Thursday, December 20, 2012

Dairy Food Trends 2013

It’s that time of year to reflect on the past 12 months and resolve to improve during the next. As a dairy products trend tracker for almost 20 years, I can honestly say that 2012 has been one of the most dynamic times in the industry. The opportunities to innovate are incredible and I am honored to be a part of the process.

Thanks to the dedicated and passionate dairy industry that I think of as family, the Daily Dose of Dairy has become a global industry success. Colleagues have made suggestions and many will be implemented in 2013. Look for a new and exciting Daily Dose of Dairy when you receive your first e-newsletter of the New Year on Monday, January 7. That’s right; the Daily Dose of Dairy is taking a two-week hiatus to spend time with family and friends (and to be redesigned.)

Happy Holidays to you and yours…and in closing, here are my Top-Five Projections of what innovations in dairy will look like in 2013.

1) It’s All About the Protein…All types of dairy foods will be touting their protein content. And if whey proteins are specifically a part of the formulation, the term “whey” will start being broadcast on primary display panels. Whey is not the same four-letter word it was just a decade ago. 

2) Kids’ Products…Most food product developers ignored the 12-and-under demographic this past year, as they feared being attacked by consumer activist groups who had pretty much decided that animal-derived foods were responsible for the childhood obesity epidemic. But parents have become more educated…many are even demanding that schools bring chocolate milk back to the lunch program (hurray!). New dairy products designed for kids’ palates, appetites and nutritional needs will be in abundance in 2013!

3) Hand Crafted, Artisanal, Local—Tell a Story…As the economy improves, those who can afford dairy foods not made by the “big guys” will seek out such products. Naturalness is key. But what actually is naturalness? It’s the time from production to consumption...not necessarily the ingredients in the product. Compelling stories are the future of dairy foods marketing. The manufacturer must express his passion for the product. Tell a story. Discuss the origin of ingredients, the evolution of a recipe, the history of the brand, etc. Telling a story adds value...and allows a marketer to charge a premium. Consumers want proof as to why they should pay more for a product. Storytelling provides benefits that exceed the cost of the product.

4) Fruits and Nuts…These ingredients play into the aforementioned trend. Talk about where those blueberries in your yogurt were harvested…or the nutritional value of the almonds adorning your cheese log. Consumers understand that fruits and nuts are healthful choices. Don’t skimp on these inclusions if you are adding them to your products. Invest in quality and customers will embrace the product.

5) Targeting a Day Part…From morning milk to snacking cheese, tell consumers that your product is designed to satisfy the nutritional and sensory needs of a particular day part. Historically marketers have shied away from this, as they don’t want to limit product-use occasions. (Think boxed cereal…many still think of it as only for breakfast. Not in the Berry household! As long as the cereal is fortified with more than 10 vitamins and minerals, and includes whole grains, my kids can eat bowls of cereal with milk for breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack.) Nevertheless, today’s consumer appreciates day-part-specific foods, as they are so time deprived, meal solutions make life easier. Tell them it’s a snack-size yogurt. Or, that the sliced cheese makes the perfect lunch-time sandwich.

Hope these observations and predictions help you start the New Year off right!

In closing, if you have a suggestion, a new product, an idea…please let me know. ( We are in this together. And the best present I could receive from my dairy industry colleagues would be for you to encourage your coworkers to sign up for the Daily Dose of Dairy.

Best Wishes for the Best Holiday Season Ever!
Donna Berry (on Dairy!)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Dairy Owns December

For no other holiday season do so many consumers indulge in the finest of foods, with all types of dairy products taking center stage. From the cheese platter to buttered rolls to real whipped cream coffee toppers, dairy rules the period from when the Thanksgiving turkey gets carved all the way to the singing of Auld Lang Syne.

With so many channels of social media available to dairy product marketers, get LOUD about making this year a Merry Dairy Christmas! Get connected and provide your customers with dairy tips.

The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board can serve as a resource with its new website (, which is devoted to dairy-based dips, expected appetizers on holiday party buffets. That’s because real dairy products are the foundation of nearly every good dip recipe, and that’s certainly true for the more than 50 recipes at From cream cheese and sour cream to natural cheeses--dairy gives dips a full flavor and rich, creamy consistency. Recipes on the site are organized by category, with options for sweet dips, savory dips, holiday dips and more.

And here are two of my favorites—always a hit with friends and family. If you market any of the ingredients used in these recipes, feel free to share, and even modify to boast your brand.

Berry on Dairy’s “Simply the Best Buffalo Chicken Dip”
Dairy Ingredients:
1-8-ounce brick of cream cheese*
¼-cup real blue cheese crumbles
The Rest:
1/3-cup ranch dressing*
1-12-ounce can cooked chicken, drained
1/3-cup hot wing sauce
(* = Use either light or regular varieties; never fat free.)
Directions: Mix all five ingredients together until smooth and bake for 45 minutes to an hour at 350 degrees. (Leftovers should be stored in the refrigerator and are great the next day—warm or cold--on top of a toasted bagel.)

Berry on Dairy’s “Caramelized Onion Dip”
Dairy Ingredients:
4-ounces cream cheese*
½-cup sour cream*
4-tablespoons salted butter
The Rest:
¼-cup vegetable oil
2-large yellow onions
½-cup mayonnaise*
¼-teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1-teaspoon kosher salt
½-teaspoon black pepper
(* = Use either light or regular varieties; never fat free.)
Directions: Cut onions in half and slice into 1/8-inch wide strips. This should equal about 3 cups. Heat the butter and oil over medium heat, adding onions and both peppers and salt. Saute for about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cook mixture for 20 to 30 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Onions should be soft and brown. Very little liquid should be present in pan. Remove from heat and cool. Separately, combine cream cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise in a bowl. Beat until smooth. Hand mix in cooled onion mixture. Serve at room temperature. (Leftovers should be stored in the refrigerator and are great the next day as a sandwich spread.)
Have a Merry “Berry” Dairy Christmas!

Friday, December 7, 2012

It’s the Milk: Upstate New York Is Blessed; Cornell Assists Industry with Innovation

So, just when I think it’s the end of the world, my challenging 10-year old brings home a straight A report card. Did I say challenging child? Did I say straight A? I swear no bribes were involved. He pulled it off on his own. And when his proud mama asked what I did to help him achieve this, he, and I swear, responded, “It’s all that milk, mom!”
That’s what the folks in Upstate New York are also saying these days.

“I think if you were to look around the world, you would not find a better place to milk cows and turn that milk into consumer goods than you would here in this region of the United States,” said Patrick Hooker, former state commissioner of agriculture and current director of Agribusiness Development at the Empire State Development Corp., in a November 8, 2012 article in The soil and temperature offer sustainable conditions, he said, and there are numerous advantages to the location.

Read the complete article HERE.

What does all this milk mean to New York’s economy?

According to Hooker: “(There are) 60 million consumers up and down the eastern part of the United States, all well within a day’s drive of this production area. And you’re talking about an ethnic and cultural diversity that you don’t see anywhere else in the world, either. And it is that sort of consumer demand that has driven this dairy industry here.”

In other words, there’s a lot of high-quality milk just waiting to be turned into products for this culturally diverse population, products that remind them of their home country. (Think Greek yogurt.) What an opportunity to innovate!

Due to such demand, while overall manufacturing jobs dropped 9% in New York state from 2005 to 2011, the state’s dairy manufacturing job base increased by 3%. To fill new dairy jobs, Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences plays a big role in training the workforce and retraining displaced workers from lost manufacturing jobs. The university is also in the processing of developing new certificate, continuing education and possibly degree programs to meet these demands.

Cornell is helping the dairy industry innovate

Cornell’s involvement with the dairy industry stretches back almost 100 years, when what is now the Department of Food Science was formed. To assist with putting this milk to good use, the department recently hosted a forum addressing the current yogurt boom and the ways it can benefit the state’s dairy industry.

The university is in the process of completing a $105 million renovation to Stocking Hall, which will include a pilot plant where industries can research, develop and run small-batch trials for new products; and a new 12,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art dairy processing plant that will process annually some 1.5 million pounds of raw milk from Cornell cows, and 20,000 gallons of yogurt a year, along with cheeses, ice cream and other dairy products. The facilities, which are slated to open in spring 2013, will offer sites to train students and give workshops to industry professionals.

To read more about Cornell’s capabilities, visit HERE.

It’s all about the milk.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Ingredients for a Gradual Sodium Reduction in Dairy

Despite increased awareness about the risks of too much sodium in consumers’ diets and pledges from governments around the world to reduce salt levels in food, product launches with low/no/reduced sodium claims have been nominal, according to market research firm Mintel.

(Read HERE to learn about ingredients that help dairy processors reduce sodium. This is a recent article I wrote for Dairy Business News, a part of Food Business News.)

“A large percentage of the global food industry remains wary of the commercial impacts of reducing salt in their products. This anxiety is well-founded, with many products positioned as low sodium forced off the shelves prematurely in recent years due to poor sales,” according to Chris Brockman, global food and drink analyst at Mintel. “Consumers are concerned about salt intake, but are not willing to compromise on taste.”

According to Mintel’s research, some 54% of U.S. consumers say they limit their use of packaged snacks and other packaged foods because they think they have too much salt or sodium, and 53% are concerned about the amount of salt or sodium in their diets. However, it seems consumers will not give up salt easily. When it comes to products flavored with a non-sodium or salt alternative, almost half (46%) of consumers in the U.S. think that they don’t taste as good as their traditional counterparts.

“Brands will need to dispel widely held perception about low sodium or salt alternatives to be successful. Fortunately, this is possible,” says Brockman. “Many food brands are already introducing step-by-step salt reduction programs that gradually reduce the salt content of their products, a strategy often called ‘stealth health,’ as the incremental removal of sodium can be carried out over a period of time to help the consumer to become accustomed to the changed flavor profile, without the need to flag that up prominently on-pack and thus deter consumers who may perceive ‘less taste.’ Other brands are also steering clear of the health issue by experimenting with different flavor profiles, such as strong spices and vinegars, to enhance taste while eliminating sodium.”

Dairy processors, specifically cheese manufacturers, have a number of tools available to take the stealth health approach.

Read HERE about how dairy processors are making progress in sodium reduction in a recent article I wrote for Food Business News.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Ice Cream Trends 2013

It's that time of year...

...when you need to start planning for the upcoming summer’s ice cream season.

In mid-October I was fortunate to attend Taste Tomorrow, an invitation-only event hosted by Puratos. More than 200 key industry players in the bakery, patisserie and chocolate sectors met in Chicago for this two-day interactive program that featured in-depth insights into consumer attitudes, behaviors, choices and trends, as they relate to bakery, patisserie and chocolate. Almost all can be applied to frozen desserts.

We learned how global and local insights translate into emerging trends in the food sector. The event title—Taste Tomorrow—says it all. Innovative product developers must stay on top of the trends in order to formulate foods that meet the desires of tomorrow’s consumer.

Puratos’ Research
At the end of 2011, Puratos carried out extensive global research into consumer behavior and consumer choices in efforts to answer questions such as:

  • Are they embracing their local food heritage or are they constantly looking for new and exciting flavors?
  • Are healthy and sustainable options really changing eating patterns, or do consumers want gratification above all?

The company travelled around the globe and asked 6,400 consumers about their attitudes and preferences. The combination of qualitative and quantitative research provided the company with unique insights into today’s market and future trends, and showed that there are often conflicting or paradoxical trends. They also uncovered a number of megatrends for the future. All of these discoveries can be used to better understand your customers today and to help build your business tomorrow.

Key insights that impact all food sectors include the fact that consumers are becoming increasingly sensitive to how food is produced. Therefore, transparency and authenticity play a key role in the sourcing, development and production process of food products.

The nutritional value of food is a key aspect for the future. And when queried if they prefer naturally healthful foods or foods with health benefits added, the overwhelming response was that it does not matter.

Yet, naturalness is key. But what actually is naturalness? Puratos learned that naturalness to most consumers means “closing the gap between manufacturing and selling.” It’s the time from production to consumption...not necessarily the ingredients in the product.

Compelling stories are the future of food marketing. The manufacturer must express his passion for the product no matter how it is produced. In the case of ice cream, it should not matter if the ice cream is mass produced or hand-crafted batch-by-batch, as long as the passion and commitment to the product line is communicated on the package and in marketing materials. Discuss the origin of ingredients, the evolution of a recipe, the history of the brand, etc.

Telling a story adds value...and allows a marketer to charge a premium. Consumers want proof as to why they should pay more for a product. Storytelling provides benefits that exceed the cost of the product.

Consumers increasingly find food as a form of self expression. It’s not just what you wear; it’s what you eat. Tomorrow’s consumer will be even more highly involved with food, so connecting with them at all levels—nutrition, flavor, sourcing, etc.—is essential.

Puratos research indicated that consumers connect with city brands, no matter the city and no matter where they are. New York bagels are more popular in Milan than simply bagels. Parisian macaroons command twice the price of mere macaroons in Seattle bakeries. This can be taken to the next level with authentic state and even country favorites. This connection to a locality boosts the perception of quality and provides a guarantee of tradition.
Thank you very much Puratos for all this research. There is a great deal more, but these insights provided the groundwork for my top-five predictions for the 2013 ice cream season. These predictions also meld in observations from the numerous trade shows I have attended in the past six months that have focused on the convenience, foodservice and retail channels, including special attention to confections, snacks and better-for-you foods. And, of course, I factor in insights from ingredient suppliers at the IFT Annual Food Meeting + Food Expo, and the Chicago Section IFT Suppliers’ Night, which was last night (November 15). (It was so great to see so many of you, and congratulations to the Chicago Section for 50 years of service to the Chicago-area food industry!)
Top Five Trends for the 2013 Ice Cream Season
1) Desserts within desserts gain momentum, but the characterizing dessert needs to better connect with the consumer. Examples include: Georgian Peach Melba swirled through a Madagascar vanilla ice cream, Fair Trade Coffee-flavored ice cream loaded with Oregon Truffles, and Caramelized Illinois Apple pieces blended into Wisconsin Sweet Cream ice cream.
2) Sweet and salty have become quite common as inclusion blends in ice cream. But tomorrow’s consumer would like a little more excitement, so throw in a little heat or a touch of tang. Think peppers, hot sauce, citrus and even cheese. Even better, make it local. Vanilla ice cream swirled with pieces of locally baked apple pie and diced farmstead cheddar cheese. How about Chipotle-peppered pecans swirled through Florida Key Lime Pie-flavored ice cream?
3) Dairy within dairy…that’s right. Dairy’s wholesome and local perception resonates with consumers. Double up on the deliciousness with inclusions such as mascarpone swirl, cream cheese chunks and even sour cream-filled truffles.
4) Add some nutrition. Not everyone wants their ice cream to deliver the content of a daily multiple vitamin, but there’s definitely a consumer segment who is attracted to ice cream with some extra nutrition. Nutritionally enhanced ice creams are best in novelty form. This way the consumer knows exactly how much they are taking in and there’s less of a chance of over dosing. Think granola-coated low-fat California strawberry frozen yogurt bar that is an excellent source of fiber and provides a whole serving of fruit. 
5) And likely the biggest trend is booze. (The opening photo is courtesy of the California Table Grape Commission and features California Port Wine ice cream.)
From wine to beer to blended cocktails, the flavors from the liquor department have been making their way into ice cream for some time, and this trend is expected to gain strength. It’s taking place in foodservice and retail, and interest is growing. There are some ice cream manufacturers using actual alcohol, but that’s not what I am talking about, as such products can be challenging for dairy processors to market and distribute because of their purchase-age requirement. The trend I am talking about is margarita-flavored fro-yo and cabernet-swirled dark chocolate gelato. These are flavors that appeal to the more mature palette. It builds on the dessert-in-dessert trend, where one gets the best of two worlds for the calories of only one favorite treat.
With that said, would someone please create (sans the alcohol) a California Char-donna-y swirled Michigan Raspberry Low-Fat Probiotic Frozen Yogurt for me?
(Why not take this time to view the many innovative frozen desserts I have featured this year as a Daily Dose of Dairy? You can view them HERE.)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Take a Look Through the Magic Mirror: Will Your Products Meet the Needs of Consumers in 2020?

Hopefully some of you remember the television show Romper Room. At the end of every episode, the hostess looked through her magic mirror and said random names of viewers she was claiming to see. It was always exciting when she saw me!

And it was very exciting to see so many industry relations at this week’s The Future of Dairy Forum in Rosemont, IL, presented by The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, which was founded by U.S. dairy farmers.

I saw Julie and Phil and Eva and Alan and Miriam and Bill and Shirish and Geri and Dave and Barb and oh, so many of you, it was great! For those of you who could not attend this forum where brand new research was presented that encourages “collaboration for innovation,” please watch this short VIDEO that summarizes the findings. 

The research explains that tomorrow’s consumer market represents billions of dollars of unrealized potential for dairy products—from milk to cheese to ice cream. To identify and activate growth opportunities for the dairy industry, the Innovation Center convened a task force to assess emerging trends, driving forces and demographic shifts that could impact dairy sales by the time we reach 2020.

Sounds far away? Well, it’s just about seven years from now. It’s been almost 13 years since Y2K, which seems like just yesterday. In other words, 2020 is right around the corner and you better be prepared to be a player in the consumer product goods segment.

The task force determined that the U.S. dairy industry can no longer count on significant increases in gross domestic product and population expansion to drive domestic growth. Because today’s consumers are processing information very differently from the turn-of-the-century and it’s very likely this will continue to evolve, the dairy industry must evolve, too. Who knows, maybe the iPad will be obsolete in seven years. Let’s face it; we are not going back in time. Rotary phones and typewriters will not return…but again, the same was said for turntables, and rumor has it that vinyl records are being produced once again.

Regardless, we must take the attitude of: See the Future of Dairy and Seize It.

According to the Innovation Center, by 2020, consumers will demand more from everything. If your products don’t deliver, driving significant business growth will be harder than ever. The Future of Dairy initiative will help you get smart about how to capitalize on emerging trends and driving forces to provide consumer-relevant offerings using dairy and dairy ingredients that will help grow your business. We must collaborate to innovate and partnering with the Innovation Center is your first step.

To read the entire Future of Dairy executive summary, click HERE and then scroll down. On this website you can also register to become a partner. This will give you access to insights to unlock further growth, both in the near future and further out.   

Here’s a quick overview of the Future of Dairy initiative. The research suggests that there are four overarching macro “states” influencing purchasing behavior, and dairy products can deliver in all four areas. These macro states are:
  1. Wellness
  2. Gratification/Enjoyment
  3. Convenience/Freedom
  4. Safety/Peace of Mind
Each of these macro states can be further dimensionalized according to specific needs within. And based on the rigorous assessment of these macro trends, coupled with the evolution of consumer needs and the current state of development of key dairy categories, the Innovation Center has identified 20 whitespace opportunity areas that product developers should focus their innovation efforts.
The Future of Dairy initiative equips dairy companies with a roadmap to navigate an increasingly complex marketplace environment and drive industry innovation to grow sales.
So, let’s fast forward to the future. Think about yourself and your individual and family needs. Hard to fathom, but my first born will be a senior in college and my baby a freshman. My husband and I might be empty nesters. We no longer will go through five gallons of milk a week! My metabolism will likely have slowed, which will have me seeking out nutrient-dense products that satiate and maintain lean body mass (and still taste delicious). Products that make any promise of decelerating aging will become our new household staples.
It’s predicted that by 2020, 33% of the population will be older than 55 years (not me yet!) and 50% more people will be managing diabetes. New product offerings must meet the dietary needs of aging boomers and those managing chronic conditions. They also must meet the needs of today’s youth, a generation who thinks energy comes from a 2-ounce bottle and dinner can be held in one hand while the other is playing Crazy Birds.
When I look through my magic mirror in seven years, I hope to see you and your company thriving.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Collaborate to Innovate

I challenge you to answer the question: Do you work in the dairy industry because it’s a job or do you believe it is your job to work in the dairy industry? It is my belief it will be those in the latter group, those folks with the passion and dedication to dairy that will help grow the industry.

Earlier this week, many dairy industry innovators—those folks in the latter group--explored the halls of Chicago’s McCormick Place to discover the latest and greatest in dairy packaging and processing at Pack Expo. At nearly the same time, chief executives from many of the companies who sent their innovators to Pack Expo met in Orlando during the 2012 National Dairy Promotion and Research Board (NDB)/National Milk Producers Federation/United Dairy Industry Association (UDIA) Joint Annual Meeting.

A panel of industry leaders agreed that it is time for the entire industry to reevaluate and reinvent how it invests in fluid milk. I say we must collaborate to innovate.

During Gary Hirshberg’s early years as president and CEO of Stonyfield Farm, he was a media maniac. He would talk to anyone, anywhere willing to listen to his passion for organic dairy. He openly shared his vision for growing the dairy business, even with the competition. His passion for better-for-you yogurt was contagious and I truly believe that Stonyfield is responsible for making yogurt a household name. Thank you Gary!

More Garys will do the industry good!

Comments from the meeting

According to Barbara O’Brien, president of the checkoff-funded Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, fluid milk “is now at a crossroads” following four decades of declining sales. But she believes there are solutions. “But we need the will and commitment (of the industry) to carry them out,” she said at the annual meeting.

In September, the board of directors of Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), which manages the national dairy checkoff, approved six proposals with individual fluid milk processors to accelerate product innovation, extend milk’s availability in new channels, and secure additional resources to market fluid milk.

The total checkoff investment is $9 million to date; the combined investment by processors is $80 million.

Mike McCloskey, CEO of Select Milk Producers, pointed to several reasons for declining sales, including a lack of innovation throughout the value chain, competition from other beverages and antiquated plants that result in distribution and packaging challenges. “We can do more things to affect the desirability of milk,” McCloskey said. (Check out was some processors are doing HERE.)

Jim Wegner, president and CEO of Darigold Inc., said an aging U.S. population also is a factor, adding that 57 million people are 30 or older. “We must re-invent milk,” he said, adding innovations such as Greek yogurt and products featuring probiotics and low carbohydrates are solutions that meet the demand of today’s young consumer base.

John Kaneb, chairman of HP Hood LLC, said a natural division between producers and processors has slowed progress during the years.

Let’s stop this nonsense and collaborate to innovate. If you’re in the dairy industry because it’s a job, find another and make room for someone who cares. Us old timers have the passion and are working to keep dairy shining.

“As (DMI CEO) Tom Gallagher said (in an industry white paper), we need to take a ‘trustee approach’ to grow fluid milk sales,” Kaneb said. “We must not (maintain) a rigid system that smothers innovation. We must work to give oxygen to (the development of) new products. Milk should be the leader (in the beverage category).”

DMI has created an Innovation Fund Task Force to explore the fundamental factors inhibiting fluid milk sales, including barriers and lack of innovation, among others. DMI will work with industry leaders to identify potential pilot programs to rejuvenate gallon and half-gallon milk sales through product formulation, packaging, placement and branded marketing/promotion at retail. (Hmm, if you had been at Pack Expo this week, you would have seen that many packaging companies are ready and willing to collaborate in these efforts. Many folks want to work for dairy.)

Collaboration at work

The dairy checkoff gives producers a voice in the marketing chain after milk leaves their farms, and that helps grow sales, according to Gallagher. While brands are focused on market share, producers need growth in all dairy product categories.

Gallagher said the checkoff is engaged in image-building efforts that are designed to reach consumers who he considers to be “more complex to market to than ever before.”

“For years, it was taste and price,” Gallagher said. “Consumers make purchase decisions very differently today. For them, it’s also value, nutrition, convenience, on-the-go and sustainability.”

Now more than ever, he said, consumer trust is the foundation of sales. For example, consumers want to know that their food is safe, and that producers are good stewards of the land, and treat their animals well. “If something goes wrong, and trust in these matters is shaken, consumers want to know that policies and procedures are in place to prevent animal abuse and ensure a safe milk supply,” he said.

Gallagher said transparency is mandatory with consumers today. While consumers previously trusted government and businesses, all that has changed. “Trust barometers tell us that people trust those who seem most like themselves,” Gallagher said. “In our case, they trust the people behind the product--dairy farmers and their families. In other words, they want to hear from producers.” They want to feel the passion.

Among the checkoff’s priorities, Gallagher said, is to work with partners such as McDonald’s, Domino’s and Quaker, and encourage them “to do something they wouldn’t do otherwise, or to do it faster, to meet consumer demand and grow sales for everybody.”

California producer Steve Maddox, NDB chairman said the checkoff’s partnership with McDonald’s directly contributed to an additional 1.7 billion pounds of milk sold between 2009 and 2011. Producers can expect continued growth in McDonald’s dairy sales, he said, pointing to menu development efforts driven by checkoff employees who work at McDonald’s headquarters.

Beyond McDonald’s, the checkoff’s partnerships with Domino’s and other pizza companies and suppliers have moved more than 6 billion pounds of milk since 2009, according to USDA. Pizza innovation continues with the recent introduction of Domino’s Handmade Pan Pizza, which uses up to 40% more cheese than the chain’s two-topping, hand-tossed pizzas.

A new partnership with Quaker will explore other opportunities. Quaker has committed to building consumer awareness of preparing oatmeal with milk instead of water. Gallagher said nine billion servings of oatmeal are prepared annually but less than 30% of those are made with milk. (The difference also happens to be delicious.)

“Our checkoff program cannot do it alone,” said Paul Rovey, Arizona dairy producer and chair of DMI. “We need the added muscle and backing of powerful partners through an industry-wide approach.”

Local checkoff organizations are critical to protecting and promoting dairy’s image. Image efforts are focused on having more conversations--especially through social media channels--with consumers who are generations removed from food production. These consumers are interested in learning more about the work that occurs on dairy farms. Research shows they will be more loyal to products whose values--real or perceived--mirror their own.

Dairy’s story is one that “consumers tell us they want to hear,” said Bill Siebenborn, Missouri producer and UDIA chair. “It’s a story about our commitment to provide safe, nutritious foods to feed our country and the world. It’s a story about our dedication to environmental stewardship and caring for our animals. It’s about our involvement and leadership in local communities across this nation.”

The dairy checkoff is working with its partners to help connect producers to consumers. “It’s about sharing a story, and listening to their questions. It’s about building relationships,” he said. “Connecting to consumers is as important to your sales, your growth, and your freedom to operate as any other work we do. And only you can do it,” he said.

Do you have the passion that it takes?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Real Resources for Dairy Product Developers and Marketers

The beauty of the blog is that it can be long or short, personal or impersonal, on schedule or not. It’s the internet, and there are few restraints.

With that said, today’s will be short and personal, as my husband’s grandmother of 102 years just passed and I am rebooting and rescheduling (especially with Pack Expo in town) in order to attend the out-of-state services.

Over the years I’ve written about this incredible lady numerous times. When it came to food, she believed everything delicious can be consumed in moderation. As a French Canadian, this 90-pound petite lady enjoyed REAL cream with her coffee, spread REAL butter on her bread and snacked on REAL cheese with crackers. Need I say more?

Resource #1: The REAL Seal.
Summary: As part of its efforts to revitalize one of the most recognized product symbols in the food industry, the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), the organization driving this effort, says that the REAL Seal is undergoing a makeover. The first step is the launch of a revamped website. Visit it HERE.

The previous website existed primarily as a resource for dairy product manufacturers and marketers interested in putting the REAL Seal on their packaging. This, of course, is a great thing. But the new website is so much more. It contains content to educate consumers about why they should look for the REAL Seal on the foods they buy, while also continuing to provide information for those companies using the REAL Seal to enhance their product marketing.

“Research has found that 93% of consumers know of the REAL Seal, and that many people find it useful in making buying decisions,” says Jerry Kozak, president and CEO of NMPF. “Imitation products made from vegetables and nuts, but packaged like real dairy products and often using dairy names, have proliferated in the last few years. For example, frozen desserts made out of soybeans are packaged the same as real ice cream made from cows’ milk, with pictures that make it look like real ice cream. The only way a consumer would know the product isn’t ice cream is by reading the ingredients label.”

The same is true for other processed foods made with imitation dairy products, notes Kozak. “Currently, frozen pizza is essentially the only processed food that uses the REAL Seal. We intend to expand the products eligible to use the REAL Seal beyond that that category.”

To address expanded use of the REAL Seal, the seal itself is in the process of being tailored to other applications. Terms like “Made With” real dairy, and “American Made,” along with specific dairy product names, will be stacked above and below the basic REAL Seal.

“Our goal is to have a fully integrated program up and running early in 2013,” Kozak says. “We know dairy farmers are enthusiastic about the REAL Seal, and we’re excited about the tremendous potential this has for expanding sales of REAL dairy products made from U.S. dairy farmers’ milk.

“Consumers continue to express an interest in food quality and integrity, through the choices they make at grocery stores and restaurants,” Kozak says. “Labeling is an integral part of creating and maintaining a dialogue with them.”

The revitalized program strives to educate new generations of dairy consumers about the significance of the REAL Seal, revitalizing the brand and talking to them about the good taste, nutritional value and wholesomeness associated with dairy foods and dairy food ingredients.

Apparently, Great Grand-Ma-Ma had this knowledge!

Resource #2: Ingredient Info

Here’s a tool from the International Food Information Council (IFIC) to help communicate information about ingredients.

Summary: We enjoy a food supply that is safe, convenient, healthful, flavorful and affordable. Food ingredients--both those that have been used for centuries, as well as those developed more recently--help to make that possible. Connect HERE.

Resource #3: Interested in understanding the sweetness of ice cream?
Summary: An article on the relative sweetness of ice cream has been added to the Dairy Science and Food Technology website. Connect HERE.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Is Pumpkin the New Bacon?

During the past month, consumer media have posed the question: Is pumpkin the next bacon?

Here are two worthwhile reads: CNBC on September 21 and New York Magazine on October 14.

While pumpkin is showing up this autumn on menus across the country—from McDonald’s milkshakes to Cracker Barrel’s custard  to Starbucks’ latte—many agree that it is a seasonal flavor, but one that is increasingly being embraced by consumers because of pumpkin’s healthfulness.

Did you know?
  • Pumpkins owe their bright orange color to their high carotenoid content. These antioxidants assist in staving off free radicals in the body, which helps fight off various diseases and slows signs of aging.
  • They are also high in lutein and zeaxanthin. These are the same nutrients found in egg yolks and are associated with protecting the eyes against free radical damage and preventing formation of cataracts and degeneration of the eye tissues.
  • Pumpkins are loaded with vitamins and minerals, most notably vitamins A and C, magnesium, potassium and zinc.
  • And finally, pumpkin flesh is a concentrated source of soluble fiber, making it very low in calories.  (Though it usually only tastes good when it’s combined with sweeteners and other caloric, flavorful ingredients.)
Many dairy processors recognize the value of formulating with pumpkin, especially at this time of year. For example, Kraft’s Limited-Edition Philadelphia Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese recently returned to grocer’s refrigerators for its third season.

And this month, private-label retailer Aldi dedicated an entire refrigerated section and dried goods shelf to fall seasonal products, most of which were pumpkin flavored. Under the company’s Fit & Active brand, the pumpkin pie nonfat yogurt is to die for. A 6-ounce cup contains 90 calories and sells at Aldi for 39 cents! (I made an oat-based granola with dried cranberries and pecan pieces and used it to make pumpkin pie yogurt parfaits as a healthful dessert for some moms at a recent school committee meeting. They loved it!)

In the refrigerator, Aldi offers quarts of indulgent Friendly Farms Pumpkin Spice Milk, while in the freezer there are 1.5-quarts of Belmont Premium Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream. The ambient aisle has 9.5-fluid-ounce glass bottles of Pumpkin Spice Iced Coffee. Aldi has its own pumpkin-flavored cream cheese, too. (Photos below.)
And though not pumpkin, Aldi’s new Apple Harvest Cheddar Cheese is definitely a winner that they better bring back next year. (Photo below.)
Back on the foodservice side, TCBY is encouraging Americans to indulge guilt-free with three new frozen yogurt flavors: Pumpkin Spice, Apple Spice and Eggnog Super Fro-Yo.  A single serving delivers a minimum of 3 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, seven types of live active probiotic cultures, and 20% of the Daily Value for vitamin D and calcium. At a 120 calories or less per serving, as well as 1 gram or less of saturated fat and a minimum of 20 billion live active probiotics, it’s easy for consumers to get into the spirit of the season.

So, is pumpkin the next bacon? No…not if you are in the dairy business, as bacon has only had a limited presence in dairy (a few dips, some cheeses and an artisan ice cream or two). Pumpkin is bigger than bacon in dairy. So if you are not marketing a pumpkin flavor this autumn, consider it for next year.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Make Dairy Products Convenient

Monday was a very exhausting day, as I flew to Vegas in the wee hours of the morning and spent the afternoon walking the two massive halls of the NACS Show (convenience store show). The effort paid off, as I discovered many innovative new dairy products that will be featured as a Daily Dose of Dairy during the next month. (There were many, and you won’t want to miss any. And these are all real dairy products, not snack foods flavored with cheese or sour cream.

Though c-stores continue to be a destination for parents in need of a quick gallon of milk (view the “got milk?” commercial HERE), there are so many more opportunities for dairy processors to merchandise their wares.

Did you know?
  • There are 148,126 c-stores in the United States—one per every 2,100 people.
  • Other competing channels have far fewer stores, according to Nielsen TDLinx, such as supermarkets (32,924 stores), drug stores (38,526 stores), dollar stores (22,782 stores) and superettes (13,234 stores).
  • The U.S. c-store industry alone serves nearly 160 million customers per day.
  • Cumulatively, in 2011, their $681 billion in sales were more than the sales of the country’s supermarkets ($563 billion) and restaurants ($583 billion) and far greater than drug stores ($222 billion, not including prescriptions).
  • C-stores offer speed of service to time-starved consumers who want to get in and out of the store quickly.
  • The c-store industry also is increasingly a destination for on-the-go refreshment and meals. The average store has more than $20,000 a month in “foodservice” sales.
  • These shoppers recognize this channel of trade for its convenient locations, extended hours of operation, one-stop shopping, grab-and-go foodservice, variety of merchandise and fast transactions.

Are your dairy products convenient? Think cheese cubes and cracker packs, bagels and cream cheese, carrot sticks and sour cream dip, yogurt parfaits, etc.   Are you selling in the c-store channel? The time is now to get on board.  

Other opportunities include partnering with the c-store to offer your branded products as part of their various fresh foodservice programs, including fresh yogurt bars, pizza programs and build-your-own sandwich. And don't forget to offer your branded creamers with their coffee.    

And what best accompanies all of these convenience food options? It’s a single-serve bottle of flavored milk.    

Did you know?
  • Approximately 7.1% of all fluid milk sales occur in c-stores.
  • Almost 10% of milk sold in c-stores is flavored, a higher share than any other retail channel.
  • In 2010, 456-million gallons of milk were sold in c-stores, but unfortunately this figure has declined by more than 10% since 2008.
  • Single-serve milk now represents 10% of all milk in c-stores. Two-thirds of that is flavored milk.
Kudos goes out to Shamrock Farms for their efforts in the c-store channel. This ad appeared in a c-store magazine I picked up at the show.    

Friday, October 5, 2012

What a Week for Fluid Milk!!!

I try not to be too personal on these blogs, but I must share with you that I had an amazing day on Tuesday when The Fair Oaks Farms Brands Inc., Chicago-based team brought me up to speed (some info will remain in my confidence until they give me the thumbs up to share) on their business and then took me on a personal tour of their Indiana farming operation. This group of dynamic individuals IS changing the way the American consumer will view, use and consume fluid milk in the future. Think out of the gallon jug!

Did you know that their Core Power Strawberry Banana Light high-protein recovery drink uses monk fruit juice concentrate and stevia leaf extract as low-calorie natural sweeteners? Read more HERE.

The next day, Cary Frye, vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs at the International Dairy Foods Association, shared the following LINK of her interview on WUSA-TV for a story on milk in schools. Cary does a fantastic job of discrediting the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a vegan group more concerned with the welfare of animals than of school kids’ nutritional status, and delivering the dairy industry’s messages. She does an excellent job of explaining how impractical it would be for kids to consume enough greens in lieu of milk to receive the same amount of calcium. 

But the industry needs your help to support Cary’s comments. Under the video link is a script of the broadcast and room to post comments. As of this morning (October 5, at about 6:30am CDT), there were two comments, both supporting Cary’s views. Please consider making a positive comment.

Also, prior to the broadcast and again afterwards, the anchor solicits feedback from parents and asks them to go to the WUSA Facebook page to post comments. As of this morning, there are 21 comments. They are quite varied, with many packed full of misinformation, such as “everyone is lactose intolerant and milk should be removed from school.”

Please consider linking HERE and posting a positive comment about milk. (You need to scroll down to the Tuesday, 9:17pm, posting. It appears that the presidential debate and the Fonz being a guest anchor on the network trumped the school milk story.)

And here’s some great info to end your week. Chocolate milk sales for the months of July and August rose significantly, according to two recent reports.

IRI/Symphony, a market research firm, reports that sales volume for chocolate milk sold in grocery, drug, club, dollar and military outlets grew 8.3% for the 13 weeks ending September 9, 2012, when compared to the same period in 2011.

USDA statistics for the month of July also showed strong sales volume with an 8.6% increase across all channels selling flavored milk. This is the highest sales gain reported by USDA since early 2010 and possibly longer, according to Julia Kadison, MilkPEP vice president of marketing. “These numbers are clearly a bright spot on the milk landscape.”

The timing corresponds with a major new initiative introduced by the Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP) in March that highlights chocolate milk as a sports recovery drink. The “Refuel with Chocolate Milk” program highlights chocolate milk as a cornerstone of the after-workout rituals of some of the world’s best athletes, underscored with the tagline “My After.” For more information, link HERE.

Without serving as an official sponsor of the 2012 Summer Olympics, MilkPEP took advantage of the games as Olympic athletes and others delivered messages about the importance of refueling with chocolate milk. Chocolate milk as a recovery drink of Olympians was covered in three national morning talk show segments, three national newspapers and a plethora of mainstream online stories. The combined reach for these stories was more than 32 million impressions.

The science behind refueling with low-fat chocolate milk presents a new usage occasion for milk. MilkPEP believes changing the patterns of adult athletes will help convert new milk drinkers and provide lapsed users with another reason to drink milk. It also may create a halo effect that could lead to more in-home consumption of chocolate milk among all family members.

Speaking of chocolate and other flavored milks, please check out the archives of the Daily Dose of Dairy for new milk products HERE. There’s been a great deal of activity in new flavored milks and from what my industry contacts have been telling me, there are many more new flavored milk products in the pipeline.

Remember chocolate milk is the official drink of Halloween. For more information, visit HERE.

This TruMoo half pint retails at my local supermarket for 50 cents. It would be great if they were sold in 10 packs to make it easier for me and other parents to purchase as a healthy snack to help their kids refuel after their sporting events. There’s an idea!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

For the Love of Dairy: Five States in 36 Hours

Via planes, train and automobile, I managed to set foot in five states during a span of 36 hours this past Sunday to Monday. Much of my time was spent driving through rural Pennsylvania to get to and from the Northeast Dairy Convention and speak on the topic of “What’s Hot and What’s Not” in new dairy product introductions.

I drove by--and honked a few times at--many herds of dairy cows.

There was a hand-painted barn telling me: Drink Pennsylvania Milk. I obliged and ordered a freshly prepared latte at a Sheetz c-store.

I even saw a few billboards promoting general dairy consumption. So I dug in my bag and pulled out the snacking cheese I saved while in the United Club.

As I belted out the verses to Rod Stewart’s Forever Young, I smiled. That drive, once again, confirmed how blessed I am to be part of the dairy industry.

It truly was an honor to speak to a room packed with Northeastern dairymen (and dairy women). I could see the passion on their faces. They lit up when I talked about how dairy’s already very positive image continues to grow stronger. They were encouraged by my words of unlimited opportunity for growth through innovative product development.

Luke Brubaker of Brubaker Farms proudly shared this VIDEO.

I spoke with some recruiters at the convention who specialize in placing dairy professionals in the booming Northeast dairy region. (Interested? Visit HERE.) They, too, are amazed by the growth in dairy, which is being driven largely by yogurt.

And speaking of yogurt, I just completed an article for Food Business News on the yogurt category. I invite you to link HERE and enjoy the read. Hopefully it will inspire and reaffirm why you are in this industry.

Missed my presentation in Pennsylvania? Try to come and hear me speak on this topic at the Oregon Dairy Industries annual conference on April 9 and 10. For more information, visit HERE.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Hands-On Product Development Experience

We live in such a virtual world that it is often easy to forget that food product development is a hands-on effort. (At least for now it is.)

My eldest son, after finally getting back in the classroom after the seven days of Chicago public school teachers striking, informed me that his biology teacher announced that they will not be dissecting real frogs this year. There’s no money to purchase the frogs. Rather, she has an interactive computer program that allows each student to virtually dissect the four-legged leaper.

I find this bothersome. As much as I was disgusted with this biology lesson back in the day, I also know that it was a major driver of directing me towards food science. I loved the hands-on part of the process.

And as much as food science is about getting your hands dirty, real-world product development includes other disciplines such packaging and processing, safety and regulatory, and marketing and distribution. The Dairy Research Institute gives college students the chance to get a taste of real-world dairy foods product development, empowering them to experience all of these critical aspects of bringing a new product to market. 

The Dairy Research Institute, established under the leadership of America’s dairy farmers, will be conducting its second annual New Product Competition. Open to undergraduate and graduate students in the United States and Canada, this year’s competition challenges student teams to develop a new dairy product for the morning meal occasion, which includes any meal eaten before breakfast, for breakfast, as a morning meal replacement or morning snack.

According to recent consumer research on morning eating habits conducted by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, nearly four out of five consumers over the age of 2 eat or drink something during a typical morning. This represents more than 100 billion food or beverage occasions and an estimated $200 billion in sales. Still, approximately 42 million people do not eat or drink anything in the morning, presenting a sizable opportunity.

“Although milk, cheese and yogurt have consistently performed well at breakfast, consumers are seeking new products that meet their convenience and flavor preferences. With their submissions, future product developers at colleges across the U.S. and Canada can leverage dairy’s valuable nutrition profile and market trends to spur new product innovations,” says Bill Graves, senior vice president, Dairy Research Institute.

A judging panel including experts from across the dairy industry will evaluate entries and select three winning teams to be recognized at the annual American Dairy Science Association (ADSA) Joint Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, July 8 to 12, 2013. In addition, the three winning concepts will be showcased at the U.S. Dairy Export Council booth at the Institute of Food Technologists annual meeting in Chicago, July 13 to 16, 2013. The winning teams will receive a combined $16,000 in cash prizes, including $8,000 for first place, $5,000 for second place and $3,000 for third place. Full contest details are available at HERE.

In its inaugural year, the Dairy Research Institute New Product Competition tasked students with developing an innovative dairy beverage that leveraged Innovation Center consumer research on milk’s competitive beverage set. The winning teams were announced earlier this year and included an oat-infused vanilla milk, an on-the-go mango drinkable Greek yogurt and a caffeine-enhanced drinkable yogurt. You can read about the winners HERE.

The first-place team from Clemson found value in the new product competition’s practical, hands-on approach. According to Johnny McGregor, Ph.D., professor and faculty advisor, Clemson University, his students also gained valuable insights for their future careers.

“I think dairy is the best model to use to teach students product development because there are so many different options and functional aspects to consider, from nutrition levels to shelf life preservation,” McGregor says. “It’s an ideal teaching category for real experience.”

The deadline for contest submissions is Jan. 15, 2013. To learn more about the Dairy Research Institute New Product Competition, including eligibility guidelines and judging criteria, visit HERE.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Mood Food

I am a big tea drinker—mostly sun brewed and over ice. This week I have been sipping soothing hot cups of Tazo’s Calm blend in efforts to reduce the stress of melding family with work due to the Chicago teacher’s strike. (I have a son who has been home all week because of the strike.)

Many of us turn to comforting foods and beverages in times of stress. We also often rely on certain foods and beverages when we need to address other moods or conditions, such as fatigue, anxiety and even an upset tummy.

There’s an emerging trend among food formulators to incorporate flavorful ingredients that have well established effects on health and wellness. These ingredients are known as botanicals and are often described as “plant extracts with functional benefits.”

I encourage you to read about this category of ingredients in an article I recently wrote for Food Business News. It can be found HERE.

There are many opportunities in dairy for botanicals. The Food Business News article provides a number of examples, such as RealBeanz Energize (pictured), which is cappuccino with ginseng and vitamin B12.

And stay tuned…I will profile a brand new product this Monday in the Daily Dose of Dairy. Make sure you are subscribed to receive it.

Have a great weekend. And please, Chicago teachers, agree on a contract and let’s get my son back in the classroom.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Milk…and Its Fat…Does a Body Good

Last week’s blog on school milk generated numerous emails and LinkedIn comments, in particular from dietitians concerned that growing children are not getting their daily dose of essential fatty acids when fat-free milk, vs. low-fat or whole milk, is served. A connection in Sweden wrote, “We turn more and more to 3%-fat milk in schools. Flavored milk has never been served and no milk with sugar. If the kids get no fat they crave more carbs and eat more sugar. The modern view is that it is not the fat that makes kids fat; it is the sugar.”

A local connection wrote, “Research going back 30 to 40 years shows that the fat in milk is required to be able to absorb calcium…From the 1950s to the 1980s we believed in the U.S. that fat was required for weight loss. All weight-loss products had unsaturated fatty acids in them, such as safflower or sunflower oil or lecithin. People lost a lot more weight with these products than the new low-fat or no-fat products/diets…The milk given to children should have the same fat content as breast milk…When I was in grade school we were given a half-pint of milk and an apple almost every day. It was whole milk, we did not have 2% and very few people drank skim milk. The fattest child in my class would be considered normal size by today’s standards.”

Then an article by Jennifer Sygo, a registered dietitian at Cleveland Clinic Canada in Toronto, appeared in Monday’s National Post posing the question: What if milk fat isn’t so bad for you after all?

She explains that a growing body of research is challenging the notion that the fat in dairy products does a body bad, especially when it comes to our hearts. There are a number of theories as to why there’s this change of heart, so to say.

Though the hypotheses require more research, they are definitely intriguing and many make common sense. One belief is that the benefits relate to the calcium content of dairy products, while others have noted that the fat in milk products causes levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good”) cholesterol in the bloodstream to rise. There are others. 

Regardless, this new way of looking at dairy products follows the growing trend toward eating foods in their whole, unprocessed form, not to mention our growing appreciation that whole food is greater, and more complex, than the sum of its parts, according to Sygo.
You can read her article in its entirety HERE.

Finally, timing is everything. On Wednesday, I received a press release from Florida Dairy Farmers stating: A lot of Floridians like their milk whole.

Grocery store sales in the sunshine state show that 30.6% of the milk sold through April 15 of this year was whole milk, while nearly the same amount--29.5%--was 2%. More than 18% of the milk sold was 1% and nearly 21% was fat-free, according to data from SymphonyIRI.

The press release explains that according to a new study published in the European Journal of Nutrition, there appears to be no relationship between full-fat dairy products and weight gain when consumed as part of a healthy diet. Further, researchers also found nothing to link higher fat products with poorer metabolic health or increased risk of diabetes.

According to Florida Dairy Farmers Registered Dietitian Alyssa Greenstein, “Penny for penny, dairy delivers one of the best nutritional values of any food group. And for only about 25 cents per 8-ounce glass, milk remains one of the best ways to ensure your family’s diet is nutritious and balanced during these hard economic times.”

Yet, overall, milk sales continue to decline. There are several reasons why declining milk sales is concerning, given that a glass of milk may be the ultimate weapon in the fight against osteoporosis, according to new research released in Australia. The study, conducted by the University of South Australia, found that increasing dairy intake to the daily recommended serving could have saved Australia’s national health-care system $112 million annually, while sparing 40,000 men and women from the degenerative bone disease.

The good news is that regardless of preference for fat levels in milk, dairy lovers can continue to enjoy their favorites as part of a well-balanced diet. Milk marketers need to continue to communicate that milk, and the essential fatty acids that it naturally contains, does a body great.

Did I mention that whole milk is delicious? All this communication convinced me to buy a quart the other day. When my stomach started rumbling in the middle of the afternoon, I poured myself a cold glass. Not only did it refresh, it satisfied. And it was super delicious. (When I compared the Nutrition Facts to other common snacks, the glass of whole milk was lower in fat and contained more vitamins, minerals and protein…go figure!)

Maybe if we kept the fat in school milk, and served the white stuff nice and cold, there would be no need to flavor and sweeten it. It’s a back to basics approach.

I welcome your comments.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Milk Processors Are Ready For Back to School (So Is This Mom!)

It’s been a long summer in Chicago. We’ve been burning up since St. Patrick’s Day when temperatures hit 81F at O’Hare, marking it the warmest leprechaun celebration in 141 years.

I’m done with shorts, baseball and the beach. Bring on jeans, football and a pumpkin patch…and having my boys back in school.

When I ordered lunches for my youngest a few weeks ago, I noticed a major difference in the offerings. Descriptors such as whole grain, low fat and grass fed showed up all over the menu. Since last year, his parochial school has been compliant with federal regulations all public elementary schools must now follow regarding milk: all white milk must be either fat free or low fat and flavored milk can only be fat free. There are no stipulations on calories or sugar levels.

According to Julie Buric, vice president-marketing, Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP), “The nation’s milk processors have been hard at work over the past several years to lower the calories and sugar in school flavored milk, giving kids the taste they love while still maintaining all of its essential nutrients.

“The average calories in school flavored milk have declined by more than 21% over the past five years and sugars have been cut dramatically--by 40%,” she says. “On average, school flavored milk now has 132 calories per serving.”

Milk processors: congratulations on a job well done!

It’s important that school administrators understand the role flavored milk can have in keeping kids consuming milk and the nine essential nutrients it provides. According to MilkPEP’s Annual School

Survey, milk consumption in schools declined for the third consecutive year, decreasing by more than 1% in just the last year alone.  It is imperative that the choices offered to kids are delicious, which not only includes great-tasting flavor but also being served at refrigerated temperatures. Flavored milk is the most popular choice in school lunch rooms and research suggests students drink less milk when it is not offered --contributing to the detrimental decline in milk intake.

Buric says that for many moms, flavored milk on the menu represents an important choice for their kids.  Four out of five moms (79%) believe kids need healthy choices at school, including chocolate milk.

This mom agrees.

To learn more about school milk, visit