Friday, November 10, 2017

Disrupt the Dairy Case with Flavor in 2018

The past two months have been a whirlwind of trade shows and conferences, with marketers showcasing their 2018 rollouts and analysts providing insights to help guide the future. Now it’s time for the forecasts.

I take all the insight gained from exploring what’s moving and shaking in other categories and try to translate that into dairy. And I can tell you: It’s time to disrupt the dairy case with flavor.

If you want to compete in the protein snack sector, get bold with strong taste. If you want to be dessert, fluff up and provide some comfort and indulgence. And if you want to seriously be considered an adventurous food, pump up the heat and explore the flavors of global cuisines.

Here’s are a few interesting points to ponder, courtesy of McKinsey & Company, Chicago.

  • The consumer of today is in charge of proliferation of product options. (In other words, they are driving innovation based on their wants and needs. Listen to them!)
  • Millennials have very different habits from prior generations. Here’s a big one: They prefer shopping over buying. What are you going to do to get their attention and turn them from being a shopper into being your customer?

Focus on flavor in 2018!

Here are five flavorful ways to disrupt the dairy case in 2018 to get shoppers to become customers.

1. Coconut. Once shunned for its high saturated fatty acid content, coconut is now viewed as a healthy food ingredient, and thus the flavor possesses a healthful halo. Coconut-based dairy alternatives are trending, but it’s not necessarily because they are non-dairy. It’s because they contain coconut. Dairy foods, such as yogurt, ice cream and even sweet cheese spreads, can be formulated with coconut--to deliver potassium, magnesium and other minerals--and enhanced with coconut flavor for extra deliciousness or layered with other flavors. Chocolate is a favorite. But don’t dismiss citrus fruits or a little heat. That brings me to…

2. Chiles. They are getting more specific and associated with a destination. They complement all types of cheese snacks, cheese spreads and dips, but don’t stop there. A little sweet heat in a yogurt smoothie merchandised in the grab-and-go case is just what might catch that millennial’s attention.

Earlier this year, Président brand cheese launched three new flavors of its award-winning rondelé cheese: Thai Sweet Chili, Pineapple & Ginger, and Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper. The new flavors combine simple ingredients with high-quality milk and cream and put an emphasis on the distinct, contrasting yet complimentary tastes of the flavorful inclusions. I just cannot help but think how much more interesting the first two would be with a touch of coconut.

3. Smoky Wood. Most people will agree that everything is better with bacon. That’s why it is everywhere. What’s next after bacon? It’s what makes bacon so flavorful, sans the piggy. It’s smoke and wood flavors, and they are starting to show up in all types of food and beverage. Dairy foods are the perfect complement to these deep, earthy flavors. Think smoked Gouda. But then take it a step forward. Imagine a line of cheese curds or cubes with various smoked wood flavors, from apple to pecan. They are a way to standout in the growing category of cheese and meat snacks. These flavors are also great in fresh cheese spreads and dips. The smoke and the wood can be paired with other flavors. Think grilled pineapple cream cheese spread. Let’s be on the forefront of this trend and not play catch up later.  

4. Limited-Edition Flavors…in milk! Imagine my surprise, and excitement, to see cookies and milk (yes, real, authentic, from the cow MILK) featured in a pilot food program at the United Club in Orlando airport this week. I chatted with the chef about the program and she said they are experimenting with botanical flavors of milk for nighttime relaxation drinks.

Now’s the time to start a limited-edition flavored milk program.

The Farmer’s Cow started such a program this year and has really livened up the milk case, while also increasing sales. It’s sixth flavor—Pumpkin Pie Milk—is out right now. It is made with creamy whole milk blended with natural pumpkin flavor and just a touch of spice. There are no artificial flavors or colors, and no high fructose corn syrup. The suggested retail price is $5.99 for a quart. It is produced in small batches and sold in collectible glass bottles. Like a pumpkin, its bright orange cap makes it stand out in the dairy case. The flavor is described as being like a slice of homemade pumpkin pie topped with fresh whipped cream without the crust or fuss. Other limited-edition flavors included maple and blueberry.

5. Peanuts and Peanut Butter. For some reason peanut and peanut butter almost always gets paired with chocolate. There’s no denying it’s a great combination, but, there’s been a great deal of innovation with peanuts and peanut butter all on their own. Part of this is because of the protein trend, as peanuts and peanut butter are concentrated sources of protein. This gives them a healthful halo, much like coconut.

Hershey’s recognizes the power of peanuts. Rolling out December 1, new Hershey’s Gold is a caramelized crème bar with peanuts and pretzels and no chocolate. Sampled at NACS, this bar has a satisfying crunch. The saltiness of the peanuts and pretzels give the bar a savory taste. This combo translates well into a yogurt topping.

Let’s get creative with peanut flavors. Think puddings and parfaits, spreads and dips, and wait for it…peanut butter flavored milk. Chocolate and P.B. was a limited-edition flavor from Prairie Farms late last year through this summer. Based on whole milk, it tasted like a drinkable peanut butter cup. But…I’m more of a Reese’s Pieces kind of gal. Bring on the P.B. only!

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