Friday, May 26, 2017

Anuga 2017: This innovation food expo is a must-attend for dairy processors who want to be ahead of the trend

In less than five months, Anuga, the world’s leading food fair for the retail trade and the foodservice and catering markets, will take place at Koelnmesse in Cologne, Germany. This biennial event is a central business and communications platform for all players involved in the development, manufacturing, marketing, distribution and sale of food and beverage. It’s where new products make their debut to complement today’s and tomorrow’s trends.

The 2015 expo attracted nearly 160,000 trade visitors from 192 countries. Event organizers anticipate breaking this record in 2017, as Cologne continues to attract buyers and sellers from all countries around the world. That’s because Anuga has become the benchmark for all food trade fairs worldwide in terms of both quality and quantity.

Anuga prides itself on being 10 trade shows under one roof. This design is a well-arranged layout divided up into themed areas, which makes it easy to focus and get work done. The halls are: 1) Bread & Bakery, 2) Chilled & Fresh Food, 3) Culinary Concepts, 4) Dairy, 5) Drinks, 6) Fine Food, 7) Frozen Food, 8) Meat, 9) Hot Beverages and 10) Organic.

Trust me, the dairy hall takes an entire day to explore. Hope to see you there this fall…but for now…Happy Summer!

Mark your calendar for the 34th Anuga taking place October 7-11, 2017. For more information, link HERE.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Texture: The Often Ignored, Yet Critical Component of Dairy Foods Product Development

Most consumers don’t think about a food’s texture or mouthfeel unless it is inferior. They have expectations, and when a product does not deliver, the consumer often no longer is a customer.

Most innovators, in particular entrepreneurs with a dream product in mind, tend to focus on flavor and nutrition. Texture and mouthfeel are secondary, and in some instances, not addressed until too late. Then the whole innovation process needs to start over.

In live (active cultures and enzymes), fresh dairy foods, texture changes over shelf life. Ingredients may interact and cause everything from clumping to syneresis.

Here are four tips to incorporate into innovation efforts for cultured dairy products, namely yogurt, and dairy desserts.

1. Texture must be addressed early on in the innovation stage.
Research shows texture is equally important as flavor in product innovation and must be a consideration in the early stages of product development—and all the way through the end of shelf life. Specialized formulations, along with processing and distribution, may all take a toll on product texture. You must monitor texture changes every time you make an ingredient change. Even a simple 10% reduction in added sugars can make an impact.

Sensory scientists must be involved from the very beginning of product innovation. Sensory science provides an understanding of ingredient behavior and interactions. It helps eliminate unnecessary trials and focus on viable ingredient solutions.

2. Identify target texture attributes and develop a process to consistently deliver them.
Yogurt is one of the most segmented categories in the food industry, according to research conducted by sensory scientists at Ingredion Inc. A key way manufacturers differentiate their yogurt products is through texture. Consistency is paramount.
Did you know there are more than 25 different sensory terms identified as descriptors for the texture of yogurt? Preferences vary by target consumer, product type and usage occasion.

3. Use effective language to communicate the texture of the product.
Research shows that yogurt texture is a leading influencer of product liking scores. Marketers must identify the target consumer early on in the innovation stage, formulate to deliver the texture the target consumer prefers and use effective language to communicate the expected texture of the finished product. Thick should not be lumpy, but it is not necessarily creamy either. A light or 100-calorie portion is not thick, but it also is not runny.

4. Differentiate between sweetness and “added sugars” in order to better manage texture and mouthfeel.

International Food Information Council Foundation’s 12th Annual Food and Health Survey shows that more consumers link sugars to weight gain. In fact, according to this report issued early in the week, one-third of Americans, which is up from 25% in 2016, say sugars are most likely to cause weight gain. This needs to be top-of-mind for dairy foods innovators.

The addition of “added sugars” to the Nutrition Facts label has many yogurt manufacturers exploring ingredient technologies to keep this number as low as possible. The challenge is when sugars are reduced, the entire matrix gets disrupted. This is true for most food systems, including yogurt, flavored milk and ice cream.

Formulators must remember that sugar is a solid. Removing any solids from yogurt impacts texture. With reduced sugar, yogurt is less firm when stirred. It is also less cohesive and has less body in the mouth. Because of reduced solids, the yogurt also disappears faster in the mouth. With yogurts intended to be mini meals, it is essential to build back a full-bodied texture, which consumers typically perceive as more satiating and satisfying.

“There is sweetness; then there is sugar,” says Ivan Gonzales, marketing director-dairy, at Ingredion. “Our research shows that today’s health- and nutrition-conscious consumers are searching for the sweetness—and texture--experiences they love in yogurt, but with less sugar and fewer calories.”

There are ingredient systems that provide sweetness with sugar-like taste profiles and the mouthfeel of sugar, but with fewer calories and simple labels. This ranges from specialty polyols and dextrose to high-potency sweeteners, including highly purified stevia extract, as well prebiotic oligosaccharides, alternative sweeteners and more.
Texture will be addressed in a number of educational sessions at this year’s IFT, which is in less than seven weeks in Las Vegas.

On Monday, June 26, plan to attend session #23 “Understanding Food Texture” from 3:30 to 5:30pm.

One of the speakers, LuAnn Williams, direct of innovation at Innova Market Research, explains, “Consumer expectations around the eating quality of food have required textural adaptation of traditional formulas to deliver equivalent satisfaction with sugar- and fat-reduced products. Balancing the contradictory wants and needs of consumers has been a struggle for the food industry. The requirements have both sensory and mechanical textural implications and present a major communications challenge.”

On Wednesday, June 28, from 10:30am to noon, scientists will address the role of sweeteners, texturizers and emulsifiers on the mouthfeel of beverages and foods during session #87, “The Critical Role of Beverage Mouthfeel: Unique Insights for a Product Developer.”

The speakers will address how texture and mouthfeel are key drivers of consumer acceptance and therefore of vital importance for food and beverage manufacturers. This is a must-attend session for players entering the booming yogurt beverage category. You will learn how the physical properties of foods and beverages, e.g., temperature, pH, carbonation, viscosity, etc., impact texture and mouthfeel, as well as the impact of chemical stimuli, including tastes and odors.

The countdown to Vegas begins. See you soon!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Stealth Health: Reduce Added Sugars to Keep Dairy’s Momentum

I attended a food industry conference yesterday sponsored by ACG Chicago. This “FoodBites” event included local foodservice leaders who provided inspirational stories of corporate growth and leadership. The term “stealth health” was mentioned as an approach to staying relevant in the crowded and confusing food and beverage marketplace.

I’ve not heard that term in a while but it’s a concept all formulators should be incorporating into their product development endeavors. The term was coined around the turn-of-the-century when a book of the same name was published. Originally the concept was all about sneaking nutrition into foods. You know, blending a carrot into a chocolate shake for your picky toddler.

Today the term has evolved into the act of reducing some of the undesirables in food. It’s been going on with sodium for some time, namely in prepared foods. But it’s also happening with sugar, as manufacturers prepare for the labeling declaration of added sugar. 

Stealth is not about calling the reduction out. However, a number of dairy processors are so confident in the taste of their sugar-reduced products that they are making a big deal about it. I commend them. Their goal is to keep dairy’s momentum going among today’s health- and wellness-seeking consumers.

There are ample ingredient technologies to make sugar reduction an easy, and tasty fix. Now’s the time to take action. 

Danone has been reducing sugar across its brands since last year. Many of those products have started appearing in the global marketplace.

In February, Stonyfield announced it would be doing the same. The company announced a comprehensive plan to reduce added sugar across its portfolio.

“The commitment to reducing sugar across the product portfolio was born from Stonyfield’s mission to continually provide healthier food both for our consumers and the planet,” says Nichole Cirillo, the company’s mission director. “We are achieving a lower amount of added sugar in all Stonyfield yogurt without compromising taste or organic standards and are working towards purchasing 25% less sugar as a company this year.”

Linda Lee, chief marketing officer at Stonyfield adds, “Consumers want to limit the amount of added sugar in their diets, without sacrificing taste and the great benefits of yogurt like calcium, protein and added vitamin D. We’re accomplishing reductions across the portfolio through a committed team who’s finding a better way to deliver all of the nutrition and taste benefits of Stonyfield yogurts with less sugar. Stonyfield remains steadfast in our commitment to providing the very best yogurts, using sustainable practices, that consumers can feel good about feeding their entire family.”

Less added sugar is one component of a “healthy” food, according to the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). Earlier this month, IFT submitted written comments to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expressing concern that labeling an individual food as healthy can be misleading for consumers.

“It’s important to be cautious in thinking of any food as healthy when what really matters is the overall quality of your diet,” says IFT President John Coupland.

Since IFT is committed to advancing the science of food and its application across the global food system, it recommended that if food and beverage products bear the term healthy, it should be used in the context of overall diet to help promote healthy eating patterns. Diets should be comprised of diverse foods and beverages across various food categories, as noted in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Further, consumers should be mindful of the amount and frequency of each of the foods and beverages they consume, in context of the overall diet. 

These comments, which were based on insights from IFT members, were in response to questions posed by FDA on “how the term ‘healthy’ should be defined when labeling food and beverage products.” IFT members work to develop food products for the retail and foodservice industry, to support consumer’s efforts to achieve a balanced diet by following the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. IFT recommended the following:

  • A hybrid approach to defining the term healthy. IFT suggested a food-based definition of the word healthy, which combines nutrient limits and a statement describing how the food helps achieve dietary recommendations.
  • The definition for healthy food should align with the three eating patterns recommended by the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  • Foods that exceed the recommended limits for sodium, added sugars and saturated fat should be excluded from labeling as healthy.
  • Foods fortified with essential nutrients should not be excluded from healthy labeling if the fortification is consistent with the FDA’s fortification policies and the food contributes to an overall healthy eating pattern.
Commit to keeping dairy healthy!

University of Tennessee Claims Team Win at Collegiate Dairy Contest

The University of Tennessee took the All Products honors at the 95th Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest (CDPEC) held April 12th in conjunction with the Wisconsin Cheese Industry Conference hosted by the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association. University of Tennessee student Michael Luethke was the All Products winner while Katie Magee (University of Tennessee) claimed the Graduate Student All Products category.

Fourteen colleges and universities from the U.S. and France participated in this year’s contest. In addition to the University of Tennessee, U.S. schools that competed were: Clemson University, Iowa State University, Michigan State University, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Missouri, the University of Minnesota, the University of Wisconsin, California Polytechnic State University, South Dakota State University, Washington State University/University of Idaho, Cornell University, and Aims Community College in Colorado. France was represented by the Institut Polytechnique LaSalle Beauvais.

Clemson University placed second in the All Products category, while South Dakota State took third. The University of Tennessee team (pictured), is coached by Dr. Charles White. Also, pictured far right, is All Products Judge and CDPEC Board of Director Chairperson Kevin R. O’Rell.

Established in 1916 by several universities, the CDPEC initially was designed to identify quality defects in dairy products throughout the country so defects could be corrected. It expanded over the years to recognize those students and dairy product judging teams that had mastered the ability to identify high-quality dairy products. The contest gives students the opportunity to showcase their evaluation skills and prepare for careers in the dairy industry.

Students test their sensory abilities against professional judges in six different dairy products: fluid milk, butter, yogurt, cheddar cheese, ice cream and cottage cheese. Dairy industry judges from around the U.S. review eight representative samples of the six different dairy product categories and score each sample based on sensory attributes and the severity of their departure from the ideal. The students are challenged to present scorecards with answers that come as close as possible to the judgments of the experts.

All Products Winners
In the All Products individual undergraduate category, Michael Luethke of the University of Tennessee won first place, Shanna Pearce of Clemson University earned the second place award, and Krista Johnson of South Dakota State University won third place.

In the All Products individual graduate student category, Katie Magee of the University of Tennessee won first place and Kelsey Choquette of Iowa State University earned the second place award. 

Product Category Winners
First-, second- and third-place winners (and Team Category winner) were named in each of the six product categories. The undergraduate winners are: 

First place: Shanna Pearce, Clemson University
Second place: Michael Luethke, University of Tennessee
Third place: Thomas Reis, Cornell University
Team Winner: Clemson University

First place: Rachel Miller, University of Missouri
Second place: Ashley Burgess, Clemson University
Third place: Xiaoqing Tan, Pennsylvania State University
Team Winner: University of Missouri

First place: Krista Johnson, South Dakota State University
Second place: Yue Huang, Pennsylvania State University
Third place: Xiaoqing Tan, Pennsylvania State University
Team Winner: Pennsylvania State University

Cheddar Cheese
First place: Katelyn Johnson, South Dakota State University
Second place: Billy Kalil, University of Minnesota
Third place: Randall Clap, University of Tennessee
Team Winner: South Dakota State

Ice Cream
First place: Shanna Pearce, Clemson University
Second place: Zenia Adiwijaya, Iowa State University
Third place: Chris Eckerman, University of Wisconsin
Team Winner: University of Tennessee

Cottage Cheese
First place: Michael Luethke, University of Tennessee
Second place: Xiaoqing Tan, Pennsylvania State University
Third place: Shanna Pearce, Clemson University
Team Winner: University of Tennessee

The graduate student winners are:
Milk-first place: Kelsey Choquette, Iowa State University
Butter-first place: Akash Mazumder, University of Missouri
Yogurt-first place: Kelsey Choquette, Iowa State University
Cheddar Cheese-first place: Alexandra Kuechel, University of Minnesota
Ice Cream-first place: Katie Magee, University of Tennessee
Cottage Cheese-first place: Steve Beckman, South Dakota State University

To learn more about this unique competition, link HERE.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Developing Innovative Yogurt Concepts: Five (make that six) considerations for successful product rollouts.

I was shocked this past week to visit not one but two retail brands in Chicago and one in Miami to find a major yogurt brand selling its product at 10 for $3.00. I don’t want to name brands, but shame! This devalues yogurt. Another brand was selling its normally $1.59 Greek yogurt at 89 cents. Again, shame! Again, this devalues yogurt.

Karma stinks. Even at these low prices, it appeared that product was not moving, or at least not moving at the speed the brands were hoping. Shelves and coffin cases were full. .

Yes, I did stand around in the dairy departments for about 30 minutes in each of the three locations. Repeatedly I saw consumers reach for the premium or specialty brands.

Moving forward, if you want to compete in the retail refrigerated yogurt category, here are five considerations. For starters: please do not devalue this superfood by over discounting.

The future is all about premiumizing your product.

  • Add value in terms of craftsmanship. Talk about the recipe, the artisan makers, the batch process. 
  • Focus on the cows and their milk, including sourcing, grazing habits, family farm, nutrient composition, heat process, etc.
  • Differentiate with functional ingredients, namely probiotic cultures. Fiber, omega-3s and even vitamins/minerals make sense, too.
  • Talk about the sweetener, have it be honey, stevia or cane sugar. Tell a story about where it came from and why it’s used. It’s OK to sweeten yogurt. Don’t apologize for it or even flag that it’s been reduced. This suggests inferiority.
  • Use high-quality, whole food ingredients for inclusions and mix-ins. Talk about them. Have it be Washington State strawberries picked at the peak of ripeness or praline pecans candied following a New Orleans traditional recipe, talk about the ingredients.

Here’s why premiumization is paramount for the future of yogurt, at least in the U.S. retail market.

For starters, U.S. yogurt sales were down in 2016. U.S. production of yogurt closed 2016 down 1.2% vs 2015, which was driven by a decline in retail yogurt sales. The 2016 retail loss was at -1.5% and followed a 2015 gain of 2.2%, according to data from IRI provided to Dairy Management Inc., and courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Association.

Retail volume loss was seen across geographical regions, retail channels and for most demographic groups. There was growth, however, among millennials, a well-developed yogurt demographic that grew 4% in terms of average annual household volume.

There are indications that the market for Greek yogurt is maturing. Greek yogurt maintained positive growth of almost +1% for the year overall, but contributed to the overall retail yogurt decline in the second half of 2016. This more recent period of decline for Greek yogurt follows several years of strong growth.

The IRI data show that whole-milk yogurt and yogurt multi-serve tubs experienced growth and contributed positive volume in 2016. In addition, very strong growth was seen for Australian and Islandic style yogurts in 2016, although these “specialty” products are still niche in nature. 

Though U.S. yogurt sales overall may have been down in 2016, what was up is sales of “specialty” yogurt products.

Overall, sales continue to grow as Americans embrace specialty food and beverages. The industry is taking its place as an integral player with traditional and non-traditional specialty food retailers, foodservice operators and distributors. 

Specialty foods are outpacing their non-specialty counterparts in almost every category—including yogurt--as consumers continue to become more aware of quality in their food choices. Categories aligned with better-for you options, health and wellness, and freshness are growing fastest.

Specialty foods are defined as foods or beverages of the highest grade, style and/or quality in their respective categories. Their specialty nature derives from a combination of some or all of the following qualities: uniqueness, origin, processing method, design, limited supply, unusual application or use, extraordinary packaging or channel of distribution/sales.

Not surprisingly, millennials are the ones driving this growth. The purchasing patterns of millennials cover the widest range of categories and the most diverse retail channels.

“Discovering specialty food has become a core part of the younger consumers’ daily shopping routine,” says Phil Kafarakis, president of the Specialty Food Association (SFA). “They are moving away from the staples that they grew up with and embracing the new tastes and flavors of specialty food.”

Dollar sales of specialty foods hit $127 billion in 2016, a 15% jump between 2014 and 2016, according to the “State of the Specialty Food Industry,” an annual report published by SFA and Mintel. By comparison, all food sales at retail grew by a mere 2.3%. Total unit sales for specialty foods were up 13.1%.
Growth is being driven by product innovations and wider availability of specialty foods through mass-market outlets. Sales through foodservice increased 13.7% to $27.7 billion as U.S. consumers make specialty food a regular part of their away-from-home meal purchases.

“Consumer preferences for specialty food products are growing at double digits, outpacing mainstream food staples,” says Kafarakis. “The products our members create appeal to consumers looking for authentic tastes and foods with fewer and cleaner ingredients.

“Consumers are also making purchases wherever they happen to be, changing the retail food environment,” he says. “The eagerness of all retailers including mass market, e-commerce and foodservice to capitalize on these consumer trends is transforming the marketplace.”

A key takeaway for yogurt manufacturers from this year’s SFA report is consumers’ increased interest in sustainability. Dairies can do this, and can do it well. So many players are!

According to the overall SFA survey, almost 40% of manufacturers produced sustainable products, up 22% from 2015. Among retailers, sustainable products accounted for 16% of product sales. Along with non-GMO, the supply chain predicts sustainable will be the claim most interesting to consumers in the next three years.

Consumers are especially focused on specialty foods in the refrigerated sections. Categories with the biggest sales growth in this area include refrigerated juices and functional beverages up 30.7%, refrigerated lunch and dinner entrees up 33.0%, and yogurt and kefir up 27.2%. Again, sales of specialty yogurt and kefir were up 27.2% in 2016.

Traderspoint Creamery does a fabulous job of premiumizing its yogurt. Starting with being handcrafted from 100% grass-fed organic cows’ milk to being packaged in glass jars, the brand has a very strong following in the Midwest. The 5-ounce petit pots of raspberry, its most popular whole fruit variety flavor, is now available in four packs. If a single jar commands $2.00 to $3.00, depending on the market and retailer, imagine what the four pack costs. Guess what, it sells.

It’s not just new brands, or even simply new products that are getting premiumized. Last year, Danone invested in a new design and visual identity for its digestive health brand Activia, which it hopes will position the yogurt range in a more premium light and strengthen its health proposition.

The core of the redesign is a new logo, which is made of two interlocking shapes representing efficacy and inner-balance. A bespoke logotype has also been introduced as well as a new photographic style to communicate expertise in the digestive health field. The goal is to premiumize the brand by clearly defining the role and specificity of each product in the range.

“We adopted a design vernacular that feels precise, controlled and refined – a language more commonly found in premium skincare than the dairy aisle. The overall effect? A top-to-bottom premiumization that will ensure the brand occupies a more expert and credible place for consumers both today and tomorrow,” says Marie-Thérèse Cassidy, consumer executive creative director at FutureBrand, who created the new look.

Activia and FutureBrand successfully tested the new visual system amongst 15,000 consumers in seven key markets (U.S., U.K., France, Spain, Germany, Brazil and Russia). The global relaunch started phasing into distribution this past September, with slight modifications by market.

Tip #6: Do not ignore the package and design. There’s are a lot of antiquated poorly printed graphics on white plastic cups in the market. Really? (I know the truth hurts, but the change might help your sales…at full price!)

P.S. The 10 for $3.00 brand recently updated graphics. But what’s missing, my five first recommendations.