Friday, February 3, 2017

Dairy Innovation: Opportunities Highlighted at Dairy Forum 2017 Focus on Protein, Fat, Fiber and Chocolate Milk!

In between discussions regarding policy uncertainties at Dairy Forum 2017, which took place earlier this week in Orlando—so nice to see so many of you there—there was a great deal of upbeat conversations regarding innovation. As one speaker pointed out, “The trend is a friend.”

Indeed, consumers’ insatiable appetite for protein and their rekindled relationship with fat make milk and dairy products relevant. They are delicious, nutritious and enticing powerhouse foods. Add in a layer or two of extra nutrition, from omega-3 fatty acids to dietary fiber to vitamins, and you’ve got yourself a winner.

Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, who served as the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 2009 until 2017 (leaving this position one week before inauguration day), told attendees during a luncheon presentation that he was attracted to working with the dairy industry because of all the innovation.

“Dairy has led the opportunity for new product development,” he said. “I believe this will continue to increase demand. We need to collaborate, communicate and cooperate.”

He acknowledged challenges and opportunities. “Growing the global market for U.S. dairy products is essential to the future of the dairy industry and America’s dairy farmers,” he said Vilsack. He sees more opportunities for U.S. dairy exports. “That’s why this job is exciting. There’s room for us to grow and expand.”

Innovation opportunities are infinite.

When asked by Michael Dykes, president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association, another newcomer to the dairy industry, what his favorite ice cream was, Vilsack chuckled, “How can you pick one? I love them all.”

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

He went on to say that when given the choice between white and chocolate milk, hands down, he picks chocolate.

A day earlier, Dykes addressed the 1,100-plus executives attending the Dairy Forum and said his plans not only include working on trade policy, food safety and food labeling, but also collaborating with allied partners, such as retailers, and being supportive of innovation.  
“We can’t do it by ourselves,” he said. “We are in a new food culture.”

That new food culture must be nourished by each and every person reading this blog, from product developers with the great ideas to company presidents, who must invest and support bringing innovative new products to the market.

That’s what you get with fairlife’s most recent innovation, which was featured as a Daily Dose of Dairy during the busy week of Dairy Forum. The product is fairlife SuperKids ultra-filtered milk and comes in chocolate and white varieties in multi-serve 52-ounce bottles, as well as four packs of 8-ounce single-serve bottles.

Lactose-free and made with 2% reduced-fat ultra-filtered milk, an 8-ounce serving of the chocolate variety contains 140 calories, 5 grams of fat, 12 grams of protein, 12 grams of sugar, 3 grams of fiber, 35% of the Daily Value for calcium, no added sugar, plus 125 milligrams of DHA omega-3 fatty acids. The product is sweetened with stevia leaf extract and monk juice concentrate.

This is innovation! We need more of this in milk and all dairy product categories.

In a separate session at Dairy Forum 2017, Julia Kadison, CEO of MilkPEP said that 2016 was an exciting year for the milk industry. There was increased product innovation, sustained growth of chocolate milk and whole milk sales, and resumed growth of organic milk. Milk volume sales performance was the best in the past six years.

“The industry is at a pivot point,” she recently wrote. “Driven by continued innovation, milk brand engagement and smart marketing, and industry alignment against common priorities--namely driving more fluid milk sales and regaining consumers’ trust in dairy--2017 has the potential to even outpace 2016.”

Here’s the thing with chocolate milk and other flavors of milk. You have to watch the added sugars, which was another topic of conversation at Dairy Forum 2017.

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

By now you should be fully aware that on May 20, 2016, FDA released mandatory nutrition labeling revisions. FDA made changes to the content and format of the Nutrition Facts label as well as to the reference amounts that determine the serving sizes of conventional foods. One of those changes includes having an added sugars line on the Nutrition Facts.

There are many varied technologies that can assist with keeping added sugars low, and likely the most successful strategy is to include multiple ones. That’s what you see in fairlife SuperKids chocolate milk: real milk that is ultra-filtered milk to provide more nutrition and also includes enzyme, fiber and high-intensity sweeteners to allow for a no-added-sugars claim.

Some fibers, such as chicory root inulin, can assist with taking sugar out and putting fiber into dairy foods. These are dietary fibers that provide natural sweetness, at only two calories per gram, vs. sugar’s four calories per gram. Some ingredients provide more sweetness than others, and their ability to work synergistically with other no-added-sugar sweetening systems varies, too.

To read a recent blog on this topic, link HERE.

Back to opportunities in milk, MilkPEP continues to focus on driving consumer demand for milk. Through extensive research, marketplace and consumer understanding, the organization has identified a number of strategic priorities to help ensure that the milk category achieves success over the next three years.

One of them is to win with kids. The fact is, children love milk. They know it’s nutritious and good for them. According to a recent MilkPEP study of 2,400 moms and 1,500 children, 41% of kids said they would drink more milk if they could.

Another priority is to maximize Milk Life’s five-year sponsorship of Team USA to demonstrate the unmatched role milk plays in the lives of athletes. The message is that milk assists athletes with fulfilling their potential.

Aligning milk with food culture is paramount. “Consumers today have an emotional connection to their food choices, as it has become an integral part of our lives, our identity and what we stand for,” Kadison wrote. “The demand for real, fresh food is stronger than ever.”

Milk is real. Milk is fresh. Milk is local. Milk is nutrient dense.

And finally, MilkPEP plans to help build brands. “The milk category will not grow unless milk brands grow, so it is crucial that milk companies have the tools and assets to help them succeed,” Kadison wrote.

The future is bright for all things dairy! Keep innovation alive!

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