Friday, March 2, 2018

Expo West 2018: Protein Preview

In less than a week I hope to see many of you in Anaheim at Expo West 2018, which promises to be the biggest and most diverse natural products exposition ever. This is due to the mainstreaming of organic and natural foods. What once was a venue for a group of tree huggers who embraced foods direct from Mother Nature, maybe produced with a little help from artisan craftsmen, now includes industrial manufactured products such as organic jelly beans and all-natural cola.

As the world’s largest natural, organic and healthy products event, the expo continues to serve as a reunion for many of the industry’s original players. I was not there in the beginning, but I do remember the early days…like the one “clothing optional, fig leave acceptable” year.

Not sure what year was my first, but I do remember there were only three dairies with booths larger than a tabletop. They were Stonyfield Farm, where Gary worked the booth in jeans and Birkenstocks; Organic Valley, which was then still referred to as CROPP, where George, in his predictable jeans and flannel shirt was advocating for national organic standards, and Horizon, still owned by its founding fathers, Mark and Paul, was the newbie in the trio, and had grand plans in place to make organic milk available nationally. Back then, the world was a much simpler place. How I miss those days.

But here we are, 2018! All indications are that protein will dominate the Expo West 2018 conversation, with animal protein and plant protein companies equally represented.

I’ve been writing a lot about plant proteins, as they are impossible to ignore. And they are not just for vegans and vegetarians.

“Vegetarians and vegans together account for less than 15% of all consumers and their numbers do not grow very rapidly, but a growing number of consumers identify themselves as flexitarian or lessitarian, meaning that they’ve cut back on their consumption of animal-based foods and beverages,” says David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts. “It is this group that is most responsible for the significant and ongoing shift from dairy milk to plant-based milk.

“The point of non-dairy is to be non-dairy,” says Sprinkle. “Our research shows that among non-dairy milk alternative buyers in the U.S., only 5% are watching their diet for lactose intolerance, and only 11% are vegetarian/vegetarian leaning. In contrast, 82% of these non-dairy milk buyers also buy dairy milk or half-and-half.”

So I pose the question: can the point of dairy be protein…high-quality, nutritionally superior, complete protein?

Here’s one of my pre-expo observations to consider. Last year there’s was a great deal of anticipation for Bolthouse’s Plant Protein Milk. This year, unless they are sneaking one by me, their new dairy protein products are all the talk.

Bolthouse Farms, which is a part of C-Fresh, a division of the Campbell Soup Company, will be introducing the Bolthouse Farms B line of products, a new platform of lower-sugar, superpremium refrigerated beverages. The better-for-you Bolthouse Farms B Strong protein beverages contain 16 grams of protein (from whey) per 15.2-ounce bottle with 70% less sugar (16 grams total) than the leading refrigerated protein drink, according to the company. Monkfruit juice extract helps keep sugar content down. The protein drink comes in Chocolate, Coffee, Vanilla and Vanilla Chai flavors.

There’s also two new yogurt dressings: Avocado Green Goddess and Sweet Heat Sriracha. A two-tablespoon serving of any of the dressings in the yogurt range contains 1 to 2 grams of protein, from the yogurt, whey protein concentrate and often some cheese.

“We’re committed to creating more great-tasting and nutritious options to support consumers’ evolving lifestyles and nutritional needs,” says Todd Putman, general manager of C-Fresh. “Our new Bolthouse Farms dressing innovations and ‘B’ line of beverages offer consumers a greater variety of healthier options as they explore their wellness journey.”

“Great tasting” and “nutritional needs.” This is what you get with dairy proteins!

Stonyfield knows that. One of the new products the company will be showcasing at Expo West is Stonyfield Organic Kids Choco-Mooo low-fat yogurt pouches and tubes. This is the first chocolate-flavored yogurt designed to appeal to the taste preferences of children’s palates, as the product tastes like chocolate milk while containing 25% less sugar than most kids’ yogurts, as well as less sugar than most chocolate milks. One pouch contains 5 grams of protein.

There will be a number of newer innovative high-protein dairy products at Expo West that have had a makeover in order to better get their protein message out to the consumer. One of these lines comes from Wünder Creamery, which will be introducing Superdairy Quark.

The founders of Misha LLC are now releasing a new line of nutrient-rich super-dairy quark products under the name Wünder Creamery. The new name Wünder pays homage to quark’s international origins and emphasizes the product’s super (natural) dairy qualities. A beloved dairy staple in more than 20 countries across Europe and Central Asia, quark is currently a dairy anomaly in the U.S. Think non-tart yogurt meets rich crème fraiche.

In its home countries, quark is known for its high-protein content and creamy texture. Wünder Creamery’s quark stays true to its origins with added benefits. It is made using grass-fed whole milk, a special blend of cheese cultures from France and is powered by probiotics. The result is a good-for-your-gut snack that is packed with protein yet low in sugar.

“We feel that whole milk Wünder Creamery quark captures everything there is to love about this nutrient-rich super-dairy food,” says co-founder Kamilya Abilova. “High protein, low sugar and probiotics make quark a great option for a balanced diet. A tad of healthy fats adds to the mouthfeel and the flavor. It’s just one of those uncompromising snacks.”

Wünder Creamery’s quark cups will be available at select retailers beginning spring 2018. Flavors include Matcha, Coffee, Vanilla Bean Coconut, Raspberry and Blueberry in 5.3 ounce cups, as well as a Plain option (great for recipes) in a 24-ounce container.
Here’s another. After conducting an in-depth consumer study, ProYo learned two things were keeping it from connecting to frequent frozen dessert/ice cream shoppers. One was the ProYo name and the other was the packaging. Some consumers were confused by the name ProYo, wondering if it was ice cream, frozen yogurt or a novelty. Others felt that the bold, black packaging, and oversized protein callout on the front of the package resonated predominantly with men.

Frequent shoppers of the better-for-you ice cream category are looking for the best-tasting, premium option that also delivers on clean ingredients, and lower levels of calories, sugar and fat. As ProYo’s mission has long been to inspire its customers with the best-tasting, better-for-you ice cream that delivers bang-for-your-bite nutrition, there was a clear opportunity to better communicate the product’s leading points of difference.

The new package features a clean, premium oceanic blue package that will pop on shelf next to the competition with key points of differentiation like high protein, lower sugar and 120-calories per serving noted on front of pack displayed in a way that will resonate with both female and male buyers, according to the company’s research. Additionally, to meet demands for indulgent flavors with inclusions, each flavor is communicated with a photographed, single delectable scoop and color-blocked, front-of-pack flavor names and lids.

The ingredients and formulations of the ice creams have not changed. New Swell Ice Cream is not only low-fat (2.5 grams or less per half-cup serving), it also delivers a market-leading, excellent source of 10 grams of protein per 120-calorie serving (35 grams of protein per 14-ounce container), which comes from the milk and whey protein concentrate.With the rebrand, the company is launching two new inclusion-laded flavors: Chocolate Chip Cookie Batter and Cookies ‘n Cream.

Let’s reclaim the protein story! See you in Anaheim!

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