Thursday, January 23, 2020

Probiotics Make Dairy Foods Special

The 2020 Winter Fancy Food Show took place this past week in San Francisco. It was great to see so many of you, and sorry to have missed so many others. With enough charcuterie, cheese and chocolate to fill four football fields, the show confirmed the growing popularity of specialty foods, which are defined as foods or beverages of the highest grade, style and/or quality in their respective categories. Their specialty nature is derived from a combination of some or all of the following qualities: uniqueness, origin, processing method, design, limited supply, unusual application or use, extraordinary packaging, or channel of distribution/sales. Dairy is an important sector of the specialty foods marketplace. All dairy---not just cheese! And take note: adding probiotics and going lactose free are two easy ways to make ordinary dairy—special!

My friends at Sierra Nevada Cheese Company—with the tagline of “Real Cultured Dairy. Simple. Wholesome. Pure.” know this. The company used the Winter Fancy Food Show to debut its new Probiotic Yogurt Drinks that come in Blueberry, Strawberry and Tropical flavors, in 10- and 32-ounce bottles.

The California-based dairy is doing all the “special” things with its new drinkable line. It’s loaded with probiotics, a better-for-you attribute consumers are increasingly looking for, according to the 2019 Food and Health Survey from Washington, D.C.-based International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC). Three out of four consumers recognize probiotics as being healthy. Almost half perceive dairy as healthy. Let’s get more probiotics in more dairy foods…and if you are making plant-based counterparts, get them in there, too.

The IFIC research shows that about a third of shoppers are trying to consume more probiotics. Just about the same are trying to consume more dairy. Put the two together. Make dairy special with probiotics.

Probiotics are live microorganisms, most often lactic acid bacteria, which when consumed in adequate amounts, may provide a health benefit. They join the trillions of bacteria that inherently reside in the gastrointestinal system and help create a better-balanced microflora. This in turn helps regulate an array of bodily functions, including digestion, and positively impacts overall health and wellbeing.

Probiotics are often taken to counteract the side effects of antibiotics, e.g., cramping, diarrhea, ulcers, etc., as antibiotics destroy both good and bad bacteria. Probiotics also play an integral role in immune function by preventing the attachment and activity of pathogenic bacteria in the gut. Thus, taking probiotics helps restore good bacteria and encourages their proliferation.

Source: 2019 Food and Health Survey from Washington, D.C.-based International Food Information Council Foundation

Keep in mind that all probiotics are not created equal. While the simple term “probiotic” on a food is useful and accepted, as it is suggestive of being beneficial to health, when any specific claim is made, it is best to identify the strain and provide supportive research.

Sierra Nevada Probiotic Organic Yogurt Drinks are made with the Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12 strain, which is associated with immunity and intestinal health. It is one of the most documented probiotic strains with more than 300 published studies.

Chr. Hansen, Milwaukee, Wis., supplies the BB-12 strain, as well as Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG. The latter is documented for its stimulating effect on the human immune system.

2019 Food and Health Survey from Washington, D.C.-based International Food Information Council Foundation 

Sierra Nevada is also adding the lactase enzyme to its drinkable yogurt and testing to make sure the product is lactose free, an attribute that appeals to consumers with—real or perceived--lactose intolerance or insensitivity. Adding lactase also breaks down milk’s inherent sugar—the disaccharide lactose--into the monosaccharides glucose and galactose, which are perceived as sweeter than lactose. This makes an added sugar reduction possible. This appeals to the four out of five (80%) shoppers who are limiting or avoiding sugars in foods, as reported by IFIC.

Congratulations to Sierra Nevada for rolling out this on-trend dairy food that qualifies as better-for-you, and special. And specialty foods are a booming business.

“Specialty food and beverage sales account for 16% of all food and beverage,” said David Browne, senior analyst, Mintel, Chicago, who provided a state-of-the-industry update at the Fancy Food Show. He emphasized that there’s a rising trend in functional beverages that promote energy, mental focus, relaxation and digestive health. That includes dairy!

A major driver of specialty foods is the growing trend of mindful snacking throughout the day. High-protein and low-sugar options are helping lead the way. Many dairy products fit this description. It’s time to package and market them as snacks.

Ingredient sourcing may further allow one product to stand out more in the marketplace. Package claims attract dedicated consumers, according to David Lockwood, director of consulting at Mintel, who also spoke at the Fancy Food Show. All-natural leads the way, with 68% of specialty food consumers buying all-natural products. Next is organic (55%), followed by non-GMO (45%) then locally sourced (41%).

Dairy processors you got this! Hope to see many of you at Dairy Forum in a few days! Let’s talk innovation!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Make Dairy Special with these Five Opportunities

The Winter Fancy Food Show starts this Sunday. It’s a good reminder of how special dairy foods can be when prepared, packaged, merchandised and marketed as premium products.

Research shows that while white milk consumption is down, sales of specialty dairy products is on the rise. An analysis of activity in the food and beverage marketplace and general consumer trends allowed me to identify the following opportunities to make dairy special.
In no particular order, expect to see robust dairy foods innovations with these five items trending: cream, eggs, oats, nut butters and sweet treats with less sugar.

1. Cream/Coffee Cream/Whipping Cream. All white milk lumped together as a category may be down in sales, but specialty products such as lactose free, higher protein and flavored are doing well. Whole milk, too, is showing positive growth. Fat is back and that is exemplified in the creamer category.

After years of little to no growth, the coffee and tea creamers market is on an upswing, as I recently wrote in an article for Food Business News that can be viewed HERE. Some of this growth correlates to an increase in coffee and tea consumption, especially among millennials who like to customize their beverages. 

The popularity of the keto diet has also been a significant contributor to the popularity of creamer. The keto diet is approximately 70% fat, 20% protein, and 5% each simple carbohydrates and non-starchy vegetables. By eating a lot of fat and few carbohydrates, the body is forced into a metabolic state known as ketosis. This is when the body burns fat instead of carbohydrates for energy. The liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies, with the latter traveling to the brain and fueling the body, the traditional role of glucose obtained from carbohydrates. Burning ketones in place of glucose is associated with weight loss, reduced inflammation, sustained energy and more. Those following a keto diet are drinking creamer like milk.

Expect to see more innovation in the creamer space, which will lead to more premium flavored whole milks, a.k.a. dessert drinks. Just keep the added sugars low and lactose free is a nice call out.

 Source: IRI/DMI custom milk database

2. Eggs. Thanks to national consumer marketing efforts by the American Egg Board, egg consumption is up at both retail and foodservice. Per capita egg consumption has grown by more than a dozen eggs over the last five years, and is nearing 261, the highest in 30 years, according to USDA. And, eggs were recently named one of the fastest growing foods (in annual eatings per capita) by NPD, a global market research firm.

Eggs and dairy foods make a good team. Think snacks packs with cheese and hard-boiled eggs. Think eggnog and frozen custard.

Expect to see more dairy and egg innovation, especially in the beverage space. Prairie Farms now offers drinkable custard in chocolate and sweet cream flavors, with both tasting like melted ice cream. The dairy has also been offering eggnog as seasonal flavor for the spring in addition to the more traditional winter holidays. The nogs and custards are made with classic recipes that blend locally produced milk, cream, sugar and egg yolks, with just the right amount of spice.

Zabalatte is a dairy-egg protein beverage ready to enter the market. Inspired by the traditional Italian dessert zabaglione, Zabalatte is a nutrient-dense beverage that serves as an on-the-go breakfast, a mindful snack or simply a delicious treat. The concept comes in three varieties—Blueberry, Coffee Espresso and Orange Cream—with a 12-ounce serving containing 16 grams of high-quality complete protein. For more information, link HERE.

3. Oats. While oat beverages are currently dominating headlines, expect to see oats being used to flavor dairy foods. Think clusters, crumbles, cobbler and cookie pieces. Think oatmeal.

Along with rolling out a range of oat drinks and fermented oat blends—both free of dairy—Chobani is also introducing Chobani Greek Yogurt with Oatmeal. This wholesome, hearty product line pairs the nutrient density and probiotic benefits of traditional Greek yogurt with satisfying whole grain oatmeal, offering 4 grams of fiber per cup. Varieties are: Apple Spice Greek Yogurt with Brown Sugar Oatmeal, Blueberry Greek Yogurt with Maple Oatmeal, Banana Greek Yogurt with Maple Oatmeal, and Peach Greek Yogurt with Brown Sugar Oatmeal.

Land O’Lakes recently introduced Kozy Shack Creamery Oats made with reduced-fat milk and steel-cut oats. The microwavable single-serve oatmeal cups also contains—you guessed it—eggs! The gluten-free product comes in three varieties: Cinnamon, Maple & Brown Sugar, and Original Recipe. The 7-ounce cups are intended to be microwaved for about 1 minute prior to serving, with one serving containing 200 to 210 calories, 4 grams of fat, 3 grams of fiber, 15 to 19 grams of total sugars, and 6 to 7 grams of protein.

The company also has a new dairy-egg rice pudding, which will be featured this week as a Daily Dose of Dairy. Both product lines are part of a collaboration with leading retailers to liven up the dairy department by featuring new, innovative items.

4. Nut Butters. They are showing up everywhere, including with dairy. Chobani, Oikos and siggi’s all are offering yogurts with nut butter. Planet Smoothie is blending almond butter with nonfat yogurt in its new Nuts About Almond Butter smoothies line. The Muscle Up Buttercup smoothie delivers 29 grams of protein in a 22-ounce size. It’s a blend of almond butter, cocoa, bananas, nonfat frozen yogurt, vanilla and whey protein, with a dash of sea salt. The Almond Berry Blast smoothie is blended with almond butter, blueberries, strawberries, bananas, whole grain oats, and vanilla. Finally, for coffee lovers there is the Almond Mocha Jolt smoothie blended with almond butter, coffee, cocoa, bananas, nonfat frozen yogurt and nonfat milk. I challenge someone to turn this into a ready-to-drink concept. Maybe add some egg protein, too.

5. Sweet Treats with Less Sugar. As of January 1, 2020, manufacturers with annual sales of at least $10 million must be using the new updated Nutrition Facts label, which includes a mandatory added sugars line as a subset of total sugars. Smaller companies have an extra year to comply. But…consumers still like their sweet treats. Innovators are challenged with manipulating sweeteners, flavor enhancers and other ingredients to deliver sweet but without all the added sugars. These products will appeal to the four out of five (80%) shoppers who are limiting or avoiding sugars in foods, a figure reported by Washington, D.C.-based International Food Information Council Foundation in its 2019 Food and Health Survey.

Expect to see more dairy foods sweetened with honey or maple syrup, along with increased use of lactase enzyme. Lactase breaks down milk’s inherent sugar—the disaccharide lactose—into the monosaccharides glucose and galactose, which are sweeter tasting than lactose. This process also renders the product lactose free, appealing to the growing number of consumers who avoid dairy because of real or perceived sensitivities to lactose.

Let’s make dairy special! Hope to see many of you at the Winter Fancy Food Show!

Friday, January 10, 2020

Want to Keep Dairy Relevant in 2020? Mama Got This.

Happy New Year! It’s only 10 days into 2020 and wowza, what more can happen? The world is in chaos while the fluid milk industry is in a state of flux. Coke now owns fairlife and Elsie is hoping the banks keep her alive to celebrate her 84th birthday this year. Wishing the best for our friends in Australia.

Inspiration—and hope--often come from the least likely sources. Returning from an anti-war rally yesterday afternoon with my two sons (concerned 17- and 20-year old men), our lyft driver reassured them that, “mamas make things better.”

That got me thinking. Dairy cows are mamas. Their milk—and the dairy foods made from their milk—are comforting. Not much beats a cold glass of milk with hot chocolate chip cookies when you’re feeling a little down, other than a pint of your favorite ice cream. For us stressed out mamas, it might be a glass of wine and some aged cheddar. Dairy is quite comforting in its many formats.

Many of us are going to need comforting in 2020. Without a doubt, this year will be unlike any other in the past decade or two. Let’s make sure dairy foods are there to comfort and nourish…and, of course, enjoy.

It’s time to earn back consumers’ trust through transparency and storytelling, the non-fiction, fresh-from-the-farm type of narrative. Innova market analysts say that in 2020, you can win with words. It will be the year of storytelling.

“Manufacturers are increasingly focusing on ingredient provenance platforms in order to highlight the taste and quality of their products, as well as their uniqueness and sustainability efforts. Provenance platforms can communicate a whole range of messages to the consumer, including flavor/taste, processing methods, cultural and traditional backgrounds, as well as the more obvious geographical origin.”

It’s all about transparency to build trust. The majority of consumers--regardless of age or engagement with sustainability--want transparency from companies, reports The Hartman Group. Consumers often implicitly differentiate between products, brands and companies when they are assessing sustainability. Consumers often hesitate to award companies the halo of sustainability, even when they have favorable views of their products. Despite their doubt around corporate motivations, consumers are relatively clear about what a responsible company looks like. The Hartman Group’s research identifies seven factors that are important to consumers when they want to determine whether a company is responsible. (See infographic.)

They want to know what actions a company is taking to reduce its environmental impact, as well as how a company’s products are manufactured to assure quality and safety standards. Ingredients and how they are sourced matters. So is employee wellness and regulatory compliance. Nearly a third of consumers want to know how a company treats the animals used in its products. Tell mama’s story.
The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation has forecast a number of broad trends for food and nutrition in 2020. Dairy friends, we got this! Just tell mama’s story.

For several years, the IFIC Foundation’s annual Food and Health Survey has asked whether sustainability was a factor in consumers’ food and beverage purchasing decisions. Between 2012 and 2018, that number ranged between 35% and 41% of consumers. However, when the 2019 Survey asked whether “environmental sustainability” was a factor in purchase choices, that number dropped to 27%, indicating that consumers’ notions of sustainability extend beyond just the environment. When it comes to environmental sustainability, consumers are eager to know and do more. According to the 2019 Food and Health Survey, 63% said it is hard to know whether the food choices they make are environmentally sustainable. Among that group, nearly two-thirds (63%) say environmental sustainability would have a greater influence on their choices if it were easier to know. Tell mama’s story.

Consumers also consider factors such as the labeling of various product ingredients and attributes, along with production methods and food packaging, to be under the sustainability umbrella. IFIC says we can also expect concepts like soil health and regenerative agriculture—“giving back to the land” rather than just conserving resources—to gain traction in 2020. Tell mama’s story.

On an almost daily basis, we get new indications that our climate is becoming more precarious, from unprecedented wildfires around the world to the increasing incidence and severity of hurricanes, to the accelerating rate of polar ice loss. (Yes, my sons and I have marched for climate change. This mama’s got this!)

There’s no doubt that in 2020 consumers will become more concerned about the role the food system plays in climate change, such as the effects of agricultural production, food waste and transportation of goods. The dairy industry needs to make sure that consumers understand the critical role that ruminant animals—in particular mama cows—play in feeding the world.

Source: Global livestock feed dry matter intake [Adapted from FAO, 2017 (Adapted from Mottet et al., 2017)].

Thank you Greg Miller, global chief science officer at the National Dairy Council, and executive vice president, Dairy Management Inc., for sharing this article on why animal-sourced foods are necessary. In fact, many nutrition authorities believe they are the best source of high-quality nutrients for children 6- to 23-months old.

Link HERE to read “Animal source foods: Sustainability problem or malnutrition and sustainability solution? Perspective matters.”

Here’s an excerpt from my August 30, 2019, blog titled “Dairy Foods Rule: A Simple Explanation on Why Cows—their meat and milk—Are Paramount for Feeding the Future.”

As explained by Eric Bastian, vice president of industry relations for Dairy West, Twin Falls, Idaho:

  • Two-thirds of global agriculture land is not suitable for growing crops that humans can digest for energy and nutrition. But these lands are suitable for growing grasses and similar plants that ruminant animals consume. 
  • These plants are basically sources of cellulose. In fact, half of all organic carbon on earth is tied up in cellulose. Humans are not able to use this carbon for energy. Ruminants can, and they do so very efficiently. 
  • Ruminants, namely cows, goats and sheep, digest cellulose and convert it into foods that humans can eat. They make all of that organic carbon that cannot be digested by humans available to humans in the form of high-quality protein, essential fatty acids such as omega-3s and conjugated linoleic acid, and an array of other nutrients. Milk, for example, provides calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamins A, B2, B3 and B12. 
  • Think about a stalk of corn, which provides two to three cobs. Humans can only digest the kernels, and for that matter, not even all of the kernel. The fibrous outer shells of corn kernels pass through the gastrointestinal system undigested due to lack of the necessary digestive enzyme. The rest of that corn plant is useless to humans for energy; however, it’s a meal for ruminant animals such as cows. Cows effectively convert the nutrients in that stalk, husk and cob to meat and milk for human consumption. 
This is why we need ruminant animals to feed the projected 9.7 billion humans who will inhabit earth in 2050.

Humans are omnivores. We are animals that have the ability to eat and survive on both plant and animal matter. Animal nutrients are powerful. The bear, also an omnivore, gets it. When they are foraging the forest and dining on berries and leaves and see a salmon swimming nearby, they ditch the plants and go for the animal nutrition. Bears are smart. They understand the power of high-quality animal protein. That mama bear wants to feed her cubs the best food possible. After all, “mamas make things better.”

It’s time to share these talking points with consumers. Tell mama’s story.

According to IFIC’s forecast for 2020, environmental concerns will continue to drive greater adoption of plant-based diets. However, consumers’ conceptions of plant-based diets vary. About one-third (32%) of consumers say plant based is a vegan diet, while another 30% define it as a diet that emphasizes minimally processed foods that come from plants, with limited consumption of animal meat, eggs and dairy.

Another one in five (20%) believe it to be a vegetarian diet that avoids animal meat, while 8% say it is a diet in which you try to get as many fruits and vegetables as possible, with no limit on consuming animal meat, eggs and dairy. Let’s educate consumers about the importance of dairy…for nourishment, comfort and enjoyment. Tell them mama’s story.

In 2020, IFIC projects fad diets and get-thin-quick regimens will continue to lose popularity, supplanted by more holistic and sustainable concepts like intuitive eating, which rejects many of the tenets of fad diets like “good foods” and “bad foods.” The “un-diet” will focus less on food restrictions and more on natural cues our body gives us, like when we are full, and on healthier relationships with food overall.

Communicating dairy protein’s role in satiety is key here. The Strong Inside message is powerful. To learn more, link HERE.

Non-dairy white beverages, and non-dairy cheese, ice cream and yogurt are going to continue to share space with the “real” stuff in refrigerators and freezers. In 2020, IFIC projects we will see more of these products in other foods, for example, vegan pizza and probiotic smoothies. Further, consumers’ comfort level with food technology is expected to increase. Think lab-made milk. But wait, what about GMOs and artificial growth hormones. My, consumers are fickle! That’s where trust through transparency comes in, and, that’s right, mama got this!

According to IFIC, despite--or perhaps because of--growing acceptance of innovative and diverse food alternatives, familiarity will hold a greater pull for many Americans. Consumers in 2020, especially older ones, will base many of their purchase decisions on the brands and ingredients they know.

The 2019 Food and Health Survey showed that 70% of Americans’ trust in a brand had at least some impact on what foods and beverages they buy. But those factors are much more important to older consumers: Trust in a brand impacted the purchase decisions of 85% of consumers age 65 and above, but only 66% of younger consumers. At the same time, nearly two-thirds (63%) of consumers said recognizing the ingredients that go into a product had at least some impact on their purchasing decisions. Food labels will be more important than ever, as consumers increasingly seek information about ingredients they seek or try to avoid. Mama got this!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Dairy Foods Flavor Forecast 2020

As the year starts to wind down, food and beverage market analysts issue forecasts for macro trends that will drive innovation. I take those trends and combine them with the knowledge gained throughout the year from attending international trade shows and talking with suppliers and marketers.

While the past few years focused on innovation by creating disruption, in other words, thinking way out of the box and shaking things up, we are starting to see innovators regroup and return to the basics with comforting, familiar flavors. There’s enough disruption in the world and consumers are looking for connections. They want a story.

Innova Market Insights ranked storytelling as the number-one trend among its top-10 trends for 2020. Survey findings from Innova show 56% of global consumers say stories around a brand influence their purchase decision. They want authenticity and transparency, and this comes from the story of the company, of the product and even the flavor of the product.

You can read more about storytelling by linking HERE to an article written by my colleague Jeff Gelski at Food Business News.

When it comes to consumers’ evolving preferences in flavors, there are three food and beverage themes I’ve identified for 2020. They are: warm, earthy and nostalgic. These flavors are often recognized as closer to Mother Nature, e.g., minimally processed. Often times the flavors are coming from the addition of whole ingredients.

They are also often less sweet. And with most consumers aware of the health benefits of decreasing sugar intake, less sweet is good.

In many instances, the colors associated with these flavor themes are going to be in the brown, beige and neutral range. Muted shades and pastels will provide subtle bursts. Vibrant blues, purples and reds, along with bright yellows and oranges will be limited to special occasion foods and beverages, such as confections and cocktails. (And, of course, some ice creams and even kid-focused yogurts.)

Oats speak to all three themes. And while oat beverages are currently dominating headlines, expect to see oats being used to flavor dairy foods. Think clusters, crumbles, cobbler and cookie pieces. Think oatmeal.

Along with rolling out a range of oat drinks and fermented oat blends—both free of dairy—Chobani is also introducing Chobani Greek Yogurt with Oatmeal. This wholesome, hearty product line pairs the nutrient density and probiotic benefits of traditional Greek yogurt with satisfying whole grain oatmeal, offering 4 grams of fiber per cup. Varieties are: Apple Spice Greek Yogurt with Brown Sugar Oatmeal, Blueberry Greek Yogurt with Maple Oatmeal, Banana Greek Yogurt with Maple Oatmeal, and Peach Greek Yogurt with Brown Sugar Oatmeal.

One of McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams’ limited-edition fall flavors was Cinnamon & Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. It was house-baked, brown sugar-laden oatmeal raisin cookie pieces in cinnamon-spiked ice cream.

Previously the 70-year-old artisan ice cream maker offers Winter Pear Crisp, which blended a delicate purée of D’Anjou pears with a swirl of homemade pear jam and crispy oatmeal crumbles.

Trending brown flavors are those that go well with oats. Think Stroopwafels and S’mores. This includes brown sugar, caramel, graham, honey, maple and molasses.

Fruits that complement brown flavors will be big in 2020. Think apples, bananas, coconuts, peaches and pineapples. Nuts and warming spices, such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, will often provide an additional layer of flavor into these fruit systems.

Herbs and spices have become common flavoring elements in beverages, and drinkable dairy products are no exception. Expect to see more calming lavender, gut healthy ginger and powerhouse turmeric in drinkable yogurts and cultured dairy foods. They often contribute to the product’s health and wellness positioning.

All types of tea are finding their way into dairy foods. Sometimes it’s as a latte or other drinkable concept, other times it’s in ice cream. The reason is two-fold. First, tea is associated with many Asian ethnicities and regional Asian cuisine is on fire in foodservice. Second, consumers are embracing the healthful aspects of consuming tea antioxidants. This is particularly true of matcha, which has an earthy, slightly bitter flavor. Matcha is the finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea leaves. It’s loaded with health and wellness compounds.

New Good Culture Wellness Probiotic Gut Shots complement many of these flavor trends. The gut shots start with a base of pasture-raised kefir that supports digestive health and boosts immunity, while rebalancing gut flora and improving digestion. The 50 billion live and active cultures are what give Good Culture’s kefir its gut-friendly strength. The shots are lightly sweetened with sweet potato juice and coconut sugar (lower glycemic index) and contain no synthetic hormones, preservatives, gums, nor anything artificial.

The four varieties are: Chai + Matcha to create calm, focused energy for mind and body; Chocolate + Chaga to boost energy and deepen immunity; Pineapple + Turmeric to support brain function and joint health; and Vanilla + Collagen to strengthen hair, skin and nail health.

Peanut Butter--crunchy or creamy--has always been a popular flavor in ice cream, but usually paired with chocolate. Now it’s coming out on its own or with other brown foods, namely banana, coconut and yes, peaches.

This past summer, Chobani made nut butter the star in a new line of nut butter on the bottom Greek yogurts. The dairy and plant-protein snack comes in five flavor combinations. They are: Chocolate Greek Yogurt with Hazelnut Butter, Honey Greek Yogurt with Almond Butter, Plain Greek Yogurt with Almond Butter, Vanilla Greek Yogurt with Almond Butter and Vanilla Greek Yogurt with Cashew Butter.

Cheese ingredients are trending, too. Think goat cheese and honey swirled ice cream or mascarpone cheese tiramisu clusters in a dual-compartment yogurt. Cheese is comforting. It’s warm, earthy and nostalgic.

Dairy foods, in general, are comforting. They are warm, earthy and nostalgic. Let’s make 2020 the year of dairy.

The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) recently launched its third annual IFTNEXT Food Disruption Challenge. This is an innovation pitch to help emerging and investment-ready food start-ups, entrepreneurs and innovators gain visibility and make strategic connections to help advance the science of food and its positive impact on the sustainability of the global food supply. Link HERE for more information and an application to participate. Enrollment continues through January 9, 2020.

Throughout the competition, finalists are selected in two stages, with six finalists chosen to participate in a six-week mentoring program where they receive guidance from business experts. From there, finalists are selected to present their innovations in a high-profile pitch competition at IFT20 in Chicago on July 14, 2020. A panel of prestigious judges representing influential sectors of the food and related industries will select the recipient of the IFTNEXT Future Food Disruptor of the Year award, which includes a $25,000 cash prize. IFTNEXT Food Disruption Challenge session attendees at IFT20 will be asked to select an IFTNEXT Future Food Disruptor People’s Choice awardee for a cash prize of $5,000. In addition to the cash prizes, other services and products for entrepreneurial advancement will also be included.
IFT20 is an annual event hosted by IFT that brings more than 17,000 science of food professionals together--including scientists, researchers, academics, ingredient, technology and manufacturing companies--with the intention to inspire and transform collective knowledge into innovative solutions that help advance our planet’s food safety, nutrition and sustainability.

QUICK FAVOR: If you have not already, please complete a quick seven-question survey about your experience with Daily Dose of Dairy/ For every survey completed, I will donate 50 cents to The Great American Milk Drive. Please link HERE to the survey.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Dairy Foods 2020: The Fads, the Trends and What Really Matters—Insights for Innovating and Marketing Dairy Foods in the 2020s

Photo source: Amazon

It’s that time of year when we frequently hear the question: Do you believe in Santa? I pose the question: Do you believe in the magic of dairy? I do. And here’s why.

When I started writing for the dairy trade in 1993, Dean Foods—as owned by the Dean family—developed the Milk Chug, making fluid milk a convenient, portable beverage that fit into a car’s cup holder. That’s what you call believing--and understanding--the needs of the future. The Dean Foods team collected market intelligence with foresight to the rapidly expanding and diversifying on-the-go beverage category. The company recognized the opportunity for milk to compete in the single-serve market. The Milk Chug was born.

Sadly, through mergers, acquisitions, divestitures and really, let’s face it, mismanaged priorities, Dean Foods is now bankrupt. There was such potential for the Milk Chug. I’m not even sure it’s in retail distribution anymore.

While the situation is sad, there’s a lesson to be learned. And that is that it’s important to prepare for the future by observing today’s shoppers’ behaviors and what makes them tick. Instead of reacting to the fad of the day, look at the fad and identify what is it about the fad that makes consumers obsess.


With that, I would like to point out the irony in “plant-based” restaurants today proudly featuring French fries and ketchup, imposing a healthful “plant” halo on them. Remember when the National School Lunch Program tried to make ketchup count as a vegetable serving? After all, pickle relish already made the cut.

Today there’s a segment of the population that sees ketchup as healthful because it’s plant based. Some might even say ketchup is riding the fermented food trend, as ketchup is basically acidified tomatoes and salt. Yep, it’s high in sodium. I guess that’s temporarily not a concern among plant-based fanatics. But it will be, once again, very soon. Lowering sodium intake is a long-term health trend. It’s not a fad.

Plant-based groupies also ignore the high-carbohydrate (often simple sugars), high-fat and high-calorie content of the many “plant-based” foods being marketed as such. This includes everything from breaded, fried buffalo cauliflower florets to doughnuts. Yes, many doughnuts qualify as being plant-based foods. But, let me reassure you, added sugars, senseless fats and excessive calories do matter. Mindful eating is a long-term health trend. It’s not a fad.

Fads are quick, short behavioral changes that many follow on impulse, because it sounds cool. Consumer media loves reporting on them as they make for great headlines.

But fads die quick, often quicker than the speed that they rolled in on. Trends, however, have longevity and evolve over time. They may be viewed as the “what” that comes out of the fad.

There are three “whats” in the plant-based diet fad.

1. Consumers want to diversify their sources of protein.
2. Consumers want to eat more whole fruits and vegetables, as well as grains, nuts and seeds. Offering them in fun, flavorful formats helps increase consumption.
3. Consumers are interested in the environmental impact of their food and beverage choices.

Ponder these “whats” as you innovate for the 2020s. Remember, taste always reigns.

With that said, here’s my two cents on “lab-made” foods. If GMOs and rBST make people fearful of the food supply, do you really think today’s shoppers…in the 2020s…are going to purchase lab-made milk? Hey, maybe 30 years from now. Think way in the future. But lab-made milk will not be going in most shopping carts during the 2020s. And if it does, I promise you it will be one of the shortest lived fads ever, even shorter than high-protein ice cream.

I never shied away from cautioning against entering the high-protein ice cream category, a fad that is now on a rapid downward slope. I made more than a few folks angry when I said it was a fad. The reason being that most people consume ice cream for the pleasure of it. It’s an indulgence. It must taste good.

So what were the “whats” in high-protein ice cream? The biggest one was that consumers were looking for new formats of high-quality protein. Lower sugar and lower calories were attractive, too. But at the end of the day, that’s not what most consumers wanted from their ice cream. It made more sense in bars and beverages. Ice cream will remain a treat for the majority!

The dairy industry owns delicious protein. Lower-sugar and lower-calorie milk beverages, yogurts, smoothies and other cultured dairy products are very feasible with advanced clean-label technologies.

Do you believe in dairy? If yes, focus on turning these “whats” into products that shoppers gravitate to now and in the future. And thank you Milk Chug. The package did encourage innovation among other processors.

QUICK FAVOR: If you have not already, please complete a quick seven-question survey about your experience with Daily Dose of Dairy/ For every survey completed, I will donate 50 cents to The Great American Milk Drive. Please link HERE to the survey.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Dairy Protein Completes Plant-based Foods

During the past three months I have given numerous presentations around the world regarding the power of U.S. dairy ingredients, providing the audience with innovative uses of dairy ingredients—everything from pizza crust to puffed chick peas. While I enjoy emphasizing that “cheese makes plants taste better,” cheese on plants is not new. Think about the broccoli cheddar casserole and parmesan-encrusted Brussel sprouts that may be part of your upcoming Thanksgiving feast.

What we often overlook is that while dairy makes many foods more delicious, and a bunch of nasty-tasting foods palatable, dairy, namely whey and casein proteins, brings valuable nutrition to many foods. Please repeat this a few times—dairy protein completes plant-based foods--and then start getting creative.

Let’s face it, too often dairy marketers take the conservative road when it comes to promoting their products. Dairy Pure was the best Dean Foods could do for fluid milk, and it was not enough, as we see in its bankruptcy filing this week.

What’s crazy with dairy proteins is that numerous non-dairy companies have built entire businesses around products based on dairy proteins. And consumers are “intentionally” buying these products because of the dairy proteins. They should be intentionally buying dairy foods.

Quest Nutrition is the perfect example. This company made its debut in dairy protein bars, and quickly expanded into frozen pizza (there’s dairy protein in the crust). They also have protein tortilla chips. Yes, the tortilla chips are based on a dairy ingredient and protein system composed of acid casein, milk protein isolate, whey protein isolate, whey, dried cheese, buttermilk powder and nonfat milk. A one-ounce serving contains 18 to 20 grams of protein, depending on flavor.

The company finally now has ready-to-drink protein shakes, a common dairy format. The chocolate, salted caramel and vanilla shakes contain 160 calories and 30 grams of protein from milk and milk protein concentrate.

Quest Nutrition would not be if it was not for dairy proteins. Dairy processors need to take this approach.

I was fortunate to speak at Dairy Farmers of America’s (DFA) Northeast Area Leadership Conference in Syracuse, New York, on Tuesday. This is the same day of the Dean Foods bankruptcy announcement, which also included reference to sales discussions with DFA. Talk about being in the right place at the right time to get the vibe. And it was an upbeat one. It was very contagious.

DFA President and CEO Rick Smith spoke to the group and confirmed that there have been discussions with Dean Foods, but that’s about it.

“Everybody’s been telling me for years that we are the logical owner of Dean’s,” he said. “And I’ve already gotten phone calls about people who want to partner with us.

“We will be interested in some assets, undoubtedly. And not interested in some, undoubtedly,” he told a room packed with about 500 Northeast members and suppliers of services to DFA. “Some [assets] should be closed. Some will require partners.”

And the best news of all, DFA expects to grow in fluid milk, as well as all other dairy categories. Smith is very positive about the future of dairy and the need to invest in innovation to keep dairy relevant.

In my presentation, I emphasized the power of dairy protein to the group. That there’s a need for dairy processors to pull in the reigns and start getting creative with formulating and marketing dairy proteins. 

I challenge all of us to start thinking how we can educate consumers on how dairy proteins complete plant-based foods. Remember, dairy delivers essential amino acids

in the ratio the body requires to perform at its best. Dairy provides important vitamins and minerals, as well as essential fatty acids. And, yes, dairy make plants taste better.

Dairy protein completes fruit and vegetable smoothies, overnight oats and hummus. If mom wants to serve her 1- to 5-year old child an Impossible Burger, it’s only complete with a glass of whole white milk. To accompany the breaded buffalo cauliflower florets on the Super Bowl buffet, how about offering a protein-fortified ranch dip?

Repeat after me, “dairy protein completes plant-based foods.” Now go innovate.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Milk Accelerator Winners Announced

Last night, Nov. 7, 2019, the nine finalists competing in the California Milk Advisory Board’s (CMAB) Real California Milk Accelerator dairy startup competition presented their products and pitched them to nine judges, including me, in Silicon Valley, California. Accolades go out to all the finalists who spent a great deal of time and energy to create a beverage designed to bring milk back into consumers’ lives in formats they never imagined.

Key attributes of the winning products were high protein, low sugar and lactose free. A number of entries focused on organic and sustainability platforms.

“Tonight is all about milk,” said John Talbot, CEO of the CMAB. “The number and quality of entries received is a testament to the vibrancy of the beverage category and proves the desire of product developers to tap into the unique natural goodness of milk to meet consumer cravings for beverages that are not only healthy but taste great.”

He explained to the judges and a room packed with California farmers, processors and others involved in the dairy and food industries that fluid milk’s decline during the past four decades can be attributed to a number of reasons. For starters, there’s been and continues to be a proliferation of many varied beverages. Then there’s the mobility issue. We all are eating and drinking on the run and a gallon of the white stuff is simply not portable.

“No one sits down for breakfast anymore,” he said. Bowls of cereal require milk. If bowls are not being filled, milk is not being poured.

Then there’s the fact that birthrate is down in the States. “Big families with lots of kids sitting around the dinner table were the bread and butter of the milk industry,” he said.

It’s hard to battle all these changes, he explained, and therefore the industry must change. That’s how the accelerator came to fruition.

This new competition was designed to inspire ideas integrating the values of fluid milk into contemporary products and provide resources to help bring them to market.

Launched earlier this year, the competition aims to inspire innovation and investment in fluid milk products, packaging and capacity within California by connecting manufacturers, producers, investors, ideas and entrepreneurs for high quality, sustainable dairy beverages.

The nine finalists received up to $25,000 of support each to develop proto-cepts while receiving elite mentorship from marketing, packaging and distribution experts. This included a business development trip to tour California dairy farms and production facilities and meet with industry leaders to help facilitate their new ventures. Each entrepreneur had to commit to producing the beverage using California milk.

The grand prize winner will receive up to $250,000 worth of additional support to deliver their new product to market. And that winner is Bears Nutrition, a daily nutritional milk beverage for kids on the go.

Each bottle of Bears contains 170 calories, 10 grams of protein, nine essential vitamins and minerals, and a dose of omega-3 fatty acids, a formulation that delivers the most critical building blocks for growth and development. Sugar content (15 grams) is 30% lower than fruit juice and still sweet enough for kids to come back for more, according to the company, which was founded by a pediatric nutritionist, an Olympic Gold medalist and a former energy venture capitalist.

The shelf-stable product contains about 90% milk and uses lactase to make it lactose free. This also assists with keeping added sugars down. To boost the protein content, whey and casein are added.

Accepting the grand prize in this photo is David Sheu (left), CEO and one of the founders, and board member Kevin Yeung (right), who is involved in food-related businesses in Asia. As part of the pitch, Yeung detailed the opportunity with exporting this product to Asian markets where kids’ nutritional products are a booming business.
The runner-up product was Perq Plus from Allpur Nutrition Inc. Those of you who have been in the dairy industry long enough will remember this product concept from about 20 years ago. It's a slightly carbonated, lactose-free fruity milk beverage that was before its time. Developed by husband and wife team, George and Mary Ann Clark, a pharmaceutical chemist and registered nurse/child nutritionist, respectively, the product formulation has a number of patents. It’s been approved as an ala carte item in the school lunch program and a number of retailers and distributors are interested in carrying the refrigerated product that has a 72-day shelflife.

Good Citizens Collagen Lattes was the third place finalist. The company was founded by Kiowa Saunders and Ryan Fitzpatrick, entrepreneurs with a number of products in the market who are focused on social impact. Saunders explained how he specializes in identifying gaps in the market and then sets out to responsibly develop products to fill them.

The ready-to-drink shelf-stable lattes contain 55% milk and are enhanced with collagen that is known to support joint strength, and healthy skin, hair and nails. He showed how the product can compete on price and size with enhanced coffee beverages currently in the market. In addition to delivering the nutrition of milk and extra protein from collagen, the beverage provides energy from natural caffeine. Each can contains the equivalent of 1.5 cups of brewed coffee.

The Peoples’ Choice Award went to Stuyt Dairy Creamery, fifth-generation family dairy farmers now in California by way of the Netherlands. They created Dessertables, a custard-like product packaged in a squeezable pouch. It’s based on a traditional Dutch recipe and is created in small batches at the company’s farmstead operation. 

The other five finalists were:

  • Kefircha is based on a traditional fermented dairy recipe from Russia. It contains 90 grams of protein per serving and is said to cleanse, nourish and protect. 

  • Naicha Milk Tea is a ready-to-drink boba milk tea. The organic beverage comes in three varieties: orange pekoe black tea, earl grey lavender and jasmine green tea
  • Nutraberry is a fruity milk beverage made with upcycled berry seeds, which contribute flavor, color, fiber and extra protein. There are sweetened and unsweetened options in blueberry, blackberry and raspberry varieties. 

  • Thai Star Thai Iced Tea is a ready-to-drink version of the popular milk beverage that sells out at the company’s restaurant, as brewing authentic Thai iced tea is a time-consuming process. This drink is made with fair trade black tea from Thailand, and includes a range of spices, such as star anise, turmeric, cinnamon and cardamom. 

  • WheyUp is a probiotic, low-viscosity kefir enhanced with whey protein. The no-added-sugar beverage comes in original, with turmeric and earl grey spice flavors in development. 

“This competition has created an opportunity for cutting-edge technologies and dynamic entrepreneurs to drive innovation for a product that has been a household staple for generations,” said Fred Schoenberg, CEO and founder of VentureFuel, a leading innovation consultancy that worked with CMAB to find, identify and mentor the best emerging startups from their global network of investors, founders and academics to drive first-to-market innovation for the dairy space. 

“CMAB’s vision, combined with the ingenuity of the nine selected pioneering startups, sets the stage to educate the public regarding milk’s true nutritional benefits, and re-introduce it to the marketplace in inspired and engaging ways that connect with the public’s current and evolving tastes,” he said. “These startups are thinking about their product every day. Their enthusiasm fuels the hyper-acceleration of research and development to get the product to market.”

For more information, link HERE.

The Organic Trade Association is hosting a briefing on the important fall meeting of the National Organic Standards Board in a live webinar on November 13 at 2 p.m. Eastern. The webinar will feature regulatory experts to explain the issues discussed at the meeting and answer any questions from stakeholders.

On October 23 to 25, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) held its fall public meeting in Pittsburgh. Over the course of three days, NOSB voted on seven proposals, considered three discussion documents, and voted on more than 50 sunset materials. The results of the meeting are critical to the organic sector. To register for the webinar, link HERE.