Thursday, September 7, 2017

Deconstructing and Rebuilding Yogurt

On August 31st, Taco Bell redefined the drive-thru breakfast by reconstructing and rebuilding the traditional American morning meal of eggs, bacon and potatoes. The new Naked Egg Taco delivers all these breakfast flavors in every bite. It features a fried egg shell—that’s right, a fried egg is the shell in this taco—stuffed with seasoned potatoes, bacon or sausage, cheddar and nacho cheese sauce. And it’s delicious!

This is the sort of deconstructing and rebuilding that the yogurt category needs to entice curious shoppers, those that may have an eye for plant-based alternatives or simply crave a new experience. All yogurt is made with the same basic ingredients, namely milk and cultures. It’s the extras and how they pull the fermented milk together that will redefine the category.

In the U.S., retail yogurt sales are down. Data from IRI provided to Dairy Management Inc., and courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Association show that yogurt retail sales were down 5% in the first half of 2017. This volume decline continues the softer sales trend observed for yogurt in the latter half of 2016. This early 2017 decline in yogurt sales was observed quite broadly across regions, channels and segments of yogurt.

There were a few bright spots. For one, yogurt drinks were up 18.8% over the first half of 2016. Whole-fat yogurt volume was up almost 25%, lifting its percent share of category to 13.4%. In addition, very strong growth continued for Australian and Islandic style yogurts, although these products are still niche in nature.

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

Dairy foods innovators know one of the best ways to get creative is to explore what’s going on in foodservice. The challenge is to figure out a way to convert fresh concepts into retail products without losing too much in the translation. Packaging, graphics and merchandising are as important as the product.

Here’s a concept rolling out at Planet Smoothie. I’ve written about smoothie bowls before, and rumor has it that a major brand is about to introduce a product that resembles it. One of the three limited-time smoothie bowls from Plant Smoothie is Daybreak Crunch Bowl, which includes fresh fruit, Greek yogurt and whole grain oats.

Just in time for back-to-school menu planning, Dannon Foodservice launched Snack Hacks, a program with better-for-you snacking solutions that make it easier for operators to accommodate new consumer demands and eating patterns. The program’s recipes incorporate Dannon Oikos Greek Nonfat Yogurt, which is available in bulk sizes. Its nutritional content appeals to the growing number of consumers who are actively adding more protein to their diets.

The range of Snack Hacks recipe ideas encompasses parfait, overnight oats, hummus and salad options. The Citrus Avocado Parfait is yogurt mixed with avocado and honey, then topped with one layer each of kale, citrus salad and jalapeƱos, with a side of sunflower seeds in a to-go container. Creamy Tomato Bruschetta is yogurt mixed with garlic, basil and parsley, with a topping of diced tomatoes and balsamic glaze as a finishing touch. It comes packaged with parmesan crisps and crostini to create a portable afternoon snack. Peanut Butter Banana Crunch Overnight Oats combines crunchy peanut butter, banana slices and milk with a base of overnight oats made with vanilla-flavored yogurt, which gets topped with granola.

In France, General Mills recently introduced two reconstructed yogurt retail concepts. Yoplait Triple Sensation is a premium yogurt dessert line with half-candied fruit layered on top of creamy Yoplait yogurt. The third, bottom layer is a combination of two fruits. Combos are: passionfruit and mango, strawberry and raspberry, black currant and blueberry, and pear and apple. Sold in packs of two, Triple Sensation comes in clear parfait-style jars to showcase the three layers.
There’s a bowl version of just two layers. Champs de Fruit containers are fruit-on-the-top yogurt desserts. Flavors are: Blueberry, Mango Passionfruit and Strawberry. Champs de Fruit also comes in two packs. These bowls are 150-gram clear containers.

As with all deconstructing and rebuilding projects, it’s a good time to clean things up. Clean-label formulating continues to gain momentum, with the concept taking on different meanings in different food categories. Link HERE to read an article about “The complexity of clean label” that I recently wrote for Food Business News.

Milk protein powders are increasingly being used in next-generation yogurt concepts to boost protein levels while replacing stabilizers such as gums and starches. Remember, the flavor of yogurt is determined by the ingredients in the yogurt base as well as the added flavorful ingredients. Stabilizers in the yogurt base can mute the natural flavor of yogurt as well as any added flavors. Milk protein powders can stabilize the yogurt through water binding, increased viscosity and a stronger yogurt gel, all while contributing natural dairy flavor that complements the yogurt rather than detracts.

Milk protein powders, whey proteins and other dried dairy ingredients will be the focal point of the International Whey Conference taking place September 17 to 20 in Chicago. Held every four years, this is the meeting of the minds to discuss the dairy proteins marketplace.

Topics include the state of the whey protein industry, overcoming processing issues when formulating foods and beverages with whey proteins, and developing affordable dairy foods enriched with powerful whey proteins. Regulatory, marketing and current research will be addressed over the three days of packed sessions.

You can view the entire program HERE.

The fact is dairy proteins are powerhouses. They can make a difference in the nutritional profile and ingredient list of many dairy foods, including cheese spreads, milk beverages, frozen desserts, yogurts and cultured dairy foods. They can boost protein levels and clean up ingredient legends.

Hope to see you in Chicago!

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