Friday, May 20, 2016
Clean label is no longer the hottest trend. It’s reality. It’s expected.

The hot-off-the-presses 2016 Food and Health Survey from the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation, Washington D.C., shows that Americans want to know more about their food and are changing their behaviors based on what they learn. This year, almost half of all American (47%) said they look at the ingredients list when deciding what to purchase, up from 40% just a year ago.

When Americans define what makes a food healthy, it’s becoming more about what is not in a food rather than what is in it. The presence of artificial ingredients and preservatives is a leading deal breaker when it comes to purchase intent.

 When given a list of attributes that describe a “healthy eating style,” 51% of consumers chose “the right mix of different foods,” followed by “limited or no artificial ingredients or preservatives” (41%). However, it should be noted that just 2% of consumers identified limited or no artificial ingredients or preservatives as a top consideration when not given a list. “Moderation/serving size and portions” topped the open-ended responses (26%) for healthy eating styles, followed by “includes certain foods I define as healthy” (25%).

The definitions of healthy and natural foods are also being conflated. According to the survey, “natural” food is most often associated with having no preservatives or additives (29%), having ingredients that come straight from nature and whole foods (19%), or having no artificial ingredients or flavors (17%). DAIRY CAN BE ALL THIS AND MORE!

If food is grown regionally or served at a local establishment, consumers are more likely to trust the safety of that food. More than 70% of consumers trust the safety of food produced in their region of the country, while just 24% trust the safety of food from another country. DAIRY, FLUID MILK IN PARTICULAR, IS A LOCAL FOOD. Cultured dairy products can also highlight the source of their milk and other ingredients.

Interestingly, a majority of Americans believe that modern agriculture produces nutritious foods (56%), safe foods (53%) and high-quality foods (51%). LET’S TALK THIS UP ON PRODUCT LABELS AND WEBSITES.

Seventy-three percent think it’s important that food products be produced in a sustainable way. Of those 73%, the most important aspects of sustainability cited were conserving the natural habitat (44%), reducing the amount of pesticides used to produce food (43%) and ensuring an affordable food supply (37%). However, just 38% of all Americans are willing to pay more for food that is produced sustainably.

With all that data, taste still reigns. Year-after-year, the IFIC survey continues to show that taste trumps price, healthfulness, convenience and sustainability. DAIRY IS DELICIOUS AND WE NEED TO BETTER COMMUNICATE FLAVOR TO CONSUMERS.

Look how Promised Land calls out flavor before protein and calcium in the bottom right corner.

Indeed, flavor is what the culinary professionals are promoting at the upcoming National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show kicking off tomorrow in Chicago. This annual trade show servicing the global restaurant, foodservice and hospitality industry will run May 21 to 24 at McCormick Place. Clean label, local ingredients and simple recipes are a given.

Millennials have had a major hand in influencing changes at restaurants in the past 16 years, and operators can study the group to figure out how to feed their demand for healthy fare, writes Healthy Dining President Anita Jones-Mueller. Flavor is key, and health-conscious millennials are increasingly seeking more fruits and vegetables, whole foods and sustainable options.

Jones-Mueller writes that millennials popularized “eating clean” and made feel good food terms such as “natural,” “whole,” and “organic” mainstream and a must-have for menus.

She also confirms: taste dominates. Whether it’s the segment of millennials that is focusing more on taste and cost or the segments focusing more heavily on health and nutrition, the flavor of food matters. This generation has high expectations for taste and isn’t afraid to let restaurants, friends, peers and followers know whether or not those expectations have been met.

To read the article she wrote on how millennials are redefining healthy, link HERE.

Cultured Dairy Foods for Clean-Label Formulating
Are you marketing your clean-label cultured dairy foods as a better-for-you choice to food formulators, culinary professionals and home cooks? You should be!

Consumers want to see shorter, easy-to-understand ingredient lists before purchasing foods and beverages. Dairy ingredients can serve as a substitute for many unwanted ingredients in a variety of food applications to achieve a more natural product.

To read more, link HERE to a technical report produced by the U.S. Dairy Export Council and
National Dairy Council entitled “Dairy Solutions for Clean-Label Applications.”

Nutrition Trends
The Dairy Council of California (DCC) recently released its Spring 2016 Top-10 Nutrition Trends report. Dairy Council’s trends tracking system identifies food and nutrition issues likely to impact the dairy industry in the next one to three years. The DCC staff identifies the trends and then compiles the information in a newsletter twice a year to distribute to industry leaders for their own communication and planning purposes.

Listed below are the five that I believe to be the most relevant and actionable by dairy processors and marketers. To access the complete report, link HERE.

1. Dairy’s positive contributions to nutrient intakes and health are often ignored. Consumption of milk and dairy foods continues to be linked to better nutrient intakes and health outcomes (prevention of heart disease, metabolic syndrome and diabetes and better weight management). A growing body of research also supports dairy fat as potentially providing health benefits, offering an opportunity to promote whole milk and cheese.

However, public health advocates and other health professionals do not consistently endorse dairy foods. While the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) advise two or three daily servings of dairy in eating patterns, consumers sometimes reach for milk substitutes such as almond, rice and soy products. Research shows that consumers believe in the goodness of milk…but this belief doesn’t always translate into practice.

The industry can intensify efforts to develop innovative milk and dairy products that are tasty, convenient, affordable and nutritious to compete with alternative beverages. In addition, industry investment in research on the nutrient profile of milk and dairy foods to reinforce messaging will be important. 

2. Plant-based eating patterns are on the rise due to many factors.
Until recently, plant-based eating patterns were advocated primarily for their health benefits and chronic disease-fighting attributes. Now, the popularity of these patterns is growing due to economics, animal welfare concerns and sustainability needs. Many public health groups promote diets based on plant foods; for example, the focus of the dietary patterns endorsed by the new DGAs is more heavily plant-based. Efforts are being made at many levels and in many organizations to adopt these eating patterns. Campaigns such as Meatless Mondays are frequently offered in hospitals and schools, and documentaries on the righteousness of this approach abound.

Milk and dairy foods may or may not be included in these plant-based patterns. The DCC has multiple efforts highlighting how milk and dairy foods can and should be incorporated into plant-based diets for their unique package of nutrients, affordability and convenience. Dairy foods can be marketed as natural and minimally processed, to fit into the plant-based movement. Health professionals and consumers will need reminders that “plant-based” does not mean “plant-only,” and indeed, for long-term health and well-being, meat and dairy foods can be consumed. 

3. The quest for protein intensifies; plant proteins are in the limelight.
Protein continues to be the “nutrient of the decade” as its list of health benefits grows beyond muscle-building to include satiety and weight-management benefits, blood-glucose control, bone health and healthy aging. Consumers are seeking protein sources at every meal and snack, but alongside the move toward plant-based diets, plant-derived protein sources are increasingly popular. Meat, eggs and dairy—traditionally excellent sources of protein—are often overlooked for new and innovative proteins such as hemp, pea, quinoa, tempeh, spirulina and even insect. There is little talk or awareness about protein quality, of which animal sources are unparalleled.

Consumers and health professionals need to be reminded that dairy foods are superior sources of protein. This can be accomplished through product labeling and marketing messages. The DCC has numerous materials on protein benefits and good sources and also communicates the research-supported importance of distributing protein evenly throughout the day. Most people need more protein at breakfast and lunch.

4. Food choices are increasingly based on consumer values beyond nutrition.
Personal values about food as it relates to a higher cause—such as animal welfare, feeding the world and environmental concerns—are increasingly driving food choices. Many consumers believe that what they eat is a reflection of who they are. For example, someone may choose to eat only cage-free eggs, organic milk and grass-fed beef due to concerns about how animals are treated on the farm. Nutrition, cost and even taste may be less important factors. This will greatly impact the food industry, which will need to demonstrate to consumers that their concerns and values about animal welfare, sustainability and global needs are shared. Transparency and communication will be critical to maintain the trust of often skeptical consumers. 

5. Sustainability approaches broaden to encompass waste, packaging.
Efforts to improve the sustainability of food-production practices, which originally focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, have expanded to include factors such as reducing waste, minimizing water usage and using packaging materials that are recyclable or biodegradable. Consumers are increasingly concerned about the environment and receptive to ways they can make a difference individually. Often they will avoid foods that are packaged in non-recyclable materials. Buying local is another popular tactic to help the environment. 

There is a strong opportunity to improve sustainability by reducing waste, given that about 40% of food from farm to fork is discarded. Considerable consumer confusion over “use by,” “sell by” and “best by” dates results in large amounts of nutritious and wholesome food being discarded. A small but growing effort is underway to standardize these dates nationwide to help minimize food wasted at retail outlets and in the home.

The DCC educates on how the dairy industry has made great strides toward decreasing the environmental impact of producing milk and dairy products. In addition, it continues to message that the lifelong health and well-being of individuals is part of the whole sustainability equation. Efforts to educate about minimizing waste are being examined as well.

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