Thursday, March 28, 2013

Competitive Foods in Schools: Let's Keep Dairy in the Mix

The 2013 IDFA Ice Cream Technology Conference (March 12 to 13) ended with a very informative processor panel discussion that addressed recently proposed school nutrition regulations and standards, among other nutrition and marketing policies directed towards children. A great deal of discussion centered around a recently proposed USDA rule regarding limitations on competitive foods sold in schools.
Did you even know that on February 1, 2013, USDA issued such a proposed rule on competitive foods sold in schools? If you did not know, you are the majority of dairy processors. But here’s the bottom line: THESE PROPOSED RULES COULD HAVE A NEGATIVE IMPACT ON YOUR BUSINESS, BUT YOUR VOICE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Comments to USDA are due by April 9, 2013. Please help fix the flaws in the proposed regulation.
The proposed rule impacts foods and beverages sold outside the reimbursable meal, in other words, foods and beverages sold a la carte, in vending machines and snack bars on campus. This is a particular concern for any marketer that sells ice cream in schools. But it also impacts other dairy products sold in schools, such as milk, yogurt, string cheese and even a slice of pizza with cheese.
The proposed regulation limits total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, total sugars and calories. It could also prohibit fortified nutrients from counting toward the program’s requirements for nutrient content.
IDFA and its members agree that nutritional standards should be set for competitive foods and beverages sold in schools.
But these standards should encourage consumption of nutritious dairy products and also be practical for schools to implement and proven to work for schools, students and parents.
As written, USDA’s recently proposed federal regulation to standardize, and presumably improve the nutritional value of food sold in schools, has some HUGE flaws that will eliminate many dairy, cheese and healthier option ice cream products and will cost school systems an enormous amount of revenue. The regulations will also force ice cream manufacturers (and this will impact their suppliers) to actually make some of the frozen snacks sold in schools less healthy in order to qualify for sale in schools. 
“The details of what they are proposing sound great on their website and TV, but the reality of it is astoundingly different,” says Randy Rich, president of Randy Rich, president of Rich Ice Cream Company, and one of the processor panelists at Ice Cream Tech.
A major flaw is in how the regulations will limit sugar content. The magic number with sugar is 35%, but there are two options on the table for determining this 35%. The first option is that a maximum be set for 35% of calories in a food to come from total sugar. This option is referred to as C1 and could prevent ice cream from being sold in schools. The second option, C2, and the preferred dairy industry option, is to set a maximum of 35% of a food’s weight to come from total sugar.
The following list of comments is available for you to use when contacting USDA about the impact of the rules on ice cream.  (This list is based on comments made by Rich Ice Cream Company.) Feel free to contact Cary Frye at IDFA ( if you learn more about the impact of these rules on other dairy products and see IDFA’s comments to USDA.
To: USDA, please:

  1. Extend the period of time for comments in order to allow sufficient time for manufacturers, distributors, schools, and parents to be heard.
  2.  Adopt the sugar by weight option (C2) option, not the sugar by calories (C1) option, because:
a) Although certainly unintentional, the description in the C1 proposal saying it would allow ice cream to be served is inaccurate and somewhat misleading. The C2 option would allow for low-fat frozen dairy products, including low-fat ice cream. These products are closer in their nutritional content to yogurt than to full-fat ice cream and can be a healthful snack option for kids to purchase a la carte.

b) The C1 option penalizes foods that contain their own natural sugars, such as lactose, which naturally occur in dairy foods and low-fat frozen dairy products.
c) The C1 option would prevent manufacturers from selling quality ice cream products. They would have to reformulate products with bulking agents to increase calories while keeping sugar content the same. This is not in the best nutritional interest of children as it adds nutritionally void calories.
d) The C2 option has been successfully implemented in school systems. The C1 option (recently recommended by the Institute of Medicine) is an untested standard. 
e) The C2 option allows for schools to use these foods to fund everything from copiers to the school lunch program itself, and has been proven financially. Implementation of the C1 standard will have a significant negative financial impact on the school systems.
         3. Allow vitamin and nutrient fortification of foods because:
a) Adding vitamins and nutrients to foods should be encouraged not discouraged.
b) Federal law (CRF 120.10(b)) requires manufacturers to supplement many foods with vitamins and other nutrients in order to preserve their standard of identity. Not allowing vitamin fortification would require manufacturers to violate federal law in order to continue selling these products in the schools.
c) These nutrients cannot be distinguished as “added” on the label, so it is impossible to enforce. This is the reason USDA does not distinguish between naturally occurring vs. “added” sugar in its restrictions. Therefore it should use the same standard for all nutrients.
EVERYONE reading this blog can help make sure students are given the option to be able to enjoy a delicious and nutritious ice cream snack while on the school campus.
  Please contact USDA using the following link, and cutting and pasting some of the comments above or writing your own. USDA is soliciting comments from the industry and the public until April 9, 2013.
Thank you very much to IDFA and Rich Ice Cream Company for reviewing the content of today’s blog and approving its dissemination to the industry. Please take action by contacting USDA. Please forward this blog to others and ask them to take action, too. We can make a difference!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Cheese Trends 2013

Photo Source: Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board

Cheese Trends 2013: Per capita consumption of cheese continues to grow thanks to innovative new products by well as the fact that more and more consumers recognize cheese as a nutritious, versatile dairy food that complements every eating occasion. Read on to learn the trends driving innovation and how these innovations provide consumers permission to indulge on cheese.

All week long I have been receiving announcements of the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest winners. The contest, which was held March 12 and 13 in Green Bay, WI, is the largest technical evaluation of cheese and butter in the country. This year, more than 30,000 pounds of cheese were entered into the contest, representing 1,702 entries from 30 states.

A Wisconsin Gouda is the 2013 U.S. Championship Cheese. Marieke Penterman, founder of Holland’s Family Cheese, Thorp, WI, took top honors. I’ve tasted this Gouda and agree it is fabulous. But I must admit it is Penterman’s Foenegreek Gouda that is my favorite. Foenegreek is a seed native to Holland and has a nutty, maple-like flavor. Penterman is one of the few to recognize that it makes a flavorful cheese inclusion. Congratulations!

And congratulations to all of the contest winners. The complete list of winners can be viewed HERE.

Cheese consumption data
Tradition, creativity and fine craftsmanship continue to drive cheese consumption. Data indicate that U.S. per capita cheese consumption was 33.3 pounds in 2010. This is projected to jump to 34.9 pounds by 2020.

When compared to the rest of the world, we can be eating a lot more cheese! In fact, Americans trail the French by almost 20 pounds of cheese per person annually. There’s a lot of room for growth…and innovative flavors and forms, as well as better-for-you formulations will bring new users to the category and create new usage occasions.

In late 2012, WeiserMazars and The Food Institute conducted the 2012 Food & Beverage Industry Study. The majority of participants were manufacturers (36%) and wholesalers/distributors (35%), representing a full range of products and company sizes. The study provided insight to potential drivers for the industry in 2013, and best practices to stay ahead of the competition today and tomorrow.

According to 59% of the study’s participants, new customers are most likely to influence sales growth, followed by new products (51%) and increased selling prices (40%). Isn’t this exactly what made Greek yogurt the star that it is today? (The complete study is available HERE.)

Top-Three Trends Influencing Innovations in Cheese

1. Connect to the Consumer. Create a cheese that has a story. Talk about the milk source, the proprietary aging technique, the driver behind the product. The consumer is looking for permission to purchase a premium, indulgent product. Don’t be shy. Your package is your marketing medium. Use it.

2. Offer Flavors and Forms. Include ingredients that add flavor or provide some kick. But don’t just add them. Tell the consumer where they came from and why they are being added. Also, offer flavorful cheeses in convenient forms for snacking and dash-board dining. String cheese has grown up!

3. Focus on the Nutrition Facts. Provide consumers permission to indulge with an improved Nutrition Facts. Notice how I don’t suggest you scream out to the consumer that the product is “low fat” or “reduced sodium.” By all means, low-fat and low-sodium cheeses appeal to a growing population segment, but such labels can also scare some consumers away, as they might bring back bad memories of similarly labeled products that were inferior.

Ingredient technologies are now available to lower fat and even more so, lower sodium, without impacting the indulgence factor. Many label-conscious consumers stopped eating cheese or reduced consumption for various health reasons. An improved Nutrition Facts gives them permission to indulge once again. Here are those new consumers that will help drive sales.

Also, keep in mind that not only are lower fat and lower salt formulations appealing in the retail packaged cheese sector, they are also increasingly being sought out in foodservice—from fast-food chains to fine-dining restaurants to school menus. For more information about sodium-reduction technologies, read my August 17, 2012, blog HERE

In addition to removing some fat and sodium,  make sure you promote the protein content—which contributes to satiety—as well as the cheeses’ other nutrients, primarily calcium.

Recent Innovations

The following innovations include elements of one or more of the trends just discussed. In addition to these new products, please check out the cheeses previously featured as a Daily Dose of Dairy HERE.

Bringing their medal count to an impressive 10 in the past three years, Wisconsin’s Red Barn Family Farms has successfully partnered with a select group of traditional small Wisconsin dairy farm families to produce its championship line of Heritage Weis white cheddar.

The most recent awards were received this past week at the 2013 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest. Red Barn’s Heritage Weis Reserve took gold in the aged bandaged cheddar category. The Heritage Weis Reserve-3 Year won silver in the same group, as did the Heritage Weis in mild to medium cheddars.

“We are absolutely convinced of the connection between healthy, well-cared for cows and the distinctively delicious milk and cheese they produce,” says Terry Homan, a doctor of veterinary medicine and co-founder of Red Barn Family Farms. “We believe our track record validates this premise.”

Red Barn Rules place each of the eight Red Barn Family Farms in the top tier across the industry for milk quality. Red Barn Family Farms are the only humane-certified dairy farms in Wisconsin. Each farm must be family owned and must be its primary source of livelihood. The majority of the farm labor must be performed by family members. Farms milk 70 cows or fewer; each cow is known by her name, (not a number); and they live longer lives than the industry average, according to the company.

“We exist to honor and sustain traditional small family farms and the inherent way these farmers care for their cows. The health of our cows correlates directly to the championship cheese they help produce,” Homan says.

Red Barn Heritage Weis is creamy, smooth old-world-style white cheddar with a pleasant, tangy finish. It is distinctively sweeter than typical cheddar and pairs well with fruit, especially pears, apples and strawberries. It has remarkable melting qualities, making delectable gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, homemade mac and cheese, or melted on a juicy burger and accompanied by pale ale.

Heritage Weis Reserve is aged more than one year. It possesses a bold, nutty flavor--but not sharp--with a long complex finish. Still creamy and smooth, it pairs well with nutty or seeded crackers and a glass of red wine or even dark beer, such as porter or stout. It is also a smooth melting cheese ideal for making flavorful beer and cheddar fondue.

Heritage Weis Reserve-3-Year, just released in October 2012, maintains its signature creaminess complemented by flavorful textured tyrosine clusters, the sign of well-aged cheese. The 3-Year offers bold, complex flavor without the acidity of typical aged cheddar. It stands up to full-bodied wine or stout.

Red Barn Family Farms will release a brand new American original raw milk cheese in September 2013. (Can't wait to try it...hint, hint.)

Red Barn Family Farms’ award-winning cheddars are made in small batches at Springside Cheese Corporation in Oconto Falls, WI, by cheesemaker Wayne Hintz. They are available in whole (13 pound), half and quarter midget wheels that are bandaged then dipped in traditional red paraffin; wholesale; and as individual 8-ounce wedges. For more information, visit HERE.

The Irish Dairy Board is introducing Kerrygold Skellig, a sweet cheddar cheese with a firm, yet creamy texture. It has a distinct nuttiness and sweet apple notes. The cheese is not “sweet” as sugar is sweet, but is best described as having an intensely flavorful, high-umami profile.

“The first thing you notice is how creamy it is,” says Laura Werlin, a James Beard Foundation Cookbook Award winner and one of the country’s foremost authorities on cheese, in her tasting notes for Skellig. “This is followed by fruity, almost apple-like flavors with a decided sweetness. That’s then chased with light brown butter and nutty flavors and an ever-so-slight sharpness on the finish. Altogether, it’s an amazing experience.”

Kerrygold is introducing Skellig in anticipation of a European trend the company expects will catch on in the U.S. “The trend in the U.K. and the rest of Europe is shifting towards a sweet cheddar,” says Roisin Hennerty, president of the U.S. consumer foods business. “Brand research abroad shows consumers favor sweeter cheddars over more traditional cheddars and we expect a similar taste evolution to occur in the States. Skellig captures the flavor profile that is in demand in Europe.”

Like all Kerrygold cheeses and butters, Skellig is made in Ireland with milk from grass-fed cows that are free of artificial growth hormones. The cows are raised on small family farms, with an average herd size of 60. Kerrygold Skellig comes in 7-ounce parchment packages. For more information, visit HERE.

Norseland Inc., part of Norway’s TINE SA, has introduced Jarlsberg Hickory Smoked cheese. This innovation starts with authentic Jarlsberg that is cold-smoked over smoldering hickory chip embers, infusing its mild, mellow and nutty flavor with a subtle smokiness. The natural production process also gives the cheese surface a distinctive light caramel color.

The product made its debut during The New York Food Film Festival and will also be at the third annual Chicago Food Film Festival. (I was fortunate to attend the inaugural edition of this event in The Windy City and I hope to attend again later this year...hint, hint!)

Part of a five-day celebration highlighting the best of food film, Jarlsberg Hickory Smoked was sampled by more than 1,500 attendees and paired with Islay 8 single malt whiskeys, Frei Brothers fine reserve wines, plus several local craft beers and cider.

“We were delighted to have an opportunity for this kind of personal consumer and pairing interaction, at what is the only known multi-sensory film festival of its kind,” says Deanna Finegan, Norseland’s marketing manager. “The product feedback we received was extremely positive, from an audience that values a quality food experience.”  For more information, visit HERE.

Brigitte Mizrahi, CEO of Anderson International Foods Inc., is a French cheese connoisseur, cheese blogger and the woman behind four lines of specialty cheeses currently in the U.S. market, including the recently introduced "Sincerely, Brigitte" line. The flavored cheese line was inspired by her passion for new flavors and adventure. Varieties are: Blue Marble (with white cheddar), Chipotle (with white cheddar), Garlic Basil (with Monterey Jack), Jalapeno Cilantro (with Monterey Jack), Parsley Chives (with Monterey Jack) and Tomato Olive (with Monterey Jack). The cheeses come in 7-ounce chunks. For more information, visit HERE.

Sierra Nevada Cheese Co., uses milk from local grass-fed cows, to produce its new line of Graziers cheeses. Sold in 8-ounce chunks, there’s medium and sharp cheddar, Jalapeno Jack, Monterey Jack and mozzarella.
For more information, visit HERE.

And here’s a new one from Italy. A new subscriber to the Daily Dose of Dairy, this cheesemaker from Pregiati di Gusto is introducing Provola with Lemon. The cheese is made with a green lemon inside, which releases citrus flavors over time, giving the cheese a very unique flavor profile.  The company is known for making cheeses with all types of interesting and flavorful ingredients, including other fruits and nuts.
For more information, visit HERE.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Gelato: Your Connection to Consumers

It looks like gelato will be one of summer 2013’s hottest frozen dessert trends.

Why? It possesses so many of the attributes that today’s consumers are seeking from foods and beverages.

With years of trend tracking, along with reviews of lots and lots of consumer research, I do believe the time is finally right for gelato in the United States. Before I explain why, I want to get a bit personal and say how wonderful it was to connect with so many frozen dessert industry players this week in St. Petersburg, Florida, at the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) Ice Cream Technology Conference. The program was packed with useful information to assist formulators and marketers with fine-tuning their current product offerings and to help with the development of the next big hit. (Great job, Cary and Paxton!)

Though the meeting had a record-breaking attendance, there was room for you to join this information exchange forum. (Please plan on it next year. You will not regret the investment.) The beauty of the meeting is that for two days we come together as one. We are a partnership with the sole purpose of manufacturing delicious frozen desserts that today’s and tomorrow’s consumers will enjoy.

As I pointed out in the opening presentation, today’s consumers are looking for permission to indulge. When it comes to frozen desserts, the “indulgent” attribute must be a given. In other words, frozen desserts MUST be yummy. They must be indulgent. Anything less, and they are a chore to consume. One should make no sacrifices when consuming a frozen dessert.

The “permission” comes from the many varied formulating and marketing approaches. Maybe it’s through a lower-fat or lower-sugar formulation or the inclusion of organic or fairly traded ingredients. Locally sourced, or even internationally sourced and identified and described ingredients are increasingly appealing to consumers who are looking for authentic foods. Boosting the protein or fiber content is also a trend, as is packing in a serving of fruit.

“Twofers” also provide permission to indulge. A twofer is two treats in one, such as cookie dough ice cream, brownie bit frozen yogurt and strawberry shortcake gelato.

What's gelato?
And there’s the key word: gelato. Italian for ice cream, gelato is one of the hottest trends in the U.S. frozen dessert category—at both retail and in foodservice. This is because gelato appeals to today’s consumer looking for authentic, simple and clean label. Gelato tells a story. It’s a frozen dessert that consumers can connect to…a very important attribute in today’s marketplace.

Authentic gelato is hand-crafted in small batches and typically made fresh daily for on-the-go consumption. The base product is simple: milk, cream, sweetener, and sometimes pasteurized eggs. The gelato-maker then blends in fruit—and lots of it—or chocolate, nuts or other sweet treats. The beauty of the small batch is that the gelato maker can be creative with flavoring ingredients. This keeps the consumer interested and coming back for more.

There is no standard of identity for gelato in the United States, which provides a lot of room for creativity. Many of today’s consumers consider gelato a premium product—an indulgence. It’s a frozen dessert they will pay a little more for because of the story behind the product. And here’s a bonus: the churning process that is void of overrun results in a very rich, creamy, dense product that contains less fat than traditional ice cream.

Seeing helps one believe. The following videos do a decent job of showing the power of gelato. (The videos are appropriate for all. Comments made by random YouTube viewers might not be in the best taste. Please accept my apologies if any comments are offensive.)

Gelato Flowers at Amorino, a New York Chow Report
Nestle in Italy
Italy’s Gelato University

A Review of the U.S. Marketplace

In April, the Haagen-Dazs brand will start rolling out 14-ounce containers of gelato at a suggested retail price of $4.79. Select flavors will also be available in 3.6-ounce cups for a suggested retail price of $1.49.

The launch of Haagen-Dazs Gelato will be supported by a full marketing mix including television, print and online advertising, as well as public relations, point of sale materials, a consumer promotion and a strong digital strategy. The company wants to communicate the story behind its gelato in order to connect with consumers.

According to Cady Behles, Haagen-Dazs brand manager, “Leisurely strolls through the piazza at dusk, an appreciation of centuries-old craftsmanship and a love of food that borders on obsession, these are the essential Italian moments we had in mind when creating Haagen-Dazs Gelato.”

Interestingly, the brand had originally debuted gelato in 1998. It was discontinued in late 2001/early 2002. At that time, the Haagen-Dazs brand was still owned by Pillsbury, prior to being acquired by General Mills. Around the same time, Dreyer’s, still not part of the Nestle conglomerate, debuted Portofino, an ice cream concept modeled after gelato. The 2013 version of Haagen-Dazs Gelato from the Nestle Dreyer’s Ice Cream Company, a part of Nestle USA, is a melding of all the flavor concepts from a dozen years ago.

Consumers may not have been ready for the gelato connection back then, but the time definitely seems right these days. An important element is how the ingredients tell a story: vanilla from Madagascar, coffee from Brazil, sea salt from San Francisco, cherries from Oregon and the lemons come all the way from South Africa. These ingredients and more are used in the seven Italian-inspired flavors.

Black Cherry Amaretto--Black cherries meet amaretto, an Italian liqueur, in creamy gelato.
Cappuccino--Bold and complex, this is a blend of cappuccino and sweet cream gelato.
Dark Chocolate Chip--Bittersweet chocolaty chips meet dark chocolate gelato.
Limoncello--Sweet and zesty, this is a blend of creamy lemon gelato with vodka.
Sea Salt Caramel--Ribbons of sea salt caramel float throughout creamy caramel gelato.
Stracciatella--Inspired by the Italian classic, this flavor gently folds rich chocolaty shavings into smooth, sweet cream gelato.
Vanilla Bean--Elegant in flavor, this is a blend of rich and creamy vanilla gelato with flecks of vanilla beans.

The success of Minneapolis-based Talenti Gelato & Sorbetto is also testament to the fact that consumers appreciate the concept of gelato. The company uses its package and website to communicate that it uses only the finest natural and raw ingredients, carefully sourced locally and from around the world. All Talenti flavors are 100% natural and crafted with the same uncompromising commitment to artisanal quality that has distinguished authentic Italian gelato for centuries, according to the company.

At the 2013 Natural Products Expo West Conference in early March, Talenti announced a re-branding effort that modernizes the look and feel of the product, as well as the introduction of four new flavors. The new packaging and flavors will begin to roll-out to retailers nationwide in April 2013.
Talenti’s new logo and typeface support the brand’s simplicity and playfulness, while also capturing the inevitable smile that comes with each spoonful of Talenti. The “smiling spoon” logo and updated tagline, “Happier spoons,” will further remind consumers of Talenti’s exceptional quality and all-natural, carefully sourced ingredients.

The new pint flavors are:
Alphonso Mango--A rich, dense sorbetto made with real, perfectly ripe Alphonso mangos from India.
Argentine Caramel--A luxurious and rich gelato made with golden Argentinean-style dulce de leche.
Southern Butter Pecan--A new take on a classic, this gelato combines a thick, delicious, buttery background with butter roasted pecans, and a ribbon of Talenti’s signature dulce de leche.
German Chocolate Cake--Inspired by the classic dessert, this flavor blends creamy milk chocolate gelato with premium pieces of coconut, candied pecans and a velvety caramel swirl throughout.

The company also added gelato stick novelties to its product mix. Flavors include: Banana Swirl, Black Raspberry, Caribbean Coconut, Coffee, Double Dark Chocolate, Mediterranean Mint, Sea Salt Caramel and Tahitian Vanilla Bean.
“We are thrilled to add new, exciting flavors to our growing line of products,” says Josh Hochschuler, founder of Talenti Gelato & Sorbetto. “We put great care in creating our gelatos, selecting the best ingredients and adhering to time-honored gelato-making methods. With two takes on American classics and two slightly more exotic creations, this year’s new flavors continue to exemplify our commitment to the best quality gelato and sorbetto.” 

What really makes Talenti products stand out in retail freezers is their clear plastic container. Consumers eat with their eyes before they ever smell or taste. How a food or beverage looks influences craveability and acceptance. Talenti’s containers show consumers what they are getting, which ranges from ample freshly frozen fruit pieces to large chunks of nuts. These premium ingredients provide visual cues to the indulgence inside the container. They provide permission to indulge.

Talenti’s new packaging and new flavors will start showing up in retailers’ freezers nationwide beginning April 2013. Pints have a suggested retail price of $4.99 to $5.99. They can also be purchased online at $7.99, plus shipping.

Talenti’s complete line of gelatos and sorbettos includes 25 flavors. Some noteworthy examples include Banana Chocolate Swirl, Black Cherry Amarena and Roman Raspberry.

The 2013 Natural Products Expo West Conference showcased many other new gelato products, including Ciao Bella’s Sea Salt Caramel Gelato Squares. The decadent ice cream sandwiches mark an inspired addition to Ciao Bella’s collection of gelato novelties that include sofi award-winning Key Lime Graham Gelato Squares.

Boulder Homemade Inc., debuted Figo! Organic Gelato artisan, slow-batch organic gelato at Natural Products Expo West. (It was so great to meet you!) The company uses 10-gallon Italian-made machines that rely on a proprietary slow-churn process to create the ideal mixture of low overrun and butterfat to yield a smooth, creamy, rich texture gelato.

Gluten free and egg free, Figo! Organic Gelato comes in seven flavors:

Chocolate Duet (a blend of cocoa powder and molten chocolate)
Chocolate Peanut Butter
Coconut Almond Chip
Cool Limone
(with fresh lemon juice and zest)
Pure Pistachio
Salted Caramel Café (contains real caramel)
Vanilla Trio (a blend of Tahitian, Madagascan and Bourbon vanilla)

“Each of our unique flavors contains finely tuned ingredient combinations to create a symphony of flavor,” says Scott Roy, CEO and president. “Each ingredient is crucial to the overall flavor profile that we feel creates a standout product for the marketplace.” Each pint has a suggested retail price of $4.99.

Here’s the deal. Consumers want an excuse to indulge on a frozen dessert. Tell them a story. Maybe you need to woo former users back to the category with some extra nutrition.

Here’s a real-life example. Almost every afternoon, after shutting down my computer, before I begin my afternoon of picking up sons from school and taking them to their after-school activities, I “indulge” on a frozen dessert. I am sold by the brands that provide me permission to indulge in terms of less sugar, less fat, more protein, and a decent dose of fruit. Gelato has the ability to do all that and more!

Let’s connect!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Formulating with Yogurt

Photo Source: U.S. Dairy Export Council

On Tuesday, March 5, The Huffington Post published an article about Greek yogurt invading other food stuffs, from cream cheese to hummus. You can read the article HERE.

Wow, the industry moves fast. It was just the week before that my article entitled “Made with Yogurt” was published in Food Business News/Dairy Business News. You can read the article HERE.

All kidding aside, formulating with yogurt, not just Greek yogurt, is a growing trend in almost all food categories.  Innovations flagging the inclusion of yogurt are banking on the fact that yogurt’s healthful halo will transfer, enhancing product appeal among today’s label-reading consumers.

However, not all yogurt ingredients are created equal. For starters, most non-refrigerated products rely on yogurt ingredients that have been heat treated, thus they do not contain live and active cultures unless specialty heat-tolerant probiotics are added. Still, use of such heat-treated yogurt ingredients, which typically come in a dried format, contain the nutrition found in the original yogurt, such as calcium and protein.  You can read more about dried yogurt ingredients HERE.

Refrigerated and frozen products will typically use fresh yogurt with live and active cultures. But depending on the application, this yogurt is often formulated for use in a specific application, as viscosity, syneresis and texture must be managed to best complement the other ingredients.

To engage in this “formulating with yogurt” movement, dairy processors can supply the food and beverage industries with yogurt ingredients—in refrigerated bulk or dried (produced in-house or by contracting with a drier) forms—and they can use their own yogurt to get creative in their product offerings.  Again, yogurt manufacturers must be open to creating formulations for specific applications.

Here are 10 product concepts to assist with your innovating endeavors. (You can also view more HERE.)

Kefir, a cultured milk considered the Eastern European cousin of yogurt, now comes in freeze-dried form. Though the product is shelf stable, the freeze-drying process preserves the viability of the cultures. The same is true for most of the similar freeze-dried yogurt snacks that have rolled out in the past year.

Lifeway Foods, the United States’ leading kefir manufacturer, introduced Lifeway ProBugs Bites at the 2013 Natural Products Expo West trade show at the Anaheim Convention Center. These tiny freeze-dried kefir melts quickly dissolve in baby’s mouth for safe and easy self-feeding. Varieties are: Orange Creamy Crawler, Goo-Berry Pie and Strawnana Split flavors. Product packs carry the tagline: made by moms. (Thanks Julie…you are amazing!) For more information, visit HERE.

At the same show, Sprout Foods rolled out a lne of toddler snacks that are based on Greek yogurt, grains and fruit. The shelf-stable snacks come in the increasingly popular, kid-friendly squeeze pouch. Varieties are Blueberry Brown Rice with Greek Yogurt, Red Berry Barley with Greek Yogurt and Tropical Oatmeal with Greek Yogurt.
For more information, visit HERE.


The Gerber brand includes yogurt in many of its snack and meal offerings. Here’s one of the most recent introductions, which is targeted to toddlers who like to play with their food.
For more information, visit HERE.

Packaging for fruit- and yogurt-based smoothies continues to evolve as manufacturers try to deliver the freshest product to consumers, yet with a shelf life that allows for efficient distribution. That’s what Dole Packaged Foods hopes it has achieved with the new Dole Fruit Smoothie Shaker product, where the packaging is integral to the consumption of the product.  

The user-friendly, functional and attractive high-end single-serve container solves a convenience hurdle that limited home consumption of hand-blended smoothie-type products. The product contains both frozen fruit and yogurt. A special proprietary process eliminates the need for a blender, which is one of the biggest complaints consumers have about making smoothies at home, according to the company. Simply unscrew the cap, add juice to the fill line, re-apply the cap and shake for about 30 to 45 seconds. The result is a perfectly blended smoothie, just like from the local smoothie shop. Each low-fat smoothie contains real yogurt with live and active cultures, including probiotics, as well as prebiotic fiber.
For more information, visit HERE.

Yogurt is even a sandwich filling! Make that a frozen novelty sandwich filling. TCBY, The Country’s Best Yogurt and frozen yogurt pioneer, is in a licensing partnership with Spring Creek Holdings for a retail line of pre-packaged frozen yogurt. This includes an extensive line of pints and quarts of hard-pack frozen yogurt, as well as a variety of novelties, including frozen yogurt sandwiches and bars.
For more information, visit HERE.

The Popsicle brand is incorporating yogurt into an array of frozen novelties…to be specific, 10% yogurt is in each novelty. Some of the novelties enrobe a core of frozen yogurt with a flavorful water ice, while others swirl or layer different flavors of a yogurt-based dessert.
For more information, visit HERE.

Move over garbanzo beans. Greek yogurt is the base for a new line of innovative refrigerated dips from La Terra Fina. The dips are merchandised in the self-service deli case next to hummus.
Each of the three lines has two flavors. They are:
1)    Salad Inspired: A riff on gourmet salad entrees, these dips pair fresh chopped vegetables with Greek yogurt, resulting in combinations with approximately half the fat and calories than regular dips.
  • Greek Kalamata Olives & Spinach: Leafy spinach and sun-dried tomatoes are blended with creamy Greek yogurt then finished with a fresh squeeze of lemon and salty Kalamata olives.
  • Balsamic Beet & White Bean: The natural sweetness of nutrient-rich beets is a perfect complement for Greek yogurt, with a savory touch of basil and salty Parmesan cheese and a splash of Balsamic vinegar.
2)    Creamy Vegetable: A blend of summer vegetables, herbs and Greek yogurt, the vegetable fusion flavors are ideal for a light dip or sandwich spread as an alternative to hummus, but with up to 65% less fat and fewer calories.
  • Roasted Yellow Pepper & Lentil: Yellow bell peppers are roasted, then blended with savory red lentils and tangy Greek yogurt for a perfect balance of sweet and savory.
  • Red Lentil Curry: Roasted garlic and spicy curry add a rich layer to this blend of creamy Greek yogurt and simmered red lentils for a hearty dip.
3)    Mediterranean Classics: An update on snacking favorites, the classics line adds chef-influenced flavors to popular stand-bys.
  • Creamy Spinach & Bacon: Roasted garlic and smoky bacon kick the classic spinach dip up a notch.
  • Caramelized Onion: Rich caramelized red onions with a hint of balsamic are blended with tangy Greek yogurt for a healthier and more flavorful alternative to this party favorite.
For more information, visit HERE.

Refrigerated salad dressing manufacturer T. Marzetti Co., uses yogurt as its base in the Simply Dressed & Light line, which includes four creamy-style light dressings (blue cheese, Caesar, celery seed slaw and ranch), all of which are made with a minimal number of all-natural, simple ingredients. When comparing the nutritionals of the Blue Cheese variety in the Simply Dressed and the Simply Dressed & Light lines, the latter has about a one-third fewer calories and half the calories of the former thanks to the use of yogurt.
For more information, visit HERE.

The Safeway retail chain continues to grow its Open Nature brand of all-natural foods. This Tzatziki yogurt dip uses kefir yogurt as a base. A 2-tablespoon serving contains 40 calories and 3.5 grams of fat.
For more information, visit HERE.

Specialty foods retailer Trader Joe’s now offers private-label Mediterranean Greek Yogurt Dip. The ingredient statement lists Greek yogurt (cultured pasteurized grade A milk, cream, condensed skim milk, whey protein concentrate, tapioca starch, pectin) as the first ingredient, followed by feta cheese. Za’atar seasoning (sesame seed, spices, sumac, salt, roasted sesame oil) gives the dip its unique flavor profile. A 2-tablespoon serving contains 60 calories, 5 grams of fat and 1 gram of protein.

As America gears up for the summer picnic season, expect to see yogurt used in more deli salads, including close slaw, potato salad and macaroni.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Protein for Breakfast--and When They Are Dairy Proteins, You Get Better Benefits

It was wonderful to see so many of you at IFT Wellness this week. Congratulations to the Institute of Food Technologists on another wonderful conference.

A well-attended session--Healthier Living: Protein Needs for Physical Performance--put dairy in the spotlight. The speakers reviewed research that supports higher protein intake levels than the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA). These increased levels are designed for optimum muscle health and function rather than simply the minimum level to prevent deficiency. 

One of the speakers, Donald Layman, professor emeritus of nutrition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, my alma mater, explained that data indicates all humans need about the same amount of dietary protein every day for basic lean muscle repair and remodeling. To reap other benefits—those for optimum performance—one must consider the quality of the protein and the quantity of the protein at every meal, in particular breakfast.

Simply, data suggests that every meal should include 30 grams of high-quality protein (contains all nine essential amino acids), and is particularly high in the branched-chain amino acid leucine (a trigger for many of the benefits associated with protein consumption). This is the amount of protein for the body to function at its best.

This magic number is 30 grams of protein…at every meal.

“This is very important at smaller meals, which often tend to be overloaded with carbohydrates and fat,” said Dr. Layman.

The good news is when you focus on increasing high-quality protein concentrated in leucine, the carbs and fat naturally get decreased. So, if one focuses on the protein content of the diet, the rest falls into place.

Here’s the even better news. Of all the protein ingredients available to food and beverage manufacturers, whey protein isolate contains the most leucine: 11%. Milk protein concentrate comes in second at 9.5%, followed by egg protein at 8.8%. 

What does this mean for dairy processors? For starters, marketers need to promote the inherent high-quality protein content of fluid milk so that more consumers reach for a glass at every meal. In fact, the inherent protein content of all dairy foods is a great marketing tool.

On the innovation side, by starting with a source of high-quality protein—milk—and boosting protein with one or more of these ingredients, dairy foods become the ideal product to get many consumers to that magic number of 30 grams of protein at every meal.

Breakfast Opportunity
Breakfast tends to be one of the more challenging meals to consume enough protein, especially for those consumers who eat on the run. Here are two new on-the-go dairy-based beverages to the rescue. 

General Mills is rolling out BFAST, a nutritious breakfast shake based on nonfat milk. Each shelf-stable prisma carton contains 180 to 190 calories, depending on flavor, and 8 grams of protein. The majority of the protein comes from milk, but some of the other ingredients, including whole grain quinoa, also contribute to the protein content. The whole grains and inulin allow for the content claims of: 8 grams of whole grain and 3 grams of fiber per serving.

The product is marketed as a shelf-stable, dairy-based, portable breakfast shake with the nutrition of a bowl of cereal and milk, including vitamins and minerals, fiber, protein and whole grain. It is designed for the on-the-go millennial who may otherwise skip breakfast. BFAST comes in three flavors: berry, chocolate and vanilla. 

BFAST was introduced regionally in the Northeast in December. The suggested retail price is $1.79 for singles; $4.49 for three-pack. For more information, visit HERE.

Later this year, Kellogg Company will be rolling out nationally its Breakfast To Go milk-based drink. With 10 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber in each 10-ounce shelf-stable shake, the company believes this beverage is a great start to the day. The beverage is made with a protein blend based on nonfat milk, whey protein concentrate and soy protein isolate.

The aseptically packaged plastic bottles are sold in packs of four in three flavors: Milk Chocolate, Strawberry and Vanilla.

For more information, visit HERE.

And here’s some news from the Global Dairy Platform…

New Method to Assess Quality of Dietary Proteins
A groundbreaking report by an Expert Consultation of the Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations (FAO) has recommended a new, advanced method for assessing the quality of dietary proteins.
The report, “Dietary protein quality evaluation in human nutrition,” recommends that the Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score (DIAAS) replace the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) as the preferred method of measuring protein quality. The report recommends that more data be developed to support full implementation, but in the interim, protein quality should be calculated using DIAAS values derived from fecal crude protein digestibility data. Under the current PDCAAS method, values are “truncated” to a maximum score of 1.00, even if scores derived are higher.

Protein is vital to support the health and well-being of human populations. However, not all proteins are alike as they vary according to their origin (animal vs. vegetable), their individual amino acid composition and their level of amino acid bioactivity. “High quality proteins” are those that are readily digestible and contain the dietary essential amino acids in quantities that correspond to human requirements.

“Over the next 40 years, three billion people will be added to today’s global population of 6.6 billion. Creating a sustainable diet to meet their nutritive needs is an extraordinary challenge that we won’t be able to meet unless we have accurate information to evaluate a food’s profile and its ability to deliver nutrition,” says Paul Moughan, co-director of the Riddet Institute, who chaired the FAO Expert Consultation. “The recommendation of the DIAAS method is a dramatic change that will finally provide an accurate measure of the amounts of amino acids absorbed by the body and an individual protein source’s contribution to a human’s amino acid and nitrogen requirements. This will be an important piece of information for decision makers assessing which foods should be part of a sustainable diet for our growing global population.”

Using the DIAAS method, researchers are now able to differentiate protein sources by their ability to supply amino acids for use by the body. For example, the DIAAS method was able to demonstrate the higher bioavailability of dairy proteins when compared to plant-based protein sources. Data in the FAO report showed whole milk powder to have a DIAAS score of 1.22, far superior to the DIAAS score of 0.64 for peas and 0.40 for wheat. When compared to the highest refined soy isolate, dairy protein DIAAS scores were 10% to 30% higher. 

DIAAS determines amino acid digestibility, at the end of the small intestine, providing a more accurate measure of the amounts of amino acids absorbed by the body and the protein’s contribution to human amino acid and nitrogen requirements. PDCAAS is based on an estimate of crude protein digestibility determined over the total digestive tract, and values stated using this method generally overestimate the amount of amino acids absorbed. Some food products may claim high-protein content, but since the small intestine does not absorb all amino acids the same, they are not providing the same contribution to a human’s nutritional requirements. 

Since its adoption by FAO/WHO in 1991, the PDCAAS method had been widely accepted but also criticized for a number of reasons. In addition to the issues of truncation and overestimation, PDCAAS did not adequately adjust for foods susceptible to damage from processing and anti-nutritionals, which can make some amino acids unavailable for absorption.

“We support the recommendations of the FAO Expert Consultation, including the immediate use of DIAAS values calculated from fecal crude protein digestibility data,” says Donald Moore, executive director, Global Dairy Platform. “Immediately removing ‘truncation’ will provide health professionals, regulators and policy makers a more accurate representation of which foods provide the highest quality of nutrition. We urge industry to support the additional research required to enable implementation of the more accurate DIAAS method. ”