Friday, August 11, 2023

Real Cheese Is Much More Than Delicious: Let’s start promoting protein content and the long-term energy from casein.


Thanks to the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) for hosting me on an 11-day, three-city (Tokyo; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; and Seoul) speaking engagement to promote the use of U.S. dairy ingredients—mostly proteins—in food and beverage innovations. In each of these cities, I spent considerable time doing what I love to do: explore local supermarkets. While I found many interesting new products, some of which have already been featured as a Daily Dose of Dairy, I also made a number of observations, one being that the Japanese are more advanced than the U.S. in terms of communicating the power of dairy proteins. 

Take note of the protein powders on this page calling out the inclusion of whey proteins and casein, for immediate and long-term refueling. (Casein is a slower-digesting protein than whey.) They also have dairy protein mixes designed for women, picky-eater children, and tween and teen aspiring athletes. 

We know that dairy proteins are a powerhouse and we tend to focus on whey. But what about the power of casein, which is the majority of the protein in cheese? 

As cheese marketers and retailers dive into back-to-school promotions, it makes sense to take a step back and reevaluate how we market all those convenient cheese snacks in the marketplace, from strings to cubes to the newest concept from Kraft Heinz, Lunchables with Fresh Fruit.

After seeing a 500% increase in social media searches for “Lunchables with fruits and vegetables” in the past year, Lunchables with Fresh Fruit is debuting just in time for the back-to-school season. The product features the brand’s two best-selling Turkey and Ham Cracker Stackers varieties alongside apples, clementines, grapes or pineapple.

The new product line is set to deliver a delicious, wholesome and convenient solution to power kids forward throughout the day, while getting them accustomed to eating fruits by showing up prominently in a product they already know and enjoy. The fruit and crackers provide immediate energy in the form of carbohydrates, while the protein in the meat and cheese satiates and energizes during the couple hours after consumption. 

That’s important messaging that should be part of all cheese marketing. While there are no issues with Americans eating their fair share of cheese—per capita consumption has been increasing forever—there could be an opportunity to further grow the business in the snacking space.  

The average U.S. consumer ate about 40.3 pounds of cheese in 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. And, over the past decade, U.S. per capita consumption of cheese increased by more than five pounds. Basic dairy department cheeses, such as American, cheddar and mozzarella, in shred, chunk and slice format, remain the leaders in this space, but it’s the specialty and snacking items that keep shoppers interested. The latter has opportunity for the growth with the casein for long-term energy message. 

To read about the State of the U.S. Cheese Industry, as well as other categories of dairy products, link HERE to the analysis I wrote for Dairy Processing.

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