Friday, September 28, 2018

Dairy Foods Innovation 2019: Five observations to ponder during your innovation ideation

Photo source: Kellogg Canada 

When the leaves begin to change…it’s a sign you better start thinking about next year. Larger processors are already working on 2020 innovations. But many of the smaller, local/regional processors are able to work in real time to respond to the marketplace. This is a good thing, as today’s consumers are fickle. Ready. Set. Go.

I write this in sarcasm: With reality star Kylie Jenner admitting on Sept. 18, 2018, that for the first time she put milk on her cereal, and liked it, milk might just be cool again. Think of all the farmer dollars spent on milk mustaches and athlete endorsements. All we needed was Kylie. Again, sarcasm.

Truthfully, her endorsement of liking milk on cereal has created a social media buzz. (Honestly, it’s a nice distraction from much of the other news these days.) Lesson to learn: with a few clicks on a keyboard, someone, somewhere is influencing attitudes.

The dairy industry needs to be united in its efforts and have all its bases covered to manage those attitudes. Play offense, not defense, and never back down, even for a minute.

John Talbot, CEO of the California Milk Advisory Board, explained to member processors this week that there are many loyal dairy consumers getting caught up in experimentation, and we must be very careful how we address those who may be a little more adventurous.

“We find dairy and dairy alternatives in the same refrigerators and consumers don’t seem to have anywhere near the problem with that as we do,” he said. “They’re already consuming both. Telling consumers they are wrong is not going to gain their loyalty, we must show them how we fit in.“The industry needs to stop talking about dairy ‘alternatives’ because that just legitimizes them,” he said. “They are not alternatives to dairy. They are their own product. Identifying these products as alternatives and then telling our consumers they are wrong to buy them is not a recipe for success.”

On that note, here are my five industry observations that I hope become ingredients in your recipe for 2019 innovation.

But first, got 13 minutes? Please check out this new episode of “Shopping with Michael,” where retail food expert Michael Sansolo interviews me on what’s moving and shaking in ice cream. The Private Label Manufacturers Association filmed this earlier in the month. Link HERE.

Five Industry Observations to Guide your Innovation Ideation

1. Plant-based is not vegan. Make dairy part of the equation.

I recently wrote “Plant-forward, cheese-centric new product innovation” for Food Business News. You can link HERE to read the article. The point is that numerous plant-based foods—think cauliflower crust pizza, veggie noodles and pulse-based snacks—are relying on cheese for color, flavor and mouthfeel. All dairy foods have the opportunity to be part of the plant-based movement. The industry is actually already doing this but not promoting its efforts. Think yogurt or cottage cheese with a side of dried fruits, nuts and puffed quinoa. That’s dairy and plants living in harmony.

2. Offer lactose free to keep shoppers buying dairy. 

Another Food Business News article, “Lactose-free dairy may keep dairy in the diet,” discusses how processors are discovering that eliminating lactose from dairy foods may prevent consumers from switching to non-dairy-like options when the sole reason for the swap is to avoid lactose. (Notice how I did not use the word alternative. That’s for you John Talbot!) Read more HERE.

3. Yogurt needs a makeover. Learn from ice cream.

In the past five years, the ice cream department has been reinvented. It’s become a destination for athletes and fitness aficionados looking for new foods in which to fuel up on whey proteins. It’s also become a snacking destination thanks to the efforts of companies such as Wells Enterprises. Read more HERE.

Needs some better-for-you ice cream ideas? Click on the image to the right.

Yogurt can do this, too. New high-protein concepts such as Peak, Sola and YQ are gaining momentum. There’s also opportunity in unique textures—think squeeze yogurt topping—and herbal (plant!!!) flavors. Read about them HERE.

The biggest growth opportunity is in kids’ products, especially breakfast items. Read more HERE.

Here’s what Sergio Fuster, president, U.S. Yogurt Danone North America, recently told my friends over at FoodNavigator-USA.

“Dairy plays a key role in kids’ nutrition and the prevalence of plant-based is not so relevant when it comes to the kids’ space, but offering super low sugar, more natural options in kids’ area is fueling continuous growth.”

4. Refuel is evolving to energize.

Refuel is not going away. It’s simply that energize is now part of the value-added dairy beverage business. Bye, bye Red Bull. Natural caffeine from coffee is what shoppers are looking for and milk is the perfect mate for coffee. Watch for your Daily Dose of Dairy this week when I highlight a new innovation in the dairy energy space.

5. Get out of the box and offer non-standardized real dairy foods. 

These images speak for themselves.

With that said, on Sept. 27, 2018, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb issued a statement on modernizing standards of identity and the use of dairy names for plant-based substitutes. To read more, link HERE.

Hope these observations spark your next innovation ideation session.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Frozen Novelties: A growing category thanks to the snacking trend and limited editions

Cones, cups, push tubes, sandwiches, sticks, you name it. Frozen novelties, as the name suggests, are novel treats sold in the freezer. Currently they are a driver of ice cream category growth.

After years of declining sales, they snuck back up on us. The pint may be a powerful package size for flavor adventure, but that section of the freezer is overcrowded and can be overwhelming at times. Multi-pack novelties are an opportunity for expansion. And with some creative R&D, can be just as exciting as pints.

Frozen novelties have 40% share of the $10.7 billion retail ice cream/frozen novelty category, according to data from IRI for the year ending July 15, 2018. While packaged ice cream sales are up 1.9%, thanks to the power of the pint, frozen novelties are up 3.8%.

To read more about The Power of the Pint, link HERE.

It was not that long ago that the retail frozen novelty category was a shrinking business. That's because decades ago, frozen novelties were dominated by bold colors, cartoon characters and fun flavors…mostly designed for kids. But after moms started diligently reading ingredient statements and refusing to purchase products with artificial colors and chemical-sounding ingredients, product offerings started to dwindle. The category evolved to be mostly portion-controlled, low-fat “skinny” products designed for the mom rather than her kids.

Times have changed, again. And kudos to Wells Enterprises Inc., for contributing to this reinvention. The company has done a phenomenal job of making ice cream a snack, a refuel food and an indulgent treat. Data from IRI shows impressive double-digit retail sales growth for Wells, which will likely continue with all the innovations the company has had this past year.

It was about a year and a half ago that the company first rolled out Blue Bunny Bunny Snacks, and since the company has added new flavors to this one-of-a-kind product line. Bunny Snacks are individually wrapped 2.4-ounce ice cream treats sold in packs of six in resealable stand up pouches. Both the inner packaging and outer packaging is clear in order to let consumers see the product.

The company is also growing its Mini Swirls line. These snack-sized treats pack creamy, reduced-fat ice cream, sweet toppings, and tons of flavor into a mini ice cream cone. The two new flavors—Cinnamon Cereal and Mint Cookie Crunch--join Caramel, Chocolate and Vanilla. The cones are individually wrapped and sold in boxes of eight.

Blue Bunny Load’d Sundaes rolled out earlier this year. They are a shopping cart stopper when one is in the frozen department. The 8.5-ounce single-serve sundaes are loaded with tons of toppings and gooey swirls in soft, spoonable ice cream. The clear plastic domed cup showcases the inclusions.

Wells Enterprises invested considerable research into developing the Chilly Cow better-for-you brand. Another first, and so far only-of-its-kind, Chilly Cow is made with ultra-filtered milk, which boosts protein content while providing for 55% fewer calories, 70% less fat and 60% less sugar than regular ice cream. The new brand comes in seven flavors, as a two-pack of half pints and in novelty bars. The flavors are: Brown Butter Salted Caramel, Chocolate Brownie Batter, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Cookies N’ Cream, Mint Dark Chocolate Chip, Sweet Cream Peanut Butter and Vanilla Graham Swirl. An 8-ounce tub flags that it provides 12 to 13 grams of protein, depending on flavor.

Turkey Hill is also shaking up the novelty case with Decadent Delights. The new line of indulgent, sophisticated treats blends premium ice cream with an abundance of fruit to create a four-flavor selection of bars and three flavors of individual-serving parfaits.

The parfaits come in three flavors: Lemon Blueberry, Mixed Berry and Strawberry, with each 4-ounce cup containing 250 to 270 calories, 12 to 13 grams of fat and 2 to 3 grams of protein, depending on variety.

Lemon Blueberry is lemon-flavored ice cream with ribbons of blueberry puree topped with whipped topping and lemon chips.  Mixed Berry is mixed berry-flavored ice cream with ribbons of black raspberry puree topped with whipped topping and chocolate chips. Strawberry is strawberry-flavored ice cream with ribbons of strawberry puree topped with whipped topping and chocolate chips. All those goodies are on full display to the shopper, as the product is sold in packs of three clear plastic cups.

The Decadent Delights bars include Cherry, Chocolate Covered Strawberry, Coconut and Tropical Mango. Each flavor is tailored for audiences looking for an indulgent dessert packed with fruit, chocolate and other premium ingredients. The Cherry bar, for example, features white chocolate ice cream, swirled with chocolate hazelnut and cherry ribbons and is covered in a triple layer of nougat, cherry and milk chocolate rolled in cherry pieces.

Alden’s Organic grew its frozen novelty line earlier this year with products such as the Birthday Cake Ice Cream Sandwich, which is birthday cake ice cream with ribbons of purple icing, sandwiched between two vanilla wafers. There’s also Orange Cream Bars, a nostalgic combination of tangy orange sherbet swirled with classic vanilla ice cream.

And right now, Yasso is getting ready to roll out its first-ever line of limited-edition seasonal flavors. The three new flavors for fall and winter are: Peppermint Crunch, Pumpkin Cheesecake and Sugar Cookie. Pumpkin Cheesecake will hit shelves this month, with Sugar Cookie and Peppermint Crunch following in November, all while supplies last.

Novelties make sense for limited-time offerings (LTOs). They are showing up all times of the year, and are proving to be successful for marketers who choose to invest in rapid turn-around innovation. The concept is classic supply and demand. Shoppers recognize if they don’t purchase the LTO when it hits the store shelf, it may not be available the next visit.

When a product is only available for a short period of time, consumers feel more adventurous and are willing to take the chance and give the product a try. The urgency to purchase provides permission to explore. An LTO invites current consumers to try something new, and at the same time, it may bring in lapsed users or new users of the brand. An LTO also may simply create excitement for a brand, ultimately building brand recognition to attract the consumer at another time. It also serves as a testing ground, to gauge consumer feedback as to if the product should become a regular offering.

It’s time to get novel in the freezer!

Need Technical Ice Cream Innovating Assistance?

The Frozen Dessert Center, housed within the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Food Science, will hold its second annual Frozen Dessert Center Conference October 22 to 23 on the UW-Madison campus. Speakers will address the scientific, manufacturing and technical aspects involved in the production of ice cream and other frozen desserts.

Participants will be led through an ice cream sensory evaluation and taken on a guided tour of the UW-Madison’s Babcock Hall Dairy Plant and the Frozen Dessert Center’s pilot plant and lab space.

The conference is designed for manufacturers, product developers, researchers, distributors and sales personnel involved in the field of ice cream and frozen desserts. Attendees will gain relevant and up-to-date information on production, ingredients, equipment and distribution.

For more information, link HERE.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Expo East 2018: Three Observations to Assist with Your Future Innovation

Expo East, that distant relative to Natural Products Expo West, is taking place right now in Baltimore. I attended on Thursday, and although there were quite a number of no-show exhibitors because of Hurricane Florence’s impact on travel, which also affected attendance, I still found some noteworthy observations to share.

1. Dairy is a powerful player in the natural products sector and innovation and reinvention is the way to stay in control. For as many alternatives that were showcased, an equal number of the “real deal” were in the spotlight on the show floor, and usually their presence was very noticeable. Fage, Organic Valley and Stonyfield dominated with their walk-in and sit-down premium-sized booths with noticeable overhead signage, while smaller dairies lured attendees over with their artisan, hand-crafted, niche products.

Natural by Nature showcased its new look, which includes a logo and package design to not only honor the animals that produce the milk going into the brand’s products but also to honor the land that supports and nurtures the animals. The logo pays homage to the key ingredients in the products. Packaging calls out other aspects of the product. The whipped cream, which comes in brown sugar and classic varieties, for example, includes the tagline: Making Life Delicious.

As stated on its website:

Sunshine, grass and water. These are the key ingredients that make our dairy products special. Yes, technology is advancing our food system forward. But at Natural By Nature our greatest innovation relies on simplicity, the simplicity of understanding the natural processes and habitat of our animals, and honoring the land that nurtures and cares for them. We believe that the best-tasting dairy products happen when nature is allowed to follow her natural rhythms. Then, what emerges are dairy products that reflect the natural instincts of our animals and the natural cycles of our land. We are indeed Natural By Nature.

2. Fat is back and dairy has the opportunity to be a leader. This is particularly true in the ketogenic lifestyle. From ready-to-drink coffee with butter to high-fat, so sugar-added ice cream, full-fat dairy products are being embraced by the natural products consumer.

Bulletproof Coffee is one such example. This ready-to-drink coffee fuels you up with high-quality fats--not sugar--for sustained energy. Each 11.1-ounce shelf-stable prisma box of Bulletproof Cold Brew Coffee contains 2 teaspoons of grass-fed butter along with a proprietary “brain-boosting fat extracted from the most potent part of the coconut.” Varieties are Mocha, Original, Original + Collagen, and Vanilla.

Another example comes from newly founded Rebel Creamery. Funded through a Kickstarter campaign, the company’s product showcases why fat belongs in ice cream. It’s a premium, high-fat, low-carb, no-sugar-added ice cream made using only keto-friendly ingredients. This product will be featured as a Daily Dose of Dairy this coming week.

Supporting this return to full-fat dairy is a new report published in The Lancet on Sept. 11, 2018. The Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study by researchers from McMaster University in Canada is a large multinational cohort investigation of individuals aged 35 to 70 years from 21 countries in five continents. Dietary intakes of dairy products (milk, yogurt and cheese) for 136,384 individuals were recorded using country-specific validated food frequency questionnaires. The researchers found that dairy consumption was associated with lower risk of mortality and major cardiovascular disease events. It is proposed that a variety of dairy foods components, such as calcium, bioactive proteins, milk fatty acids and the whole dairy food matrix, are protective against cardiovascular disease but mechanistic pathways are yet to be elucidated. You can access the study HERE.

The findings from this study made headlines across the world. One of my favorite articles came from New Zealand, which kicked off with:

“If you identify as a modern-day health freak (think hot-yoga-loving, Lululemon-wearing, dairy-free warrior princess), it may be time to switch-up your morning cuppa. The 'full-fat' label has scared off health and fitness advocates for decades, but a new study suggests that swapping your green top for the infamous dark blue may be just the thing you need.”

3. Lastly, protein continues to control the nutrition conversation. And don’t think for one second that the natural products consumer is ditching dairy, meat and eggs. Exhibitors showcasing these foods rocked the expo floor. In fact, many attendees flocked to these booths for what one person I overheard saying, “yeah, real and delicious food.”

This is not surprising, a new HealthFocus International study—Global Opportunities in Protein—shows that shoppers associate protein with a wide-range of functional health benefits, including physical energy, muscle health, daily health, weight management and brain nourishment. This is fueling protein’s strong health halo and driving consumer action globally with nearly 80% shoppers interested in protein. The study also shows that all protein is not the same, as 60% of shoppers have specific preferences when it comes to the sources of protein they consume.

Graph source: HealthFocus International Global Opportunities in Protein

Dairy foods and dairy proteins are viewed favorably. (See graph.) Further, nearly half of global shoppers are extremely interested or interested in whey protein, and of those who are interested in whey protein, nearly a quarter are willing to pay a premium for it in products.

I will end by sharing the one product I found the most innovative at Expo East 2018.

It’s not dairy, but it is animal protein. And, will a little out-of-the-box thinking, I bet the dairy industry could doing something just like this.

The brand is Peckish and it is rolling out with Peck Pack. Each pack consists of two individually wrapped organic free-range eggs with one fun, flavor-forward crispy crunchy dip for the perfect combination of taste and texture that makes for a truly satisfying, real food snacking or mini-meal option. It comes in five varieties: Everything, Fried Rice, Maple Waffles, Rancheros and Salt & Pepitas. The packs are made with completely clean ingredients and include options for paleo, keto, Whole30 and gluten-free diets.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Dairy Foods Innovation: It’s time to be better. That’s where your advantage lies.

Data is useful…but it’s the analytics and inspiration that follows [that matters].

Never forget the human need and requirement [for the product]. That’s where your advantage lies. 

These were thoughts shared by Amy Sizemore, president-client partner, Ipsos North America, at the Advertising Research Foundation’s SHOPPERxSCIENCE conference in Chicago on Sept. 6, 2018. The event was held at Google’s offices, which motivated me to attend. (They are just as amazing as you would expect. Wowza!)

A lot of what was discussed by the consumer packaged goods experts was beyond the scope of the Daily Dose of Dairy blog—we’re talking the head of analytics for Google, director of client strategy at Oracle, and senior leadership at companies such as Nestle, Procter & Gamble, Mars Wrigley, The NPD Group and more—but it was fascinating.

Brad Piggott, senior vice president-revenue, North America, Cuebiq, summed up the current omnichannel world. “The shopper is in the driver seat,” he said.

We need to figure out how to make the shopping experience smooth for them in this new world of bricks and clicks and swipes and voice.

“It used to be that a brand was a surrogate for value,” said Jason Goldberg, senior vice president of commerce and content practice, SapientRazorfish.

Now consumers google a value-based question and more often than not base their purchase decision on reviews. Social proof sells.

 Brands today need to apply as much innovation to driving loyalty as they do to building products and services, according to SapientRazorfish.

Think about that for a moment.

Loyalty. It’s a word that’s being used a lot in the news. And it’s powerful.

What is your company doing to drive loyalty to your brand? Maybe the industry needs to be more aggressive when it comes together to collectively drive loyalty to dairy.

Let’s make sure we communicate the human need for nutrient-dense milk and dairy foods. That’s the dairy industry’s advantage.

And remember, innovation is not copying the competition, albeit even if the competition is very successful. Innovate, continuously. And let the shopper know all the great qualities of your product. Tell them why your product is better. Then start all over and do it again.

That brings me to a new product in India. 
Bangalore-based Goodness! Beverages is a three-year old beverage startup. Chaitanya Chitta, co-founder, explains that the product started developing a loyal following from the very beginning, namely moms looking for fuss-free nutrition for their growing children who no longer found milk appealing.

“Our customers don’t want to struggle to make their kids have milk,” said Chitta. “We heard from our customers’ feedback that our beverages are ‘better than milk’ and we adopted the claim as something we want the world to know.”

The company prides itself on doing dairy differently. And it’s working. Some of you might not like a dairy beverage being promoted as better than milk. But it is and it’s working.

Goodness! is made with milk or yogurt and comes in six varieties. The Yogurt Smoothie comes in Mango and Mixed Berry flavors and is described as a “better snack.” The Oats Smoothie milk drink comes in Chocolate and Vanilla and is marketed as “better than breakfast” for people on the go. Coffiato cold-brewed coffee-milk drinks are available in a classic variant and with a punch of hazelnut. They are both “better than an energy drink.”

Lakshmi Dasaka, co-founder, shares the five reasons Goodness! is “better than milk.”

These are reasons the company shares with shoppers to build loyalty:

More Protein, Tastier Protein: A normal serving of milk usually has 3.5 grams of protein in 100 ml, all Goodness! beverages have at least 6 grams of protein. More protein helps kids grow better and helps adults build muscle mass and health.

Real Fruits and Ingredients for Added Nutrients and Less Added Sugar: The drinks contain no artificial ingredients, colors or flavors, and careful crafting allows for as much as 40% less sugar than other dairy beverages. 

Zero Preservatives: None needed, none added. A combination of heat and pressure treatment helps retain freshness without the need for refrigeration. The product has a 90-day unopened ambient shelflife.

Easy to Drink, Good to Drink: Eco-friendly, single-serve bottles stay fresh at room temperature and are great for on the go, lunch boxes, pre- or post-workout, anywhere and anytime.

Suitable for all Ages: The beverage has a safe, clean-label ingredient list and comes in flavors that appeal to both kids and adults.

Oh my Goodness!