Thursday, February 2, 2023

Prioritize the Nutrient Density of Dairy Foods: Pack in the Protein


Mark your calendars and register HERE to attend Dairy Processing’s live webinar and discussion on dairy processors’ outlook for new product innovation in 2023 and beyond. Cypress Research surveyed dairy processing professionals in mid-2022 and respondents shared their input on prioritization of new product development, both pre- and post-pandemic; ingredient priorities during the next 12 months; and new product development initiatives for the coming year, and more. I will assist with discussing findings from this survey—as well as showcase recent innovations that speak to the trends--during a free webinar on Feb. 8, 2023. Nutrient density will be part of the discussion. Link HERE to register. 

Before we discuss nutrient density, I am sharing a quote from my friend Julie Smolyansky, CEO of Lifeway Foods, that she provided in an interview to (Jan. 25, 2023).

“While we did hit some challenges several years ago around the anti-dairy movement or plant-based, we’ve seen the pendulum swing back dramatically back to dairy, back to brands that consumers know,” Smolyansky said.

Woo hoo! 

Lifeway Foods saw a 29.1% increase in sales during the third quarter of 2022, driven in part by a strategy to expand its product offerings for on-the-go consumers and boost awareness of probiotics, according to Smolyansky. Lifeway’s main products are dairy-based kefir, a nutrient-dense fermented dairy food loaded with protein and probiotics.  

If you missed the January 20 blog titled “Commit to Innovating with Probiotics and Protein in 2023,” you can link to it HERE. That Dairy Processing research I mentioned at the top of this page, identified protein and probiotics as the two most important ingredient trends for U.S. dairy processors. 

What are nutrient-dense foods? These are foods that pack in a lot of beneficial nutrients relative to their energy content. Many dairy foods are nutrient-dense foods. 

According to recent research conducted by New Nutrition Business, Gen Z and Millennials, specifically,  are looking to get more bang for their buck. The concept of nutrient density resonates with them, even though the phrase “nutrient density” may not roll off their tongue. 

The research took place across five countries: US, UK, Australia, Brazil and Spain. It showed that consumer interest in eating more nutrient-dense foods continues to climb, with 18% of people saying they look for more nutrient-dense foods, compared to 12% in 2021. 

Nutrient density has always been part of the dairy industry’s vernacular. It’s back in the conversation as consumers worry about inflation and how they can afford to eat healthfully. 

“Keep bellies and wallets full with satiating, nutritious food and drink,” said Lynn Dornblaser, director of innovation and insight, Mintel, at The Hatchery Chicago, which hosted the “Consumer Trends of 2022 and 2023 Predictions” conference on Jan 25, 2023. “Although consumers may not readily know the term nutrient density, it is what they seek. It feels like the new way to talk about healthy. There’s opportunity to balance solid nutrition with a fair price. Brands will need to make basic nutrition and satiety messaging clear to help consumers stay in control of grocery budgets while easily nourishing themselves.” 

To read more on this topic, link HERE to “What consumers want in 2023,” an online article I wrote this week for Food Business News

According to research from Innova, one in two consumers globally agree that cost and value for money have become more important over the course of the past year. The challenge and opportunity for the food industry lies in how to provide affordable nutrition.

“Rating ‘health’ (41%) as the most important driver of product development, with ‘affordability’ (30%) in second place, it is clear that consumers look for simple and nutritional solutions that fit their strained budget,” according to Innova’s Global Insights Director Lu Ann Williams. 

On February 22, Williams, along with Kamel Chida, advisor to VC Nucleus Capital and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will discuss the growth opportunities for food and beverage businesses. Discover what consumers say about their health and nutritional needs, and how companies can fill this demand at affordable prices. Link HERE to register.

One of my favorite trends surveys comes from Pollock Communications and Today’s Dietitian. The 757 registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) who responded to this year’s “What’s Trending in Nutrition” survey provides insights on what they believe consumers will value in 2023, their top concerns when grocery shopping, and their top-10 superfood predictions. 

The study shows that after keeping immune health and comfort top-of-mind during the pandemic, consumers are back to prioritizing affordability and convenience when shopping for food. As consumers navigate the cost-of-living crisis, RDNs predict that affordability will be a higher priority than immunity for the first time since the onset of the pandemic. Consumers will be looking for functional, value-based foods that support their immunity and gut health. RDNs predict the top purchase drivers in 2023 will be foods and beverages that:
  • Are affordable and value-based (70.4%)
  • Are easily accessible and convenient (59.1%)
  • Support immunity (57.6%)
Their predictions for the “Top-10 Superfoods for 2023” are:
  • Fermented Foods, such as yogurt, kimchi, kombucha tea and pickled vegetables
  • Seeds, such as chia and hemp
  • Blueberries
  • Avocados
  • Nuts, including pistachios, almonds and walnuts
  • Leafy Greens, such as spinach
  • Aquatic Greens, such as algae, seaweed and sea moss
  • Green Tea
  • Ancient Grains
  • Non-Dairy Milks

But It Is Real Milk With the Benefits
Coffee with milk (proteins) may have an anti-inflammatory effect, according to a new study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Researchers at the Department of Food Science, in collaboration with researchers from the Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, at University of Copenhagen, investigated how polyphenols behave when combined with amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. The results have been promising. To read more, link HERE.

“In the study, we show that as a polyphenol reacts with an amino acid, its inhibitory effect on inflammation in immune cells is enhanced. As such, it is clearly imaginable that this cocktail could also have a beneficial effect on inflammation in humans. We will now investigate further, initially in animals. After that, we hope to receive research funding which will allow us to study the effect in humans,” said Professor Marianne Nissen Lund from the Department of Food Science, who headed the study.

With that said, the RDNs who responded to the “What’s Trending in Nutrition” survey, said that plant-based eating continues to rise in popularity. They rated it as the third most popular diet trend after intermittent fasting and keto diets. However, despite the popularity of plant-based diets, only 1% of surveyed RDNs reported that they would recommend highly processed meat alternatives.

Snacking Isn’t Slowing Down
RDNs predict that, despite loosened COVID-19 restrictions, consumers are still snacking as much as they were over the last two years, with boredom (71.8%), comfort (71.8%) and working from home (67%) being the top-three reasons why.

“Consumers are more aware than ever of the benefits food can provide for gut health and immune function. As consumers face higher costs at the grocery store, they’ll be looking for affordable food and snacks that still provide valuable health benefits,” says Louise Pollock, President of Pollock Communications. “Our survey findings reflect how consumer behaviors are shifting as COVID-19 restrictions loosen, remote work remains and inflation rises, from prioritizing affordable foods to continued interest in snacking.” 

Misleading Marketing and Nutrition Misinformation
Food and wellness content online can make nutrition confusing for consumers because it is often misleading. While the majority of RDNs agree that consumers look to social media platforms for nutrition information, they also believe that these platforms are rife with nutrition misinformation, specifically citing Facebook, Instagram and TikTok as the top sources, and social media influencers being the category leading the charge for delivering misinformation.

“Social media influencers are talking about wellness and nutrition at rates never seen before, but people struggle to differentiate between credible information and myths. This only supports the need to amplify credible sources of nutrition information, like registered dietitian nutritionists,” says Mara Honicker, publisher of Today’s Dietitian. “With the survey in its 11th year, we are excited to continue to share insights from these experts in food and nutrition, at a time where the value of food is subject to more scrutiny.”

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