Thursday, October 24, 2013

Inclusions Forecast: Adding Nutrition and Flavor to Dairy Foods…Bit by Bit and Piece by Piece

Photo Source: Coolhaus

Color, flavor and texture…inclusions provide sensory appeal to all types of dairy foods. But today’s consumers want more. They are seeking out cheeses, dips, desserts and yogurts loaded with goodies that not only liven up the product, but pack in some punch.
To read an article I recently wrote in Food Business News entitled “Innovation Through Inclusions,” click HERE.

What to Expect at the Dairy Show…and in new dairy foods this coming year

The inclusions ingredient category has come a long way from extruded cookie dough bits and praline pecan chips. The beauty of inclusions is that they allow a dairy processor to create a simple base product—cream cheese, ice cream, yogurt, etc.—and differentiate through the addition of inclusions. These inclusions are typically sourced from suppliers who deliver a consistent ingredient, which prevents variations in the finished product.

After careful observation of products already in the global dairy marketplace, a review of other food categories (candies, cookies, snack foods, etc.) that include similar “bits and pieces,” and an analysis of consumer trends, here’s my forecast of inclusion-laden dairy food prototypes you will see at the International Dairy Show, which starts November 3 in Chicago, and eventually in the retail and foodservice channels. 

Photo source: Almond Board of California

1. Nuts. Nuts have long been a favorite garnish for dairy foods. Think Butter Pecan, Chocolate Almond and Pralines & Cream ice creams. Cheese balls get rolled in nuts and the occasional dual-compartment yogurt has diced nuts. In the future, expect many of these nuts to be layered with flavors…often with an element of heat. Think cayenne pepper-coated pistachios and honey and Sriracha-roasted pecans. (Sriracha is so popular these days, that there’s a festival saluting everything about its tangy, sweet, fiery flavor planned for this weekend. Read more about it HERE.)

Such premium nuts make ideal additions to fresh yogurt parfaits prepared daily by retailers and foodservice operators. I can see Chipotle offering, you guessed it, a yogurt parfait with chipotle and maple-flavored almonds.

Nuts will also become part of more complex inclusions. For example, the pictured Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream created by the Almond Board of California includes pie crust pieces containing finely chopped almonds as well as broken bits of almond brittle. 

And here’s a new product from Spain’s El Pastoret de la Segarra. Caprichos de Yoghourt, which translates to Yogurt Whims, is traditional Greek yogurt with upscale inclusions. The product is made daily with fresh milk and high-quality natural ingredients. The company implements a careful production process, adding each layer to a glass container, ensuring that the product’s composition and presentation are of the highest quality and provide the best-tasting experience. Yogurt Whims have a 35-day refrigerated shelf life.

When you peel back the foil seal of the Figs & Macadamia Nut variety, you see large pieces of macadamia nuts resting in a premium fig sauce.

2. Seeds. A close relative to nuts, seeds are not as common of an inclusion in dairy foods. That’s about to change. Sunflower and pumpkin seeds are sources of vitamins, minerals, protein and phytonutrients. Similar to nuts, seeds can be layered with flavors. Honey glazed and chocolate coated are the most common, but when the Food Network showcases innovations such as Sweet Kabocha Squash Ice Cream with Spiced Pumpkin Seeds, you know there’s a lot of opportunity with seeds. Read this recipe HERE.

The two seeds that are really gaining traction are chia and sesame. The latter, in particular, is emerging as a star flavor in Asian-style ice creams. For example, Mikawaya USA recently launched Mikawaya Exottics. One of the flavors is Black Sesame. Read more HERE.

Chia seed is finding a home in yogurt. The Epic Seed, from Epic Naturals in California combines Greek yogurt with chia seeds. “Chia is the Mayan word for strength, and some consider it nature’s perfect food,” said Jesse Rudolph, founder. “We believe we’ve filled a void in the marketplace and created a brand, which like the little chia seed itself, packs a real punch.” A 6.6-ounce cup of The Epic Seed contains more omega-3 fatty acids than a serving of salmon, and is loaded with antioxidants, calcium, fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium and protein. The nonfat product comes in four flavors—Blackberry, Blueberry, Peach and Strawberry—with each serving providing 3 grams of fiber and 17 grams of protein.

3. Chocolate. Surprise, surprise, chocolate still reigns as an inclusion in dairy foods. But, this next generation of chocolate inclusions is much more complex than the chips and chunks of yesteryear. This is exemplified in Italy’s G7’s range of single-serve containers of premium gelato. The Panna Cotta variety is Panna Cotta-flavored gelato with swirls of caramel syrup and topped with caramel chocolate curls.

The company also offers Cioccolatissimo, which is chocolate-flavored gelato with chocolate syrup. The gelato is topped with dark and milk chocolate curls.

Chocolate works in cheese, too.  This product debuted in the U.S. just in time for Valentine’s Day 2013. It is “the perfect marriage.” Discount private-label retailer Aldi described its Cheddar with Chocolate as being for those who have “passion for food.” Read more HERE.

A new generation of trio-compartment containers for yogurt is making it possible to offer inclusions in the form of delicate curls or shapes. For example, Ehrmann, with global headquarters in Germany and a recent expansion into the U.S., now offers Raspberries and Chocolate Hearts Grand Dessert in its trio-compartment container.

 Identifying the source or the origins of ingredients--any ingredients—is a growing trend. This includes chocolate and cocoa. At Anuga, Poland’s Getak’s debuted an extensive line of premium novelties available for export. The company prides itself on using 100% Natural Belgium Chocolate, with packages boasting such a logo.

4. Premium Pieces. That brings me to a general trend for all inclusions, and that is boasting a premium positioning. For example, in case you missed Friday’s Daily Dose of Dairy featuring limited-edition Ambach-branded Tiramisu Kaffee Eiscreme, you can read about it HERE.

This gelato dessert is real tiramisu. The clear plastic tub showcases the product inside. Starting from the bottom up, there’s a layer of tiramisu-flavored ice cream, real lady finger biscuits, tiramisu-flavored sauce, coffee-flavored ice cream and cocoa-covered cake pieces. This spectacular creation is finished with a drizzle of marsala wine.

Target Corp., recognizes this clear-container, premium and authentic inclusion ingredient trend for gelato and is now importing product from Italy into the States. Featured here is Spiced Berry Crumble Gelato infused with cardamom flavor. The gelato is topped with real baked cobbler crumbles. Other varieties in the line include Caramel Biscotti Gelato (with pieces of real Italian biscotti), Chocolate Hazelnut Swirl (with identifiable hazelnuts pieces and delicate chocolate curls) and Pistachio Gelato (with whole pistachios).

At Anuga, Germany’s Jermi Kasewerk GmbH introduced a line of premium cream cheese pates. The products are intended for a retailer’s cheese counter and are sliced to order. The layered cheese treat comes in three varieties, all made with fresh ingredients. They are: Cranberry and Hazelnut, Green Pesto Herb and Mediterranean. 
5. The Unexpected. Indeed, not all inclusions are sweet treats, as exemplified by Moondarra, an innovative new cheese offering imported from Australia into the States. The namesake company uses fresh inclusion combinations with a unique method of processing and packaging (vacuum-sealed technology) to allow its innovations to be experienced abroad. The 120-gram rolls of seasoned cream cheese come in three varieties: Apricot & Almond, Cranberry & Macadamia and Fig & Walnut. Read more HERE.

California’s Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co., has turned its award-winning namesake blue cheese into a line of premium dips through the use of innovative inclusions. Varieties are: Bacon & Caramelized Onion (smoky and sweet with a hint of Kentucky bourbon); Original Blue; Port, Cherry & Pistachio (sweet and nutty with port-soaked Bing cherries and toasted pistachios) and Truffle & Sage (deep earthy flavors with layers of savory umami). Read more HERE.

Caramelized onion is definitely one of the hottest savory inclusions in the cheese and dairy dips business. For example, the U.K.’s Bridgehead Foods Partners now offers a line of snacking cheeses designed for the adult palate. The single-serve 40-gram portions come in varieties such as Mature Cheddar with Cracked Black Pepper, Mature Cheddar & Caramelized Onion and Tangy Mature Cheddar with Chili & Lime.

Photo source: Azteca Ingredinets

Here’s an inclusion just waiting to surprise and delight. New tortilla chip crumbs from Azteca Ingredients Inc., in Chicago, provide color, crunch and a Hispanic twist to all types of foods. Imagine a savory single-serve cottage cheese with an attached dome cup of tortilla chip crumbs that the consumer can mix in. In foodservice, the crumbs can be a topping on a dulce de leche caramel ice cream. The gluten-free, all-natural crumbs come in three colors: blue, gold and red. 

As we approach this weekend before Halloween, when many costumed celebrations start to take place, it’s important to remember that when it comes to products for kids, we can still expect the unexpected, with dairy foods marketers going to all ends in efforts to appeal to their youngest consumer. For example, Ehrmann uses its trio-compartment for its new Monster Backe line. Yogurt is the main component, which makes mom happy. The sweet, fruity component is strawberry, lemon or woodruff. The latter is a popular flavoring herb in Germany. The other compartment contains sour, fizzy candies. Read more HERE.

Have a safe and fun Halloween holiday!

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