Friday, May 8, 2020

Dairy Foods Innovation: Single-Serve, Grab-and-Go Will be the New Norm for Schools, Cafeterias and On-the-Fly Dining

Photo source: Lycored

As the world starts to heal and reopen—fingers crossed it goes well—dairy foods manufacturers need to rethink about the products they offer through various foodservice channels. Let’s jump to August when school cafeterias and university dorm dining halls hopefully reopen. And from now until then, think about foodservice in grocery stores and urban bodegas. Don’t expect to see any functioning salad bars or hot buffets. The same for self-serve soup and condiment stations.

Currently hotels that formerly offered complimentary self-serve breakfasts now provide to-go bags. This will likely continue for some time. Evening receptions have been cancelled. Lounges are closed. These channels need solutions from food and beverage marketers because consumers are loyal to hotels and airlines for their perks.

There’s no doubt we will be in packaging overload. Smart materials companies are working on more environmentally friendly solutions. Recycled and repurposed packaging will become necessary. Convenience and portability will be paramount.

Now’s the time for dairy processors to get creative with their packaging suppliers. Make the container work for the product.

Expect to see more refrigerated vending, such as that offered by Farmers Fridge.

This Chicago-based company has almost 100 locations throughout the Windy City and its suburbs, mainly in hospitals and office buildings, but can also be found in large apartment/condo buildings, with multiple vending machines at O’Hare airport. The company has expanded Midwestern distribution to Milwaukee and Indianapolis, and is now growing on the East Coast, with multiple locations in Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York City. The company adapted to the COVID-19 quarantine by delivering directly to homes in select zip codes.

Most of the foods come in recyclable plastic jars. There are cheese cubes as a snack and cheese shreds as a layered ingredient in a number of salads. Sliced cheese can be found in the wraps and sandwiches. The Greek yogurt parfait contains fresh berries and house-made granola.

These are products prepared and packaged at a nearby commissary. All of the items are made fresh daily and delivered via temperature-regulated vehicles to the refrigerated vending machines early in the morning. This type of food preparation will be part of the new norm in eating outside the home.

Dairy processors should start getting creative with commercially produced products that will complement freshly prepared products. Yogurt and cottage cheese parfaits are one such opportunity. How about ready-to-drink lattes that have a biscuit in a dome top? Cheese snack packs will continue to become more diverse. The way we eat outside the home will be very different for some time.

Photo source: Farmers Fridge

If all goes well, my high school senior will have some sort of commencement ceremony this summer, that rite of passage necessary for getting excited about moving to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in August. It will not be a college move-in like any of us experienced. While I cannot even begin to think about the logistics of the actual housing situation, one thing is for sure, the elaborate dining halls that have come to be over the past 20 or so years will be gravely modified. I expect mostly pre-made and packaged foods. It might be a shopping-type experience where students collect items for a day or two at a time, returning to their room where they dine alone or with a roommate. Dairy needs to be part of that experience.

Keep it looking delicious
Need help keeping fruit prep in yogurt and other cultured dairy foods looking delicious? Natural red, orange and yellow colors may help.

Lycored uses proprietary techniques to produce a wide range of versatile carotenoid-based color solutions, including lycopene from special tomato plants and beta-carotene from its own strain of Blakeslea Trispora fungus. Both are certified kosher and halal; vegetarian friendly; non-GMO; and heat, light and pH stable.

Lycored carried out a three-phase evaluation of the true-to-fruit authenticity and stability of both of its carotenoid-based colors in fruit preparations for yogurt. You can view product changes over shelflife in this short VIDEO.

Over the 30-day period, the study showed that the company’s colors remained stable, compared to the control and other colored sample. Lycored’s colors remained vibrant and did not bleed. Using these colors presents dairy manufacturers with the opportunity to color products naturally without compromising on stability. These super-stable colors offer new ways to position cultured dairy products as more natural and fresher with longer shelflife. They can also potentially reduce the operational costs involved in packaging, transport and storage of final product.

Link HERE to download a white paper on this topic.
Photo source: Lycored

Latest Sales Data
  • Dairy continues to be doing very well at retail. Here’s the most recent IRI data, provided courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Association, for the week ending April 26, 2020, as compared to the same seven-day period in 2019.
  • Dairy aisle dollar sales are up 15.3% year-to-date, still outpacing the total store sales, which are  up 11.5% year-to-date.
  • Fluid milk sales are up 15.1% (volume sales) and 21.2% (dollar sales). In the previous week, sales were up 7.4% (volume) and 12.9% (dollar).
  • Butter sales are up 68.3% (volume) and 76.8% (dollar). In the previous week, butter sales were up 0.9% (volume) and 15.0% (dollar).
  • Cheese sales are up 36.8% (volume) and 46.5% (dollar). In the previous week, cheese sales were up 11.0% (volume) and 21.2% (dollar).
  • Yogurt sales are up 10.7% (volume) and 10.0% (dollar). In the previous week, yogurt sales were down 2% (volume) and 1.3% dollar sales.
  • Yogurt is often purchased for on-the-go consumption. Could this spike be reflective of more shoppers purchasing food for out-of-home consumption as they return to work?
  • Ice cream sales are up 41.5% (volume) and 49.3% (dollar). In the previous week, they were up 12.5% (volume) and 26.0% (dollar).
While these numbers are impressive, as stay-at-home orders get lifted, these numbers will likely slow. Let’s keep dairy on the menu in foodservice as the world reopens and consumers acclimate to the new norm of eating outside the home. 

Now’s the time for dairy processors to get creative with their packaging suppliers. Make the container work for the product. And make sure the product looks delicious!

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