Thursday, August 23, 2018

Dairy foods innovation: Change, it’s good, so we’ve all been told.

Change, it’s good, so we’ve all been told. I’m guilty of saying phooey to that after moving my first born into the dorms at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, my alma mater. I’ve been a puddle all week. I’m told it gets easier.

But, yes, change is good. This is why for dairy processors, it’s time to mix up your offerings to give today’s shoppers what they want. For many this means adding plant-based versions of typical dairy products.

Just this week I learned of numerous new plant-based products. Many of them do not sound very appealing, especially to a dairy user, like me and the many others out there, who simply wants to include more plant-based foods to improve his or her diet.

The Hartman Group reports that 54% of consumers would like to eat more plant-based foods and beverages. This does not mean they want to give up dairy.

Back in February 2018, after attending the National Grocers Association (NGA) meeting, I wrote about why plant-based products make sense in your dairy foods portfolio. That’s because many shoppers are buying both: the real deal and the plant-based option.  utm_source=DonnaBerry&utm_medium=banner&utm_term=ad&utm_campaign=dairy&utm_term=alte  rnativedairy

I’ve learned to appreciate calling these products plant-based foods rather than dairy alternatives. Nothing will replace the deliciousness and nutrition of dairy. These products are not alternatives. They are simply options for when you want to eat more plants. (Why does that remind me of my son eating dirt when he was a toddler? More tears!)

The fact is, many shoppers buy both dairy and plant-based options. They enjoy both depending on daypart and usage occasion.

“Vegetarians and vegans together account for less than 15% of all consumers and their numbers do not grow very rapidly, but a growing number of consumers identify themselves as flexitarian or lessitarian, meaning that they’ve cut back on their consumption of animal-based foods and beverages,” says David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts. “It is this group that is most responsible for the significant and ongoing shift from dairy milk to plant-based milk.

“The point of non-dairy is to be non-dairy,” says Sprinkle. “Our research shows that among non-dairy milk alternative buyers in the U.S., only 5% are watching their diet for lactose intolerance, and only 11% are vegetarian/vegetarian leaning. In contrast, 82% of these non-dairy milk buyers also buy dairy milk or half-and-half.”

Please take note of that important figure: 82% of non-dairy milk buyers also buy dairy milk or half-and-half.

The Hartman Group explains that for most consumers, healthier eating requires changes and adopting new habits. Plant-based is an approach to eating that consumers can utilize to stack the deck nutritionally on a daily basis.

Makes sense. Introduce new better-for-you (real or perceived) foods and beverages into your diet to fill you up, but also include your tried and true favorites.

At the NGA annual meeting, I talked with a number of retailers about their dairy departments, mostly refrigerated but frozen, too. The consensus was that many of their shoppers purchase both dairy and plant-based dairy-like products because of household members’ preferences or dietary needs. What surprised me was the next revelation, and this was made specific to Ben & Jerry’s, Organic Valley and Stonyfield. These retailers told me that shoppers who purchase dairy and non-dairy tend to stay within the same brand whenever possible. One retailer specifically said he wished more dairies would offer non-dairy under the same family brand.

I pressed one retailer on this and he gave me an explanation I could not wait to share with all of you. “My shoppers trust dairy brands and they want to support local farmers. They just want options, and for many, that includes non-dairy products.”

That brings me to the new plant-based dairy-like products I learned about this week. There’s Malk, an organic cold-pressed milk alternative currently based on almonds, with plans to grow with pecan and cashew options. Then there’s Field Roast vegan cheeses. Neither jumps out at me as sounding yummy.

But then there’s Arctic Zero, a better-for-you ice cream brand that recognized some of its loyal customers wanted to mix things up: one day dairy the other day plant-based.

The company is rolling out Arctic Zero Non-Dairy frozen desserts. The brand has transformed its original lactose-free, whey-protein based frozen dessert with plant-based ingredients and a creamier, more satisfying taste experience.

“We created the original Arctic Zero so that people with restrictions like lactose-intolerance, low-sugar and low-calorie diets could enjoy a delicious frozen dessert without junk ingredients…,” says Amit Pandhi, CEO. “True to our founding promise, our new plant-based Arctic Zero Non-Dairy contains the cleanest, premium ingredients we could source including faba bean protein. We’re confident our long-time fans also are going to love the change. Arctic Zero Non-Dairy pints have a much stronger, richer flavor that really wows and a creamier texture than ever.

“Arctic Zero believes everyone should be able to enjoy great tasting, low-calorie ice cream and frozen desserts without consuming sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners,” says Pandhi.

He cites Nielsen data showing that 39% of Americans are trying to incorporate more

plant-based foods into their diets, and that preference for plant-based options is not limited to only those who practice a strictly vegetarian or vegan diet.

The new plant-based Artic Zero Non-Dairy contains faba bean protein which, according to Arctic Zero, has a smoother, sweeter, richer flavor than many other plant proteins.

“In our effort to get the texture and rich flavor of traditional ice cream, we experimented with dozens of different core ingredients for our non-dairy pints,” says Greg Holtman, founder and chief flavor innovator for the brand. “Ultimately, the faba bean emerged as the perfect candidate for its luxurious mouthfeel and a slightly sweet flavor with no aftertaste to interfere with all of our delicious mix-ins.”

Change, it’s good. (As I count down the days to the first home football game. I bought season tickets!)  utm_source=DonnaBerry&utm_medium=banner&utm_term=ad&utm_campaign=dairy&utm_term=alte  rnativedairy

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