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.

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