Friday, May 6, 2016

Global Innovations in Yogurt and Fermented Dairy Foods

After extensive analysis of the yogurt and fermented dairy segments, I’ve identified five megatrends driving innovation in the category. This blog explains these trends and provides global examples of products supporting them.

Want to learn more? Plan to attend the International Dairy Foods Association Milk and Cultured Dairy Products Conference May 24 to 25 in Indianapolis. I will delve into each of these trends and provide additional global examples during my presentation on May 24th at 1:30 entitled “Developing Products Consumers Want to Buy.” For more information, link HERE.

According to Mintel’s annual review of the yogurt category, the segment continues to boom and shows no signs of slowing. Yogurt volume retail sales across major global markets reached 16.3 million tons in 2015, an increase of 4% over 2014. This is being driven by increased per capita consumption in China and the U.S.; European yogurt consumption is mostly stagnant. But don’t forget, many Europeans consume about three times the amount of yogurt than an American.

Megatrend #1 Back-to-Basics

In most established markets, yogurt brands are reinforcing their natural credentials by going back to the basics. This includes focusing on plain, unsweetened offerings, as well as low-fat and whole milk formulations (versus the previously popular fat free).

“As consumers seek unadulterated, natural foods, plain yogurts, particularly unsweetened ones, offer the ultimate clean label,” says Caroline Roux, research manager-food and drink U.K. “In fact, in 2015, plain yogurt became the most popular flavor, taking over strawberry.”

Mintel reports that share of new unflavored spoonable yogurt grew 2.5 percentage points, compared to 2014, to reach 18% of the global launches. These products are in response to the “sugar backlash” that’s impacting all sweetened food segments.

With fruit-flavored yogurts and other cultured dairy products, there’s a trend towards using premium, select naturally sweet fruit ingredients (with piece identity) or fruit juices. This allows for claims such as “no added sugar.”

“Beyond sugar, fat is the other nutrient on consumers’ watch list,” says Roux. “However, full-fat, whole milk yogurts enjoyed a rebirth of popularity in 2015, driven by consumers’ reappraisal of  good vs. bad fats, as well as a craving for ‘the real thing.’”

One of the best examples comes from all-natural Cascade Fresh yogurt. This Pacific Northwest brand was ahead of its time when it originated some 30 years. In 2014, the founding family retired the brand, only for new owners to scoop it up, knowing that the product is exactly what today’s evolving yogurt consumer wants. Sweetened only with fruit juice, made with low-fat milk and loaded with probiotic cultures, Cascade Fresh is back!

“As the new makers of Cascade Fresh, we plan to continue the same healthy recipe, same smooth texture, same delicious taste with new flavors and variations on the horizon,” according to Kris and Curt Fuehr, the new owners of the brand doing business as Wholesome Yogurt, Bellevue, WA.    

The product line is making its comeback in six flavors. They are: Blackcap Raspberry, Blueberry, Cherry Vanilla, Lemon Chiffon, Peach and Strawberry.

What makes this yogurt so unique is that each serving is cultured right in the cup. This is not bulk, vat-made, gelatinous yogurt, this is artisan, handcrafted, slowly cultured yogurt that preserves all eight of its health-enhancing probiotics. (This feeds right into Megatrend #2)

“Of course, there are no GMOs, rBGH, and our milk comes from family farm-raised, happy cows,” according to the Fuehrs.

Megatrend #2 Focus on Fermentation

That’s right. Focus on the fermentation. Yogurt and other cultured dairy products complement consumers’ desire for minimal processing. Fermentation is not only minimal and straightforward, it’s an ancient preservation technique. Today’s consumers find this intriguing and attractive.

“As consumers show greater interest in how food is made, they have re-embraced fermented foods,” says Roux. “The positive health benefits of fermented food are a big draw.”

The popularity of Greek yogurt continues to grow around the world, but to date, there’s been no other ethnic yogurt concept that has come even close to making a sizeable impact on the category. The focus on fermentation may be the next Greek yogurt.

With consumers’ growing interest in fermented foods comes a curiosity for ancient recipes. That’s what you get with kefir, in both spoonable and drinkable formats.

“Leveraging consumers’ renewed appetite for ancient processing techniques, manufacturers have started to communicate around the simple and traditional fermentation process required to make yogurt,” said Roux. “This is also assisting kefir with gaining mainstream traction outside of Russia and Eastern Europe.”

Numerous trend trackers, not just me, agree that we are in the midst of a culture craze, with fermented foods and probiotics growing like the good bacteria that they are! Dairy processors need to up their game and not let the kimchi and kombucha companies steal the spotlight.

Use the package and marketing materials to talk about the fermentation process and the craftsmanship behind the product. This is likely what will make drinkable fermented dairy products more competitive in the beverage category. Kefir is a great example.

In Germany, Müller Dairy now offers single-serve (500 gram) bottles of drinkable kefir. The company uses the same traditional recipe followed for its cup kefir line to make the drinkable product, with a focus on the fermentation and kefir’s Eastern European ethnic heritage. Even the graphics relay this, much like many Greek yogurts use visuals to suggest Greece.

Megatrend #3 Clearly Communicate What’s Inside

Show consumers what they are getting!

At the Research Chef’s Association meeting back in March in Denver, an executive from Campbell’s Soup made a profound statement that I continue to repeat. It’s in regards to Millennials and the generation that follows. The GenZers, who were born after December 2000 and are the true 21st century consumer.

What he said was, “put it in a mason jar and write a description in a sharpie marker, and they will buy it, and at a premium!” It’s so true. Today’s consumers want to see what they are buying. Transparency is paramount.

Glass jars have long been used for yogurt and other cultured dairy products throughout Europe. Today, their use is growing and catching on in other countries. Glassed dairy foods make the consumer think old-fashioned milk man.

In the U.K., Brown Cow Organics hand produces its non-homogenized yogurts on a family-run farm. The yogurts are made from milk produced by Guernsey cows that have been raised in a “relaxed, happy lifestyle” and on a healthy diet, grazing only on organic grass. The milk contains A2 beta casein protein, which is associated with improved digestibility. They use glass to convey the simplicity and the purity.

Megatrend #4 Create an Urgency to Purchase

Get it now. It won’t be available for long. That’s what you communicate with limited-edition and seasonal flavors. These products keep shoppers interested in exploring the yogurt and cultured dairy products category. Instead of reaching for their favorite brand and flavor—we are creatures of habit—knowing that a new concept might only be around for a few months peaks their curiosity.

Now, as much as I love holiday celebrations, associating a product with a specific calendar date means the day after, any product remaining on shelf will be making its way to the discount bin. So instead of Rudolph’s Cherry Red Nose yogurt, maybe try Ski Slope Cherry Cheeks.

Megatrend #5 Meld the Familiar with Something New

This last megatrend encompasses products, flavors and even textures. And I’m not going to spend too much time on it here, as I have a bunch of surprises to showcase this week as a Daily Dose of Dairy. So stay tuned…

But here’s a sneak peek with the focus on cottage cheese. It’s time to bring new life to cottage cheese before it gets buried with the “diet plate” generation

Norway’s Q-Meieriene agrees that its’ time for cottage cheese’s comeback. This company says is blending its popular skyr with cottage cheese to offer a unique high-protein snack in three varieties: Blueberry, Mango & Passionfruit and Vanilla. The fat-free, no-sugar-added product delivers 18 grams of protein in every 175-gram container.

To all the mom’s out there, Happy Mother’s Day weekend!

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