Thursday, February 7, 2019

Dairy Foods’ Role in Lifestyle Eating Regimes

Photo source: Chipotle Mexican Grill

“Now more than ever, Americans are embracing new and varied approaches to healthy living and wellness,” said Chris Brandt, chief marketing officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill, earlier this year when the quick-service chain introduced its Lifestyle Bowls. The four bowl meals were added to the menu to assist patrons with their New Year’s Resolutions. The bowls contain real ingredients permitted by certain diet regimens, including keto, paleo and Whole30. There’s also a Double Protein Bowl for general low-carb diners.

Chipotle is onto something. More than one in three U.S. consumers are following a specific diet or eating pattern, according to the 2018 Annual Food and Health Survey from the International Food Information Council Foundation. These lifestyle diets are expected to increase in popularity, as they are mostly followed by younger consumers (age 18 to 34). Retailers and foodservice operators recognize that this adventurous demographic is seeking out more lifestyle foods, presenting an opportunity for dairy foods processors to offer more varieties of convenient, on-the-go products.

Cheese is an important part of many low-carb diets, and in recent years has taken on new shapes, sizes and forms. Cheese is also a key component of the keto diet, which is defined as being about 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbohydrate. There’s a higher protein version of the keto diet, where fat should be about 60% of caloric intake and protein 35%. Either one, cheese is a delicious fit and needs to be marketed as such.

Americans are eating more cheese than ever before, with annual per capita consumption averaging 32.7 pounds, according to USDA. Whole-fat and high-protein foods have many proven health benefits, making cheese a delicious indulgence, yet part of a healthy diet. Cheese also makes the perfect snack for the low-carb and keto dieter, as well as the mainstream consumer looking for a quick bite that satiates.

“Today and in the future, snacking is about solving small problems for consumers, and those problems present opportunities for food marketers across a variety of dayparts and needs,” said David Portalatin, food industry advisor, The NPD Group.

Once seen as guilty pleasures, snack foods have and will continue to evolve to be eating occasion solutions for a nation of consumers constantly on-the-go, reports The NPD Group in its recently published Future of Snacking report.

Graph source: 2018 Annual Food and Health Survey, International Food Information Council Foundation

Americans consumed nearly 386 billion of ready-to-eat snack foods last year, with the vast majority of those eaten between main meals; and snack food growth is happening at most dayparts with more use at meals and as meal replacements.

Only 27% of busy Americans today are eating the standard three meals a day, opting to often graze on a variety of snacks instead, according to a new national survey of 2,000 adults commissioned by Farm Rich. When eating small-plates or snack meals, the study showed that the number-one food people reach for is cheese.

Almost half (49%) of respondents said they replace lunch for snack meals, with peak snacking hours between 1 and 4 p.m. The average person eats five snack meals each week. The convenience and portability of snacks--and preference for a quick bite over a big meal--has the typical American eating four snacks on the move each week. Snacks also answer the need for more fuel and energy throughout the day without taking much time.

In response to consumer demand for ready-to-eat, protein-rich fuel-up convenience, Dutch Farms is rolling out On-The-Go Snackers. The 1.5-ounce multi-compartment packs are sold in three counts and come in three varieties: Pepper Jack /Honey Roasted Peanuts/Raisins, Sharp White Cheddar/Dried Cranberries/Roasted Sea Salted Almonds, and Sharp Yellow Cheddar/Cherry Infused Cranberries/Sea Salted and Roasted Cashew Pieces.

Other snacking cheese formats that have experienced noteworthy growth in the past year include individually wrapped singles-serve bars, which are usually 0.75 ounces and sold in multi-packs. Many consumers enjoy this cheese format in airline clubs and on-board snack packs and then seek them out when on land. Nielsen data shows that airline volume of individually wrapped snack cheese was up 29%.

Cubes, curds and cracker cuts are big, too. The latter may come in a premium package ready for serving or in an economical deli tray for the party host to display in a more personal manner.

In addition to cheese, ghee is gaining traction among health- and wellness-seeking dieters. Ghee is a type of clarified butter. It originated in India and is now commonly used in Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines. Ghee is made from cow or buffalo milk butter. The butter goes through a heating process that removes the milk solids (dairy proteins and lactose). Hence, while the paleo diet is non-dairy, the absence of milk solids makes it an acceptable paleo food, an increasingly popular lifestyle eating regime.

Ghee is associated with ancient Ayurvedic holistic healing practices, which has now evolved into alternative medicine for health and wellness. Ghee is recognized as having anti-inflammatory and digestion-aiding properties, among other benefits, and has become a staple of some low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets, namely keto and paleo.

To read more about ghee and explore recent innovations, link HERE to “Ghee is gold in the butter-is-back trend,” an article I wrote this week for Food Business News.

Carefully crafted milk beverages, ice cream and yogurt may also fit the parameters of trending lifestyle eating regimes. UpStar Ice Cream, for example, is rolling out Keto Pint, a line of keto diet-inspired ice creams in Butter Coffee, Chocolate, Mint Chip, Peanut Butter Cup and Sea Salt Caramel flavors. A half-cup serving contains 140 to 160 calories, 12 to 14 grams of fat, 2 to 4 grams of fiber, 3 to 5 grams of protein and no added sugars.

Peak Yogurt markets a keto-friendly Triple Cream Yogurt, which has 17% milkfat. A 5-ounce cup of plain unsweetened contains 270 calories, 24 grams of fat, 8 grams of protein and a mere 4 grams of total carbohydrates (solely from inherent lactose). The two flavored options--Strawberry and Vanilla--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.

Remember, cheese naturally complements lifestyle eating regimes such as keto and low-carb, while ghee is the only dairy-derived food accepted by paleo dieters. Other dairy foods may be designed to participate in trending diet plans. Let’s keep dairy on the menu.

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