As the great Harry Carey would have said, Holy Cow, 2016 was one heck of a year. And 2017, Whole-ly Cow, it’s going to be a grand one for cultured dairy products.
The cultured dairy products sector includes fermented dairy foods such as cottage cheese, cream cheese and sour cream. Though it does not include yogurt and similar cup and drinkable products, it does include products made from yogurt, such as dips and spreads. It also is a category that’s on fire.
Here are the top-five trends and 10 recent innovations that complement them.
1. Whole Milk and Cream. Fat is back. When you formulate many cultured dairy foods with whole milk and cream you can often eliminate some or all stabilizing ingredients. Culture selection is paramount. Cultures not only ferment lactose to lactic acid, and thus lower the pH, which in turn coagulates the milk proteins, cultures can also produce exopolysaccharides, which influence product viscosity. The right combination of cream and cultures allows for a very clean and simple ingredient statement, right on par with what today’s consumer is looking for.
2. Worldly Inspiration. Have it be bold and spicy flavors, ethnic herbs and veggies, or simply a recipe from a foreign country, today’s consumer is seeking out food adventure. The simplicity and naturalness of cultured dairy foods melds well with a touch of the unknown or unexpected. Remember, in sweet products, make efforts to keep added sugars as low as possible.
3. Snackable Protein. Cultured dairy foods lend themselves very well to individual portion sizes, with most being concentrated sourced of protein, the macronutrient today’s consumer cannot get enough of. The opportunities to innovate in the snacking space are immense and should not be ignored by any cultured dairy foods manufacturer. High-protein snacks---made with high-quality dairy proteins—have the ability to increase satiety and improve muscle mass. This can assist with life-long weight management and aged-related muscle depreciation. The calcium in these products is an added bonus.
4. Probiotics. These beneficial bacteria have really been resonating with consumers. So much so that the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), and the International Probiotics Association (IPA), an international membership organization of probiotic companies, issued scientifically based best practice guidelines in early January for the labeling, storing and stability testing of dietary supplements and functional foods containing probiotics. The guidelines serve as a roadmap for companies producing and marketing these products to ensure that they meet consistent, high-quality standards. You can access them HERE.
Additionally, the guidelines’ stability testing recommendations are designed to ensure that the stated shelf life of a given probiotic product is scientifically supported. Storage and handling recommendations advise manufacturers to consider individual product formulations and packaging, as well as storage and transport environments. Photo source: Chr. Hansen
5. Simply a Better-for-You Option. Many cultured dairy products can be flavored and packaged in such a way to serve as a more healthful alternative to similar products, such as high-fat dressings and oil-based dips and spreads. Seasoned whipped cottage cheese makes the perfect protein bread or bagel spread and can right the coattails of the popular avocado toast. Non-dairy companies recognize these opportunities. It’s time for dairy processors to get busy.
That fifth trend is best exemplified by this product that was just announced yesterday by Campbell Soup Company, which owns the Bolthouse brand. Bolthouse Farms MAIO is a new line of refrigerated, yogurt-based spreads made with clean ingredients. It is scheduled to hit grocery shelves beginning February in Northern California Safeway stores. The MAIO spreads are available in three craveable flavors—Chipotle, Garlic and Plain--and have the same creamy, rich texture people seek in a traditional mayonnaise but with lower fat and calories. Each product in the line contains only 20 calories and 1 gram of fat per serving, and most importantly, delivers on taste, according to the company.
“The popularity of traditional mayo has remained flat over recent years as consumers have steadily turned to alternative options, but they aren’t always satisfied with what they can find on shelf,” says Suzanne Ginestro, general manager, C-Fresh Innovation. “People like mayonnaise for the rich flavor and creamy texture, but are hesitant to indulge because of the calorie and fat content. Our new line of MAIO offers consumers a guiltless, better-for-you, creamy option without the sacrifice.”
The MAIO spreads are non-GMO, gluten free, contain no artificial flavors, have 0 grams trans-fat. They come in 8-ounce bottles with a suggested retail price of $2.99.
With snacking now ubiquitous--more than three in five (64%) consumers agree that snacking is necessary to get through the day, including 77% of millennials, according to research from Chicago-based Mintel—cheese marketers such as Kraft Heinz are aggressively developing what they believe will be a winner with the growing number of snackers. Mintel data also show that millennials are more likely to be motivated by healthy snack options (68%); and that three in four (73%) consumers are willing to pay extra for snacks made with high-quality ingredients.
A&M Gourmet understands snacking. The company now offers simply simple low-fat cottage cheese blended with herbs and spices into a smooth dip and spread. Two varieties of 8-ounce cups are already in the marketplace. They are Chipotle Lime and Herb & Garlic. More are in development. Both flavors also are available in 2-ounce single-serve portion containers sold in four packs. The 2-ounce portions are currently part of the brand’s Protein Pickup refrigerated snack pack, which also contains quinoa crackers and an energy bar. All of the simply simple dips and spreads are made with GMO-free ingredients and are gluten free.
Muuna cottage cheese is a new concept in curds and whey. The brainchild of Gerard Meyer, the former CEO of Soda Stream North America, Muuna is set to modernize the cottage cheese industry by offering a new taste and creamy texture experience by combining innovative dairy technology with a proprietary recipe and high-quality ingredients, according to the company. The 150-gram cups come in plain, as well as five fruit flavors, all made with 2% milk. Free of artificial colors, flavors and sweetener, as well as gluten, the cottage cheese gets a protein boost from the addition of milk protein concentrate.
“Cottage cheese has been around forever, and mainly thought of as a diet food. The same was true for yogurt, but yogurt innovated while cottage cheese remained stuck in the past,” says Meyer. “At Muuna, we decided to reimagine cottage cheese, inside and out, down to our unique, beautiful cup. Today’s consumers want good food that tastes delicious, but cottage cheese has developed a reputation as boring and bland. So we spent years creating a proprietary recipe that delivers a melt-in-your-mouth, creamy cottage cheese combined with premium, real pieces of fruit, which will surprise and delight your taste buds.”
Seattle’s Darigold just gave its Mexican-style Sour Cream (Crema Agria Mexicana) a makeover to differentiate on shelf and attract home cooks. This topper and cooking cream is not hot or spicy, rather it has a tangy flavor with a thick and rich flavor. The co-op encourages use in dips and savory dishes as well as a garnish.
WhiteWave Foods Co.’s Wallaby brand offers a European-style organic sour cream that prides itself on being made with only two ingredients: cultures and fresh organic cream. This simple recipe yields an ultra-rich sour cream, with luxurious taste and creamy texture. It’s sour cream without the sour, refreshingly redefined, according to the company.
According to Prairie Farms’ Chef Rob Lagerlof, “They’re not just for dipping. I’ve been busy creating quick and easy recipes and serving suggestions using Prairie Farms Chef’s Splendor Dips for my new video series. My tasty signature recipes for Spicy Ranch Chicken Sandwich, Tzatziki Burger and Four Layer Dip will disappear bite by bite, guaranteed!”
“We’re thrilled to add the new dip flavors to our growing line of Prairie Farms Chef’s Splendor specialty products,” says Rebecca Leinenbach, vice president, marketing and communications at Prairie Farms. “The foodie movement is all about creativity in the kitchen, and our specialty line of products provides options for our customers to experience incredible new taste sensations from their favorite brand that has been trusted for over 75 years and is instantly recognized throughout the Midwest. Our line of specialty products will also increase opportunities for new distribution in specialty food stores.”
And lastly, Snøfrisk is not a new product, in fact it was introduced by Norway's Tine Dairy during the Winter Olympic Games at Lillehammer in 1994. However, it is rather new to the States. It is being imported by Norseland.
Snøfrisk is a white, unripened cream cheese made from 80% goat’s milk and 20% cow’s cream with only 1.5% salt added. It is easy to spread and can be used on bagels, with crudites or as a dip or spread. The plain variety is now being joined by Dill, Horseradish, Ramson Garlic and Red Onion & Thyme, flavors indigenous to Norway.