water strengthened its already prominent position in the U.S. beverage marketplace with another year of significant growth in 2014. Enlarging by 7.3%, bottled water reached a historical high of almost 10.9 billion gallons. Per capita consumption also reached a new peak of 34 gallons.

Fluid while milk cannot compete with clear, pure, refreshing, hydrating, calorie-free water. But dairy beverages, including flavored milk, protein-enhanced milks, lattes and more, can!

According to Beverage Marketing Corp., the U.S. liquid refreshment beverage market (this does not include milk but includes beverages containing milk and dairy proteins) grew at a noteworthy rate in 2014 after having been essentially flat in 2013. Its growth was the strongest seen in several years.

Beverage-specific factors, such as the vibrancy of the already-large bottled water segment, as well as more general ones, such as the continuing economic recovery, contributed to the overall increase in liquid refreshment beverage volume, which reached 30.9 billion gallons in 2014.

Niche categories continued to outperform most traditional mass-market categories. Premium beverages such as energy drinks and, especially, ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee advanced particularly forcefully during 2014. Larger, more established segments such as carbonated soft drinks and fruit beverages failed to grow once again.

RTD coffee (many are mostly milk!!!) moved forward faster than all other segments with a 10.7% volume increase in 2014. Nonetheless, the segment accounted for a tiny share of total liquid refreshment beverage volume. Indeed, it was the smallest, trailing even value-added water, which registered the largest decline of any liquid refreshment beverage type other than fruit beverages or carbonated soft drinks. Energy drinks advanced by 6.4%, but also remained fairly modest in size. Not surprisingly, no energy drink, RTD coffee or value-added water brand ranked among the leading trademarks by volume.

“Beverages rebounded in 2014,” says Michael Bellas, chairman and CEO of Beverage Marketing Corp. “Products that connect with what contemporary consumers want, like bottled water and functional offerings, added buoyancy to the ever-changing market.”

Dairy processors are able to produce such beverages, and can make milk a leading ingredient in the formulations.

Here are some recent noteworthy innovations.

The summers of 2013 and 2014 were all about RTD coffee. This summer, RTD tea with milk beverages made their big debut, and the innovations continue to pour in. International Delight Chai Tea Latte from WhiteWave Foods comes in half-gallon recloseable gable-top cartons and is merchandised in the refrigerated dairy case. There are two varieties: Caramel Chai and Vanilla Chai. Packaging says the product can be served over ice or heated and served warm. Starting with brewed black tea as a base, the second and fourth ingredients are skim milk and cream, respectively. In between is simple cane sugar.

Hain Celestial now offers RTD shelf-stable Celestial Lattes. The flavors are described as being inspired by the “secret menus” at the world’s best coffeehouses. Made with 2% milk and sweetened with pure cane sugar, Celestial Lattes provide barista-quality beverages brimming with the goodness of real brewed tea. The four varieties are: Dirty Chai (masala chai spiked with bold espresso), The Godfather (masala chai with bold espresso and rich cocoa), Matcha Green (brewed green tea and traditional matcha) and Mountain Chai (masala chai with ginger, cardamom and cloves).

The most recent introduction comes from Argo Tea with its new Teappuccino. Decadent in taste and balanced in nutrition, these unique bottled loose leaf tea infusions feature protein-packed milk and real fruits, flowers, spices and herbs, which deliver robust flavors. The three new shelf-stable Teappuccino varieties are: Chai (Assam black tea blended with spicy ginger, cinnamon and sweet vanilla), Earl Grey Vanilla Crème (classic black tea infused with bergamot and sweet vanilla) and Green Tea Strawberry Crème (antioxidant-rich Japanese green tea and sweet strawberries with a hint of vanilla).

Vanilla Chai Latte was one of three flavors in Prairie Farms’ limited-edition Chef’s Splendor reduced-fat flavored milk line introduced this summer. Crafted by the cooperative’s corporate chef, the other two indulgent flavors are Dark Chocolate Truffle and Sea Salt Caramel.

Fairlife now offers Yup! flavored milk. Currently available in the Southeast U.S., the shelf-stable flavored milks will be distributed nationally in early 2016. The UHT-pasteurized low-fat milks come in three flavors: Chocolate, Strawberry and Vanilla. An 8-ounce serving (bottles are 14 ounces) contains 130 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 9 grams of protein and 18 grams of sugar. Ultra filtration increases protein content, while sugar content and calories are kept low through the use of a combination of sugar, acesulfame potassium and sucralose. Added lactase enzyme makes the milk lactose free. The lactase also assists with sweetening, as it breaks down lactose into its constituent monosaccharides, glucose and galactose, which are sweeter than lactose.

The folks at Fairlife are being proactive with the added sugars content of Yup!, as sugar content is an issue with many RTD beverages. This is what makes bottled water such an attractive option to consumers. It is naturally sugar free.

As you may be aware, the proposed added sugars line to the Nutrition Facts is looking more like a reality than a discussion item. This transformation occurred at the end of July when FDA announced an update to its proposal to include a percent Daily Value for added sugars.

“The FDA has a responsibility to give consumers the information they need to make informed dietary decisions for themselves and their families,” said Susan Mayne, director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “For the past decade, consumers have been advised to reduce their intake of added sugars, and the proposed percent Daily Value for added sugars on the Nutrition Facts label is intended to help consumers follow that advice.”

Dairy beverage processors are wise to keep added sugars on the lower end and there are many options to assist. An important consideration when using high-intensity sweeteners is building back the body sugar provides.

To read an article I recently wrote for Food Business News entitled “Sugar reduction: how low can you go?” link HERE.

Have a great end of summer! Hope to see you in less than a month at The Dairy Show in Chicago!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Dairy Foods Innovations: Flavor Trends for Frozen Desserts. Expect the Unexpected at the International Dairy Show

Photo source: SensoryEffects 

It’s less than five weeks until the International Dairy Show takes place in Chicago (September 15 to 18). Today’s blog sponsor—SensoryEffects—will be exhibiting at booth 8230. SensoryEffects is also sponsoring the Daily Dose of Dairy Live! presentation on Friday, Sept. 18, from 10:00am to 10:30am on the show floor. The topic is Innovations in Milk and Dairy Beverages. Please mark your calendar and plan to attend. At the Dairy Show, SensoryEffects will be showcasing its extensive range of innovative flavor systems for all types of dairy foods, in particular refrigerated and frozen desserts, as well as milk, yogurt and dairy beverages, including an economical egg replacement system for the approaching holiday nog season. The company showcased a number of these concepts at the recent Institute of Food Technologists annual meeting and expo, which was also in Chicago. Read more about the prototypes HERE.

Sherman’s Dairy Bar is an ice cream destination for summer-time vacationers in southwest Michigan. Located in South Haven, MI, about two miles from the shores of Lake Michigan, Sherman’s hand makes small batches of more than 70 flavors of ice cream in the facility adjacent to the ice cream parlor. 

During peak business hours, ice cream aficionados have been known to wait in line for more than an hour, with that line lasting for hours on end. To avoid the congestion, I waited for a cloudless day with beach-perfect 80 degree weather to visit when the doors opened at 11:00am. I had to experience Sherman’s. (My 13-year-old son accompanied me. Not having had breakfast yet, he declared his double scoop of chocolate the best brunch ever.)

Sherman’s is more than just fresh, local and small batch. It’s about flavors and ingredients that speak to the community. Of course, vanilla and chocolate, as well as the usual chip, nutty and rocky varieties are big sellers, but what many patrons come for are the localized offerings. 

Blueberries, cherries and peaches grow abundant in the area, making frozen treats such as Amaretto Cherry Amour, Black Cherry, Blueberry Cheesecake and Peach & Cream big hits. There’s also a Chocolate-Covered Cherry going by the name of Lindy Lou, celebrating the same-named electric-powered river boat that launches from the nearby Maritime Museum.

Every year the company introduces a couple of new flavors, according to Bob Eisenman, owner since 1988. The dairy itself has been in existence since 1916. The company comes up with new flavors using the help of flavor ingredient companies, often times working with more than one to create a special recipe. “Inclusions are popular. People like lots of ingredients,” he said.

“Some of our more complex flavors include Chocolate Malt Supreme, which is chocolate malt chips in a chocolate malt ice cream rippled with chocolate fudge, and Grasshopper, which is mint-based ice cream swirled with chocolate cookie fudge,” he said. Amaretto Cherry Amour is pretty special, too. “It is amaretto-flavored ice cream with red maraschino cherry pieces swirled with thick fudge.”

Sherman’s sells packaged product for at-home consumption in the scoop shop. The company also distributes its specialties to numerous restaurants and foodservice establishments throughout southwest Michigan, northwest Indiana and even Chicago and its surrounding suburbs. 
To read more about Sherman’s, link HERE.

Connecting with consumers is truly key with a product like ice cream, in particular local brands sold via foodservice or retail.

For summer 2015, Velvet Ice Cream rolled out two new flavors to retail and for sale at Velvet’s Ye Olde Mill. Summertime Peach boasts a blend of fresh peach ice cream with juicy chunks of real peaches. Buckeye Brownie is a new twist on one of Velvet Ice Cream’s top-sellers, Buckeye Classic. Slightly salty peanut butter ice cream is swirled with chunks of creamy peanut butter and gooey brownie pieces.  Beyond its Buckeye confection inspiration, the name pays homage to Velvet’s home state of Ohio and the company’s support of the National Champion Ohio State Buckeyes. For more information, link HERE

Locally produced Ice cream get wild back at home in Chicago. 

Angelo Quercia, owner of Angelo Gelato Italiano, Franklin Park, IL, explains how he makes gelato the way he learned from his grandfather years ago in Naples, Italy, just today he uses many of the same authentic ingredients but with modern-day flavorful twists. Melding the familiar with the unexpected, that’s his contemporary approach to flavoring gelato.

“I can create any flavor that the customer desires,” says Quercia, whose Chocolate Bacon Gelato is among his top sellers. “Most importantly, our customers appreciate that we offer exclusive proprietary flavors for any retail store or restaurant that wants something that is truly their own. My team of food chemists and culinary experts love rising to the challenge of creating the most extraordinary flavors.”

Recent gelato innovations include Honey Lavender, Caramel Swirl with Cheese Popcorn, Raspberry Cream Cheese, Guinness Beer and Sparkling Champagne.

An approach the company took this summer was to add a savory twist to sweet gelato flavors. Innovations include Avocado with Lime Zest, Sweet Peach with Fennel, and Sweet Summer Corn with Salt and Pepper.

To read more about adding savory twists to dairy foods, including the increasingly popular trend of melding heat with sweet, link HERE to an article I recently wrote for Food Business News entitled “Flavorful twists add spice to dairy.”

In addition to heat from peppers, heat can come from spices such as cinnamon. Another growing trend is the use of alcohol beverage flavors.

Whereas some restaurant chefs and even packaged ice cream manufacturers use real liquor, others rely on denatured, reduced or concentrated alcohol ingredients, or even premium alcohol extract flavors. That’s because state regulations limit how much alcohol can be used to formulate packaged foods. Further, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and Explosives requires special taxes to be paid on alcohol, as well as have food formulas approved. And when you buy real alcohol, you pay alcohol tax, which can add up.

In addition, there’s the impact the alcohol has on freezing point, which impacts finished product quality. That has not stopped some players from creating frozen treats that require proof of being 21-or-older.

Intoxicating innovations were unveiled by several ice cream brands at the Summer Fancy Food Show, according to fellow Food Business News Editor Monica Watrous. You can view a slide show of intoxicating food and beverage innovations HERE.

New York City’s Tipsy Scoop makes liquor-infused ice cream inspired by cocktails. Containing 5% alcohol by volume, flavors include Dark Chocolate Whiskey and Salted Caramel, Vanilla Bean Bourbon and Hot Buttered Rum. For more information, link HERE.

In the States, the original wine ice cream comes from Mercer’s Dairy. This premium product line is 15% butterfat with 5% alcohol by volume. From red to white and blush to sparkling, there’s a flavor for everyone. Flavors include Cherry Merlot (Bordeaux cherries blended with ice cream and a merlot wine recognized for its plum and black cherry undertones), Chocolate Cabernet (chocolate ice cream with bits of bittersweet chocolate blended with a Cabernet wine filled with dried cherry and cassis notes), Peach White Zinfandel (ice cream with fresh peaches blended with white zinfandel wine), Port (ice cream blended with ruby port wine), Red Raspberry Chardonnay (ice cream blended with raspberry sauce and a Chardonnay wine known for its delicate vanilla notes and buttery smooth taste, Riesling (ice cream blended with a Riesling wine prized for its fruity, crisp refreshing quality), Spice (ice cream blended with fragrant red mulled wine known for its moderate sweetness balanced with the warmth of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove) and Strawberry Sparkling (ice cream blended with a sweet sparkling wine and ribbons of sparkling strawberries). For more information, link HERE.

Via Brasil Steakhouse takes fruits and homemade ice cream and infuses them with hard liquor. Three flavors rolled out this summer. They are:
  • Pina Colada: ice cream with fresh-ripened pineapple infused with Stoli Vanilla and Malibu Rum
  • Midori Sour: ice cream with fresh lemon infused with Midori Melon Liqueur
  • Frangelico Vanilla: simply homemade vanilla ice cream infused with Frangelico Hazelnut Liqueur
For more information, link HERE.

For all ages, L.A. Creamery Artisan Ice Cream introduced a new flavor called Manhattan. It features brown butter toffee and Rittenhouse rye whiskey ice cream with Bing cherries. For more information, link HERE.

Extraordinary flavor is what today’s consumers desire, in particular Millennials who crave adventure. As the U.S. becomes a more diverse society, ice cream formulators are wise to explore unusual ingredient combinations. Think chocolate with citrus, strawberry with basil and berries with booze.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Creative Cheeses: Slice It, Spread It, Melt It

It’s less than six weeks until the International Dairy Show takes place in Chicago (September 15 to 18). Today’s blog sponsor—Ingredion—will be exhibiting at booth 7833. The company will showcase its ingredient technologies in array of dairy products, including cheese products. For more information, link HERE.

Photo source: Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board

If you ever wondered who eats the most cheese, it’s the French. According to the International Dairy Federation, the French sliced, spread or melted their way through 57.1 pounds of cheese per person in 2013. This is compared to less than a tenth of a pound per person in China. But that number is climbing, reflective of a trend in Asia for more Western food, including cheeseburgers and pizza.

Cheesemakers are constantly trying to create new forms and flavors to keep us eating cheese. Let’s take a look at some recent innovations, including winners from this year’s World Dairy Innovation Awards and the recent American Cheese Society’s annual Festival of Cheese. 

Just in time for back-to-school, private-label retailer Aldi is introducing Happy Farms Cheese Slices for Kids to the U.S. market. Ten pasteurized cheese slices come in a resealable 6-ounce container, with each slice featuring an imprinted design of a horse, puppy or, of course, a happy cow. The product is made in Germany.

Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery, known for its cheddar cheese curds, has introduced a new product for chefs and foodservice operators. Cheese Curd Crumbles are small pieces of cheese curds that are too small to be sold at retail for snacking but can be used as an ingredient in a variety of applications, such as mixed into sausages or burgers. The crumbles come in 5-pound bags. For more information, link HERE.

Prima Donna maturo is now available as a prepacked wedge of 5.3-ounce exact weight for the convenience-oriented consumer. Prima Donna maturo combines the famous Dutch art of cheesemaking with the traditional flavor of Parmesan cheese, creating a unique specialty cheese for everyone who enjoys the Italian way of life: “Formaggio con passione.” The cheese is imported into the U.S. by Saputo Specialty Cheese. It is produced in Holland by Vandersterre Holland B.V. For more information, link HERE.

Saxon Creamery’s new Garlic & Pimento Gouda is a flavorful, versatile cheese perfect for snacking or cooking. The creamy, butter gouda is complemented by a hint of garlic and the sweetness of pimento peppers. It’s perfect for a grilled cheese sandwich or shredded over soup and chili. For more information, link HERE.

Bacon and smoky flavors continue to be popular in cheese. Holland’s Family Cheese’s award-winning Marieke Gouda is now available with bacon. Made at its farmstead operation in Thorp, Wisconsin, using an authentic old world gouda recipe with imported equipment and cultures from cheesemaker Marieke Penterman’s native Holland, this new variety can be used to deliver smoky cheese flavor to burgers, flatbreads and sandwiches. For more information, link HERE.

Yancey’s Fancy Inc., offers a number of new flavors that complement the smoky, bacon trend. Recent introductions include Grilled Bacon Cheeseburger, New York Maple Cheddar and Steakhouse Onion. For more information, link HERE.

Maple complements the smoky and bacon trend. And for the first time, real maple syrup is being used in cheese. Quebec, Canada cheesemaker Au Gré des Champs has launched Mishtan, a semi-firm raw cows milk cheese that is ripened for three months and washed with boreal forest spice-macerated maple syrup as it matures.

Hot is hot…and the best way to get hot in cheese is with chilies. Chilies present an opportunity for all types of flavor innovation, as they are associated with the most popular international influences in today’s food industry. They also complement the milky, creamy dairy base, as it balances and mellows delivery of heat while allowing the flavor of chilies to be tasted. This is something not possible in many other food applications, where the upfront heat is so intense that it overpowers the flavors of the chilies, which can range from earthy to fruity to smoky. Chile peppers range in heat levels. The guajillo and aji panca have the least amount of heat on the Scoville scale, while the Bhut Jolokia, also known as the ghost pepper, is recognized as the hottest pepper in the world. 

Comstock Creamery/Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery is heating up the category with Blaser’s Habanero Ghost Pepper and Blaser’s Buffalo Wing cheeses. Both are made with natural Monterey Jack cheeses.  For more information, link HERE.

The American Cheese Society (ACS) hosted its annual Festival of Cheese in Providence, R.I., from July 29 to August 1. One of the biggest events of its kind, the 32nd annual festival featured American artisan and specialty cheeses from the 2015 ACS Judging & Competition, highlighting the winners across a range of styles. For more information on ACS, link HERE.

The American Cheese Society was founded in 1983 by Dr. Frank Kosikowski of Cornell University as a national grassroots organization for cheese appreciation and for home and farm cheesemaking. The competition began in 1985 at the third-annual conference with 30 cheesemakers entering 89 cheeses in seven categories.  

Touted as the yearly “Cheese Oscars,” this year’s contest drew a total of 1,779 entries in 109 categories from 267 producers located in North and South America. Entering companies represented 31 U.S. states, three Canadian provinces and Colombia. In all, 355 awards were presented: 95 firsts, 127 seconds and 133 thirds. For a complete list of winners and judges, as well as details on the competition, link HERE.

Celtic Blue Reserve from Glengarry Fine Cheese in Ontario, Canada, was named Best of Show, marking the first time a Canadian cheese has won the top honor. The Best of Show round has all first-place cheeses in the 109 categories competing for the top honor. 

There was a tie for second place between LaClare Farms Specialties LLC’s Standard Market Cave Aged Chandoka and Emmi Roth USA’s Roth’s Private Reserve, both Wisconsin cheeses. Third place went to Cellars at Jasper Hill’s Harbison cheese, a Vermont specialty. 

BelGioioso came out as a big winner with its Sharp Provolone Mandarini and BelGioioso Black Truffle Burrata receiving First Place, Best in Class awards. This is the third consecutive first place award for BelGioioso Sharp Provolone Mandarini, winning first at the U.S. Cheese Championship Contest earlier this year and the World Championship Cheese Contest in March 2014. BelGioioso Black Truffle Burrata was awarded a first place blue ribbon in the Cheeses with Flavor Category, taking first in the same category in 2014. BelGioioso American Grana received its fourth consecutive award in as many contests, judged as one of the best cheeses in the Parmesan category.

“Sharp Provolone was the first cheese we produced in 1979 and is the cheese our company was built on. We are very pleased to continue to be recognized as the finest Provolone cheese in the industry,” says Gaetano Auricchio, vice president of sales. “Our Master Cheesemakers handcraft this Provolone using our homemade cultures and hand‐forming techniques. The Mandarini is hand roped and aged for seven months, then waxed and hand stamped for a traditional finish. The flavor is deep with a sharp, piccante accent.”

Burrata is a long-time popular choice for appetizer menus and cheese plates. BelGioioso added a delicate, subtle flavor to this luscious fresh cheese with Black Truffle Burrata. This cheese starts with fresh Wisconsin milk and is made to order just hours after milking. Each handcrafted mozzarella pouch is filled with a rich straciatella and black summer truffles. For more information, link HERE.

Sartori received a First Place award for its Reserve Kentucky Bourbon BellaVitano and Second Place for Limited-Edition Pastorelle Blend and Reserve Dolcina Gorgonzola.

The Pastorale Blend repeatedly receives accolades, including once again, taking top honors at the Wisconsin State Fair. Pastorale Blend is a mixed-milk cheese (cow/sheep) hand dusted with smoked Spanish paprika to deliver a “one of a kind” sweet and nutty flavor.

“Pastorale Blend is a very special cheese for us,” says Sartori’s Master Cheesemaker Mike Matucheski.  “We’ve been lucky enough to find the perfect balance of cow and sheep milk to create an approachable, gratifying mixed milk cheese. The aging of Pastorale helps to develop the flavors while the smoked paprika dusting delivers a striking visual and complimentary flavor.”

In addition, Sartori Cheese received First Place awards at the fair for its Merlot BellaVitano, Classic Asiago and Limited Edition Extra-Aged Goat cheese.

Sartori’s most recent flavor innovation debuted earlier this year. Citrus Ginger BellaVitano is hand rubbed with a unique and exotic blend of spices including ginger, onion, garlic, red bell pepper and citrus. The flavors work well with the slightly fruity, creamy, tangy notes of the company’s signature BellaVitano cheese. Like with all of Sartori’s treated cheeses, the idea is to create a balance among flavors; to allow each flavor to contribute equally. 

“When our internal sensory team first tried this cheese, there was a lot of positive feedback. Many enjoyed the punch from the ginger, the sweetness from the red bell pepper and the citrus finish,” says Susan Merckx, marketing director. For more information, link HERE

Klondike Cheese Company took home first place for its Greek yogurt and feta cheese along with a slew of additional honors at the American Cheese Society awards. Klondike’s Odyssey Peppercorn Feta won First Place in the Feta With Flavor Added (All Milks) category, and Odyssey Tomato & Basil Feta and Odyssey Mediterranean Feta took second and third place in the same category, respectively. Odyssey Reduced Fat Tomato & Basil Feta won third place in the Reduced Fat Cheese With Flavor Added (All Milks) category. For more information, link HERE.

The annual World Dairy Innovation Awards took place in Amsterdam as part of the ninth Global Dairy Congress at the end of June. The judging panel, which included myself, considered almost 220 entries from 30 countries in 18 categories. For a list of all the winners and finalists, link HERE.

Top honors went to Kourellas S.A. in Greece for its Feta Bites. The company has turned feta into bite-sized snacking balls. They come plain or in seven different combinations with herbs. They are packaged in a resealable tub and can be consumed as is or on top of salad.

Another finalist was DeJong Cheese in The Netherlands. The company developed Cheese Crumbles, which are fresh, soft cheese crumbles that do not stick together in the packaging tub. The Cheese Crumbles are a perfect addition to pizzas, salads and to melt into pasta. They are ready to use and are great for portion control.

Castello Burger Blue Slices from Arla Foods in the U.S. was one of the finalists. The creamy and characteristically tangy notes of Castello Blue Cheese feature balanced sweet and salty undertones. The slices are designed to melt evenly across a patty and stay on the burger during cooking and consumption, a feat nearly impossible to accomplish with traditional blue cheese crumbles.

It’s almost the weekend. Time to clean the grill for some barbecuing!