Friday, March 3, 2017

Embrace National Nutrition Month: Milk Is Already Great. Here Are Tips to Make Milk Better.

Photo source: California Milk Processor Board

Data show that today’s consumer is more than ever aware of how diet influences short- and long-term health and wellness. Shoppers are seeking out nutrient-dense foods to attain benefits beyond basic nutrition.

Inherently nutritious milk and beverages made with milk or dairy ingredients appeal to these consumers. The correlation of calcium to bone health is ingrained, while an understanding of the many benefits of dairy protein resonates with more and more consumers.

Thank you to my friends at Midwest Dairy for sharing recent USDA Economic Research Service data that show both total and domestic commercial disappearance of milk grew in 2016. In total, it was up 3%, while domestically it increased 2.9%.

Dairy remains a vital part of people’s lives. The numbers show it. USDA-ERS data show milk used in all dairy products continues to increase on a total volume and per capita basis. During the 20-years from 1995 to 2015, average annual growth in disappearance was 1.5%. During this time frame, per capita consumption increased by 57 pounds on milk equivalence. That’s a lot of milk. 

Though I’m sure most of you know this, that milk is being consumed mainly in the form of cheese and yogurt. Per capita cheese consumption increased by 8 pounds during this 20-year period, while yogurt increased by 8.6 pounds. Cheese consumption continues to show healthy growth, yogurt, however, has slowed.

This is my favorite. Butter is back. Per capita butter consumption is at its highest point--5.6 pounds--since 1969. From 1995 to 2015, it grew by one pound.

Then there’s milk. The base ingredient for dairy foods, and an incredible powerhouse beverage all on its own. From 1995 to 2015, per capita consumption decreased by 5.7 gallons. I repeat myself…that’s a lot of milk!

Data analysis by my friends at Midwest Dairy shows that the milk segments that are growing and off-setting part of the milk decline include lactose-free, flavored, refuel and whole. Further, milk as an ingredient is growing through lattes. Think all those ready-to-drink cold-brew beverages finding their way into the convenience channel.

In less than a week, Expo West will take place in Anaheim. I’ve received MANY previews of innovations that will be rolling out at the show, dairy and dairy alternatives. Many of these will be featured as a Daily Dose of Dairy over the next month. These are out-of-the-gallon innovators, something I encourage all processors to be.

Photo source: Starbucks

It’s time to get creative with milk. Here are some tips.

1. Concentrate the protein content. This can be achieved through filtration or protein addition. Flag it on product labels. Talk about the benefits, which range from satiety to refuel.

2. Boost health and wellness attributes. Consider adding DHA omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics and/or prebiotic fibers, among others. Identify your target consumer and formulate a milk beverage to meet their nutritional needs.

3. Go lactose free. Real or perceived lactose intolerance, there’s a (rapidly) growing number of consumers who believe they feel better without lactose in their diet. So just do it already. I believe that all milk beverages should be lactose free. This eliminates a barrier to trial. If you use lactase enzyme to breakdown the lactose, it also assists with building natural sweetness.

4. Reduce added sugar in flavored beverages. Stevia, monkfruit and erythritol are all sensible natural sweeteners. Keep it simple and label friendly. A little sugar in combination with these high-intensity works, too.

5. Make fruits and vegetables work for you. Juices, concentrates and purees add sweetness, boost fiber content and, if added in sufficient quantities, deliver a serving or two of produce. They also provide natural color. Artificial colors are no longer acceptable by many consumers, especially in dairy beverages, which possess a healthful halo.

Give consumers the beverages they are looking for so they can raise their glass and toast to good health. Let them have their own daily dose of dairy.

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