Friday, July 19, 2024

IFT FIRST 2024: Five Take-Aways about the Future of Food Ingredients


I thought it was flattering that the recycle bins in McCormick Place feature dairy products. They must know that these products are being consumed in large quantities and consumers need to be made aware of their recyclability composition. 

Amazing to see so many of you in my hometown—Chicago--at The Institute of Food Technologists’ (IFT) Annual Event and Expo. Last week I projected that the 

overarching theme of this year’s show would be “Doing More with Less.” And it was. Some suppliers focused on cleaning up labels by replacing chemical additives with multi-functional natural solutions. Others focused on natural techniques—ingredients and processing aids—to make food safer and healthier. And, of course, cost-reduction solutions were plentiful. 

There was also so much more shared during the education portion of the conference, as well as during side bar conversations. These Five Take-Aways are the Future of Food Ingredients.

1. Molecules invisible to the naked eye—think Microorganisms, Enzymes and Gases found on the Periodic Table of Elements—will be the driving force behind ingredient production. While some of these ingredients may be “new,” many will simply be ingredients we are all familiar with, yet made in a process that is more friendly to the earth. These technologies will also assist with improving the current range of dairy and meat alternatives. 

2. The other technology that will assist with improving food is Artificial Intelligence (AI). It is the future of “new” ingredient development. It’s the future of health and wellness. 

Think about this. One hundred years ago, ingredient technology and food science focused on fueling the body. The emphasis was on affordable, good-tasting calories, not nutrition. Then the world got automated, and we no longer needed all those good-tasting calories.  Enter the obesity crisis.

“The modern food system is unhealthy and old,” said Nora Khaldi, chief executive officer, Nuritas, Dublin, Ireland, during a keynote panel discussion at IFT FIRST. “It’s because of the ingredients being used in these foods. These foods were built for taste and cost, not nutrition.”

That is changing. The only way for the change to happen in an efficient manner and help feed the growing population is to make AI part of the team. 

Read more about this HERE in an article I wrote for Food Business News based on the panel discussion Khaldi participated in at IFT FIRST.

3. FDA is staying away from defining, clarifying or even addressing the conversation about Ultra-processed Foods, according to James Jones, FDA deputy commissioner of Human Foods, during another keynote address at IFT FIRST. But there are efforts to ban ingredients on national basis—vs. only at the state level—as well as planned updates on sodium reduction targets, the “healthy” claim for food product labels and front-of-pack nutrition information later this year. This includes the development of a “healthy” logo.  

“Nutrition is really a very big priority for us,” said Jones. “This is an area where I think some of the things that we are doing will lead the people like yourselves—innovators--to innovate in a way that allows your company or your customers to meet the framework that we’re creating.”

To read more from Jones’ presentation, link HERE to a Food Business News column written by my colleague Russell Redman. 

Jones emphasized the need for food formulators to continue to make more nutritious food. This includes reducing sodium, sugar and saturated fat contents. 

4. Health implications associated with rapid weight loss from GLP-1 drugs was a quieter, but very active conversation at IFT FIRST. And after the expo, at the Chicagoland Food and Beverage Network’s “Mid-Year Industry Update” networking event held at the Edelman offices on July 18, my colleague, Keith Nunes, editor of Food Business News, shared some recent insights he obtained earlier in the week on the future of GLP-1. 

He explained that the pharmacy companies are working very hard to improve the current delivery method of GLP-1 and that capsules/tablets are probably only about five years out. These will be more affordable and easier to obtain. 

“The pharmaceutical companies are not looking at nutrition,” said Nunes. “For the food industry, this scares me.”

There are so many unknowns, including malnutrition, rapid muscle loss, bone degradation and other unintended consequences from use of these drugs. Food companies need to focus on nutrient density to provide more nutrition for fewer calories to assist consumers with their weight loss journey.  

5. That leads me to the fifth and final take-away from IFT FIRST. That’s Protein. There were many discussion regarding the fact that protein is the only macronutrient that has not been demonized, and this it likely change. There were no specifics, yet. But higher protein diets, along with increased intake of plant proteins—and all the phytonutrients and other compounds they include—may impact the human body in ways we have no idea, yet. 

The contents of this IFT FIRST will go down in history as a pivotal time in food science. It’s changing, and fast. Either embrace the change or switch careers. And put on your seatbelt. We are in for a wild ride. 

Thursday, July 11, 2024

IFT FIRST 2024: Explore how the overarching theme speaks to IFIC’s recent consumer findings


A big welcome to my amazing hometown Chicago, which is where The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) is headquartered, and is also hosting its Annual Event and Expo starting Saturday, July 14, and ending Wednesday, July 17. This food science, technology and innovation conference will feature more than 1,000 exhibitors from across the food system sharing the latest in ingredient, equipment, processing, technology, safety, R&D and packaging solutions. 

From the myriad of exhibitor press releases I received the past few weeks, along with reviewing the educational program, I’ve determined that the overarching theme of this year’s event is “Doing More with Less.” 

This theme covers multiple consumer trends, as identified by the 2024 Food and Health Survey from the International Food Information Council (IFIC). The survey showed that American consumers (n=3,000) continue to rank taste (85%) as the most impactful element in their food and beverage purchase decisions. Price remains the second most impactful (76%), followed by healthfulness (62%), convenience (57%) and environmental sustainability (31%).  

Nine in 10 (90%) respondents said they have noticed an increase in the price of food and beverage. This recognition is up significantly from 83% in 2022.  It’s no wonder that food companies are trying to “do more with less” in order to keep prices down. 


IFT FIRST attendees can expect to see a lot of cost-cutting initiatives from ingredient suppliers, as well as technologies to assist with reducing food waste. This may come in the form of cultures and enzymes as natural preservatives, as well as antioxidants and plant extracts that help extend shelf life. This includes the shelf life of dairy foods, namely yogurt and other cultured products. 

Expect to see many suppliers focusing on their sustainability programs and claims marketers can make. This includes discussions on sustainably grown ingredients. All types of farmers are looking for ways to do more with less. 

Plan to attend “What Scientific Advancements Are Leading the Way in Sustainable Food Production” on Tuesday, July 16, from 1:15pm to 2:30pm at McCormick Place, Room S402.

Three speakers from different parts of the food industry will discuss how sustainable food production is critical for ensuring global food and nutrition security into the future. By the end of this panel discussion, the audience will gain deeper insights on different approaches to enhance sustainable production, including minimizing food loss and waste, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and using climate resilient crops for foods. The audience will also learn how advances in measurements, such as life cycle assessment and circularity, are changing the landscape of sustainable food processing and how stakeholders can collaborate to achieve more sustainable food production.

Advanced technologies, such as those fueled by artificial intelligence, are making many sustainability efforts easier. Such AI may assist with more efficiently managing energy consumption, air emissions and water use. Precision agriculture, including drones, satellite imagery, and more help farmers reduce the use of natural resources.

“Artificial intelligence has the power to massively change the way the global food system operates,” says IFT CEO Christie Tarantino-Dean. “Many recognize AI’s immense value but are unclear on how or when to incorporate it.”

At IFT FIRST, there will be a number of educational opportunities where attendees can learn from some of the top AI experts in the world. They will leverage their leadership experience at industry-disrupting organizations to show how companies of all sizes in the science of food community can use AI to innovate new products, quickly solve problems and transform the global food system at large.

Plan to attend, “Keynote: Revolutionizing Food Innovation Through AI” on Monday, July 15, from 8:15am to 9:30am at McCormick Place, IFT FIRST Theater (S100 Ballroom). The panel of experts will explore how collaboration across the human/machine spectrum fuels groundbreaking advancements in predictive analytics, precision engineering, biotechnology and food product development. The capacity of this technology to revolutionize the prediction, discovery, design and optimization of food innovation holds immense promise. 

One of the ways companies can address consumer needs is by utilizing AI to continuously improve formulations for different categories by connecting ingredients, chemical and physical measurements, sensory evaluations, and consumer preferences. To see this in action, plan to attend the presentation “Predicting the Sweet Spot: A New Frontier in Consumer and Sensory Science Using AI Predictive Modeling to Optimize Natural Non-Caloric Sweetener Taste and Performance” on Monday, July 15, from 11:00am to 11:20am in McCormick Place, Room S401d. 

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Scientists from Ingredion will present a case study on sweetened beverages in five countries (US, UK, Brazil, Mexico and India). The research uncovered the differences in taste preferences and drivers of liking in each country. They were able to use an iterative approach to train the model and optimize sweetener solutions based on the sensory data. The model reveals ingredient drivers of liking and predicts novel combinations for specific consumer groups.

Beyond AI, there’s another growing area of interest in the sustainability conversation, and that’s with upcycling. Upcycled foods use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption. They are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains and have a positive impact on the environment, according to the Upcycled Foods Association, Denver, which defined the term in 2020. Formulators and marketers have started quantifying their use of upcycled ingredients and making this part of the product’s selling points.

And without a doubt, expect to hear a lot more about using precision fermentation to produce all types of ingredients, from colors to proteins to sweeteners. Of course, efforts in this space are going towards making more clean-label ingredients, as well as ingredients that assist with making foods more healthy. 

If you recall, IFIC showed that healthfulness ranked third on influencing purchase decision. But what exactly is a healthy food? 

For the third straight year in the IFIC Food & Health Survey, “fresh” (39%) is the most common criteria used by consumers to define a “healthy” food followed by “good source of protein” (37%) and “low in sugar” (35%). While the inclusion of “fresh” and “low in sugar” in definitions for “healthy” have remained consistent across the last three years, “good source of protein” is gaining steam, steadily climbing over the past three years (59% in 2022, 67% 2023 and 71% 2024). 

Also, more consumers are trying to limit their sugar consumption this year (66% up from 61%). Ingredients that assist with reducing added sugars will be dominant on the IFT FIRST expo floor. Many of these ingredients provide more sweetness with less (or no) added sugars. 

To view the full 2024 IFIC Food & Health survey, link HERE.

Hope to see you at IFT FIRST. The weather is expected to be clear and hot. Summer in Chicago is amazing. Hope you can enjoy the lakefront and some outdoor dining. 


Friday, June 28, 2024

The Pint Package Provides Contemporary Comfort, Community and Satisfies Curiosity.


“Special, yet approachable, with no real commitment” was a recurring theme at the Fancy Food Show. That is what you get with the pint package.

Pints are a powerful package size especially in the world of ice cream. By definition, pints hold 16 fluid ounces of product; however, for economics, some “pint” packs contain a little less.

Regardless of how much is inside, pints cost more--often a lot more—on a per-ounce-base than larger-sized ice cream containers. In fact, numerous artisan, hand-crafted brands command as much as $15 per pint at retail. Such smaller-sized containers, though more expensive, invite consumers to try “something new.” There’s less product, and thus less risk of waste if you don’t like it.

That “something new,” more often than not, speaks to many consumer desires. Ice cream has long been associated with providing pleasure and comfort. And that’s what consumers continue to crave.  

A resurgence of self-care and comfort eating in 2020 boosted ice cream and frozen novelties sales. This was followed by a period of steady inflation that made at-home frozen treating that much more appealing and budget friendly, according to the hot-off-the-presses report “U.S. Ice Cream and Frozen Novelties Market Report 2024” from Mintel. 

As inflation is cooling, consumers and younger generations are getting back to away-from-home frozen treating. This raises the bar for at-home expectations and perhaps even paving the way for a new wave of premium frozen treats.

“The comfort and joy found in frozen treating is solid, yet frozen treats can chip away and add occasions with formats, sizes and new-ish flavors,” said Kelsey Olsen, food and drink analyst at Mintel. “Credibility, novelty and high-impact benefits are key pillars of innovation and strategy in a competitive category wherein switching-out is commonplace.”

Consumers find comfort in traditional frozen treat flavors and have some sense of routine with product choices, but unique options bring the fun, too. In fact, three in four ice cream consumers agree that trying new flavors of frozen treats is a fun experience, according to Mintel.

This past week at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City, Nancy Kruse, a trend analyst, said that today’s consumers are curious and crave contemporary comfort, community and curiosity. These are all needs that innovative pints of ice cream can provide. 

She also said that consumers seek out food experiences that allow them to treat themselves, offering small escapes from daily life. Again, this is something pints do, and quite well. 

Pints of ice cream can provide a premium experience. Pints also help ice cream manufacturers overcome formulation challenges associated with adding lots of inclusions, especially variegates and fruit sauces that impact freezing temperature and product integrity over shelf life. Pints also allow for unique formulations, such as layers and cores. This is something Ben & Jerry’s taught the ice cream industry when the brand started packing in chunks, chips, swirls and all types of flavorful ingredients that could cause the aerated ice cream mixture to collapse in a larger-sized container that would go in and out of the home freezer for multiple eating occasions.

Here are a bunch of noteworthy recent rollouts, including many that debuted at the Fancy Food Show.

In case you missed this Daily Dose of Dairy posting this week, here’s a TikTok-inspired frozen dessert: FroCo. This first-of-its kind frozen dairy dessert starts with cottage cheese as its base ingredient. The product comes in 5-ounce single-serve containers and 14-ounce multi-serve pints in three varieties: Mocha Joe, Peanut Butter and Vanilla Bean. The product is enhanced with collagen. It’s marketed as having half the fat and seven-times the protein of regular ice cream. 

McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams and See’s Candies teamed up to roll out four limited-time ice cream pints. To develop the collaborative ice cream flavors, the McConnell’s and See’s teams innovated to merge the top beloved See’s Candies pieces with McConnell’s house-made artisan ice cream bases. Pints sell for $12. 

The flavors are:
Banana Cream with Toffee-ettes: ripe bananas pureed into Central Coast milk and cream, a salted caramel swirl and handfuls of See’s legendary Toffee-ettes (roasted almonds embedded in Danish butter toffee and enrobed in See’s creamy milk chocolate then rolled in more crunchy almonds)
Coffee with Molasses Chips: See’s dark and milk chocolate-coated, crispy molasses honeycomb wafers, bathed in medium-roast, coffee-infused, Central Coast grass-fed milk and cream, alongside swirls of decadent chocolate sauce

Chocolate with Polar Bear Paws: buttery caramel with salt-roasted peanuts enrobed in white chocolate and a peanut butter swirl in McConnell’s Dutchman’s Chocolate

Vanilla with California Brittle: See’s buttery almond brittle covered in rich, dark chocolate in McConnell’s classic, full-flavored (R.R. Lochhead) vanilla ice cream, topped off with even more crunchy, salt-roasted almonds and ribbons of chocolate ganache

Greece-based Kri Kri S.A. Milk Industry is bringing its authentic frozen Greek yogurt to the States. Varieties include Cherry, Hazelnut, Honey, Peach and Salted Caramel. 

A little closer to home, but still separated by the Atlantic Ocean, comes pints of Campverde Ice Cream and Sorbet from Matosantos Commercial Corp., in Puerto Rico. In addition to Chocolate, Strawberry and Vanilla, there are specialties such as coconut and Tropical Mix. The brand also has a line of pints that combine exotic fruits with whole milk yogurt, such as Acai Sorbet and Cream (opening photo). 

Amazing Ice Cream is all about creating “amazing” frozen desserts. The brand’s three newest ice cream creations are: Chocolate Raspberry (rich chocolate ice cream with ribbons of raspberry and crunchy berry crumbles), Speculoos Cookie (salted caramel ice cream with spiced crunchy Belgian style cookies) and Yuzu Lemon Cheesecake (tart, creamy cheesecake ice cream with a sweet lemony punch in flavor and crunch). 

Ben & Jerry’s never slows down. The brand rolled out a number of new flavors this summer, including  limited-edition Marshmallow Sky. This cool blue ice cream is packed with marshmallow and cookie dough goodness. The brand also reinvented the classic summertime campfire treat with an exciting peanut buttery twist. New PB S’more is toasted marshmallow ice cream, peanut butter cups, graham cracker pieces and marshmallow.

On a side note, earlier this week, a new study identified the most popular U.S. food snack brands based on YouGov data and social media popularity. Ben & Jerry’s secured the sixth spot with 1,020,212 Instagram hashtags. Data suggests that 97% of people have heard of the brand, making it one of the most famous dessert brands in the States. 

Graeter’s Ice Cream released its first Bonus Flavor of the summer in May. Limited-edition Peanut Brittle is a combination of a butterscotch base and praline peanuts, which results in a balance of smoothness and crunch, according to the company. Each Bonus Flavor remains a secret until the day of its release and is only available for a limited time, creating an urgency to purchase.  

There’s a new way to enjoy a root beer float and that is by the scoop. A&W Root Beer Float 
Ice Cream from Blue Bell features vanilla ice cream swirled together with an A&W Root Beer flavored sherbet. The limited-edition flavor is available in half-gallon and pint containers through 2025.

The Häagen-Dazs brand is growing its Pierre Herme Paris Macaron Ice Cream brand with
Vanilla & Blueberry. It’s described as “velvety vanilla ice cream with bursting blueberries and juicy blackcurrants, and mini purple macarons that provide a crunchy contrast against deep purple swirls of sauce.” The collection is available at retailers across Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, and in select international Häagen-Dazs Shops.

Alec’s Ice Cream, notably made with A2/A2 dairy and sustainably sourced regenerative organic ingredients, debuted nine premium craft ice creams this summer. 

The new flavors are:
Meyer Lemon Cookie: organic Meyer lemon ice cream, sweet lemon curd swirl and crunchy lemon cookie.
Triple Chocolate Blackout Cookie: organic chocolate ice cream with chunks of dark chocolate cookies and a fudge swirl.
Palm Springs Banana Chocolate Date Shake: an ice cream twist on Palm Springs’ famous “Date Shake” featuring Regenerative Organic Certified bananas with sweet dates, cinnamon and dark chocolate chips.
Nutty Butter Brittle: Regenerative Organic Certified salted almond butter swirled into browned butter ice cream with pieces of crunchy almond brittle.
Groundwork Coffee ‘N’ Toffee: cold-brewed Groundwork coffee, sweet cream and chocolate-covered toffee.
Maple Cardamom Candied Pecan: Regenerative Organic Certified maple syrup, roasted sweet and salty candied pecans, and a touch of cardamom.
Salted Dark Chocolate: organic dark chocolate from single-sourced natural cocoa and a sprinkle of sea salt.
Sea Salt Caramel: organic salted caramel ice cream with a sea salt caramel swirl.
Strawberry Oat Crumble: organic sweet strawberries paired with the warmth of a baked oat crumble in ultra-creamy ice cream.

July is National Ice Cream Month! It’s time to celebrate! 

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Review the 2024 Food and Health Survey from IFIC through a dairy marketing lens.

 It’s arrived. “It” is the 2024 Food and Health Survey from the International Food Information Council (IFIC). For 19 consecutive years, IFIC has surveyed Americans to understand their perceptions, beliefs and behaviors surrounding food and food-purchasing decisions. 

What makes this year special is that IFIC tripled the sample size by surveying 3,000 Americans, age 18 to 80 years, online between March 8 and March 24, 2024. There were also a number of new questions added this year. 

But first, some things don’t change. American consumers continue to rank taste (85%) as the most impactful element in their food and beverage purchase decisions. Price remains the second most impactful (76%), followed by healthfulness (62%), convenience (57%) and environmental sustainability (31%).  

The impact of convenience, however, is down from last year (61% in 2023 to 57% in 2024). The impact of environmental sustainability on food and beverage purchase decisions has also declined in each of the past two surveys (39% in 2022, 34% in 2023 and 31% in 2024). 

Taste reigns. Price matters. Nine in 10 (90%) respondents said they have noticed an increase in the price of food and beverage. This recognition is up significantly from 83% in 2022.  

“Examining the awareness of increased cost by generation reveals a fascinating finding: Each generation has noticed the increased costs significantly more than the generation(s) younger than them,” said Kris Sollid, senior director, research and consumer insights at IFIC. “In other words, more Baby Boomers have noticed the rising costs compared with every other generation. More Gen X have noticed the rising costs compared with Millennial and so on.” 

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Healthfulness ranks third on influencing purchase decision. But what exactly is a healthy food? 

For the third straight year in the IFIC Food & Health Survey, “fresh” (39%) is the most common criteria used by consumers to define a “healthy” food followed by “good source of protein” (37%) and “low in sugar” (35%). While the inclusion of “fresh” and “low in sugar” in definitions for “healthy” have remained consistent across the last three years, “good source of protein” is gaining steam, steadily climbing over the past three years (59% in 2022, 67% 2023 and 71% 2024). 

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This is great news for dairy manufacturers, as most dairy products are inherent sources of high-quality, complete protein. Many dairy foods are fresh and local, with low-sugar and no-added-sugars being prioritized in dairy product innovation. 

More consumers are trying to limit their sugar consumption this year (66% up from 61%). Added sugars are most likely to be the target of these efforts, though three in 10 report trying to limit or avoid both added sugars and sugars that are naturally present in foods.

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The top benefits consumers seek from food, beverages and nutrients are energy, healthy aging, weight loss and management, and digestive health.

With there being no consensus on the definition of ultra-processed foods among food and nutrition scientists, how consumers have a uniting opinion? One in three Americans are now familiar with the term ultra-processed foods, yet there are differences by age. Younger generations, for example, are more likely than older generations to be familiar with the term (39% for Gen Z and 42% for Millennials compared with 30% for Gen X and 21% for Boomers). The youngest generations (Gen Z and Millennials) are twice as likely as Baby Boomers to be familiar.
The survey explored the connection between food and emotional well-being. Results showed that three in four consumers believe their food and beverage choices impact their mental/emotional well-being. Conversely, two in three believe the reverse: that their well-being impacts their food and beverage choices. 

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It also delved into how consumers are getting their food and nutrition information. And no surprise, it’s increasingly from social media. 

“We found that over half of consumers (54%) report seeing food and nutrition content on their news feeds, up from 42% last year,” Sollid said. “What’s interesting is that while consumers are seeing more of this content, fewer Americans have a lot of trust in it.”  

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When it comes to trust, Baby Boomers are the most skeptical. Fifty-nine percent of Baby Boomers say they trust food or nutrition content they come across on social media, which is significantly lower than the trust every other generation reports (71% for Gen X, 68% for Millennials and 76% for Gen Z).  

“The conversation around trust in food and nutrition information is so important to analyze and understand,” said Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, president and CEO of IFIC. “Ensuring consumers have access to compelling, science-based information about food to inform smart, healthy decisions for themselves and their families rather than misinformation is a cause worth championing, and that is what IFIC is all about.”  

To view the full 2024 IFIC Food & Health survey, link HERE.

Friday, June 14, 2024

Indulgence and Flavor Adventure Dominated IDDBA 2024


It was great to visit with so many of you on Sunday during my half-day, whirl-wind walk of the expo floor. Indulgence and flavor adventure dominated recent innovations. There were very few products with better-for-you or plant-based positionings. It was all about enjoyment and exploration, often times in single-serve sized packages.  

Jonna Parker, principal and team lead for fresh foods at Circana spoke in a session on snacking. She pointed out that a recent survey showed half of all consumers “often eat snacks instead of a meal because I am on the go” while 46% of consumers snack more than three times a day.

“Small indulgences are where to be for the next few years,” added Steve Zurek, director- sales development for North American sales operations at NielsenIQ. He explained that the trend toward personal-sized, affordable treats is a movement with staying power.

Let’s check out some of the innovations from this year’s expo. 

Heartisan Foods is growing its Red Apple Cheese brand with numerous shapes, formats and flavors. Many of these will be featured in coming weeks as a Daily Dose of Dairy. For now, here’s a peek into the brand’s adventurous side. Its flavored gouda chunk line now includes a Spicy Smoked offering, which joins Honey Sriracha, Mango Habanero, Smokey Bourbon and Scorpion. The new Cheese Curd line is making its debut with a Bloody Mary variety. The iconic snacking curds come in 8-ounce bags. 

BelGioioso has a new small-batch flavored artisan cheese under its La Bottega line.  Artigiano Blood Orange is a slightly sweet and savory cheese hand crafted by soaking the cheese in a citrus marinade. This BelGioioso original comes in a 5-ounce wedge.

Until now, cows milk yogurt manufacturers thought they were only up against plant-based concepts. Enter eggs. That’s right. Oolie is described as “Egg Based Provisions.” Yogurt is also on the label; however, the product is dairy free. The brand markets itself as “farm-fresh eggs reinvented as classic creamy favorites” and comes in Blueberry, Keyline, Lemon, Strawberry and Vanilla flavors. The brand also has a line of dairy-free, egg-based dips in Garlic & Herb, Mediterranean Tomato, Red Beet, Spicy Pepper and Yellow Curry flavors. 

Global flavors in traditional dairy products is booming. Esti Foods, a company that has built its brand by focusing on Mediterranean products, including hummus, tzatziki, Greek yogurt, yogurt-based dips and more, is growing its “Circle of Global Flavors” offerings with two dairy-based dips. Chimichurri is a “flavor of Argentina,” while Elotes Street Corn is a “flavor of Mexico.” 

Land O’Lakes is growing its Goya line of ready-to-eat refrigerated dairy desserts with Mexican Chocolate Pudding. This is a dark, rich chocolate with plenty of cinnamon and complements the swicy trend of sweet and spicy. The single-serve desserts come in 4-ounce cups and are sold in packs of four. 

Reina Foods is rolling out Bend&Blend. The dual-compartment refrigerated dairy dessert has pudding on one side and a sweet dipper on the other. The two initial offerings are: Chocolate Pudding with Mini Teddy Bear Crackers and Vanilla Pudding with Mini Maria’s Cookies. The package size is 9.5 ounces. 

Artisan butters, often with higher-percentages of butterfat as compared to mainstream, everyday butters, continue to boom. In the weeks ahead, be on the lookout for some co-branded butters from Epicurean being showcased as a Daily Dose of Dairy. 

Here we have Moinear Farmhouse Butter, which is made with California milk in California using a traditional Irish recipe based on pure whey cream. The company explains that “during cheesemaking, as the curds and whey are gently separated, the aromatic cheese flavors begin to develop as the cheese cultures ferment. Rarely is the whey cream separated from the whey to begin the skilled small-batch churning process of hand-making world class whey butter, traditionally known as “farmhouse butter” or “old-fashioned butter.” It is now the king of artisanal butters with its “mild, nutty, cheesy and richer, fuller flavor” profile. Cheese-making cultures produce the whey butter flavor secrets. Whey butter is a rare delicacy and our mission is to reintroduce this exciting long-lost art of whey butter making to the world.” The butter comes in 8-ounce foil-wrapped blocks, salted or unsalted. 

Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery is exploring worldly flavors with its new Antonella Artisan Cheese Collection of semi-soft cheeses. The logs of cheese are hand-rolled in dried, flavorful ingredients, including herbs, vegetables and even cured meat. Varieties are Garden Vegetable & Sweet Basil, Pepperoni & Marinara and Roasted Garlic, Tomato & Basil.  

Pine River adds four varieties to its Traditional and Premium Cold Pack Cheese Spread lines. The newest offerings are: Maple Bacon, Spicy Pimento and Vintage Reserve. Spicy Pimento is a fiery rendition of the company’s beloved Pimento spread with now more Grade A cheddar shreds added. Infused with zesty pickled jalapenos, this kicked-up version delivers a delightful kick of heat, elevating the classic flavor profile to new heights of boldness and intensity. Maple Bacon is a fusion of Grade A cheddar aged for a minimum of nine months with maple onion jam and savory bacon. Vintage Reserve is a revamped iteration of the company’s popular 60-Month Anniversary spread. Crafted with white cheddar aged for a minimum of five years and studded with five-year cheddar chunks throughout, this rich and creamy cheddar spread promises a truly indulgent taste experience that will leave you craving for more. The brand is also undergoing a makeover with new color schemes. As part of this refresh, Pine River renamed its Mango Habanero spread to Kickin’ Mango. Stay tuned for more new flavors, including Raspberry Chipotle and Italian Truffle. 

Yancey’s Fancy, always an innovator with edgy flavors, provided IDDBA attendees with a sneak peek at its Ube Cheese concept, which is still under development. The purple-veined cheese has an extra layer of nutty flavor from the ube fruit. New flavors available now include Green Goddess Gouda, Portobella & Truffle Cheddar, Strawberry & Jalapeno Cheddar, and Lemon Bliss Cheddar. The pasteurized process cheese comes in 7.6-ounce chunks. 

Citrus flavors are trending, which is somewhat of an unusual combination in dairy because sour does not always go well with creamy. In fact, for some, there’s that vision of the acidic fruit curdling the milk. But they do go together, and surprisingly, deliciously well. Superior Foods Company, a co-packer of innovative dairy dips and spreads has a new Lemon Blueberry Bliss dairy dip. On the savory side, there’s a new Pepperoni Pizza flavored dip. 

The Gordo’s brand is expanding into  the non-cheese Premium Dip category. The three new dips use a sour cream and cream cheese base and come in 12-ounce tubs. Flavors are: Creamy Jalapeno, Smokey Tomato (and chiles) and Zesty Ranch. The brand also has dual-compartment refrigerated snack packs. The 4-ounce containers come in Cheese Dip & Pretzels and Queso & Chips varieties. 

On the sort of sweet side of snacking comes Ice Cream Not Fried Chicken from Life Raft Treats. This handcrafted Ice Cream Drumstick has a chocolate pretzel “bone” in the center, which is enveloped by waffle-flavored ice cream and then enrobed in caramelized white chocolate and corn flakes. Each drumstick is 2.5 ounces and individually wrapped. 
They are sold in display packs of 24 drumsticks. This creation was invented by a six-times James Beard Foundation Award semifinalist—Cynthia Wong—for her outstanding craft as a pastry chef. 

Old World Productions is growing its Carnegie Deli Cheesecake Bites with a Birthday Cake variety. The frozen dairy-based poppable dessert comes in 3- and 6-ounce shareable bags. 

Mark your calendars for IDDBA 2025, taking place June 1-3 in New Orleans. 

Thursday, June 6, 2024

It's Milk's Time because It’s Milk Time!


A shout out to Julian Mellentin with NewNutrition Business for sharing this infographic (below). He commissioned its creation to coincide with World Milk Day, which was January 1, 2024. 

“As you know well, milk is a naturally nutrient dense superfood and it’s time the intrinsic health values of dairy were made more widely known,” he says. “So to showcase that, we asked a colleague, who has a master’s in nutrition science, to create this graphic.

“It shows that milk is a whole food. The complexity of the whole food matrix provides a unique bundle of essential nutrients that it is impossible to replicate.”

Well said! Thanks Julian. 

I am convinced that whole milk will become cool again thanks to innovations in foodservice. Take for example Mycha, which calls itself The Milk Tea ATM. It’s a vending machine business featuring made-fresh-daily milk teas and other milk-based beverages in Chicago and Los Angeles. It’s growing quickly. You can read more HERE.

The drinks are amazing. I am partial to the Taro Milk Tea, which combines the earthy sweetness of taro root with the creamy richness of milk. It has a slightly nutty flavor and is not overly sweet. (I do not have a sweet tooth.)

Last year when I arrived in New York City for the Fancy Food Show, I stumbled upon a café dedicated to milk-based tea beverages. They could be made to order or purchased ready to drink in glass jars. Many featured boba for an extra sensation. 

(Click on infographic to enlarge.)

When I visited Thailand, such places were ubiquitous. And they made cows and their milk the star, with photo ops available near Holstein statues. 

We need more of this in the U.S., especially in urban areas.  

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf has started playing in this space in the U.S. The specialty coffee and tea house’s new summer menu features four new beverages that showcase the delightful textures and tastes of boba pearls and matcha. Whole milk is also part of the mix. 

The four offerings are: Iced Brown Sugar Latte with Boba, Iced Ceylon Milk Tea with Brown Sugar Boba, Iced Matcha Cream Strawberry Latte and Iced Matcha Cream Mango Latte.

It’s summer road trip time! Get me to The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

New York City’s famous Milk Bar has long been offering various “milky” products at its cafes. (The name is a giveaway!) The company has teamed up with Tropicana to introduce a new limited-time-only soft-serve this summer. 

“As a life-long OJ enthusiast, I’m so excited to partner with iconic juice brand, Tropicana, to create our new summer treat obsession, Orange Squeeze soft-serve,” says Christina Tosi, founder of Milk Bar. “I grew up racing to the ice cream truck to score my favorite creamy, orange and vanilla flavored bar. Orange Squeeze is our take on that childhood classic, transporting you back, Milk Bar style, to sweet summer memories of that bright, fresh-tasting combo.”

And the Winners Are…
Circana released its 2023 New Product Pacesetters report this week, which features the top-100 CPG product launches in the food and beverage and nonfood categories. The latest Pacesetters, which garnered $6.1 billion in combined first-year sales, include products that help Americans navigate their daily lives in new ways as they adapt to post-pandemic routines. The report highlights the ongoing influence of innovation in the CPG sector as consumers seek exploration and new experiences, gravitating toward versatile products and new product formats.

“Consumer behavior has changed dramatically in recent years, from the pandemic and then the resumption of active lifestyles and hybrid work,” says Lisa Maas, principal and practice lead-innovation at Circana. “The latest Pacesetters align with consumers’ desires for new experiences and product formats, new levels of convenience, trusted solutions for baby and pet and products that deliver superior performance. Brands that lead with relevant innovation stand to not only boost sales, but also cultivate lasting customer loyalty.”

The Top 10 Food and Beverage 
New Product Pacesetters for 2023 are:
1. Similac 360 Total Care
2. PRIME Hydration
3. Starry
4. OREO Frozen Desserts
5. Starbucks by Nespresso for Vertuo
6. GHOST Energy
7. Doritos/Cheetos/Sunchips Minis
8. Black Rifle Coffee
9. Electrolit
10. Kevin’s Natural Foods

Circana’s findings indicate that shifting daily routines have impacted every aspect of consumers’ lives, from how they practice self-care to the meals they prepare and the daily appliances they use. There has been an increase in slow cooker and casserole dish sales, likely due to their association with easy-meal preparation and cost savings. This reflects the ongoing demand for convenient solutions for complete meals or meal shortcuts. 

Consumers are looking for ways to elevate the morning experience, as evidenced by Starbucks by Nespresso for Vertuo’s fifth-place ranking on the food and beverage Pacesetters list. Additionally, Nestlé collaborated with popular Kellogg’s brands to introduce Carnation Breakfast Essentials, Kellogg’s ready-to-drink breakfast meals, providing a quick breakfast option for consumers. The latter features dairy, and lots of it. 

(Click on infographic to enlarge.)
The data show that co-branding and licensing, as seen in the Carnation-Kellogg’s offerings, leverage the trust and loyalty that established brands enjoy, opening doors for expansion beyond their core categories. For instance, OREO cookies and Little Debbie snack cakes have made their way into the frozen aisle, with OREO Frozen Desserts ranking number four on the food and beverage Pacesetters list, and Hudsonville Ice Cream’s Little Debbie flavors at number 18. Go dairy! Go dairy!
The report suggests that consumers increasingly sought functional benefits across the store in 2023. This demand for added value was likely driven by high inflation and a continued focus on well-being. The trend was particularly evident in the beverage sector, where products offering enhanced hydration, energy and nutritional benefits were prominent, even among traditional carbonated soft drinks. 
And, you may not have heard, but the U.S. birth rate increased in 2021, particularly among women younger than 25, and first-time mothers. The report signals that this trend may have been fueled by increased work-from-home arrangements, giving people increased flexibility to start a family. The market has responded to this shift with a variety of baby products, including the number-one food and beverage Pacesetter, Similac 360 Total Care infant formula. This dairy-based formula, enriched with five “immune nourishing” prebiotics, is claimed by Abbott Laboratories to offer added advantages for brain development and digestive health. Top-ranking products for babies and young children likely reflect parents’ commitments to providing healthy starts for their children. Go dairy! Go dairy!

Who’s Innovating and How?
While Circana saw strong contributions from mid-sized companies last year, the 2023 Pacesetters showcase the influence of innovation from smaller companies. Manufacturers with sales under $500 million represent 59% of New Product Pacesetters by count, up from 41% in 2022. These smaller companies are also making a significant impact, accounting for 43% of New Product Pacesetter dollars (up from 18% in 2022). A common theme across leading companies last year was a keen focus on the consumer, with a commitment to meeting consumers’ needs with relevant product solutions, messaging, and pricing.
“In 2023, collaborations with well-known brands, compelling brand narratives and a dedication to product expansion helped drive brand awareness and increase sales,” says my friend Joan Driggs, vice president of content and thought leadership at Circana. “Products identified as Pacesetters contributed an 18% increase in total multi-outlet sales, compared to an 11% increase in 2022, highlighting the importance of innovation and strategic partnerships in achieving sustained growth and market success.”

You can access the full report HERE to see the other dairy brands who made the list and their rank. 

Numerous frozen dairy brands made the top-200 list, including Blue Bunny, Godiva and Van Leeuwen. Creamer, cheese and yogurt brands are on the list, too. You will also find many innovations utilizing dairy ingredients, namely dairy proteins.

Congrats to all innovators! It’s Milk Time!