Thursday, May 23, 2019

Food for Thought: What do consumers think of plant-based diets?

Pictured: Hudsonville Ice Cream, Holland, Mich., has been making traditional dairy ice cream with the same base recipe since 1926 and is the latest to enter the plant-based frozen dessert segment. The product is made with a blend of oat milk and coconut cream. The company is rolling out seven pint flavors to Meijer stores this week, retailing for $4.99.

If you are sitting on the fence regarding entering the plant-based, non-dairy segment, here’s some data to consider from the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation’s 2019 Food and Health Survey. Recently released, this edition marks the 14th consecutive year that the IFIC Foundation has surveyed American consumers to understand their perceptions, beliefs and behaviors around food and food-purchasing decisions. This is the first year plant-based questions were included. The findings are mixed. It will be interesting to see how they compare in a year.

Familiarity and interest in plant-based diets is high. Interestingly, even a seemingly straightforward term like “plant-based” is subject to interpretation. About three-quarters (73%) of people say they have heard of plant-based diets, and about half (51%) are interested in learning more about them. Consumers who have tried any diet in the past year are far more likely to have heard of plant-based diets than those who have not tried a diet in the past year (82% vs. 68%).

But consumers are split on what they believe a plant-based diet means. About one-third (32%) say it is a vegan diet that avoids all animal products, including eggs and dairy. A similar percentage (30%) define it as a diet that emphasizes minimally processed foods that come from plants, with limited consumption of animal meat, eggs and dairy. Another one in five (20%) believe it to be a vegetarian diet that avoids animal meat, while 8% say it is a diet in which you try to get as many fruits and vegetables as possible, with no limit on consuming animal meat, eggs and dairy.

Animal products are a more popular source of protein than plants, with 52% of survey takers saying they eat animal protein at least once per day versus 34% who say they eat plant-based protein. Within the past year, 24% of consumers reported eating more plant protein than the previous year, while only half as many (12%) said they ate more animal protein.

Plant-based diets play into sustainability; however, the survey shows that consumers struggle to know how to recognize environmentally sustainable sources. While environmental sustainability is the lowest of purchase drivers discussed in the survey, six in 10 consumers say it is hard to know whether the food choices they make are environmentally sustainable, and of those who agree, 63% say it would have a greater influence on their choices if it were easier.

Regardless of the impact on purchasing decisions, over half of consumers (54%) say it’s at least somewhat important that the products they buy be produced in an environmentally sustainable way. Among those 54%, many look for specific labels or attributes to assess whether they believe a product is environmentally sustainable: 51% perceive products that are locally produced as environmentally sustainable, followed by products literally labeled as sustainably produced (47%), labeled as non-GMO/not bioengineered (47%), labeled as organic (44%), having recyclable packaging (41%) and having minimal packaging (35%).

If you are in the plant-based business, you may want to consider some sustainability messaging. This, however, may take a toll on your dairy product lines if you cannot provide some quantifiable sustainability story here, too. Hmmm…this is a tough one.

Clean eating should also be part of your messaging, if applicable.

The 2019 Food & Health Survey added “clean eating” as an option to a question about whether consumers have followed any specific diet or eating pattern in the past year. This year, 38% answered “yes,” up slightly from 36% in 2018. “Clean eating” was the most widely cited diet at 10%, followed by intermittent fasting at 9%, then gluten-free and low-carb, both at 6%. The percentage of people that tried ketogenic or high-fat diets doubled (6% in 2019 vs. 3% in 2018), while there were marked declines for people taking up paleo (down to 3% in 2019 from 7% in 2018) and Whole30 (down to 2% from 5%) diets.

One in 4 consumers actively seek health benefits from foods. Although many say they simply try to eat healthy in general, 23% of consumers say they actively seek out foods or follow a diet for health benefits. Most often the benefits they seek are weight loss, energy, digestive health and heart health.

This should provide some fodder for your kick-off-to-summer long holiday weekend. Hope it’s enjoyable.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Dairy Foods Innovation Opportunity: Provide an Experience. Make Dairy a Destination.

We know taste reigns when it comes to food selection. After that an array of other attributes come into play, namely nutrition and price, and increasingly product story and environmental/sustainability platform. Experience is something often not considered during product development. But that’s exactly what many consumers seek out. Offer an experience and your product becomes a destination.

Do you think Impossible Burger is garnering so much attention because of taste, nutrition and price? It’s the promised experience that has curious shoppers and diners trying out this fake meat. They’ve read about how it’s made out of plants yet looks like a beef burger; how it has a red center simulating a medium cook. They want the experience that everyone’s talking about. It’s right up there with the ability back in the 90s to eat an entire box of Snackwells anything and consume zero fat. Experience is also what makes eating a pint of high-protein, nominal calorie ice cream enticing.

I’ve been around long enough to confidently say that, at best, the Impossible Burger will be on White Castle’s national menu for a year. (It might have staying power in some urban locations.) Currently it is offered as a slider with smoked cheddar, griddled onions and pickles. All that good stuff could make mud pie delicious. (Take note: it’s got real dairy cheese!) While the actual patty is cholesterol free and the sandwich is vegetarian, it has as much fat as a similar-sized 80/20 ground beef burger and provides 300 calories. It’s not a healthful choice. It’s an experience.

Dairy foods have long been about experience. Sometimes we forget to market those natural qualities.
Remember when you blew bubbles with a straw into a glass of milk? You did it. Don’t deny it! How about the melty mozzarella you peeled off a slice of pizza or the aerosol whipped cream expelled directly in your mouth?

Currently one of the biggest experience opportunities for dairy processors is in cheese, specifically non-melt grilling cheese, which, is in fact, competing with fake meat burgers for space on the grill on Meatless Monday. Isn’t that cool? Dairy is a threat to fake meat. Have to appreciate the irony based on the war going on in milk coolers.

Photo source: Champignon North America

To read an article I wrote this week on “No-melt cheese heating up on American grills” for Food Business News, link HERE.

This emerging segment of grilling cheeses is designed to appeal to protein-seeking shoppers who crave flavor, variety and simple, wholesome nutrition. These cheeses are packed with high-quality protein and made with just a few, easy-to-understand ingredients.

Grilling cheese is not new. It’s just a concept that has been slow to catch on in the States. It’s very popular in many countries, with halloumi leading the way. In fact, manufacturers of halloumi, a protected product only made in Cyprus, Greece, cannot keep up with demand. Last summer there were reports of a shortage in the U.K., the largest consuming region outside of Cyprus, and demand for non-grilling cheese continues to grow throughout Europe. Fast-food chains have added it to their menu.

The beauty of grilling cheese is that it’s an experience. Consumers are curious about how cheese does not melt. Its staying power is that it has taste, nutrition and it’s priced comparable or less than meat and definitely less than fake meat.

Another experience that shows promise is cottage cheese. Have you heard cottage cheese is cool again? Read more HERE in an article I recently wrote for Food Business News.

Photo source: National Archives/New York Times

The cottage cheese category is ready for a comeback, according to a study from Culinary Visions, Chicago. The survey presented 2,000 consumers across the U.S. with 25 chef-inspired recipes featuring cottage cheese and discovered high interest in concepts that reimagined cottage cheese with a contemporary twist. I call that providing an experience.

Cottage cheese innovations are alive and thriving at retail. Muuna, Good Culture, Dean’s and a number of regional dairies are all investing in cottage cheese innovation and marketing the experience of eating curds and cream, often along with some flavorful inclusions.

The Culinary Visions’ research shows promise for cottage cheese in foodservice. The survey showed cottage cheese may be served on all types of menus. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of those surveyed said they were likely to try a warm queso dip described as a melted cottage cheese and cheddar base with fresh pico de gallo. The same number of respondents found the concept of a cottage cheese salad bar favorable. This was described as featuring a variety of flavored cottage cheese options in addition to favorite fruit and vegetable choices. A cottage cheese-based dip described as a creamy dip with fresh herbs and spices was found appealing by 62% of respondents. These top concepts fared best among consumers ages 18-34.

Younger consumers also led in adventuring into more creative territory. Detailed descriptors with on-trend whole foods were compelling to young diners, with 68% saying they would likely try a Southwest chicken salad described as grilled chicken, fire-roasted corn and poblano pepper relish, avocado and tomatoes, over a bed of lettuce with pureed jalapeño cottage cheese dressing. Two thirds said they would likely try a protein snack box described as a serving of creamy cottage cheese, slices of smoked turkey jerky and unsalted toasted almonds.

Photo source: JoJo's Milk Bar
Another experience that is popular among younger consumers is over-the-top milkshakes. That is what you will find at recently opened JoJo’s Milk Bar in Chicago. This trending restaurant, café and bar is actually making all types of dairy an experience. It’s making dairy a destination.

JoJo’s Milk Bar describes itself as a next-generation milk bar. In addition to milkshakes, the menu includes jumbo cookie flights with infused milks and frozen milk bars. There’s even milk cubes in blueberry, cherry and snickerdoodle to add to hot drinks and cocktails. Sandwiches, wraps, appetizers and salads feature lots of dairy. The loaded grilled cheese contains five cheeses while the fries are topped with a three-cheese blend and sour cream. On weekends there’s a line at the counter from almost the moment doors open at 10:00 am. With a large bar area including a pointed whiskey program, dairy is part of the nightlife experience until 2:00 am.

Come on folks. Let’s think of more ways to make dairy an experience, a destination, a craveable food. It’s possible.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Strong Inside: That’s Milk Protein!

Photo source: USDEC

The Dairy Protein Messaging Initiative (DPMI) was introduced to the industry at the ADPI/ABI Annual Conference held May 5 to 7, 2019, in Chicago. The DPMI includes creating a conversation about protein in order to fuel shoppers with science-supported knowledge so they can make their own protein decisions. It’s a positive, consumer-insight driven messaging program that was formed by the American Dairy Products Institute (ADPI), Elmhurst, Ill., about a year ago. Today 52 suppliers, associations, trade publications and others in the supply chain are supporting the effort. It is important to note that ADPI, nor the campaign receives dairy industry “check off dollars” from dairy producers.

This campaign fills a void. It is designed to reach younger consumers, flexitarians and women, many of whom may be less loyal to dairy but do want to increase their protein intake. It will, ideally, reposition milk-based proteins for increased impact and sustained growth. 

The DPMI is a positive messaging program based on facts that I believe today’s smart shoppers will embrace and respond. They are smarter than we think.

Quick sidebar. I ran into an old friend last week at Target. Her 10-year-old daughter, after hearing me explain my profession to her mom, proudly shared that her school debate team argued for the benefits of—hold onto to your seats—low-fat chocolate milk in schools. I kid you not!

Later that day at a Kentucky Derby soiree, once again, I described my profession and the field of food science to some party goers. A Baby Boomer male went off on Impossible Burger and how it was fake and he was scared to eat all the chemicals in it.

My point: consumers read and want information to make their own decisions. They start at an early age. And many respect and appreciate the nutrition provided by animal products.

The DPMI is designed to brand milk proteins, positioning whey and casein as The Strong Inside, unique from plant and other protein sources. Much of it is based on Protein Seekers Insight research from FoodMinds, a division of Padilla, a food and nutrition communications and consulting company. The firm’s almost year-long analysis of multiple data sources, including protein conversations in social media showed that “plant” references dominate, with animal protein references mostly about “meat” rather than “dairy.”

This suggests that there’s a void in the conversation. And when there’s a void, it’s important that it get filled with truth from reliable sources, as others may take it upon themselves to fill that void with fiction.

The research also found that when “dairy” was mentioned in these protein conversations, it was mostly in reference to intolerances or avoidances. There were many favorable protein conversations centered around specific “milk proteins,” namely whey, followed by isolate, casein, whey concentrate and milk protein concentrate. Plant protein mentions, on the other hand, tend to get lumped together as simply “plant protein,” rather than a discussion of individual plant sources. (See graph.)

This data suggests that there are likely consumers who purchase foods and beverages formulated with specific milk proteins but don’t even know they come from dairy. These folks do exist. I once wrote about a person I met who believed whey came from a whey plant, not the bricks and mortar type!

“Dairy product producers haven’t done much to respond to the threat of alternative proteins and I am pleased we are now taking on that challenge as an industry,” says Ron Hayes, marketing manager, Idaho Milk Products, a DPMI supporter. “I have seen some great collaborative effort working on this initiative. There is so much good we can say about the benefits of people consuming products with dairy proteins and that makes our message an easy one to support. Providing some myth-busting, science-based evidence in favor of dairy proteins is something the general public really needs to see.”

Grant Prentice, director of strategic insights as FoodMinds, explains, “Consumers are selecting foods based on the quality and purity of the protein ingredients. Our research showed they have a strong desire to make informed choices.”

They need the information. They need to be educated about protein quality. The need to fill this knowledge gap is why dairy ingredient companies have put their support and dollars behind the DPMI campaign.

“Consumers want to make their own choices,” Jason Stemm, vice president at Padilla, affirms. “We need to give them the information to help them make their own choice.”

The Protein Seekers Insight research showed that there was a big opportunity for an all-industry milk protein campaign to inform consumers that the quality of what’s inside is what really matters. It’s not just the grams of protein listed on the packaging. And that’s how “Milk Protein – The Strong Inside” came to be.

“There are three primary buckets to categorize protein seekers,” says Prentice. “More than half (55%) seek out protein because of fitness goals.”

The other two groups embrace protein for its satiating properties or because of a lifestyle-diets they follow. (See graph.) It is paramount that the fitness group gets the message about milk proteins being the stronger proteins.

When testing The Strong Inside campaign with Protein Seekers, interest in consuming more milk proteins increased. Intent to eat more milk proteins came primarily from those who already eat milk proteins but previously had no plans to eat more or less. With this new knowledge on milk protein quality, they now had plans to consume more milk protein. What’s important to note is that their perception and intent of use of plant proteins was relatively unchanged. This is why it’s so important that the milk protein conversation be a positive one. It is not, and cannot be “us” versus “them.”

“We tested messaging against plant proteins, and it did not perform well,” says Stemm. “In fact, our research showed that saying anything negative about plant proteins could result in consumer backlash against milk proteins.”

Veronique Lagrange, director of strategy and business development at ADPI, says, “Plant-based diets are marketed as better-for-you, better for the planet. Ironically, populations with primarily plant-based diets are often malnourished or suffer from deficiencies. The demand for quality animal proteins is booming in emerging economies. Yet, we see a resurgence of vegetarianism in the U.S.”

This is why it is paramount that this be an informative campaign. The science does the talking. 

“The dairy industry has spent the past 20-plus years investing in nutrition research to document the benefits of whey and milk-based proteins,” says Lagrange. “Overall, we estimate that nearly 85% of the studies documenting the benefits of proteins were conducted with milk-based proteins, with only a handful of studies conducted with pea or rice protein.”

Unfortunately, many plant protein companies currently use the milk protein science as if it applied to any protein. This is wrong. All proteins are not created equal. It’s time to share the data and emphasize the unique value of milk proteins.

“I want to stress that our goal in this campaign is not to malign plant-based products or agriculture,” says Blake Anderson, president and CEO of ADPI. “Our campaign will remain positive at all times, yet will seek to refute myths and misconceptions that exist. Milk-based proteins have many desirable attributes, and we will build on this strong platform.”

The Strong Inside campaign, funded through DPMI, is targeted to Protein Seekers who are open to milk products, which is estimated to be about 40% of the adult population. These consumers make purchase decisions based on high-protein food characteristics. More than half (57%) purchase both whole foods and fortified foods, those that may be formulated with milk proteins. This group needs to be educated about the quality of milk proteins to make sure they seek out foods fortified with the “strong inside.” The others (43%) mainly seek out whole food sources of protein. This group may benefit from a better understanding of the naturalness of milk proteins and how they are simply isolated and purified from milk. (See graph.)

“One of the critical pieces to this initiative is sharing what we find with our customers,” says Hayes. “That way, they can focus additional attention on formulating products using dairy proteins.” Did you know that many plant protein products are currently mislabeled and wrongly marketed for their protein content? Products that carry a “good source of protein” claim must provide more than 10% of the Daily Value of protein per serving, while those making an “excellent source of protein” claim must contain more than 20% of the Daily Value. That does not simply translate to 5 grams and 10 grams of protein per serving. It’s 5 grams and 10 grams of “high-quality” protein.

That’s because the Percent Daily Value for protein is determined using the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS), which is an adjustment for the quality of the protein. It is based on the types and amounts of amino acids in the food as well as the overall digestibility. The PDCAAS values range from 0.0 to 1.0, where values are truncated to a maximum score of 1.00, which cows milk, casein, whey, eggs and soy protein all possess. Most plant protein sources have much lower values. Thus, a yogurt containing 10 grams of milk protein may make an “excellent source of protein” claim. A cultured vegan product with 10 grams of protein from peas and nuts most likely only qualifies for a “good source of protein” claim, and when doing so, should not flag 10 grams of protein per serving, as this is misleading. Further, when making or implying any protein content claim, FDA requires the inclusion of the Percent Daily Value. This substantiates the protein claim. Just check how many plant protein products do not state the Percent Daily Value.

It’s a void, an illegal one at that. Milk proteins have nothing to hide. It’s time to get the message out that “strong is more than grams” and consumers need “more strong in their life.”

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Dairy Foods Flavor Innovation: Betting on a Winner (Hint: Indulgence is always a good gamble.)

Photo source: Liège and Dairy

Looks delicious, right? This is a Kentucky Derby-inspired dessert being served by Liège and Dairy, a handmade small-batch ice cream and waffle shop in Louisville, where the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby will take place on Saturday, May 4, 2019. For those unfamiliar with this annual horse competition, it is a Grade I stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds at a distance of 1.25 miles and takes place at the Churchill Downs racetrack.

Liège and Dairy created Winner’s Circle (pictured). It is chocolate- and bourbon-based ice cream with walnuts, chocolate bits and Derby Pie chunks from the famous Kern’s Kitchen in Louisville. Another offering for this weekend’s festivities is Mint Julep, which is bourbon mint ice cream with chocolate flakes.

While these desserts may be extreme in size—they are probably best for sharing—the combination of flavorful ingredients with varied textures showcases how indulgence continues to appeal to today’s consumers. Deliciousness always wins, especially in the frozen desserts category.

Let’s explore some new products making their way into freezers this summer. These marketers are betting on consumers—even the most health conscious minded—making room for indulgence.

Schwan’s has some new ice cream pint offerings being sold through its home delivery service.

Photo source: Schwan's

Confetti Cake (pictured) is cake batter ice cream loaded with blue icing swirl and rainbow sprinkles. Summer Dreamsicle is orange sherbet swirled around our vanilla ice cream.

Strawberry Cheesecake is cheesecake ice cream loaded with strawberry swirl and graham cracker pieces. What gives these products a competitive edge is that they only use colors from natural sources and contain no artificial flavors.

Just in time for ice cream season, New York-based Big Gay Ice Cream is taking its pints to the opposite side of the country. Big Gay Ice Cream started in 2009 with a single truck on a street corner in Union Square in New York City. Along with its retail expansion to the West Coast, the company is rolling out three new flavors.

Banan-o-Graham is caramelized banana ice cream with graham swirls and graham crunch. Fluffernutter is peanut butter ice cream with marshmallow swirls, micro-mallows and peanut praline. The last addition is Spicy Choco-Lit, which is milk chocolate ice cream with spicy fudge swirls and hot cinnamon candy pieces.

The new offerings join Big Gay’s existing portfolio of six flavors, including cult classic American Globs. This is a blend of fudge-covered salted pretzel balls, fudge-covered pretzel pieces and fudge swirl blended into malted sweet cream ice cream.

Friendly’s, a brand of Dean Foods Company, is mashing things up in the freezer with the launch of Friendly’s Dessert Cups, a line of individually sized decadent treats inspired by dessert classics. The deconstructed desserts are packaged in paper cups with clear dome lids, which allows for consumers to see a tower of whipped topping and other goodies. A proprietary production process enables Friendly’s to layer as many as six distinct ingredients for each variety, according to the company.
With multi-textured layers of flavors, these desserts are all about indulgence.

“With the success of our Friendly’s Sundae Cup lineup, we saw an opportunity to create an even more sophisticated and innovative offering for the ultimate indulgence,” says Mark Schneider, marketing director for ice cream at Dean Foods. “By layering the best ingredients from traditional classic desserts into delicious individual mashups, we’re delivering deconstructed dessert classics that satisfy our consumers’ craving for variety, while amplifying the taste and quality they’ve come to expect from Friendly’s.”

With up to six layers of various toppings and flavors, the single-serve 8.5-ounce cups come in six varieties. They are:

  • Banana Cream Pie: vanilla wafer crumbles, banana cream pie filling, French vanilla ice cream topped with marshmallow sauce and whipped topping 
  • Blackberry Peach Pie: flakey pie crust pieces, peach pie filling, vanilla ice cream topped with blackberry sauce, whipped topping and streusel crumble  
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge: chocolate peanut butter fudge truffles, chocolate ice cream, peanut butter and whipped topping with chocolate flakes  
  • Pecan Praline: praline coated pecan pieces, vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce and whipped topping with roasted pecan bits 
  • Red Velvet Cake: red velvet cake crumbles, red velvet cake filling, cream cheese ice cream and whipped topping with red sprinkles  
  • Strawberry Shortcake: pound cake crumbles, vanilla ice cream, strawberry sauce and whipped topping and white chocolate chips 
Steve’s Ice Cream, a brand acquired by Dean Foods in 2017, has been reimagined with a new visual identity and campaign, strengthening its connection to creativity and highlighting its unexpected flavors. Since its inception as an ice cream shop in Cambridge, Mass., in 1973, Steve’s has always taken a flavor-forward approach to innovation.

To bring its deliciously creative spirit to life, the brand enlisted the talents of Seattle-based artist Drew Wicklund, whose work embraces both the art and brand design worlds, to bring the full family of Steve’s to life through refreshed packaging. Wicklund’s hand-drawn designs highlight the inspiration for each flavor by creating unique identifying icons that define each variety. With Small Batch Bourbon Vanilla, for example, it’s the barrel that forms the bourbon and with Wildflower Honey Pistachio, it’s the bumble bee that creates the sweet honey swirl. 

Three new ice cream flavors made with grass-grazed milk are debuting with the redesign. They are: Cold-Brewed Cinnamon Coffee, Sicilian Chocolate Cannoli and Spearmint Chocolate Brownie. The brand also has new non-dairy innovations.

On the better-for-you side of indulgence, Enlightened, a higher-protein, lower-sugar ice cream brand, is introducing the Bakeshop Collection. The two seasonal pint flavors are: Lemon Meringue Pie (light marshmallow meringue ice cream with a velvety lemon custard swirl and buttery pie pieces) and Triple Berry Cobbler (strawberry and blueberry ice cream with a tart raspberry swirl and flakey biscuit crumbles).

“With the Bakeshop Collection we want to evoke feel-good, nostalgic memories of trips to the bakeshop and outdoor picnics,” says Michael Shoretz founder and CEO of Enlightened. “We recreated the experience of taking a bite of fresh-baked pie in ice cream form, mixing in delectable pie and biscuit pieces throughout.”

The company is embracing the deliciousness of sweet-and-salty with new All That & a Bag of Chips. This is potato chip-flavored ice cream with chocolate chips and a salted fudge swirl. The brand has also taken its popular Movie Night pint flavor and turned it into a stick novelty. The Enlightened Movie Night bar is popcorn ice cream with chocolate chips and a caramel swirl.

And the award goes to...
At the annual International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) Ice Cream Technology Conference, U.S. ice cream marketers and flavoring suppliers compete for various awards with their new and soon-to-be-released concepts. The 2019 contest was held April 16 to 17, 2019, and attracted more than 145 ice cream industry professionals and 35 flavor entries.

“This year’s contest really wowed us with a mix of sweet and savory, combining liqueurs with candy crumbles and spices, and bakery flavors like cobbler, French toast, cookies and pie crust,” says Cary Frye, IDFA senior vice president of regulatory affairs. “We’re so proud of how IDFA’s Ice Cream Tech has become a celebration of America’s most beloved frozen treats and a window into the innovation and creativity happening in U.S. dairy today.”

Kemps took first place for the Most Innovative Ice Cream Flavor with Scotcheroo, a new flavor rolling out under the company’s Sweet Me Creamery brand, which is all about delicious treats for life’s sweetest moments. Scotcheroo was inspired by the much loved homemade treat that combines butterscotch, peanut butter, and chocolate into gooey, chewy cookie bars. To translate that into ice cream, the company starts with a butterscotch base and swirls in peanut butter, oatmeal cookie chunks and chocolate fudge chunks.

Second place was awarded to Baskin-Robbins Dunkin’ Brands Inc., for Bourbon Street Pecan Pie. This scoop shop treat features bourbon butter pecan-flavored ice cream with roasted pecans, pie crust pieces and a bourbon caramel flavored swirl.

Hudsonville Ice Cream placed third for its limited-edition Hazelnut Cinnamon Bun. This is a cinnamon bun ice cream base with swirls of a hazelnut ribbon and cinnamon bun pieces.

To read about more winning ice cream concepts from this year’s contest, link HERE.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Dairy Case Innovation: It’s Spring! Look what’s growing.

April showers bring May flowers. Then the plants all really start to grow.

P-L-A-N-T, that five letter word that has invaded the dairy space. Love it or hate it, you cannot ignore it. Progressive dairy processors are embracing the opportunity to expand their customer reach with new innovative plant-based concepts. And I might add, many of them are downright delicious.

The fact is consumers are trying to improve their overall health and wellness by heeding the recommendations of nutritional authorities who are encouraging increased intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. At the same time they are swapping out animal-derived foods for more plant-based alternatives designed to simulate the animal protein.

The plant-based foods industry is seeing tremendous growth at retail. Sales topped $3.3 billion in 2018, reflective of a 20% increase as compared to the previous year, according to data from the Plant Based Foods Association, as provided by Nielsen.

“The plant-based foods industry has gone from being a relatively niche market to fully mainstream,” says Michele Simon, executive director of the association. “Plant-based meat and dairy alternatives are not just for vegetarians or vegans anymore; now even mainstream consumers are enjoying these delicious and innovative options in the market today.”

The data shows that “other” plant-based dairy alternatives, which excludes milks, are experiencing explosive growth, up 50%. This segment include plant-based cheeses, creamers, butters, yogurts and ice creams. The plant-based milk category is up 9%, compared to 3% the previous year, while cow’s milk dollar sales are down 6%. Plant-based milk comprises 15% of total milk sales.

Perry’s is on board. Perry’s knows ice cream. Since 1932 the family-owned dairy has been delighting people with rich, creamy, ice cream in hundreds of flavors and varieties. Because a growing portion of the population cannot enjoy ice cream due to lactose intolerance, allergies or other dietary choices, the company decided to get into the plant-based space with new Perry’s Oats Cream. (Love the name!)

What’s key to note with Perry’s first oat-based, dairy-free frozen dessert is that it’s being positioned as another great Perry’s product, not a dairy alternative. The company is not even bothering with the basic vanilla and chocolate. Perry’s Oats Cream features seven decadent flavors: Apple Strudel, Blueberry Pancake, Coconut Caramel, Oat Latte, Peanut Butter Coffee Cake, Peanut Butter & Cookies (pictured) and Snickerdoodle. The vegan lineup is a good source of fiber (a nutrient of concern in the U.S. diet) and made with whole grains.

Dairy-free frozen desserts are predicted to be a $1 billon dollar category by 2024 and according to Business Insider, oat milk is the hot new product in the dairy-free aisle. It is positioned to take over nut-based products as the leading non-dairy milk-type product.

Photo source: Perry's Ice Cream

“As a market leader with extensive dairy expertise, we recognized a growing need to bring to market a great-tasting, plant-based frozen dessert,” says Robert Denning, president and CEO of Perry’s. “Consumers look to their trusted ice cream brands to create quality dairy-free options. We certainly believe our team of talented research and development experts hit it out of the park with a full line of these amazing tasting oat-based, dairy-free products.”

The pint packaging features a natural oat tone inscribed with a brand message stating, “ice cream hasn’t been for everyone…until now. Meet Perry’s Oats Cream.”

Insights from the Perry’s product development team reveal that oat texture is more like ice cream with a milder flavor, allowing for freedom and variety in flavor creation. Suggested retail price is $6.99 per pint. In addition, Apple Strudel and Blueberry Pancake varieties are available in three-gallon containers for scoop shops and foodservice customers.

Enlightened is now in this space, too, with Enlightened Dairy-Free, a line of vegan stick bar novelties that are low in sugar and calories. Based on almonds, the bars are making their debut in five varieties: Mint Chip, Mocha Chocolate Chip, Monkey Business, Peanut Butter & Jelly, and Salted Caramel.

On the beverage side, let’s talk Star Wars and Blue Milk and Green Milk. Blue

Milk was first seen in “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” when Luke Skywalker sat down for a family meal. Green Milk was introduced in “Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi.”

While neither were sourced from cows in the movie, this does seem to be a missed opportunity by the dairy industry. Now Disney is on it and is using a plant-based base.

Photo source: Disney Enterprises

Both Blue Milk and Green Milk will be available for purchase at Oga’s Cantina at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which is scheduled to open May 31st at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando. Disney describes it as “a local watering hole to unwind, conduct business and maybe even encounter a friend or a foe. Patrons of the cantina come from across the galaxy to sample the famous concoctions created with exotic ingredients using ‘otherworldly’ methods, served in unique vessels, with choices for kids and libations for adults.” This includes colored and flavored plant-based milk.

The Blue Milk and Green Milk will be sold at the Milk Stand and will actually be a frozen-style beverage, somewhere between a milkshake and a smoothie. Blue Milk will have berry and melon flavors, while Green Milk will have tropical and citrus flavors.

Califia Farms, best known for its innovative plant-based beverages in distinctive curvy bottles, continues breaking barriers on “What Plants Can Do” with the launch of Übermilk, a nutritious line of oat milk beverages. Available in three varieties--Unsweetened, Unsweetened Vanilla and Chocolate—Übermilk provides 8 grams of plant-based protein per serving including all eight essential amino acids and fatty acids from plant oils, as well as calcium, iron, vitamin D, potassium and vitamin E.

“Übermilk is a leap into the next frontier,” says Greg Steltenpohl, founder and CEO of Califia Farms. “Nutritionally, Übermilk is one of the more nutrient-dense plant milks on the broader market with a powerful combination of both macro and micro nutrients, and most importantly it wins on taste and texture, thanks to our naturally creamy and great-tasting Oatmilk serving as the base.”

Leveraging Califia Farms’ new oat-based milk made from whole grain, gluten-free oats, the Übermilks combine 8 grams of complementary plant proteins from pea, oats and sunflower seeds. They are also rich in omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids from flax and sunflower oil.

“Made from a blend of seeds and pulses, Übermilk removes any compromise for anyone seeking better nutrition from plants,” says Ashley Koff, a registered dietitian and CEO of The Better Nutrition Program.

Functional coffee beverages provide a convenient opportunity for dairy processors to enter the non-dairy space. Imagine a range that includes lattes with milk, oats and almonds. There’s something for everyone and it’s being produced by a dairy. Further differentiate through the addition of extra nutrition. That’s what Danone North America is doing with its Stok brand. It now offers cold brew with almondmilk and cold brew with oatmilk.

The dip space provides a great deal of plant-based innovation opportunity, too.

Good Foods uses high-pressure processing (HPP) to make its new line of vegan Plant-Based Dips, which come in four varieties: Buffalo Style, Creamy Cilantro, Avocado Pesto and Queso. The HPP process, which pasteurizes without heat, allows for the dips to be made with all-natural ingredients. No preservatives are added, and thus the dips have a clean label with an extended shelf life. In addition, HPP keeps nutrients intact.  The creamy almond and vegetable-based dip comes in 8-ounce tubs and contains 45 calories per 2-tablespoon serving.
With digestive wellness one of this year’s hottest better-for-you trends, it only makes sense for plant-based yogurts to be designed for the gut-friendly platform. That’s what you get with new Simply Free yogurts from Choopoons. Made from simple ingredients, the cultured products are packed full of fiber, prebiotics, probiotics, omega-3 essential fatty acids and plant-based protein. They are made from cucumber seeds for protein and sweetened with cacao fruit pulp (the fruit surrounding the cacao beans) rather than refined sugars. They also have a glycemic index of less than 30.

Marketed as Greek Style Plant Powered Wellness Yogurt, the unique 8-ounce jars come in Banana Cinnamon, Mango, Pineapple and Raspberry varieties. One serving provides 200 or fewer calories, along with 4.5 grams of fat, 10 grams of protein, 16 grams of fiber, 1200 milligrams of omega-3 ALA and one billion CFU of probiotics.

Maison Riviera is a new player in the yogurt space. The company is making its debut with a line of namesake vegan coconut-based yogurt alternatives in exotic and tropical flavors. The rich, creamy, indulgent product comes in 4.2-ounce glass jars and is sold in packs of two. The five varieties are: Lemon, Mango & Passionfruit, Pineapple & Coconut, Raspberry & Black Currant, and Vanilla. One serving provides 3 grams of protein with only 7 to 9 grams of sugar. It’s fortified with calcium and loaded with probiotics.

It’s time to grow your business and explore plant-based formulations.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

It’s Time to Get Smart with Your Brew: Functional coffees appeal to the growing clean-energy consumer

Photo source: BENEO

Ready-to-drink coffee drinks—regular or cold brew; sweetened or unsweetened; plain or flavored; alone, with milk or plant-based whitener—are currently one of the most popular beverages. It’s not only for their convenience, it’s also that their inherent caffeine serves as a source of natural, clean energy, something many consumers are looking for in their beverages.

To read more about the clean energy trend, link HERE to a recent article I wrote on the topic for Food Business News.

In addition to providing clean energy, there’s overwhelming scientific evidence showing that coffee offers potential health benefits, from liver health to longevity, according to the National Coffee Association (NCA) USA. When coupled with the nutrient density of real cows milk, you’ve got a true powerhouse beverage.

Just imagine the marketing possibilities when functional ingredients are added, such as protein, probiotics and prebiotic fibers. These ingredients are recognized as assisting with everything from refuel and muscle building to digestive health and immunity.

“Coffee and health is an opportunity for the coffee industry to connect with consumers,” says William (Bill) Murray, NCA president and CEO. “The message is clear: coffee is good for you. But it’s up to the industry to share that story.

“Coffee is America’s most beloved beverage,” he says. “New consumer values have changed the game for coffee. But the industry is adapting--and thriving--by embracing innovation and transparency.”

Milk processors can do the same!

More than ever before, consumers are paying attention to what’s in their cup, glass, bottle or can. It’s time to get smart with your formulation efforts.

Functional coffee beverages provide a convenient opportunity for dairy processors to enter the non-dairy space. Imagine a range that includes lattes with milk, oats and almonds. There’s something for everyone and it’s being produced by a dairy. Further differentiate through the addition of extra nutrition.

Danone North America continues to grow its Stok cold-brew coffee brand. The Stok Protein Espresso is now available in 15-ounce cans and is a blend of coffee and dairy. The brand also now offers cold brew with almondmilk and cold brew with oatmilk.

The NCA does not see a significant change in the quantity of coffee that people are consuming, but the association says there has been a clear change in the quality and consideration of each cup. Driven by younger coffee drinkers, NCA is seeing a gradual but steady increase in the share of coffee prepared out-of-home and consumed after breakfast.

The under-40 demographic is a powerful force in the coffee market. They are driving growth in cold brew and ready-to-drink, which are both demonstrating impressive growth trends, according to Murray. Considering how recently they’ve reached mainstream markets, awareness of these beverages is high: 80% and 89%, respectively.

Both of these categories offer opportunities for innovation, from preparation methods to functional ingredients. Milk processors are key to these efforts.

JoeFroyo Functional Cold Brew is right on trend. The perishable beverage combines the kick of caffeine from cold-brew coffee with probiotics and protein from drinkable yogurt. Free from artificial colors and sweeteners, and containing no lactose, gluten or preservatives, the drink is fortified with milk protein isolate and whey. The refrigerated drink uses high-pressure processing to extend shelf-life without relying on chemical preservatives.

“The functional beverage market is seeing exponential growth right now, but wherever we looked, we could see drinks that sacrificed taste for benefits or benefits for taste,” says Zach Miller, president and CEO. “With JoeFroyo, we tried to create a functional beverage that checked all the boxes. It’s full of long-lasting energy, natural health benefits and we never compromise on great taste.”

At the beginning of the year, Shamrock Farms introduced Rockin’ Protein Energy. The new refrigerated beverages combine the naturally occurring caffeine from coffee with a whopping 30 grams of high-quality dairy protein for a powerful one-two punch ideal for sustained energy. Varieties are: Café Latte, Caramel Latte and Mocha Latte.

Smari is rolling out Kaffi Icelandic Protein Coffee. The new 8-ounce refrigerated coffee-milk line comes in three varieties. Keto Latte is designed for the keto dieter, with 60% of calories coming from fat, 35% from protein and 5% from net carbs. The 8-ounce bottle contains 110 calories, 7 grams of fat, 1 gram of sugar and 10 grams of protein. The perishable beverage provides as much caffeine as almost 2 cups of coffee (150 milligrams). There’s also two flavored lattes. They are: Iced Mocha and New Orleans.

In Germany, DMK Group now offers Milram Kalder Kaffe Powerful Cold Brew Coffee beverage made with low-fat milk. Containing no-added-sugars, the perishable product is marketed as a natural energy drink.

Super Espresso from Kitu Life is a 6-ounce can loaded with 180 milligrams of caffeine from three shots of organic espresso and no added sugar. It does, however, provide sustained metabolic energy from whey protein concentrate and coconut medium-chain triglyceride oil (MCT) oil. It also contains l-theanine, an antioxidant found in green tea. This combination of ingredients is said to provide a smooth, sustained, energy boost without the crash.

“Everybody needs energy, and until now, the only fast and effective energy options on the market are loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients,” says Jordan DeCicco, co-founder. “Super Espresso provides the energy we all need without the sugar, and the added benefits of healthy fats and a little bit of protein.”

Many of these natural energy drinks do not contain added sugar, further contributing to their healthful positioning. Ingredients such as inulin/chicory root fiber may assist with sweetness without contributing to sugar content. Such fiber is also recognized for its ability to mask off tastes from intense sweeteners, and in some applications, contributes a creamy mouthfeel without adding fat.