Thursday, November 12, 2020

Dairy Foods Innovation 2021: Focus on Snacks


Photo source: California Milk Advisory Board

Hold on tight, it’s Friday the 13th! It’s the second one of 2020. The first was in March. We all know what followed. On that note…

Let’s never forget that “Dairy is Defined by Bipartisanship,” the title of a statement issued this week by the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF). The NMPF writes:

It’s no secret that farmers overall tend to be conservative politically. But unlike commodities in which production tends to cluster in deep-red states, dairy has always developed not far from urban areas, due to the perishable nature of its much-needed products. In the 21st century, that’s naturally encouraged a bipartisan approach to problem-solving. Even the most conservative dairy farmer has an interest in working with someone who’s more liberal, given how many of those farmers live in deep blue (shout out to California and New York) or profoundly purple (hello, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, and let’s not forget Arizona) states…In the end, dairy farmers produce a commodity, one among numerous other commodities jostling in the policy arena. But the most valuable commodity in America today may be the ability to bridge partisan divides: That’s always been important, but it may be becoming existential. Dairy, in its own way and for its own reasons, is well-positioned to be part of today’s necessary policy solutions, and it’s all because of that word that keeps coming up: bipartisan.

We congratulate President-elect Biden and the incoming members of the 117th Congress. There’s a lot of work to do in this country in the next few months and years, from legislating to healing. Dairy is ready to do its part, and much more, if that’s what the nation needs.

To read the entire statement, link HERE.

Here’s something exciting that happened this week. The California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) held its semi-finals for the Real California Milk Snackcelerator, narrowing down 16 entrees to the final four. This is the second event of its kind by the California dairy industry. This one was designed to inspire ideas integrate the values of fluid milk and dairy ingredients into snacks in order to better compete in the booming global snack food market. To read more about the competition and the 16 finalists, link HERE.

The four finalists are: 
  • Peekaboo Ice Cream is the first and only organic ice cream with the added nutritional benefits of vegetables.
  • Petit Pot developed a new indulgent chocolate dessert made with organic, local ingredients. 
  • Sach Foods Organic Paneer is a line of flavored artisanal paneer cheese. 
  • Yummy Industries Cheese Bits are all-natural, fresh and wood-smoked scamorza and chechil cheeses, conveniently shaped and packaged for snacking fun.
These four innovators were selected during a two-day virtual pitch event judged by a group of snack experts from Conagra, SnackRiot, Hershey’s, Bristol Farms, General Mills, Unilever, Mondelēz, Rosa Brothers, RangeMe, Acreage Holdings, Better Food Ventures and Trail Mix Ventures. A virtual fan vote, through Perksy, which provides market research for the mobile generation, also was factored into the final decision. 

The four finalists will compete during a live event this Thursday, November 19. Each founder will be presenting to a field of judges from the CPG, retail, venture capital and food science world. That latter category includes me. 

“This field of finalists represent the innovation we’re seeing in better-for-you snacking today--highly flavorful, portable options with added benefits. And consumers agree. Through the Persky platform, 2,000 consumers were introduced to these products during the semi-finals and voted on which they would be most interested in buying. Those scores were factored into the final judging and will be included on the 19th,” says John Talbot, CEO of the CMAB. “Any of these four products will make a perfect partner for our real milk and dairy ingredients, which offer incredible functionality plus flavor and a host of naturally occurring nutrients. And, as the leading dairy state, our family dairy farms can provide a consistent, sustainable source of milk to fuel production of whichever product ultimately wins.” 

To watch the live Real California Milk Snackcelerator final judging, RSVP HERE

Need some inspiration? Link HERE to a presentation I developed for the contest.  

Snacking is a huge opportunity for dairy foods innovators. To reach today’s snacker, there are a number of considerations, according to the second annual State of Snacking 2020 global consumer trends study by Mondelez International. 

“As the global leader in snacking, we are continually obsessing over how, when and why people snack,” wrote Dirk Van de Put, chairman and CEO of Mondelēz International. “Our insights guide our growth strategy, inform our purpose to empower people to snack right, and form the basis for the vast knowledge estate that we’ve amassed on the important and ever-changing role snacking plays in our everyday lives.

“And in a year like 2020, our instinct to learn from people and to put our consumer at the heart of everything we do, has proven more important than ever,” he wrote. “Even in the face of worldwide uncertainty with COVID-19 reshaping our rituals and routines, snacking is a growing behavior with the potential to provide comfort, connection and community, while also providing the moments of respite, reward and relief as consumers look to balance nutrition and emotional well-being.”

Photo source: California Milk Advisory Board

The company’s mission is to lead the future of snacking, with the right snack, for the right moment, made the right way. I encourage dairy foods innovators to make this their mission, too. 

The research shows that snacks offer bite-sized moments of satisfaction and relief amidst uncertainty. For people everywhere, snacking has been a lifeline this year. The majority plan to continue eating snacks instead of meals in the future, saying snacking will be part of their “new normal” after the pandemic ends.

This survey was conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of Mondelēz from October 6 to 20, 2020, among 6,292 global adults ages 18 and older. The research spanned 12 markets, including the United States (n=506), Canada (n=503), Mexico (n=540), Brazil (n=530), France (n=519), Germany (n=520), United Kingdom (n=500), Russia (n=504), China (n=550), India (n=555), Indonesia (n=555) and Australia (n=510). Other key groups analyzed include: Gen Z/centennials ages 18 to 23 (n=945), millennials ages 24 to 39 (n=2,222), Gen Xers ages 40 to 55 (n=1,646), Boomers ages 56 to 74 (n=1348) and the Silent Generation ages 75+ (n=130). Data from 2019 references a similar study conducted from September 16 - 24, 2019, among 6,068 global adults.

The survey shows that nine in 10 global adults (88%) say they are snacking more (46%) or the same (42%) during the pandemic than before it, with millennials and those who are working from home right now being especially likely to say they prefer snacks over meals (70% and 67%, respectively). Ultimately, two-thirds believe “the current pandemic will have a long-term impact on how we consume snacks as a society” (65%).

Photo source: California Milk Advisory Board

Comfort is the number-one driver of snacking this year, as more than half have been buying nostalgic snack brands from childhood (53%) and snacks that bring back good memories (59%) during the pandemic. Two-thirds say snack time is one of the few moments of peace (64%) and bright spots in their day (63%), including three-quarters of parents who are working from home. 

More than half of global adults have relied on snacks for nourishment during the pandemic (54%), attesting that snacks have been nourishing to their body, mind and soul during these strange times (64%). A majority are also more mindful snacking at home, saying they are more focused on the snacks they eat these days (57%), and that they have more control over the portions they eat because they are snacking at home more often (66%).

The majority of those surveyed believe companies (81%) should do more to make snacks healthier for consumers. That should get you motivated!

What makes a snack healthier? Here are the top-three attributes based on a compilation of various consumer studies. 

  • Not too much sugar and preferably less processed sugar, e.g., honey, fruit juice, etc.
  • Quality protein, e.g., whey or plant blends for a complete amino acid profile
  • Smarter carbohydrates, e.g., fiber, low-glycemic, sustained energy, etc.

Need help on reducing sugar in yogurt snacks? Link HERE.

Photo source: California Milk Advisory Board

got a great new product idea?  
Five years after launching its initial Accelerator program, Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) is gearing up for its 2021 program with the announcement of a new name, DFA CoLab Accelerator, and continued focus on helping accelerate and grow ag-tech and dairy food product companies. With the latter, DFA has worked with a number of startups including Cheddies, an all-natural, protein- packed cheddar cheese cracker; RifRaf ricotta cups, a first-of-its-kind ricotta cheese snack cup; and Wheyward Spirit, a new clear liquor that takes excess whey from dairy and turns it into a smoother, better-tasting and more sustainable farm-to-flask spirit.

“As we start thinking about recruiting companies for our fifth year program, what’s really exciting is that we continue to work with many of our past participants, which is the end goal, to hopefully help and partner with them in some way,” says Doug Dresslaer, director of innovation at DFA. “On the food front, the sky is really the limit as long as one of the main ingredients is dairy. This last year, we had several entrepreneurs who had developed products using dairy by-products like whey, which is really exciting because these types of innovative products go beyond the traditional dairy case, which is helping drive industry growth.” 

For the 2021 program, DFA is looking for early-stage food product companies that are dairy-focused or dairy-based, including products using milk, cheese, butter, whey or other milk-based ingredients. The DFA CoLab Accelerator includes: a 90-day immersive program, with both in-person and virtual training and mentorship from April 2021 to June 2021; access to top executives at DFA, with each startup having a senior-level DFA contact relevant to their business area; educational sessions on a variety of topics important for startup growth, including finance, business development, distribution and supply chain, product development, brand building, sales and marketing, packaging and pricing; and additional workshops that focus on areas such as leadership development, team building and creating company culture. 

For more details and the 2021 application, link HERE.

And again, you have been warned! It’s Friday the 13th! The last one gave us the pandemic. 

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