Thursday, June 22, 2017

From Fancy Food to IFT: Dairy foods will be in the spotlight this coming week

The Big Apple on Saturday and Sunday, then Vegas Monday through Thursday, that’s my schedule for the next week. I hope to see many Daily Dose of Dairy subscribers at either the Summer Fancy Food Show or IFT, or both, if you are adventurous, a.k.a, insane, like me.

Like with any exposition, in the weeks leading up to the event, editors get inundated with press releases announcing new products. This is true for both finished products at Fancy Food and ingredients at IFT. Having the two shows overlap has been helpful with confirming some real opportunities for dairy foods companies. 

Here are five themes that will dominate the Fancy Food show. IFT exhibitors will be demonstrating ingredient technologies to assist with your on-trend innovation efforts to complement these themes.

1. Provide a sensory experience. This is in terms of both flavor adventure and texture.
I just finished writing an article on managing the texture of dairy foods for Food Business News. Every ingredient supplier interviewed said the same thing: texture targets must be identified early in the product development process and formulations designed to meet those targets. That’s because in many dairy products, texture can change over shelf life. These changes are usually not viewed favorably by consumers.

Today’s consumers want to explore texture and they want to know upfront what to expect in a product. New products—not just dairy, but everything from chips to beverages—are making texture a selling point. Ingredient technology assists with developing unique textures and maintaining them until consumption.

2. Highlight clean and simple. These descriptors are being used to describe finished products, the ingredients that go into the products and even the process used to make them. In a growing number of instances, even packaging gets addressed.

IFT exhibitors will be showcasing their ingredient technology solutions for clean and simple formulating. Find out more, such as if the sourcing of the ingredient has an interesting story. Communicate this sourcing to consumers via packaging and social media. Explore ingredients that serve multiple functions, which in turn enabler simpler ingredient statements.

3. Talk about the sweetener. A growing number of products are using language such as “slightly sweetened with cane sugar” or “naturally sweetened by stevia.” Products are also starting to declare added sugars.

Just because the FDA extended its compliance date for the revised Nutrition Facts label does not mean that you need to wait if you can comply sooner. Label-reading consumers are looking for this information and it’s a way to differentiate and stand out in the marketplace.
IFT exhibitors will be showcasing their tool box of sweetening solutions. Many offer technologies that are clean, and simply allow for a reduction in added sugars.

4. Premiumize the product. Fancy foods, as the name suggests are fanciful, or special. Such specialty foods are becoming a larger, more integral part of the American diet, according to “Today’s Specialty Food Consumer,” an annual report from the Specialty Food Association. Dollar sales hit $127 billion this year, a 15% jump in total sales between 2014 and 2016. By comparison, all food sales at retail grew by only 2.3%.

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.

Specialty foods are outpacing their non-specialty counterparts in almost every category, as consumers continue to become more aware of quality in their food choices. Categories aligned with better-for you options, health and wellness, and freshness are growing fastest.
According to the research, mainstream retail channels are heating up. Millennials, a convenience-oriented consumer group, buy specialty foods wherever they shop. This trend has helped drive sales in multi-unit grocery and mass merchants, where growth outpaced that of natural or specialty chains for the first time.

Consumers are especially focused on specialty foods in the refrigerated sections. Categories with the biggest sales growth in this area include refrigerated juices and functional beverages up 30.7%, refrigerated lunch and dinner entrees up 33.0%, and yogurt and kefir up 27.2%.

Exhibiting suppliers at IFT will have an array of ingredient systems to assist with premiumizing dairy foods. This includes everything from flavors to inclusions.

5. Market lifestyle, lifestage or daypart. Health and nutrition are on top of mind, even with consumers who don’t necessarily follow what they know is best. It’s a growing trend to promote components of finished foods for how they contribute to a healthful lifestyle, assist with nutritional needs during a specific lifestage or fuel the body at different times of day.

Ingredient suppliers will be showcasing macro and micro nutrients at IFT that can be promoted in product formulations. Be open to learning about functional nutrients with proven benefits.

Hope to see you this week!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Flavored Milk Trends: It’s the golden age of beverage innovation. It’s time to premiumize milk.

This is a golden age of beverage innovation in America, according to market research firm Packaged Facts. This is thanks to a desire for more healthful products with cleaner labels; the emergence of new ingredients, production processes and technologies; and the coming of age of millennials as the dominant consumer demographic, a group that is adventurous when it comes to trying new things.

After decades of being a rather staid business dominated by only a few major, national brands that were slow to innovate, this confluence of modern trends has unplugged the innovation pipeline for the beverage industry. This includes fluid milk processors, especially those with a strong local consumer base.

“Ideas are flowing like perhaps they haven’t in decades, if not a century. Indeed, until recently the beverage industry had remained untouched by radical transformation. That is not the case any longer,” says David Sprinkle, research director at Packaged Facts. “Innovation is touching every aspect of the beverage industry today, and there is a lot more on the horizon.”
Visit SensoryEffects at IFT, booth #2050.

Now’s the time to get creative with milk, in terms of both flavor and package.

Retail sales data from IRI provided to Dairy Management Inc., and courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Association, for the first quarter of 2017, show that flavored milk sales were up 3.5%. Whole-fat milk sales were also up (3.3%), as was lactose free (12%). These three formulations continue to be bright spots in the fluid milk category, as are more niche value-added segments, including refuel milk (up 21.9%).

Source: IRI provided to Dairy Management Inc., and courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Association

What the data from the first quarter also showed was that the retail decline for overall fluid milk was a bit more pronounced than we have seen in the past two years, with sales down 3.3%. Volume leader, white gallon milk, is driving overall fluid milk declines.

Other IRI data show that the volume of flavored milk sold through retail grew 15.8% between 2014 and 2016 and growth is continuing in to 2017. Flavored milk currently accounts for 10.5% of milk through all channels and 5.6% at retail. Four in 10 households purchase flavored milk during the course of a year. Flavor innovations and value-added formulations may entice more households to give flavored milk a try.

Source: IRI provided to Dairy Management Inc., and courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Association

It’s important to note the life stage that is indexing as high volume users. It’s households with families, both young families and those raising teens. In fact, usage of flavored milk by households with 12 to 17 year olds is 77% higher than the national norm. This data suggests there’s a huge opportunity to formulate for such households. 

Now, don’t assume that it’s just the kids drinking the milk. It’s very likely that product is being purchased because of the kids at home, yet, the entire household is enjoying the product. Varied flavors, package sizes and package types appeal different households. Do some research about your target demographic and get busy.

Here’s a great example. Shaken Udder was born in 2003, serving thousands of fresh milkshakes (flavored milk) to festival goers across the U.K. As the fan base grew, customers started to demand their milkshake fix year-round, so founders Howie and Jodie took a look at retail shelves. They were thoroughly disappointed with what they found, marvelous milk was being ruined by ingredients artificial ingredients. The pair decided milk deserved better and set about creating Britain’s best milkshake.

The company’s new breed of milkshakes first hit shelves of Harvey Nichols in 2008 and are now sold in major retailers plus thousands of individual outlets. The milkshakes are all gluten free, suitable for vegetarians and contain no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. They are made with British milk and premium ingredients.

Chocolush contains two types of Belgian chocolate. Vanillalicious uses real vanilla beans. Top Banana contains 5% real banana puree. Salted Caramel combines the sweet brown taste of caramel with Maldon Sea salt.

The company recently collaborated with Rodda’s Creamery to welcome a new flavor: Strawberries & Rodda’s Clotted Cream. Like the other milk shakes, it starts with a base of semi-skimmed British milk, to which real strawberries and Rodda’s Cornish clotted cream is added.

This innovation placed the company as a finalist in the World Dairy Innovation Awards 2017.

The winners and finalists in the World Dairy Innovation Awards 2017 were announced on June 7th at a gala dinner at the Global Dairy Congress in Dublin, Ireland. The judging panel, which included myself, considered entries from more than 20 countries in 19 categories.

A full list of this year’s winners and finalists in all 19 categories can be viewed HERE.

In the U.S., Rosa Brothers is introducing single-serve flavored milk. All of the dairy’s milk products come from sustainably raised Holstein cows on the company’s family farm. They are packaged in environmentally friendly and better-taste-transferring glass bottles, according to the company. Unlike the quart and half-gallon bottles, which require a return deposit at point of purchase, the new 12-ounce glass bottles are intended to be disposed of in a recycle bin. The new single-serve bottles come in four whole milk varieties. They are: banana, chocolate, strawberry and white.

The Farmer’s Cow is on board with premium flavored milks with its new seasonal, limited-edition approach. Earlier this year, the New England dairy introduced Maple Milk. This flavor literally “taps” into the seasonal flavor of maple sugaring. Rich, sweet Vermont maple syrup is carefully blended with fresh whole milk. Each 32-ounce bottle contains approximately one-quarter cup of real maple syrup, no artificial flavor and no high fructose corn syrup or added sugar other than the maple syrup. More recently the dairy rolled out its second seasonal flavor: Raspberry White Chocolate Milk. This unique milk blends the flavors of the rich sweetness of white chocolate and natural raspberry with fresh whole milk. It, too, comes in a similar 32-ounce collectible glass bottle designed to stand out in the dairy case.
                                                                                                                Shatto Milk Company in the Kansas City area does a fabulous job with its flavored milk program. In addition to banana, chocolate and strawberry, the local dairy offers fun flavors like cookies n’ cream, cotton candy and root beer. They’ve had limited-edition offerings such as apple pie and chocolate cherry. The flavored whole-fat milks come in glass bottles, and in three sizes: pint, quart and half gallon.                                                              There are many local dairies around the country, in fact, around the world, doing great things with flavored milk. It’s a golden opportunity. Get on board!
Visit SensoryEffects at IFT, booth #2050.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Dairy is Back (for now). It’s up to the industry (us) to keep it relevant.

This year’s International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association annual expo took place this week in Anaheim. As always, cheese dominated the show, but as you should have been able to tell from the innovations featured this week as a Daily Dose of Dairy, all dairy foods were prominently on display, everything from Mexican-seasoned squeeze sour cream to artisan butter to premium single-serve flavored milk. It’s a good time to be dairy. But it’s up to the industry to invest and to innovate to keep dairy relevant to today’s consumers.

Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke to expo attendees on the opening day. He shared his three tips for success: have a vision, don’t mind the naysayers and work your butt off. In between those three tips he emphasized the need to educate, to nourish and to volunteer. These are all things that dairy farmers—and those who process and market milk and dairy foods—do on a regular basis.
After an inspirational presentation about hard work, Arnold bid adieu to attendees with “I’ll be back.”

The dairy industry does not want to ever say those words. We are thriving. Let’s stay there by staying relevant.

To stay relevant, it’s important to invest in your education. And it’s that time of year—IFT—when knowledge and science are just a session or supplier exhibit away. IFT kicks off in Las Vegas in little more than a week. Here are some must-attend sessions to assist with product innovation.

Monday, June 26, 10:30am-12:00pm, Session 13, “A Toolbox Approach to Developing High-Protein Dairy Foods”
In formulating protein-fortified foods, a developer often has to factor in physicochemical outcomes of higher protein-protein interactions, e.g., taste, texture and stability. Successful fortification with proteins is often accompanied with well-considered choices of formulation and processing adjustments to deliver a great-tasting food that meets consumer expectations. Dairy proteins provide numerous functional and nutritional advantages in this regard and are the benchmark for other proteins. Beyond nutrition, dairy proteins are considered good emulsifiers, texture builders, whipping agents (in some applications), fat substitutes, etc. Speakers in this symposium will provide insight on the macro- and molecular-level behavior of dairy proteins both in the ingredient state as well as in the context of high-protein food systems.

The session kicks off with Dr. Hasmukh Patel, a former faculty member of the Dairy Science Department at South Dakota State University and currently employed in the industry. The main focus of his research is to help understand the basic mechanisms and provide new knowledge to enable the design of new dairy and food ingredients and new products and processing technologies. He will address “The Landscape of Opportunities and Challenges in Formulating High Dairy-Protein Food.”

Next there’s Dr. Allen Foegeding, a William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor of Food Science at North Carolina State University. His research has provided insight into how food biopolymers function in foods with a focus on whey proteins in forming sols, foams and gels. He will speak on “Shelf Life Issues with High Dairy-Protein Foods.”

Additional speakers will address issues surrounding the dispersibility and solubility of milk protein concentrates, which offer unique advantages for protein-fortified foods and beverages. Participants will also learn about astringency challenges with high-dairy-protein foods.

Monday, June 26, 3:30pm-5:00pm, Session 26, “Innovations in Spray-Dried, Fortified Dairy Products and Emulsions: Recent Advances and Product Applications”

Spray drying is still the most common technique used to produce dairy powders with prolonged shelf life. The demand for fortified dairy products and emulsions continues to increase. The infant formula market in Australia alone (including export) grows at more than 45% per annum. Other rapidly emerging markets include specialized dairy ingredients for sports nutrition, an aging population and improving gut health. The production of any spray-dried powders that fail to meet the consumer’s specifications represents significant monetary and resource losses and increases environmental footprint. This is still a practical challenge faced by the dairy and food industry, as there are specific requirements to meet the demand of increasingly specialized dairy ingredients for application in a range of products including high-protein beverages, emulsion-based products, bars, and other such products.

The audience will have an opportunity to learn about the latest research and technology that can be applied to solve the challenges associated with functional, fortified dairy food and beverage products, including sports nutrition, medical nutrition and meal replacement products. Speakers include Dr. Patel, Dr. Cordelia Selomulya, an a biotechnology and food engineer research in Australia and Dr. Romain Jeantet, a food engineering professor in the joint research unit Agrocampus Ouest-INRA in Rennes, France.

Why is it so important to invest in dairy education and innovation? Because at the same these sessions are taking place, there are similar presentations being made on the growing opportunities with plant proteins.

I do believe the two can exist in harmony. But to do so, I will say it again, dairy must stay relevant to today’s consumers. We don’t want to have to say in a few years that we will be back. Let’s stay there!

Part of staying relevant is narrative. At its essence, narrative is about creating meaning. It’s the tool for making sense of the vastness of our world and the infinite data points, factoids and opinions. The dairy industry has one of the most amazing stories to tell. Share it. (Scroll down for a peak at my fun IDDBA story.)

Friday, June 2, 2017

Farm-to-Fork: Ingredients that Resonate with Dairy Foods Consumers

Photo source: Bob Evans

The concept of “from the farm” vs. “developed in a lab” resonates with consumers and will be the focus of many exhibits at this year’s IFT, which is in less than four weeks in Las Vegas. This “farm” story is one that the dairy industry inherently is part of, which is why it is so crucial that dairy foods manufacturers use ingredients that do not dilute this natural and wholesome message.

It’s paramount that dairy foods formulators understand that for many of today’s consumers, food selection is based on a combination of nutrition and personal values. Looks and tastes still matter, but other criteria often come into consideration when deciding between two brands of similar product.


The International Food Information Council Foundation’s 12th Annual Food and Health Survey shows that more than half of consumers say it is very important or important that they recognize the ingredients listed on the package of the food they buy at retail. Half feel the same way about knowing where their food comes from. A growing number of consumers want to understand how a food is produced and to know that the manufacturer shares similar values in terms of sustainability, environment, food waste and more. 

Sourcing ingredients has become so much more than a numbers game. It’s important that ingredients can be traced back to the farm so this farm story can be communicated to consumers. Using “all-natural” phrases such as “sweetened with a touch of Texas-grown cane sugar” or “colored by sun-ripened tomatoes” appeal to today’s consumers.


A study published in the Journal of Food Science found that expectations of product quality, nutritional content and the amount of money consumers were willing to pay increased when consumers saw a product labeled “all-natural” as compared to the same product without the label.

Researchers at Ohio State University used virtual reality technology to simulate a grocery store taste-test of peanut butter. In one condition, consumers were asked by a server to evaluate identical products with only one being labeled all-natural. In the other, the server additionally emphasized the all-natural status of the one sample.

In the first condition, expectations of product quality and nutritional content increased, but not liking or willingness to pay additional for the all-natural product. However, expectations of product quality and nutritional content as well the amount of money subjects were willing to pay increased further when a virtual in-store server identified one of the peanut butters as being made with all-natural ingredients. This result was observed across a diverse group of subjects indicating the broad impact of the all-natural label.

Currently FDA has not provided a clear definition of the phrases “natural” or “all natural,” despite extensive use in U.S. product marketing. Prior research has indicated that consumers define “natural” primarily by the absence of “undesirable” attributes such as additives and human intervention, as opposed to the presence of specific positive qualities.
You can view the abstract HERE.

Formulating “all-natural” dairy foods often refers to eliminating chemical-sounding additives or any ingredient recognized as being artificial, most notably certain colors, flavors, preservatives and sweeteners. It is best to determine finished product labeling, sensory and shelf life goals prior to product development. This checklist can assist with identifying your toolbox of potential ingredients.

  • Colors: Any ingredient with the sole purpose of adding color to a food or beverage is a color additive, with all color additives requiring approval by FDA as a food additive. The FDA classifies color additives as either “certified” or “exempt from certification.” The former is commonly referred to as artificial or synthetic; and the latter, by default, is often characterized as natural. Because FDA does not consider any color added to a food as being natural, unless the color is natural to the product itself, such as strawberry extract boosting the red color of strawberries in yogurt, it is more common to use label claims such as “free from synthetic colors” or “colored with fruit and vegetable juice” rather than “all natural.” Determine your label claim up front. 
  • Flavors: Both natural and artificial flavors are manufactured through the blending of chemicals. The difference is when essential oils are used in the manufacture of the flavor, or when artificial chemicals are blended to simulate essential oils. The former is considered natural, the latter artificial. Based on the raw material, FDA is very clear on the labeling of flavors as either natural or artificial. Historically many natural flavors were considered weaker in flavor strength and less stable to processing than their artificial counterparts. Advanced technologies have significantly improved quality, but often with a cost. It is paramount that formulators determine flavor targets and budgets in order to have realistic goals.
  • Preservatives: The FDA defines a chemical preservative as any chemical that, when added to food, tends to prevent or retard deterioration. Ingredients excluded from this list include common salt, sugars, vinegars, spices or oils extracted from spices, as well as substances added to food by direct exposure, for example wood smoke. Consumers expect refrigerated dairy products to have a shorter shelf life, as they are perishable living systems. Chemical preservatives are usually not necessary, unless the goal is for a lengthy shelf life, as is the case with spreadable cheeses and even some cultured products. Determine the minimum expiration date necessary for your distribution system.  
  • Sweeteners: The FDA does not impose the descriptor of artificial to any sweetener, rather, there are six high-intensity sweeteners—acesulfame potassium, advantame, aspartame, neotame, saccharin and sucralose—approved as food additives in the U.S. Even though they are not legally classified as artificial sweeteners, this descriptor has become common language, making label claims such as “free from artificial sweeteners” increasingly popular in the clean-label movement. There are an array of sweeteners available to formulators, some of which have cleaner reputations than others. For example, agave, honey, monkfruit, pure cane sugar and stevia have all gained traction in the natural products channel as wholesome, naturally derived sweetening options. Formulators should identify all sweeteners to avoid prior to product development, as sweetener may impact product appearance, color, flavor, mouthfeel and other attributes. Remember to consider the sweeteners in ingredient systems such as fruit preparation and inclusions.

The “all-natural” position has some overlap with the “free from” platform. This is all about the elimination of certain foods and food ingredients based on personal values and avoidance diets, which may be for real medical reasons or perceived wellness benefits. To read more about “free from” formulating, please link HERE to an article I recently wrote for Food Business News.

Infographic source: Lycored

There’s also the whole GMO debate. The fact is, the way Americans eat has become a source of social, economic and political friction as people follow personal preferences reflecting their principles on how foods connect with their health and ailments, according to a 2016 survey by Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. The Pew study showed that a sizable minority--39%--of Americans consider genetically modified (GM) foods worse for health than other foods. This compares with 48% of adults who say GM foods are no different from non-GM foods and 10% who say GM foods are better for health.

I just finished a special report on this topic for Food Business News. You can read it HERE.

World Milk Day
Yesterday (June 1) was World Milk Day, the kickoff to June being Dairy Month. To learn more about this annual event, link HERE.

Here’s some great news during a time when many of us dread reading consumer media headlines.

The public health case for the consumption of milk and other dairy foods is stronger today than ever. This is a fact that is increasingly recognized by health experts and consumers in the U.S. and across the globe.

“The undeniable good news about dairy products starts with its unmatched value as a superfood--no other food source comes close to providing the same nutrition,” says Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF).

A glass of milk provides nine essential nutrients: calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin B12, riboflavin and niacin.

Over the years, “this consistent nutritional package has earned dairy its unparalleled wholesome 
reputation--a healthy halo--that consumers recognize and trust. Meeting government nutrient recommendations is extremely difficult without including milk and dairy in your diet,” he says. “World Milk Day offers us a great opportunity to remind consumers here at home, and around the world, of the important benefits of real milk. It may have its imitators, but no other product can duplicate or replace the same unprocessed, natural goodness of the real thing.”

A few weeks ago, sort of a lead into Dairy Month, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy--in partnership with America’s Dairy Farm Families and Importers--launched “Undeniably Dairy,” an innovative category campaign.

“We feel that now is the absolute right time to come together with one voice to share the community’s story--to celebrate the delicious, nutritious foods in the dairy aisle and the people who bring them to your table,” says Barbara O’Brien, president of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

In addition to showcasing the undeniable taste and enjoyment that comes from dairy--like a warm slice of pizza or a yogurt parfait on a summer day--the campaign is spotlighting the undeniably positive role the dairy community—those farms that resonate with today’s consumers--plays in America today.  

“Despite dairy farms being in all 50 states and most of us living within 100 miles of a dairy farm, many people have never set foot on a farm,” says Beth Engelmann, chief marketing communications officer at Dairy Management Inc., which represents America’s nearly 42,000 dairy farmers and importers. “Undeniably Dairy is about reestablishing the connection between the enjoyment of the product and the hard work and pride of the people who make it possible. This campaign is unprecedented in that it unifies a vast and diverse dairy industry and array of dairy products behind a single platform.”

Today, farmers use 65% less water and 63% less carbon per gallon of milk produced. And for every $1 million of in-store U.S. milk sales, 17 new jobs are generated.  

“When you see a dairy farm, you’re usually looking at multiple generations of providing for the community, multiple generations of land conservation, multiple generations of business innovation,” says Amber Horn-Leiterman, a Wisconsin dairy farmer. “And that often means being an early adopter when it comes to new technology that allows us to advance and improve animal care, capture and reuse our resources and maintain a total commitment to producing products that are safe, healthy and nutritious.” 

To learn more about the Undeniably Dairy campaign, link HERE.

Be smart when you formulate dairy foods. Keep dairy undeniably natural and wholesome. Hope to see you in Vegas soon!


Friday, May 26, 2017

Anuga 2017: This innovation food expo is a must-attend for dairy processors who want to be ahead of the trend

In less than five months, Anuga, the world’s leading food fair for the retail trade and the foodservice and catering markets, will take place at Koelnmesse in Cologne, Germany. This biennial event is a central business and communications platform for all players involved in the development, manufacturing, marketing, distribution and sale of food and beverage. It’s where new products make their debut to complement today’s and tomorrow’s trends.

The 2015 expo attracted nearly 160,000 trade visitors from 192 countries. Event organizers anticipate breaking this record in 2017, as Cologne continues to attract buyers and sellers from all countries around the world. That’s because Anuga has become the benchmark for all food trade fairs worldwide in terms of both quality and quantity.

Anuga prides itself on being 10 trade shows under one roof. This design is a well-arranged layout divided up into themed areas, which makes it easy to focus and get work done. The halls are: 1) Bread & Bakery, 2) Chilled & Fresh Food, 3) Culinary Concepts, 4) Dairy, 5) Drinks, 6) Fine Food, 7) Frozen Food, 8) Meat, 9) Hot Beverages and 10) Organic.

Trust me, the dairy hall takes an entire day to explore. Hope to see you there this fall…but for now…Happy Summer!

Mark your calendar for the 34th Anuga taking place October 7-11, 2017. For more information, link HERE.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Texture: The Often Ignored, Yet Critical Component of Dairy Foods Product Development

Most consumers don’t think about a food’s texture or mouthfeel unless it is inferior. They have expectations, and when a product does not deliver, the consumer often no longer is a customer.

Most innovators, in particular entrepreneurs with a dream product in mind, tend to focus on flavor and nutrition. Texture and mouthfeel are secondary, and in some instances, not addressed until too late. Then the whole innovation process needs to start over.

In live (active cultures and enzymes), fresh dairy foods, texture changes over shelf life. Ingredients may interact and cause everything from clumping to syneresis.

Here are four tips to incorporate into innovation efforts for cultured dairy products, namely yogurt, and dairy desserts.

1. Texture must be addressed early on in the innovation stage.
Research shows texture is equally important as flavor in product innovation and must be a consideration in the early stages of product development—and all the way through the end of shelf life. Specialized formulations, along with processing and distribution, may all take a toll on product texture. You must monitor texture changes every time you make an ingredient change. Even a simple 10% reduction in added sugars can make an impact.

Sensory scientists must be involved from the very beginning of product innovation. Sensory science provides an understanding of ingredient behavior and interactions. It helps eliminate unnecessary trials and focus on viable ingredient solutions.

2. Identify target texture attributes and develop a process to consistently deliver them.
Yogurt is one of the most segmented categories in the food industry, according to research conducted by sensory scientists at Ingredion Inc. A key way manufacturers differentiate their yogurt products is through texture. Consistency is paramount.
Did you know there are more than 25 different sensory terms identified as descriptors for the texture of yogurt? Preferences vary by target consumer, product type and usage occasion.

3. Use effective language to communicate the texture of the product.
Research shows that yogurt texture is a leading influencer of product liking scores. Marketers must identify the target consumer early on in the innovation stage, formulate to deliver the texture the target consumer prefers and use effective language to communicate the expected texture of the finished product. Thick should not be lumpy, but it is not necessarily creamy either. A light or 100-calorie portion is not thick, but it also is not runny.

4. Differentiate between sweetness and “added sugars” in order to better manage texture and mouthfeel.

International Food Information Council Foundation’s 12th Annual Food and Health Survey shows that more consumers link sugars to weight gain. In fact, according to this report issued early in the week, one-third of Americans, which is up from 25% in 2016, say sugars are most likely to cause weight gain. This needs to be top-of-mind for dairy foods innovators.

The addition of “added sugars” to the Nutrition Facts label has many yogurt manufacturers exploring ingredient technologies to keep this number as low as possible. The challenge is when sugars are reduced, the entire matrix gets disrupted. This is true for most food systems, including yogurt, flavored milk and ice cream.

Formulators must remember that sugar is a solid. Removing any solids from yogurt impacts texture. With reduced sugar, yogurt is less firm when stirred. It is also less cohesive and has less body in the mouth. Because of reduced solids, the yogurt also disappears faster in the mouth. With yogurts intended to be mini meals, it is essential to build back a full-bodied texture, which consumers typically perceive as more satiating and satisfying.

“There is sweetness; then there is sugar,” says Ivan Gonzales, marketing director-dairy, at Ingredion. “Our research shows that today’s health- and nutrition-conscious consumers are searching for the sweetness—and texture--experiences they love in yogurt, but with less sugar and fewer calories.”

There are ingredient systems that provide sweetness with sugar-like taste profiles and the mouthfeel of sugar, but with fewer calories and simple labels. This ranges from specialty polyols and dextrose to high-potency sweeteners, including highly purified stevia extract, as well prebiotic oligosaccharides, alternative sweeteners and more.
Texture will be addressed in a number of educational sessions at this year’s IFT, which is in less than seven weeks in Las Vegas.

On Monday, June 26, plan to attend session #23 “Understanding Food Texture” from 3:30 to 5:30pm.

One of the speakers, LuAnn Williams, direct of innovation at Innova Market Research, explains, “Consumer expectations around the eating quality of food have required textural adaptation of traditional formulas to deliver equivalent satisfaction with sugar- and fat-reduced products. Balancing the contradictory wants and needs of consumers has been a struggle for the food industry. The requirements have both sensory and mechanical textural implications and present a major communications challenge.”

On Wednesday, June 28, from 10:30am to noon, scientists will address the role of sweeteners, texturizers and emulsifiers on the mouthfeel of beverages and foods during session #87, “The Critical Role of Beverage Mouthfeel: Unique Insights for a Product Developer.”

The speakers will address how texture and mouthfeel are key drivers of consumer acceptance and therefore of vital importance for food and beverage manufacturers. This is a must-attend session for players entering the booming yogurt beverage category. You will learn how the physical properties of foods and beverages, e.g., temperature, pH, carbonation, viscosity, etc., impact texture and mouthfeel, as well as the impact of chemical stimuli, including tastes and odors.

The countdown to Vegas begins. See you soon!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Stealth Health: Reduce Added Sugars to Keep Dairy’s Momentum

I attended a food industry conference yesterday sponsored by ACG Chicago. This “FoodBites” event included local foodservice leaders who provided inspirational stories of corporate growth and leadership. The term “stealth health” was mentioned as an approach to staying relevant in the crowded and confusing food and beverage marketplace.

I’ve not heard that term in a while but it’s a concept all formulators should be incorporating into their product development endeavors. The term was coined around the turn-of-the-century when a book of the same name was published. Originally the concept was all about sneaking nutrition into foods. You know, blending a carrot into a chocolate shake for your picky toddler.

Today the term has evolved into the act of reducing some of the undesirables in food. It’s been going on with sodium for some time, namely in prepared foods. But it’s also happening with sugar, as manufacturers prepare for the labeling declaration of added sugar. 

Stealth is not about calling the reduction out. However, a number of dairy processors are so confident in the taste of their sugar-reduced products that they are making a big deal about it. I commend them. Their goal is to keep dairy’s momentum going among today’s health- and wellness-seeking consumers.

There are ample ingredient technologies to make sugar reduction an easy, and tasty fix. Now’s the time to take action. 

Danone has been reducing sugar across its brands since last year. Many of those products have started appearing in the global marketplace.

In February, Stonyfield announced it would be doing the same. The company announced a comprehensive plan to reduce added sugar across its portfolio.

“The commitment to reducing sugar across the product portfolio was born from Stonyfield’s mission to continually provide healthier food both for our consumers and the planet,” says Nichole Cirillo, the company’s mission director. “We are achieving a lower amount of added sugar in all Stonyfield yogurt without compromising taste or organic standards and are working towards purchasing 25% less sugar as a company this year.”

Linda Lee, chief marketing officer at Stonyfield adds, “Consumers want to limit the amount of added sugar in their diets, without sacrificing taste and the great benefits of yogurt like calcium, protein and added vitamin D. We’re accomplishing reductions across the portfolio through a committed team who’s finding a better way to deliver all of the nutrition and taste benefits of Stonyfield yogurts with less sugar. Stonyfield remains steadfast in our commitment to providing the very best yogurts, using sustainable practices, that consumers can feel good about feeding their entire family.”

Less added sugar is one component of a “healthy” food, according to the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). Earlier this month, IFT submitted written comments to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expressing concern that labeling an individual food as healthy can be misleading for consumers.

“It’s important to be cautious in thinking of any food as healthy when what really matters is the overall quality of your diet,” says IFT President John Coupland.

Since IFT is committed to advancing the science of food and its application across the global food system, it recommended that if food and beverage products bear the term healthy, it should be used in the context of overall diet to help promote healthy eating patterns. Diets should be comprised of diverse foods and beverages across various food categories, as noted in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Further, consumers should be mindful of the amount and frequency of each of the foods and beverages they consume, in context of the overall diet. 

These comments, which were based on insights from IFT members, were in response to questions posed by FDA on “how the term ‘healthy’ should be defined when labeling food and beverage products.” IFT members work to develop food products for the retail and foodservice industry, to support consumer’s efforts to achieve a balanced diet by following the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. IFT recommended the following:

  • A hybrid approach to defining the term healthy. IFT suggested a food-based definition of the word healthy, which combines nutrient limits and a statement describing how the food helps achieve dietary recommendations.
  • The definition for healthy food should align with the three eating patterns recommended by the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  • Foods that exceed the recommended limits for sodium, added sugars and saturated fat should be excluded from labeling as healthy.
  • Foods fortified with essential nutrients should not be excluded from healthy labeling if the fortification is consistent with the FDA’s fortification policies and the food contributes to an overall healthy eating pattern.
Commit to keeping dairy healthy!

University of Tennessee Claims Team Win at Collegiate Dairy Contest

The University of Tennessee took the All Products honors at the 95th Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest (CDPEC) held April 12th in conjunction with the Wisconsin Cheese Industry Conference hosted by the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association. University of Tennessee student Michael Luethke was the All Products winner while Katie Magee (University of Tennessee) claimed the Graduate Student All Products category.

Fourteen colleges and universities from the U.S. and France participated in this year’s contest. In addition to the University of Tennessee, U.S. schools that competed were: Clemson University, Iowa State University, Michigan State University, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Missouri, the University of Minnesota, the University of Wisconsin, California Polytechnic State University, South Dakota State University, Washington State University/University of Idaho, Cornell University, and Aims Community College in Colorado. France was represented by the Institut Polytechnique LaSalle Beauvais.

Clemson University placed second in the All Products category, while South Dakota State took third. The University of Tennessee team (pictured), is coached by Dr. Charles White. Also, pictured far right, is All Products Judge and CDPEC Board of Director Chairperson Kevin R. O’Rell.

Established in 1916 by several universities, the CDPEC initially was designed to identify quality defects in dairy products throughout the country so defects could be corrected. It expanded over the years to recognize those students and dairy product judging teams that had mastered the ability to identify high-quality dairy products. The contest gives students the opportunity to showcase their evaluation skills and prepare for careers in the dairy industry.

Students test their sensory abilities against professional judges in six different dairy products: fluid milk, butter, yogurt, cheddar cheese, ice cream and cottage cheese. Dairy industry judges from around the U.S. review eight representative samples of the six different dairy product categories and score each sample based on sensory attributes and the severity of their departure from the ideal. The students are challenged to present scorecards with answers that come as close as possible to the judgments of the experts.

All Products Winners
In the All Products individual undergraduate category, Michael Luethke of the University of Tennessee won first place, Shanna Pearce of Clemson University earned the second place award, and Krista Johnson of South Dakota State University won third place.

In the All Products individual graduate student category, Katie Magee of the University of Tennessee won first place and Kelsey Choquette of Iowa State University earned the second place award. 

Product Category Winners
First-, second- and third-place winners (and Team Category winner) were named in each of the six product categories. The undergraduate winners are: 

First place: Shanna Pearce, Clemson University
Second place: Michael Luethke, University of Tennessee
Third place: Thomas Reis, Cornell University
Team Winner: Clemson University

First place: Rachel Miller, University of Missouri
Second place: Ashley Burgess, Clemson University
Third place: Xiaoqing Tan, Pennsylvania State University
Team Winner: University of Missouri

First place: Krista Johnson, South Dakota State University
Second place: Yue Huang, Pennsylvania State University
Third place: Xiaoqing Tan, Pennsylvania State University
Team Winner: Pennsylvania State University

Cheddar Cheese
First place: Katelyn Johnson, South Dakota State University
Second place: Billy Kalil, University of Minnesota
Third place: Randall Clap, University of Tennessee
Team Winner: South Dakota State

Ice Cream
First place: Shanna Pearce, Clemson University
Second place: Zenia Adiwijaya, Iowa State University
Third place: Chris Eckerman, University of Wisconsin
Team Winner: University of Tennessee

Cottage Cheese
First place: Michael Luethke, University of Tennessee
Second place: Xiaoqing Tan, Pennsylvania State University
Third place: Shanna Pearce, Clemson University
Team Winner: University of Tennessee

The graduate student winners are:
Milk-first place: Kelsey Choquette, Iowa State University
Butter-first place: Akash Mazumder, University of Missouri
Yogurt-first place: Kelsey Choquette, Iowa State University
Cheddar Cheese-first place: Alexandra Kuechel, University of Minnesota
Ice Cream-first place: Katie Magee, University of Tennessee
Cottage Cheese-first place: Steve Beckman, South Dakota State University

To learn more about this unique competition, link HERE.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Developing Innovative Yogurt Concepts: Five (make that six) considerations for successful product rollouts.

I was shocked this past week to visit not one but two retail brands in Chicago and one in Miami to find a major yogurt brand selling its product at 10 for $3.00. I don’t want to name brands, but shame! This devalues yogurt. Another brand was selling its normally $1.59 Greek yogurt at 89 cents. Again, shame! Again, this devalues yogurt.

Karma stinks. Even at these low prices, it appeared that product was not moving, or at least not moving at the speed the brands were hoping. Shelves and coffin cases were full. .

Yes, I did stand around in the dairy departments for about 30 minutes in each of the three locations. Repeatedly I saw consumers reach for the premium or specialty brands.

Moving forward, if you want to compete in the retail refrigerated yogurt category, here are five considerations. For starters: please do not devalue this superfood by over discounting.

The future is all about premiumizing your product.

  • Add value in terms of craftsmanship. Talk about the recipe, the artisan makers, the batch process. 
  • Focus on the cows and their milk, including sourcing, grazing habits, family farm, nutrient composition, heat process, etc.
  • Differentiate with functional ingredients, namely probiotic cultures. Fiber, omega-3s and even vitamins/minerals make sense, too.
  • Talk about the sweetener, have it be honey, stevia or cane sugar. Tell a story about where it came from and why it’s used. It’s OK to sweeten yogurt. Don’t apologize for it or even flag that it’s been reduced. This suggests inferiority.
  • Use high-quality, whole food ingredients for inclusions and mix-ins. Talk about them. Have it be Washington State strawberries picked at the peak of ripeness or praline pecans candied following a New Orleans traditional recipe, talk about the ingredients.

Here’s why premiumization is paramount for the future of yogurt, at least in the U.S. retail market.

For starters, U.S. yogurt sales were down in 2016. U.S. production of yogurt closed 2016 down 1.2% vs 2015, which was driven by a decline in retail yogurt sales. The 2016 retail loss was at -1.5% and followed a 2015 gain of 2.2%, according to data from IRI provided to Dairy Management Inc., and courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Association.

Retail volume loss was seen across geographical regions, retail channels and for most demographic groups. There was growth, however, among millennials, a well-developed yogurt demographic that grew 4% in terms of average annual household volume.

There are indications that the market for Greek yogurt is maturing. Greek yogurt maintained positive growth of almost +1% for the year overall, but contributed to the overall retail yogurt decline in the second half of 2016. This more recent period of decline for Greek yogurt follows several years of strong growth.

The IRI data show that whole-milk yogurt and yogurt multi-serve tubs experienced growth and contributed positive volume in 2016. In addition, very strong growth was seen for Australian and Islandic style yogurts in 2016, although these “specialty” products are still niche in nature. 

Though U.S. yogurt sales overall may have been down in 2016, what was up is sales of “specialty” yogurt products.

Overall, sales continue to grow as Americans embrace specialty food and beverages. The industry is taking its place as an integral player with traditional and non-traditional specialty food retailers, foodservice operators and distributors. 

Specialty foods are outpacing their non-specialty counterparts in almost every category—including yogurt--as consumers continue to become more aware of quality in their food choices. Categories aligned with better-for you options, health and wellness, and freshness are growing fastest.

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.

Not surprisingly, millennials are the ones driving this growth. The purchasing patterns of millennials cover the widest range of categories and the most diverse retail channels.

“Discovering specialty food has become a core part of the younger consumers’ daily shopping routine,” says Phil Kafarakis, president of the Specialty Food Association (SFA). “They are moving away from the staples that they grew up with and embracing the new tastes and flavors of specialty food.”

Dollar sales of specialty foods hit $127 billion in 2016, a 15% jump between 2014 and 2016, according to the “State of the Specialty Food Industry,” an annual report published by SFA and Mintel. By comparison, all food sales at retail grew by a mere 2.3%. Total unit sales for specialty foods were up 13.1%.
Growth is being driven by product innovations and wider availability of specialty foods through mass-market outlets. Sales through foodservice increased 13.7% to $27.7 billion as U.S. consumers make specialty food a regular part of their away-from-home meal purchases.

“Consumer preferences for specialty food products are growing at double digits, outpacing mainstream food staples,” says Kafarakis. “The products our members create appeal to consumers looking for authentic tastes and foods with fewer and cleaner ingredients.

“Consumers are also making purchases wherever they happen to be, changing the retail food environment,” he says. “The eagerness of all retailers including mass market, e-commerce and foodservice to capitalize on these consumer trends is transforming the marketplace.”

A key takeaway for yogurt manufacturers from this year’s SFA report is consumers’ increased interest in sustainability. Dairies can do this, and can do it well. So many players are!

According to the overall SFA survey, almost 40% of manufacturers produced sustainable products, up 22% from 2015. Among retailers, sustainable products accounted for 16% of product sales. Along with non-GMO, the supply chain predicts sustainable will be the claim most interesting to consumers in the next three years.

Consumers are especially focused on specialty foods in the refrigerated sections. Categories with the biggest sales growth in this area include refrigerated juices and functional beverages up 30.7%, refrigerated lunch and dinner entrees up 33.0%, and yogurt and kefir up 27.2%. Again, sales of specialty yogurt and kefir were up 27.2% in 2016.

Traderspoint Creamery does a fabulous job of premiumizing its yogurt. Starting with being handcrafted from 100% grass-fed organic cows’ milk to being packaged in glass jars, the brand has a very strong following in the Midwest. The 5-ounce petit pots of raspberry, its most popular whole fruit variety flavor, is now available in four packs. If a single jar commands $2.00 to $3.00, depending on the market and retailer, imagine what the four pack costs. Guess what, it sells.

It’s not just new brands, or even simply new products that are getting premiumized. Last year, Danone invested in a new design and visual identity for its digestive health brand Activia, which it hopes will position the yogurt range in a more premium light and strengthen its health proposition.

The core of the redesign is a new logo, which is made of two interlocking shapes representing efficacy and inner-balance. A bespoke logotype has also been introduced as well as a new photographic style to communicate expertise in the digestive health field. The goal is to premiumize the brand by clearly defining the role and specificity of each product in the range.

“We adopted a design vernacular that feels precise, controlled and refined – a language more commonly found in premium skincare than the dairy aisle. The overall effect? A top-to-bottom premiumization that will ensure the brand occupies a more expert and credible place for consumers both today and tomorrow,” says Marie-Thérèse Cassidy, consumer executive creative director at FutureBrand, who created the new look.

Activia and FutureBrand successfully tested the new visual system amongst 15,000 consumers in seven key markets (U.S., U.K., France, Spain, Germany, Brazil and Russia). The global relaunch started phasing into distribution this past September, with slight modifications by market.

Tip #6: Do not ignore the package and design. There’s are a lot of antiquated poorly printed graphics on white plastic cups in the market. Really? (I know the truth hurts, but the change might help your sales…at full price!)

P.S. The 10 for $3.00 brand recently updated graphics. But what’s missing, my five first recommendations.