Thursday, January 28, 2016

Specialty Foods Are Hot; Cheese Leads the Industry

Photo source: Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board

The 2016 Winter Fancy Food Show ended on a high note last week in San Francisco with the strongest attendance and largest exhibit space in the show’s 41-year history. Cheese innovations ruled the show, with cheesemakers from Wisconsin, the state that has led the U.S. in cheesemaking since 1910, dominating the expo floor.

Amid record sales in the $109 billion specialty food industry, the show drew close to 20,000 attendees, a 16% increase above 2015 numbers. Buyers represented top names in retailing, restaurants and foodservice including Whole Foods, Kroger, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, Williams-Sonoma, Alaska Airlines, and hundreds of local specialty and natural food markets. 

Specialty foods are defined as foods or beverages of the highest grade, style, and/or quality in their respective categories. Their specialty nature derives from a combination of some or all of the following qualities: uniqueness, origin, processing method, design, limited supply, unusual application or use, extraordinary packaging, or channel of distribution/sales.

According to the State of the Specialty Food Industry report, which is produced by the Specialty Food Association and Mintel, specialty food saw a record year in 2014. For the first time ever, total U.S. sales of specialty food topped $100 billion, with an increase of nearly 22% over 2012 to $109 billion. Retail sales in multi-unit outlets, specialty food stores and natural grocers hit $85.5 billion. Foodservice sales represent the other 22% of all specialty food dollars, or $24.1 billion.

Table sourced from the State of the Specialty Food Industry report, 2015 

The specialty food market now has 15 segments worth more than $1 billion, led by cheese and cheese alternatives; coffee, coffee substitutes and cocoa; and frozen and refrigerated meat, poultry and seafood. For more information on the specialty food industry, link HERE.

Earlier this week I wrote an article entitled “Party of One: Snacking on Specialty Foods” for Food Business News. The article includes insight and data from The Hartman Group, including why it’s very important to not tell the consumer that a certain snack is for a specific daypart. Let the consumer decide when they will snack on a certain food. This is because grazing has become an all-day activity for many consumers. Dairy foods, in particular, cheese, provide many of the attributes consumers are looking for in snacks. This includes energy, satiety and nutrient density. To read the article, link HERE.

Graph source: Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board
Consumer Cheese Trends for 2016
In late December, the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB) issued its predictions of what will drive consumer cheese purchases in 2016. With Americans’ passion for cheese at an all-time high—USDA reports that the average American consumes 34 pounds of cheese annually, a growth of 43% over the past 25 years—cheesemakers are aggressively developing new forms and flavors of cheese to keep the category growing. These products take flavor and performance to innovative new heights.

The seven things cheese consumers will look for in 2016 are:

1. Authenticity. According to Technomic, 62% of consumers are more likely to purchase foods produced locally. They want to know how it was made, by whom, and if sustainable practices were used to do so. The Millennial generation is a driving force behind this trend. Not only have they come to expect transparency in the food they purchase and consume, they are also willing to pay a premium for it.

2. Bold Flavor. Bold and uniquely flavored cheeses are expected to outperform in both volume and dollar sales as consumers look for ways to diversify their palates. Data from IRI show that the U.S. retail flavored cheese market is $1.5 billion. In volume, that’s close to a quarter-billion pounds, or 7% of the total cheese category. Year-to-date 2015 data from IRI finds flavored cheeses up by 4.5% in volume sales while unflavored cheeses are up by only half a percent. Similarly, year-to-date dollar sales of flavored cheeses are up 8.3%, compared to unflavored cheese dollar sales up 4.8%.

Photo source: Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board

The most popular flavors used in cheese are:
1.    Jalapeno
2.    Smoked
3.    Taco
4.    Pimento
5.    Berry
6.    Habanero
7.    Onion
8.    Herbs
9.    Garlic
10.   Vegetable
Source: Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board

The fastest-growing flavors enhancing cheese are:
1.    Spice
2.    Vanilla
3.    Bacon
4.    Caramel/Maple/Sugar
5.    Cajun/Creole
6.    Fruit
7.    Alcohol
8.    Hot
9.    Seafood
10.    Olive/Olive Oil
11.    Cinnamon
12.    Nut
13.    Mushroom/Truffle
14.    Buffalo
15.    Roasted
Source: Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board

3. Snack Sophistication. According to WMMB’s custom IRI database, snacks are outperforming the consumer packaged goods category as a whole in all channels. Americans continue to eat on the go, but they know they don’t have to sacrifice taste or nutrition to do so. In fact, more consumers are looking for convenient ways to add high-quality proteins to their diets, with Mintel reporting sales of protein-rich snacks increasing by 89% between 2012 and 2014. New items such as snack sticks with notes of Parmesan and zesty teriyaki beef, fresh mozzarella ball snack packs and aged cheddar cracker cuts offer nutritional value and grown-up flavor appeal to the growing snack sector.

4. Info to Go. With a smartphone or tablet in hand, consumers are searching, planning, sharing and purchasing food online, including cheese. In fact, according to Nielsen data, more than 80% of Millennials rely on their mobile devices when shopping. Mobile apps such as the Wisconsin Cheese Cupid (link HERE) help shoppers pair cheeses with their favorite beer, wine or spirit, while also providing in-depth information on hundreds of varieties of cheeses.

5. Freshness. Cheese curds continue to excite consumers as they look for ways to enjoy more fresh cheeses. Data from IRI shows sales of curds are up 17.3% at retail and 7% at foodservice.

6. Tradition. Cheesemakers are perfecting the aging process and returning to more traditional ways of doing so. Many affineurs are tapping into the historical tradition of underground aging caves with high humidity and moderate temperature, moving away from standard walk-in coolers and finding ways to create their own caves on site.

7. Performance. Shredded cheese is going beyond basic convenience with new blends for specific applications such as homemade flatbreads and macaroni and cheese. With blends created for optimal flavor and meltability, consumers can easily and cost-effectively achieve restaurant-quality results at home. Other new shred products include flavorful additions such as rosemary and roasted garlic to easily build flavor into homemade meals.

Here are on-trend new products that were showcased at the Winter Fancy Food Show.

The unique hand-held snacking combo of cheese and salami known as Cheesewich now comes in a fourth variety—Provolone—joining Colby Jack, Mild Cheddar and Pepper Jack. Designed with today’s fast-paced, health-conscious consumer in mind, this grab-and-go meal of salami sandwiched between two slices of cheese provides 160 to 170 calories and 14 to 16 grams of protein, depending on variety. Each individually wrapped Cheesewich is 2.5-ounce and has a six-month refrigerated shelf life. The Cheesewich comes 24 to a box that functions as a retail merchandiser.

Saxon Creamery’s new Big Ed’s Gouda with Serrano Peppers is a hand-crafted, semi-soft, buttery gouda-style cheese that finishes with a small kick of heat. The creamery was founded in 1848 by the Klessig family, and five generations later, the family still owns and operates the Cleveland, Wis.-based creamery. These cheeses are made from milk from the creamery’s Holstein/Jersey crossbred cows that graze on its 850 acres of pasture.

The creamery is all about innovation and recently created Asiago Fresca, an open-texture cheese that has the tang of asiago in a semi-soft format. It is made using a proprietary blend of cultures and aged for 50-plus days.

Making asiago--traditionally an aged, hard, crumbly cheese, much like Parmesan—into a soft, creamy format opens the door to new uses, including as a spread on crackers and breads. Bel Brands USA is expanding The Laughing Cow brand with wedges of Creamy Asiago. This artisanal-inspired cheese features a nutty, bold and savory flavor. Each wedge is 0.75-ounces and contains 35 calories, 1.5 grams of fat and 3 grams of protein. A package contains eight wedges. Creamy Asiago joins the company’s eight other flavors: Mozzarella Sun-Dried Tomato & Basil Flavor, Queso Fresco Chipotle, Spicy Pepper Jack, Swiss French Onion, Swiss Garlic & Herbs, Swiss Light, Swiss (original), and White Cheddar.

Snacking cheese has become so much more than a string of mozzarella. BelGioioso Cheese used the Winter Fancy Food Show to introduce three new items that meet consumers’ needs for individual-sized, portion-controlled snacks. The 70-calorie Fontina Snacking Cheese contains three cubes in an individual 0.75-ounce package. The packs come in 6-ounce retail bags packed 10 per case. Individual packages are printed with the BelGioioso signature snacking smile logo.
In addition, the company has created a 3-ounce Mini Mascarpone cup (18 cups per case) and a 5-ounce Mini Ricotta single-serve cup (12 cups per case). The mascarpone cups are a perfect size for a healthier spread option, with each serving at nearly half the calories of butter. The ricotta cups provide an individual serving of 16 grams of protein and 60% of the Daily Value of calcium and is packaged for use as a single-serve breakfast option with fresh fruit and granola, or as a fresh, creamy dip for vegetables. BelGioioso Cheese is a family-owned and operated company specializing in artisan Italian cheesemaking made with fresh, local Wisconsin milk.

When it comes to adding flavor to cheese, truffles are known for “a little bit going a long way.” This was apparent at the Winter Fancy Food Show, where a number of cheesemakers showcased their truffle cheese creations. This includes Marieke Gouda’s new Truffle Gouda. Made using a traditional gouda recipe from cheesemaker Marieke Penterman’s native Holland, the raw milk Wisconsin cheese is flavored with pieces of real black truffles, as well as black and white truffle oil.

To help culinary professionals get creative with cheese, Emmi Roth USA is introducing Roth Natural Melt Creamy Fontina. This is no ordinary melting cheese. The only ingredients used are natural, simple and wholesome: pasteurized cultured milk, enzymes and salt. It was developed in collaboration with the company’s corporate chefs and master cheesemakers and is designed to melt perfectly in any hot foodservice application. Special cheesemaking techniques are used, allowing for a creamy, homogenous melt. The cheese has a rich, buttery taste and smooth, velvety texture, and is an easy way to elevate a host of menu favorites, from sauces, dips and mac and cheese to burgers, flatbreads and panini. It comes in 7.5-pound loaves and can be sliced, diced, shredded and more.

For the retail channel, the company is introducing a new Wisconsin original: Prairie Sunset. Sold in 10-pound wheels intended for random-weight cutting at the cheese counter, Prairie Sunset has a golden hue with sweet flavor that includes undertones of butterscotch.

The latest fiery lineup in the feta category comes from Klondike Cheese with its new Odyssey Sweet Heat Pepper Crumbled Feta. Flavored with red and green jalapenos and habanero peppers, this spicy-yet-tangy cheese can be used in recipes or blended into dips and spreads.

Gary Vanic Named 2016 National Cheese Institute Laureate

The National Cheese Institute has bestowed its highest honor, the NCI Laureate Award, on Gary Vanic (pictured right), past president and CEO of Great Lakes Cheese Co., Hiram, Ohio. NCI Chairman Ron Dunford (pictured left), president of Schreiber U.S., Schreiber Foods Inc., Green Bay, Wis., presented the award to Vanic this week during a special ceremony at the International Dairy Foods Association’s Dairy Forum 2016 in Phoenix. (It was so wonderful to see so many of you there!)

The NCI Laureate Award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the development and growth of the cheese industry. A panel of industry professionals chooses a winner each year based on the person’s long-term contributions to the industry.

Vanic started his career in the dairy industry at Land O’ Lakes in Minnesota. Over a span of 20 years, he took on a variety of projects and titles, calling himself “the fixer” as he learned every aspect of the dairy business. At the same time, another NCI Laureate, Hans Epprecht, was building his own business, transforming Great Lakes Cheese from a small market stall in Cleveland to one of the largest suppliers of private-label cheeses in the country. When Epprecht was ready to retire in 1999, he chose Vanic as his successor, who accepted, leading Great Lakes Cheese as president and CEO for the next 16 years. During his tenure, Vanic was known for driving innovation and supporting initiatives that helped to define the company’s continued success.

Including Vanic and Epprecht, other cheese industry pioneers who have won the NCI Laureate Award include Fritz Leeman, Bob Bush, Larry Jensen, Lou Gentine, Mark Johnson, Jerome Schuman, Larry Ferguson, John Jeter, Mark Davis, Wes Allen, Elmer Marth, Max Gonzenbach, Rudy Nef, Betsy Holden, Don Storhoff, Lester Kielsmeier, Norm Olson, Dave Nusbaum, John Nelson, Harold Steinke, Raymond Goldbach, Jack Budahn and Vince Zehren.

A video honoring Vanic for his contributions is available HERE.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Cultured Dairy Products: Trends 2016

Growth in the cultured dairy products segment, which includes everything from cream cheese and sour cream to yogurt and its many variations, such as kefir, lassi and skyr, will come from specialty products, premium products with a purpose. This was very apparent at the Winter Fancy Food Show, which took place earlier this week in San Francisco. With enough cheese, chocolate and olive oil to fill four football fields, the show confirmed the growing popularity of specialty foods, which are defined as foods or beverages of the highest grade, style and/or quality in their respective categories. Their specialty nature derives from a combination of some or all of the following qualities: uniqueness, origin, processing method, design, limited supply, unusual application or use, extraordinary packaging, or channel of distribution/sales.

Sales of most mainstream cultured dairy products are flat, with growth for one brand, form or variety coming at the expense of another. This has been the same scenario in the ice cream category for a very long time. Yes, the Greek yogurt segment continues to grow, but has slowed.

According to data from Chicago-based IRI provided to Dairy Management Inc., Rosemont, Ill., and courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Association, Greek yogurt volume sales increased a mere 4.4% in the first 11 months of 2015, as compared to the same time frame in 2014. This is nothing compared to the multi-year, double-digit growths experienced just five years ago. Non-Greek volume sales are relatively flat.

The Chobani folks will say that the Flip line is providing them incremental growth, as use of culinary-inspired inclusions allowed the brand to move out of the breakfast daypart. Flip’s dual-compartment package brought new users to the Greek yogurt category, but these new users will soon all be on board, and then what?

The company believes Chobani Flip will soon be the next billion dollar yogurt brand, and is working very hard to make that happen. For example, just a few weeks ago, the brand made its boldest flavor statement with the rollout of two “heat meets sweet” varieties: Chipotle Pineapple and Sriracha Mango.

Indeed the company is onto something, yet the “heat meets sweet” trend will likely resonate best with the specialty food consumer, the consumer who shops the specialty food refrigerated case at higher-end stores, or seeks out hand-crafted/batch-produced products priced at a premium in the mainstream dairy case.

This is what you get with Noosa. Categorized as Aussie-style yogurt, the Colorado-based company produces its namesake yogurt in small batches using fresh local whole milk. This non-strained yogurt is lightly sweetened with honey. To kick off 2016, noosa yoghurt introduced four new flavors. Three of them--Key Lime, Salted Caramel and limited-batch Blood Orange—rolled out nationally, with the fourth flavor—Blackberry Serrano (blackberries and serrano chilies)—available in limited distribution in Colorado. 

To read more about the “heat meets sweet” trend, link HERE to an article I recently wrote for Culinology, the Research Chefs Association publication.

Heat complements the savory trend, which really is all about “less sweet.” I’m not talking less sugar, rather less sweet. Consumers' taste buds are changing, and heat, herbs, spices, etc., are finding their way into unexpected dairy foods, such as cottage cheese. Even bitter flavors such as coffee and tea are finding their way into cultured dairy foods. 

That’s one of the directions the folks at Good Culture have taken with their namesake single-serve line of cottage cheese. The company states that cottage cheese is an overlooked superfood, and I agree. I also believe that is changing by the number of queries I get from entrepreneur specialty food innovators. Read about cottage cheese being the original high-protein cultured dairy food HERE. Read how dairies can contemporize cottage cheese HERE.

good culture made its initial debut almost a year ago at the Natural Products Expo West Show, and at this year’s expo will reintroduce the product in a more contemporary package and now in a whole milk formulation (vs. the original line’s debut in 2% milkfat).

The line includes five varieties. In addition to classic cottage cheese, there are two savory varieties (Kalamata Olive and Sundried Tomato) and two sweet varieties (Blueberry Açaí Chia and Strawberry Chia). The single-serve containers come in convenient, on-the-go 5.3-ounce packs.

“We were tired of searching for great-tasting cottage cheese that wasn’t loaded with thickeners, stabilizers, hormones and high-fructose corn syrup sweetened flavors, so we decided to make our own,” says co-founder Jesse Merrill. “Grandma’s cottage cheese/pineapple combo just wasn’t cutting it.”

“Cottage cheese is filled with nutrition and loaded with protein,” says co-founder Anders Eisner. “It has more protein than most Greek yogurts on the market and it tastes delicious.”

The product is certified organic and contains non-GMO ingredients. Low-in sugar, the cottage cheese is made from grass-fed milk from respected cows on sustainable family farms in Wisconsin and has probiotics, according to the company.

In efforts to attract snacking consumers, Sierra Nevada Cheese Co., is now making its handcrafted Cultured Classics dairy products available in 2-ounce single-serve sizes. The line includes Créme Kefir and cream cheese in flavors such as Garlic & Herb, Jalapeno and Original. These organic products are made the old-fashioned way—batch style in small vats--using only simple ingredients: locally sourced organic cultured milk, cream and salt.

Less sugar, but still somewhat sweet, is a growing trend in fruited cultured dairy products.  B’more Organic produces Skyr Smoothies, a line of drinkable no-sugar-added strained nonfat yogurts. The cultured beverages come in 16-ounce plastic bottles, with an 8-ounce serving containing no more than 14 grams of sugar from inherent lactose. Organic stevia keeps calories and sugar content low.

To read more about reducing sugar yet maintaining sweetness in dairy foods, link HERE to an article I recently wrote for Food Business News on the topic.

There’s a recurring theme in a number of the new products just referenced and that is being made with whole milk. Fat is no longer the enemy, and in fact, research suggests that the fat found in cows milk can be beneficial when consumed in moderation…like just about anything that tastes good!

Whole milk tastes good. (Cream is even better!) It’s satisfying and delicious. When partnered with the complete protein (contains all essential amino acids in the proportions required by the body) found in cows milk, you’ve got yourself one powerful food.

The IRI data previously mentioned shows that whole milk yogurt (Greek and non-Greek) had 9.2% share of retail yogurt volume sales during the first 11 months of 2015. Compared to the same period in 2014, sales were up 26.7%. This is while fat-free yogurt volume sales were down 4.3%. This trend is expected to continue, with most specialty yogurt manufacturers entering the market with products made with whole milk, and mainstream players expanding product lines to include whole milk options.

For example, Stonyfield Farm introduced its new dual-compartment whole milk Greek line at the Fancy Food show. This is the first time the company has offered a product in this package format. The interactive package allows the consumer to mix in just the right amount of variegate—blueberry, cherry, honey or strawberry—into the yogurt.

In addition, whole milk plain and whole milk vanilla bean will roll out in 5.3- and 30-ounce containers, which represents another Greek yogurt trend: the multi-use, recipe-intended tub. This larger package size, which typically ranges from 16- to-32 ounces, makes up almost a fifth (18.6%) of all refrigerated yogurt sold through retail channels, with volume sales of tubs up 6.2% during the first 11 months of 2015, as compared to the same period in 2014.

A new Illinois company—1871 Dairy LLC--illustrates this trend. Named after the famous Chicago fire of 1871, when Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over a lantern (It would have burned down my current home.) starting Chicago afire, the company uses local grass-fed whole milk to produce non-homogenized, cream-on-top probiotic yogurt. Sold in 8-ounce glass jars with hand-applied labels—the “use by date” is hand written in a black Sharpie—I found the product at Plum Market in the city’s Gold Coast neighborhood. I paid $3.99 for that jar, and savored every spoonful.
Introduced a few years ago, the time is right for Sosi’s Armenian Yogurt Dip, which was on display at the Fancy Food Show. This Colorado-based company uses a base of nonfat Armenian-style yogurt. The dips are enhanced with whey proteins and include olive oil, which yields a thick, rich dip that’s also loaded with probiotic cultures. The dips come in five varieties: Artichoke Dill, Garden Mint, Mediterranean Roast. Roasted Red Pepper and Spinach Jalapeno.

Probiotics are being included in all types of cultured dairy foods, while their health- and wellness-claims are cautiously being promoted. The good news is that a growing number of consumers understand the positives of consuming probiotics and continue to seek them out…as they are now found in all types of foods. Cultured dairy should own probiotics, or at the very least, be a significant player.

On a global basis, Dannon continues to invest in its probiotic Activia brand, which is designed to improve digestive health. The most recent introduction is Activia Fruit Fusion, a layered product of reduced-fat yogurt with fruity combinations. In the U.S., the line will be available in Blueberry & Blackberry, Cherry & Vanilla, Peach & Mango and Strawberry & Raspberry.

This fusion of flavors is a bit different in the U.K., where the new line comes in Blueberry & Acai, Mango & Passionfruit and Raspberry & Lychee.

Probiotics will likely be one of the key attributes in making drinkable cultured dairy a reality…once again, but hopefully for the long term, in the U.S.

Here’s the deal. Cultured dairy drinks, which include kefir, lassi and yogurt, have experienced ups and downs since the turn-of-the-century. This is likely due to consumer confusion with how to include such products in the daily eating regime. With the recent rise in all-day healthy snacking, coupled with consumers’ distaste for sugary soft drinks, the time might finally be right for drinking yogurts and fermented beverages.

According to my friends at Innova Market Insights, drinkable cultured dairy products accounted for 8.5% of total global dairy launches in the 12 months to the end of October 2015. “The drinking yogurt market has enjoyed mixed fortunes in recent years,” says Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova. “A positioning that falls between traditional spoonable yogurts, milk drinks and other soft drinks has proven to be a mixed blessing, with high levels of competition in all these areas.”

After a period of strong growth in the first half of the 2000s, driven by rising interest in healthy and convenient options, the market also found itself split into two separate areas--single-serve dose-delivery active health drinks and traditional drinking yogurts--with the latter increasingly coming under pressure from the former. This position has tended to reverse with the regulatory changes preventing the use of probiotic claims in key markets, perhaps most notably Europe, which accounts for more than half of launches in the sub-category.

Despite the use of the term “probiotic” being disallowed in the European Union, the association of yogurt with digestive/gut health has clearly been made. It is the most popular claim globally, used on more than half of drinking cultured dairy launches.

There are now indications that the market is moving forward, with a particular focus on yogurt and fruit blends in a smoothie format, while there has also been the rising interest in yogurt-style fermented drinks that has brought products such as kefir and lassi into mainstream markets in non-traditional regions.

One of the most high-profile recent arrivals has been the Icelandic yogurt-style fermented dairy product Skyr in countries such as the U.S., the U.K. and mainland Europe, in drinkable and smoothie formats. It is offered in a range of fruit flavors, as well as trendy options such as coffee and vanilla. There has also been a focus on offering liquid yogurt products for the breakfast market, both in-home in cartons and for on-the-go replacements in resealable plastic bottles.

One of the attributes that makes drinkable cultured dairy attractive to consumers—especially in the U.S.—is not calling it drinkable yogurt. When consumers think yogurt, they think spoon.

Using specialty probiotic cultures described at kefir cultures, my neighbors and friends at Lifeway have done an incredible job of making kefir a household name in the States.

The folks at Maple Hill Creamery want a piece of the action. This artisan dairy is rolling out 100% Grass-Fed Whole Milk Kefir made with milk sourced from small family farms in upstate New York. With 9 grams of protein per serving, the organic kefir comes in plain (no sugar added), strawberry and vanilla varieties.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the cultured dairy foods category has room to grow…it’s up to the players to produce quality product that speaks to the needs of today’s consumers. As I said in last week’s blog, which can be accessed HERE, nobody wins when you attack your dairy foods partner.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Dairy Foods Trends: Going Clean in 2016. (And by the way…how about a united front in getting more people to consume their three servings of dairy a day?)

As a parent of two teenage boys, I experience (daily) a great deal of bickering and strong dislike, but honestly, never anything as bad as what went down this week in the yogurt world. Really?

At a time when most of the U.S. dairy industry is reveling in last week’s positive positioning of dairy in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, how could any player condemn a reputable dairy foods business? I won’t name names, because that’s not who I am.

(If you want to view the print ad I am referencing, you can link HERE. I cannot bring myself to include such malice in this blog. This ad ran in numerous Sunday papers, including the New York Times. Such a full-page color ad in the Sunday New York Times runs for $174,760. That’s a college education for both of my boys and a car for graduation.)

We need to stand as a united front to increase dairy foods consumption, in the States and abroad. It’s a global crisis, as the human body needs the nutrient density dairy foods deliver.

With that said, product developers going forward should continue to strive for simple, clean formulations. (In case you have not heard, clean label is the future of food.) If current products in the market are well received and meet a need, and if they are helping consumers get their three servings of a dairy a day, then so be it.

Those teenage boys of mine and their friends read food labels. Going forward, label reading will continue to impact their food choices and guide them in the direction to make smart choices. I can guarantee it won’t stop them from enjoying an orange Fanta and a bag of Doritos occasionally. Heck, I even enjoy the taste of Tab now and then.

Going clean in 2016 means making better-for-you choices when formulating dairy foods. Let’s not forget that sometimes the product requires certain ingredients to meet the demands of distribution, shelf life and affordability.

Going clean is doing the best job you can in developing nutrient-dense dairy foods.

This brings me to the good people at Stonyfield. I’ve long been a fan, almost as long as I have known Gary Hirshberg, co-founder of the company. When he and Samuel Kaymen joined forces in 1983, they were simply trying to help family farms survive, protect the environment, and keep food and food production healthy through their nonprofit organic farming school. When they commercialized their yogurt production, it was not all organic, as demand for the yogurt exceeded supply of organic milk and other ingredients. Still, they focused on producing healthy, delicious food void of “unclean” ingredients.

Like anyone who became acquainted with Gary in the 90s, I quickly learned that part of his mission was to raise consumer awareness about the health- and wellness-benefits of consuming yogurt and other dairy foods. He wanted all processors to thrive and believed by making, promoting and selling the best dairy products possible, everyone was a winner. He celebrated everything dairy!

As you move forward with future innovations, focus on making clean-label choices. Invest in your business, so all players can benefit. No one benefits from name calling.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Ice Cream Trends 2016: Five Flavor Platforms to Consider in Product Development

Happy New Year! And to all U.S. subscribers, I hope you agree that the 2015-2020 edition of the Dietary Guidelines published on Thursday (Jan. 7, 2016) are a great way to start the year. (A summary of how dairy is addressed in the guidelines can be found at the end of this blog.)

“The 2015 Dietary Guidelines give Americans an easy New Year’s resolution to improve their health for 2016: Consume more dairy foods. These guidelines reinforce that dairy is the answer to a healthier diet.”
Jim Mulhern, president and CEO, National Milk Producers Federation

 When it comes to ice cream, the industry needs to be strategic on this delicious dessert’s marketplace positioning. After all, for the first time, the Dietary Guidelines directly address sugar intake through the recommendation of limiting added sugars to 10% or less of calories. The emphasis is on added sugars, not inherent sugar, such as the lactose found in milk. However, when it comes to ice cream, added sugars tend to be on the high side…but do they need to be? This past year I reported on numerous better-for-you frozen desserts. You can read more HERE and by scrolling through the new frozen dessert page by linking HERE.

I believe the time is right for single-serve ice cream treats that are designed to be lower in fat and sugar. The dairy component provides nine essential nutrients, giving permission to consumers to healthfully indulge in a treat. (More on better-for-you formulating in a future blog.)

This blog is not about value-added formulations or packaging. It’s all about flavor trends, and is always one of the most well-read blogs of the year. So here goes…let’s just jump into what I believe will be the top-five flavor platforms during the next year or two. (Spoiler alert: all five sort of meld together.)

1. Caramel Continues to Mutate
Sea salt caramel is not going away, but expect to see caramel with new partners and in new formats. Think caramel swirl with coffee, cinnamon, honey or vanilla. Think chocolate-covered caramel, a.k.a. truffles. Caramel is also the ideal sweet carrier for a little bit of heat. Think chipotle, jalapeno or sriracha.  To read more about the sweet with heat trend, link HERE.

In the U.S., Unilever is expanding its Breyers Blasts! line with Mini Caramel Hershey’s Kisses. In the Philippines, the company is rolling out a sea salt caramel Kisses version under its Selecta brand. 

The beauty of caramel is that it can be used in better-for-you formulations, as a little goes a long way. Just check out limited-holiday edition Enlightened Cinnamon Caramel Swirl, which is a stick novelty of cinnamon spice ice cream with a caramel swirl.

Also for the holiday’s, Canada’s Chapman’s offered a Holiday Moments Shortbread, which contained shortbread pieces and a salty caramel swirl. It’s dessert density. Being two desserts in one, it saves calories. (Yeah, right! Who am I kidding? But it was super yummy!)

2.    Coffee is hot in the freezer
Coffee-flavored ice creams have come and gone over the years. Starbucks once had its own branded line, which was produced by Dreyer’s. Even Eight O’Clock Coffee had its name in the freezer. Back in 2006, Kemps and Caribou Coffee teamed up to offer four varieties all made with real brewed Caribou-branded coffee. (One contained a caramel swirl!)

Coffee is back in the freezer and showing up in flavors with names containing terms such as cappuccino, java and mocha. But more importantly, the coffee is being qualified by being Cold Brewed, Fair Trade or Organic. To read more about the cold-brewed coffee phenomenon, link HERE.

Coffee flavors not only partner well with caramel and chocolate, the right coffee can carry notes of smoke or spice. And almost all nuts complement coffee.

Here’s an interesting twist on coffee and caffeine. For the first time in the history of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, the 2015-2020 edition makes coffee and caffeine a noteworthy point of discussion, and in a positive framework. In the 2010 edition, there were no recommendations on coffee consumption, with coffee mentioned only three times and caffeine never addressed. By contrast, the recently published edition mentions coffee 209 times and caffeine 205 times. The new guidelines state “moderate coffee consumption (three to five 8-ounce cups/day or providing up to 400 mg/day of caffeine) can be incorporated into healthy eating patterns.” Though non-consumers are not encouraged to start becoming users, the statement reflects current science that suggests coffee consumption may be a positive factor in overall well-being. Coffee consumption has been shown to reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as possibly play a protective role against Parkinson’s disease. These healthful benefits are quite contradictory to what many in the medical community preached not that long ago. Today, coffee has become a functional food and can add a healthful halo to ice cream, which is one of the few desserts to contain nine essential nutrients.

3.    Mixology Movement
From Daiquiri Ice to Rum Raisin, over the years, numerous adult beverage flavors have made their way into frozen desserts, usually without containing real alcohol…but not always.

Back in the 90s, when Haagen-Dazs was still part of Pillsbury, the brand teamed up with Diageo to produce a non-alcoholic version of Bailey’s flavored ice cream. (I remember. I actually visited their New York offices and interviewed the R&D team on the development of the product.)

Most recently, Bulla Dairy in Australia developed what it calls an adults-only product line featuring real Bailey’s Irish Cream in three flavor profiles: Burnt Toffee, Chocolate and Original. Because the ice creams contain less than 0.5% alcohol, Food Standards Australia and New Zealand does not require the packaging to declare the alcohol content; however, Bulla and Baileys decided to still include the alcohol content on the labeling. Better safe than sorry!

Expect to see more personalized adult beverage flavors in frozen desserts. Regional ice cream makers have started teaming up with local mixologists to transform their namesake cocktails into frozen desserts. Think unique spins on cosmopolitans, whiskey sours and martinis. Also, craft beers are finding their way into the freezer.

Most recently, Ben & Jerry’s showed us a new way to enjoy New Belgium Brewing Ale with the introduction of limited-batch Salted Caramel Brown-ie Ale ice cream. This is a brown ale-flavored ice cream with swirls of salted caramel and chunks of fudge brownies. (Caramel goes great with beer and brownies!)

On a regional level, third-generation family-owned and operated Clover Stornetta Farms has introduced a line of craft ice creams including Hoppy Hour, which is made with Bear Republic Brewing’s distinctive artisan Racer 5 IPA. The company also has offers French Press, which is made with hand-brewed dark roast coffee, and leading into the next flavor trend platform, they also offer Tempt Me Toffee, which is made with crunchy, buttery English toffee from Charles Chocolates in San Francisco.

To read more about how the flavors of beer, spirits and wine are finding their way into foods, link HERE.

4.    Artisan, Crafted and Local
The mixology movement rides the waves of artisan, crafted and local.
For the record, Jeni’s is back in business and selling pints at retail for $9.99. This is at mainstream retail. At Whole Foods Market, I believe it’s a dollar or two more.  Of course, caramel is an integral ingredient in many of her artisan creations.
Häagen-Dazs showed us last year that even a national brand can get crafty and personal with its Artisan Collection ice cream line. The line consists of six gourmet flavors made with inclusions developed in conjunction with small, but well-known confectioners around the U.S. For example, Applewood Smoked Caramel Almond uses pralines from Praline Patisserie in San Diego and Tres Leches Brigadeiro includes confections from New York’s My Sweet Brigadeiro.

View a video of the brand and the efforts that went into its development HERE. It’s very inspirational.

The brand is at it again this season. Looks like they have plans to roll out what’s called the Destination Series. So far I am aware of two offerings: Mayan Chocolate and Toasted Sesame Brittle. The flavors are all about escaping to another country. That brings me to flavor trend platform #5.

5.    Global Inspiration
Escaping to a foreign land through ice cream is becoming increasingly popular, with companies such as Chapman’s offering the Flavors of the World Gelato line. The line includes Sticky Rice & Mango Gelato, which is based on a traditional Thai treat that combines sticky rice and coconut milk with mango. Sour Cherry Tango Gelato is a Latin American Fiesta designed to make the taste buds tango through the combination of tart cherry with a sour cherry ripple. Amaretto Biscotti Gelato is an Italian inspiration that combines amaretto, pistachio and chocolate flavors.

Last year, the Movenpick brand, which is sold in select European countries and other select global markets, introduced what was called the Limited Edition Africa series. The four flavors were: Bourbon Vanilla & Exotic Fruits, Madagascar Island Cocoa, Moroccan Orange Blossom & Date, and South African Rooibos Tea & Raspberry.

Under this global flavor trend comes speculoos and tiramisu, desserts from the Netherlands and Italy, respectively, that are increasingly showing up in frozen desserts flavors. Expect to see more speculoos this season, as its flavor builds on the caramel platform. It’s a shortcrust cookie with 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.

And though this product is unique to the Japanese market, it definitely is worth noting as an up-and-coming ice cream concept. Häagen-Dazs is growing its Japonais line with a chestnut and azuki red bean offering, which goes by the name Waguri Azuki. This is the fifth product in three years to be released in the popular Japonais series, which pays homage to some of Japan’s best flavor combinations…many of which will soon be embraced in other countries.

This is a four-layered frozen dessert, designed as a single portion, with a chestnut ice cream base topped with whole azuki beans, followed by smooth vanilla ice cream and a final layer of soft chopped chestnuts on top.

2015 Dietary Guidelines: Dairy Foods Are a Key Component of Healthy Eating for Well-Being

The final version of the 2015 federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) affirms the vital, unrivaled contribution made by dairy foods, and reminds Americans that they will continue to benefit from three daily servings of low-fat and fat-free dairy. In fact, the DGA notes that current intakes of dairy foods for most Americans “are far below recommendations of the Healthy U.S.-Style Pattern,” and they call for a shift to consume more dairy products. Milk, cheese and yogurt are important answers to the question of how Americans should change their diets for the better.

As America strives to create a culture of wellness, the 2015 DGA embraces flexibility to help people build and enjoy healthy eating patterns that will nourish them physically, while also nourishing cultural and personal connections. Regardless of one’s path to a healthy diet, three daily servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy foods like milk, cheese or yogurt can play an important role in healthy eating and well-being, from childhood through adulthood.

While people eat foods, not nutrients, the nutrients in food do matter. Low-fat or fat-free dairy foods are fundamental to all of the patterns recommended by the DGA: Healthy U.S.-style Pattern, Healthy Vegetarian-Style Pattern and Healthy Mediterranean-style Pattern. That’s because low-fat and fat-free dairy foods offer a unique set of nine essential nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D and potassium, which most people do not get enough of in their diets.

In fact, because of dairy foods’ nutrient-rich package, it can be challenging for most Americans, mainly those aged nine and older, to meet nutrient recommendations without eating three servings of dairy a day. When foods from the dairy group are removed from daily eating patterns, or replaced with sugar-sweetened beverages, calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin A and riboflavin dropped below 100% of goals. What’s more, levels of vitamin D and potassium, as well as choline, dropped substantially.

The new Guidelines note “strong evidence shows that healthy eating patterns are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Moderate evidence indicates that healthy eating patterns also are associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer… overweight, and obesity.” In addition, “research also has linked dairy intake to improved bone health, especially in children and adolescents.”

The good news for people across the country is that dairy foods taste great, are accessible almost anywhere, contain essential nutrients and come in a variety of options from lactose-free to low-fat, fat-free or lower sodium, all at a reasonable cost. In fact, you can get three servings of milk for less than $1 a day (with each serving at about 25 cents). And with 8 grams of protein in every 8 ounces, milk is a natural source of high-quality protein, meaning it provides the full mix of essential amino acids our body needs. The dairy community is committed to doing its part to ensure healthy products are available to enhance the health of people and communities, now and for future generations.