Friday, December 7, 2018

Dairy Foods Innovations 2018: A Year in Review

The end of the year comes with reflection. What was accomplished? What could have been? Where are the opportunities? To read about the current State of the Dairy Industry, link HERE to an article I recently wrote on the topic for Food Business News.

Some of the most impressive new products in 2018 were in the fluid category. One of my favorites is JoeFroyo Functional Cold Brew, which combines the kick of caffeine from cold brew coffee with probiotics and protein from drinkable yogurt. It’s true out-of-the-box innovation. JoeFroyo features 15 grams of dairy protein per 12-ounce serving and six live and active probiotic cultures, all while being 100% lactose free. The beverage is made using high-pressure processing, which extends shelf-life without any chemical preservatives. The beverage comes in the ready-to-drink format, as well as an over-ice version (via one-gallon jug for pour overs or a 2.5-gallon bag-in-box to be used in dairy dispensers) and a frozen blended dispensed version. A 12-ounce ready-to-drink bottle contains 270 to 290 calories, 3 to 4 grams of fat, 27 to 28 grams of sugar, and 15 to 16 grams of protein, depending on variety, of which there are three. They are: Espresso, Latte and Mocha. The protein content gets a boost from the addition of milk protein isolate and whey.

Shamrock Farms is livening up the milk and beverage department with Rockin’ Protein Energy, the latest innovation in the company’s extensive line of Rockin’ branded protein-enhanced milk products. The new refrigerated beverages combine the naturally occurring caffeine from coffee with a whopping 30 grams of high-quality dairy protein for a powerful one-two punch ideal for sustained energy. Rockin’ Protein Energy is made with real Shamrock Farms milk so it’s a great source of protein and nutrients, while being low-carbohydrate and lactose free and having no added sugar. Rockin’ Protein Energy will be available in U.S. convenience stores this January in three flavors: Café Latte, Caramel Latte and Mocha Latte. The beverage comes in 12-ounce plastic bottles and contain 190 to 200 calories.

Targeting the morning daypart, Organic Valley introduced Breakfast Balance. In 2015, Organic Valley introduced Organic Balance, an all-organic, fair trade milk protein shake designed for busy working women who wanted a healthy, delicious and convenient option for energy and nutrition in the morning. The product has been reformulated and repositioned in response to consumer preferences and retailer interest. New Organic Valley Breakfast Balance now contains 30% less sugar, but it’s still loaded with 16 grams of protein and 40% of the recommended daily allowance of calcium, all from clean, smooth, delicious and real organic milk from Organic Valley’s 2,000 family farms.

The packaging has been redesigned to emphasize the use occasion: an on-the-go breakfast that is packed with enough nutrition for the most important meal of the day. What hasn’t changed is that Breakfast Balance is still lactose- and gluten-free, still shelf-stable, and like all Organic Valley products, never contains GMOs, antibiotics, synthetic hormones, toxic pesticides or artificial sweeteners. The shake comes in 11-ounce plastic bottles in two flavors: Dark Chocolate and Vanilla. One bottle has a suggested retail price of $2.99; a four-pack, $10.99; and a 24-pack, $24.99.
For younger consumers, Nestle USA rolled out Nesquik SuperBreakfast protein breakfast milk drink. Made with real milk, the shelf-stable drink contains no artificial sweeteners, colors or flavors, and no high-fructose corn syrup. The drink comes in Chocolate and Vanilla flavors in 8-ounce plastic bottles, which are sold in six packs. Thanks to the addition of milk protein concentrate, each bottle contains 12 grams of protein and much more, including calcium and vitamins A and D.

What the first three product lines offer is a real dairy milk beverage that is also lactose free. This is something to consider when innovating in the dairy beverage sector. By eliminating lactose, your innovation may keep those shoppers who avoid lactose in the dairy milk category.

A shout out goes to all the fluid milk processors who started offering lactose-free options in 2018. I hope many more follow this coming year. I was recently asked by a dairy if they were to only offer one or two lactose-free options, what would I recommend. I suggest whole milk first, followed by chocolate whole milk, as whole milk is the only fat level of fluid milk posting retail sales growth in the U.S. Also in 2018, whole fat took the number-one share spot among fat levels. 

Congrats to Clover Sonoma, a third-generation family-owned and operated dairy that entered the lactose-free milk category with a full range of products. The Non-GMO Project Verified lactose-free milk line comes in whole milk, 2% reduced-fat, 1% low-fat and fat-free white, as well as a chocolate whole milk. Clover Sonoma adds lactase enzyme to fresh milk, which breaks down the lactose into two more easily digested sugars: glucose and galactose. The half-gallon gable-top cartons retail for about $4.99.

Lactose-free formulating and labeling should be considered for all dairy foods innovations, as digestive health is on top of mind among consumers. And as mentioned, by eliminating lactose—a disaccharide unique to all mammalian milk—from dairy foods, you may prevent consumers from switching to dairy alternatives, when the sole reason for the swap is to avoid lactose.

That’s the goal of Beckon Ice Cream: to enable lactose-sensitive ice cream lovers the opportunity to have real dairy ice cream once again. The company uses traditional ice cream ingredients, including milk and cream. With the help of added lactase, the company eliminates lactose from the product. This process also adds some natural sweetness to the ice cream. Beckon pints come in five flavors--Chocolate, Espresso, Mint Chip, Sea Salt Chocolate Chip and Vanilla—and retail for about $5.99.

Building on the digestive health theme, Unilever developed Culture Republick, a probiotic cultured ice cream that supports art culture by featuring the designs of emerging artists on the pint packages. Culture Republick comes in seven unique flavors, with each pint containing three billion live active cultures, 400 to 500 calories, 16 to 18 grams of protein, 11 to 12 grams of fiber and no artificial sweeteners. Flavor combinations are: chocolate and cherry, cold brew coffee and chocolate chip, lemon and graham cracker crumb, matcha tea and fudge, sweet cream milk and honey, pistachio and caramel, and turmeric chai with cinnamon.

Though not lactose-free---something definitely to consider based on the ingredients and process--Wells Enterprises impressed this year with its rollout of the Chilly Cow better-for-you ice cream 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 shook up the novelty case with the roll out of 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 12 grams of fat and 2 to 3 grams of protein, depending on variety.

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.

Another noteworthy frozen innovation is Peekaboo Organic Ice Cream with Hidden Veggies. The new pint concept comes in five varieties: Chocolate with Hidden Cauliflower, Cotton Candy with Hidden Beets, Mint Chip with Hidden Spinach, Strawberry with Hidden Carrot and Vanilla with Hidden Zucchini.

On the cultured side of the refrigerated dairy case, Darling Foods impresses with its Darling Pickle Dips, a line of refrigerated dips made from a cream cheese and white bean base. The base is blended with pickled vegetables, herbs and spices into four varieties: Fiery Jalapeno & Roasted Tomato, Original Dill Pickle, Spicy Pickle and White Cheddar & Mustard. The cream cheese gives the dips richness, while the pureed beans provide a slightly chunkier texture than most creamy dips. Each variety has some taste of dill pickle without being overwhelming.

RifRaf Ricotta Cups is another noteworthy first. This snack combines spoonable, lightly cultured whole milk ricotta and a sidecar of adventurously flavored jams and honeys. RifRaf Ricotta Cups come in five flavors: Meyer Lemon, Serrano Pepper Honey, Strawberry Balsamic, Sun-Dried Tomato and Wildflower Honey. The ricotta is made from milk from grass-fed cows, with each cup providing 10 grams of protein. The product comes in 4.6-ounce dual compartment cups and retails for $3.39.

DeJong Cheese is rolling out Cream Cheese & Cooking. These multi-use recloseable squeeze pouches feature flavored cream cheeses intended for use as a meat or fish topping, or to be used in the creation of sauces or other creative cooking applications. There’s a chili curry-flavored cream cheese for steak and a tandoori flavor for chicken. For fish, there’s furikake-flavored cream cheese.

Longevity Diet Foods introduced a range of health and wellness yogurts enriched with functional ingredients. All three lines are 2% milkfat and plain in flavor. Each line includes a cow, goat and sheep milk option.

The Longevity π line is enriched with grape polyphenols, powerful antioxidants with multiple functions, including promoting anti-aging and boosting the immune system. Longevity m is enriched with ceremonial green tea catechins, powerful antioxidants with multiple functions, including boosting metabolism. Matcha also contains the amino acid L-theanine, which is known to impact brain function by both relaxing and helping concentrate at the same time. Longevity µ is enriched with inulin and chios µastic, both of which are associated with having a positive impact on the gastrointestinal system.

Keto diet-friendly foods will be a big call out in 2019. It’s all about fat and protein, and milkfat and dairy proteins make for delicious innovations. When carefully crafted, no-added-sugar claims are possible.

Peak Yogurt is doing that with its 17% milkfat, cream-on-top triple cream yogurt. It’s rich, creamy and satiating, so it doesn’t require sugar or other additives to satisfy and fuel the mind and body, according to the company. The plain, unsweetened variety comes in a 5-ounce cup and contains 270 calories, 24 grams of fat, 8 grams of protein and a mere 4 grams of total carbohydrates (solely from inherent lactose). There are also two flavored options: Strawberry and Vanilla. They are low-carb and “keto-ish” with 260 or 270 calories, 21 to 22 grams of fat, 7 grams of protein, and 10 to 11 grams of sugar. The latter comes from the inherent lactose as well some added cane sugar.

Siggis, the maker of Icelandic yogurt with simple ingredients and not a lot of sugar, continues to impress with siggi’s Simple Sides. The brand’s new product line brings together whole milk yogurt and simple, no-added-sugar mix-ins for a nourishing, wholesome snack with more protein than sugar in every cup. The four varieties are: honey yogurt with dried figs and walnuts, plain yogurt with muesli and currants, vanilla yogurt with almonds and dried cherries, and vanilla yogurt with dried coconut and cacao nibs. The product varieties contain, on average, 15 grams of protein and 11 grams of sugar per 5.3-ounce serving, offering a more positive nutritional profile amidst the traditionally sugar-filled yogurt with mix-ins product segment, which averages 18 grams of sugar per 5.3-ounce serving, according to the company.

Powerful, a four-year-old brand credited with launching the brogurt category (manly yogurt), continues to shake up the refrigerated dairy case with new Greek yogurt-based high-protein smoothie pouches. The pouch product has a resealable cap and targets consumers looking for a nutritious, satiating, grab-and-go snack. Milk protein concentrate enables each 9-ounce pouch to deliver 20 grams of dairy protein. With no added sugar and made with only natural ingredients, including 2% milk, each pouch contains 170 to 180 calories, 4 grams of fat and 11 to 12 grams of inherent sugar, depending on variety. The fruit base includes chicory inulin, erythritol and stevia, which enables a no-added-sugar claim. The line made its debut early in the year in Coffee, Mixed Berry and Strawberry Banana varieties and was quickly picked up by small and large retailers across the U.S. The suggested retail price for a single pouch is $2.19.

Innovation in the cheese sector focused mostly on new formats—and positionings--of old favorites, with snacking and protein the focus.
Laurels Farm, for example, grew its eatlean Protein Cheese brand. The eatlean cheese is made just like any other regular cheddar using natural ingredients by real cheesemakers on a real dairy farm, according to the company. It is, however, lactose-free, with a 100-gram serving containing 169 calories, 3 grams of fat and 37 grams of protein. Regular cheddar only contains about 25 grams of protein. The eatlean Protein Cheese comes in many formats, including snack bars, and most recently, Protein Cheese Shaker. It’s dried and grated eatlean cheese and marketed as a way to add flavor and protein to prepared foods. In this format, it is 66% protein. The shaker product comes in original and smoked varieties. 

Tillamook introduced Sauce Starter, which is described as “real cheese meets expertly blended spices to give you creamy, homemade cheese sauce in half the time.” Sauce Starter is a 6.5-ounce package of shredded cheese with a packet that contains seasonings and other saucy ingredients, namely emulsifying and stabilizing agents. The consumer combines the cheese and dry mix with one cup of cold 2% milk. The mixture should be stirred over medium heat until the cheese melts. It makes 1.5 cups of sauce. There are four varieties: Aged Cheddar (sharp and extra sharp cheddar with parmesan), Creamy Alfredo (white cheddar, parmesan and Monterey jack with a hint of garlic and nutmeg), Spicy Queso (medium jack, pepper jack and habanero jack with a dash of habanero pepper and garlic seasoning) and Three Cheese (medium cheddar, Colby jack and Monterey jack). The package has a suggested retail price of $3.99.
While many cheese snack combo kits debuted this year, one that was particularly impressive came from Eggland’s Best. Each snack pack contains an Eggland’s Best hard-cooked and peeled egg, along with cheese and one other food in a portable and convenient snack tray. The one that caught my eye includes olives and feta cheese, as this trio has not been offered before. The other combination snack packs include bacon and cheddar cheese, chocolate-covered almonds and cheddar cheese, and salame and provolone cheese. A single-serve pack contains 10 to 20 grams of protein and sells for about $3.29.

Congratulations to all companies who invest and innovate to keep dairy foods relevant to today’s consumers.

In order to help me best serve the industry, please spare five minutes to answer a quick seven-question survey about your experience with Daily Dose of Dairy/ For every survey completed, I will donate 50 cents to The Great American Milk Drive. Please link HERE to the survey.

About The Great American Milk Drive: Each year, 46 million people, including 12 million children, rely on Feeding America food banks for regular access to milk, which is one of the most-requested, but least-donated, items. On average, these food banks are only able to provide the equivalent of less than one gallon of milk per person per year. The Great American Milk Drive was created to help address this specific need, and is the first-of-its-kind national program.

By completing this brief survey (link HERE), you will assist with providing more hungry families with fresh U.S. milk. Your feedback in the survey will also assist me with improving Daily Dose of Dairy/ in 2019. I will share survey results with sponsors for them to better understand how their support and investment is appreciated by the industry.

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