Thursday, April 13, 2023

Dairy Product Innovation: How “Cultural” Contradictions Define the New Normal


Explore the seven themes fueling ice cream innovation in 2023 by linking HERE to view a 9-minute presentation on what’s hot in the freezer.

When it comes to food and beverage, today’s consumers want it all, according to new consumer research from Culinary Visions. This nationwide survey of more than 2,100 consumers found the hectic pace of modern life requires fast fuel as much as personal service and social food-centric experiences. 

This is especially true of the youngest consumers, the emerging Gen Z  workforce with their fat wallets because they moved back home into the family basement and are still on the family phone plan, health insurance, etc., etc., etc. (I feel your pain!)

“In 2016 Culinary Visions coined the term Oxy-Modern to describe a world of cultural contradictions that were driving food culture,” says Sharon Olson, executive director. “In the most recent study, we found that trends and counter trends are very much at play in today’s menus.”

This most recent study finds American consumers continue to be captivated by opposing trends both at home and away from home. The research identified three important areas where food professionals should focus on their innovation efforts. They are:

1. Fast Fueling AND Taking Time to Socialize

Pandemic weary consumers have returned with enthusiasm to immersive experiences like food festivals, street markets and fancy food emporiums where food is both the attraction and the entertainment. More than seven out of 10 (71%) of those surveyed said they enjoy a food market experience because it is just as much a social occasion as it is a shopping trip.

Yet the pace of life and volume of commitments are also fueling fast-casual and quick-service restaurants. More than half (57%) of survey participants said sharing a meal with a friend or family members in the car suits their hectic lifestyle.

How can we make dairy foods more of an experience? And, at the same time, make it an experience that complements on-the-go lifestyles? Texture is definitely an attribute to tap into. 

2. Getting Facts on Demand AND Learning from Experts

Food savvy consumers want to know as much as they can about the food they consume, and that goes beyond required ingredient statements on packaged goods. Technology that makes information easily accessible at the point of sale can encourage purchases of freshly prepared foods. Eight out of 10 shoppers agreed that they would like to have more information about the sources of the fresh items they purchase in the grocery store readily available to them in-store.

Although shoppers want the convenience of shopping that technology has enabled, when they come into the store, they want a worthwhile experience. In fact, 72% said that experts available to answer questions on specific food items made them feel like it was worth the trip to the store. And 86% said they enjoyed sampling products when shopping for groceries.

Folks, it’s time to invest in sampling!

3. Appreciating Local AND Exploring the World

The desire and willingness to pay for local and sustainable foods has become a mega-trend. Survey participants expressed an appreciation for everyone involved in bringing their food to the table. Furthermore, 77% said they are willing to pay more for food that comes from local producers. Having the opportunity to meet the producer adds to the appeal. 

And wait for it…75% of consumers surveyed said they like talking to food vendors who are passionate about the products they sell. That’s every dairy farmer and marketer I know!

While local foods have a powerful appeal, international foods and flavors are enticing. Even though global travel has been dampened in recent years, many countries are promoting their culture around the world with culinary diplomacy programs that introduce new foods to consumers at home and away from home. More than eight out of 10 (83%) consumers in this survey said they enjoy exploring new cultures through food. Modern consumers have a powerful sense of culinary adventure when it comes to exploring global foods. 

Think of all the opportunities in cultured and fermented dairy foods. And, now that the yogurt standard of identity has been modernized, dairy processors have a lot of room to innovate. 

That’s right. On April 13, 2023, FDA issued a final order to modify the standard of identity for yogurt, something the industry has wanted for many years. By modernizing the yogurt standard, the industry believes it will be better able to innovate to meet the needs and desires of today’s consumers. 

Get busy! It’s been a slow news category the past year. (Visit with Mark and Neeraj from Tate & Lyle at the Ice Cream and Yogurt Conference this week.)

The FDA first published a final rule in the Federal Register on June 11, 2021, that amended the definition and standard of identity for yogurt. The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) objected to a requirement that yogurt either must have a minimum titratable acidity of 0.7% or a pH of 4.6 or lower before the addition of bulky flavoring ingredients, saying the requirements were not practical and did not reflect consumer taste preferences or current industry practice for yogurt manufacturing.

FDA did revise the rule requiring a pH of 4.6 or lower measured on the finished product within 24 hours after filling. If a bulky flavor, with fruit pieces being an example, is added to yogurt and increases the pH, the pH must be 4.6 or lower after the product has had time to equilibrate, according to FDA. 
However, FDA said the minimum titratable acidity level, whether set at 0.7% or 0.6%, would not provide flexibility to manufacturers, and did not make IDFA’s requested change. (The pH and titratable acidity of yogurt both play into food safety and sensory.)

The final rule goes into effect on April 14, 2023, (BTW, this is the day my youngest son turns 21!). The compliance date is January 1, 2024. 

This rule also sets the minimum, optional fortification of vitamin D at 10% of the Daily Value. It permits the use of fat-containing flavoring ingredients, such as coconut flakes, nuts, chocolate, etc., in lower-fat yogurt, even if the addition increases the total fat above the nutrient content claim level related to milkfat content. And, it also allows for the use of all safe and suitable sweeteners, including non-nutritive sweeteners. The rule provides for clear disclosure of non-nutritive sweeteners on labels where consumers are most familiar to looking for this information in the ingredient declaration.  

For a historical perspective on this ruling, link HERE.

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