Friday, April 26, 2019

Dairy Case Innovation: It’s Spring! Look what’s growing.

April showers bring May flowers. Then the plants all really start to grow.

P-L-A-N-T, that five letter word that has invaded the dairy space. Love it or hate it, you cannot ignore it. Progressive dairy processors are embracing the opportunity to expand their customer reach with new innovative plant-based concepts. And I might add, many of them are downright delicious.

The fact is consumers are trying to improve their overall health and wellness by heeding the recommendations of nutritional authorities who are encouraging increased intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. At the same time they are swapping out animal-derived foods for more plant-based alternatives designed to simulate the animal protein.

The plant-based foods industry is seeing tremendous growth at retail. Sales topped $3.3 billion in 2018, reflective of a 20% increase as compared to the previous year, according to data from the Plant Based Foods Association, as provided by Nielsen.

“The plant-based foods industry has gone from being a relatively niche market to fully mainstream,” says Michele Simon, executive director of the association. “Plant-based meat and dairy alternatives are not just for vegetarians or vegans anymore; now even mainstream consumers are enjoying these delicious and innovative options in the market today.”

The data shows that “other” plant-based dairy alternatives, which excludes milks, are experiencing explosive growth, up 50%. This segment include plant-based cheeses, creamers, butters, yogurts and ice creams. The plant-based milk category is up 9%, compared to 3% the previous year, while cow’s milk dollar sales are down 6%. Plant-based milk comprises 15% of total milk sales.

Perry’s is on board. Perry’s knows ice cream. Since 1932 the family-owned dairy has been delighting people with rich, creamy, ice cream in hundreds of flavors and varieties. Because a growing portion of the population cannot enjoy ice cream due to lactose intolerance, allergies or other dietary choices, the company decided to get into the plant-based space with new Perry’s Oats Cream. (Love the name!)

What’s key to note with Perry’s first oat-based, dairy-free frozen dessert is that it’s being positioned as another great Perry’s product, not a dairy alternative. The company is not even bothering with the basic vanilla and chocolate. Perry’s Oats Cream features seven decadent flavors: Apple Strudel, Blueberry Pancake, Coconut Caramel, Oat Latte, Peanut Butter Coffee Cake, Peanut Butter & Cookies (pictured) and Snickerdoodle. The vegan lineup is a good source of fiber (a nutrient of concern in the U.S. diet) and made with whole grains.

Dairy-free frozen desserts are predicted to be a $1 billon dollar category by 2024 and according to Business Insider, oat milk is the hot new product in the dairy-free aisle. It is positioned to take over nut-based products as the leading non-dairy milk-type product.

Photo source: Perry's Ice Cream

“As a market leader with extensive dairy expertise, we recognized a growing need to bring to market a great-tasting, plant-based frozen dessert,” says Robert Denning, president and CEO of Perry’s. “Consumers look to their trusted ice cream brands to create quality dairy-free options. We certainly believe our team of talented research and development experts hit it out of the park with a full line of these amazing tasting oat-based, dairy-free products.”

The pint packaging features a natural oat tone inscribed with a brand message stating, “ice cream hasn’t been for everyone…until now. Meet Perry’s Oats Cream.”

Insights from the Perry’s product development team reveal that oat texture is more like ice cream with a milder flavor, allowing for freedom and variety in flavor creation. Suggested retail price is $6.99 per pint. In addition, Apple Strudel and Blueberry Pancake varieties are available in three-gallon containers for scoop shops and foodservice customers.

Enlightened is now in this space, too, with Enlightened Dairy-Free, a line of vegan stick bar novelties that are low in sugar and calories. Based on almonds, the bars are making their debut in five varieties: Mint Chip, Mocha Chocolate Chip, Monkey Business, Peanut Butter & Jelly, and Salted Caramel.

On the beverage side, let’s talk Star Wars and Blue Milk and Green Milk. Blue

Milk was first seen in “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” when Luke Skywalker sat down for a family meal. Green Milk was introduced in “Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi.”

While neither were sourced from cows in the movie, this does seem to be a missed opportunity by the dairy industry. Now Disney is on it and is using a plant-based base.

Photo source: Disney Enterprises

Both Blue Milk and Green Milk will be available for purchase at Oga’s Cantina at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which is scheduled to open May 31st at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando. Disney describes it as “a local watering hole to unwind, conduct business and maybe even encounter a friend or a foe. Patrons of the cantina come from across the galaxy to sample the famous concoctions created with exotic ingredients using ‘otherworldly’ methods, served in unique vessels, with choices for kids and libations for adults.” This includes colored and flavored plant-based milk.

The Blue Milk and Green Milk will be sold at the Milk Stand and will actually be a frozen-style beverage, somewhere between a milkshake and a smoothie. Blue Milk will have berry and melon flavors, while Green Milk will have tropical and citrus flavors.

Califia Farms, best known for its innovative plant-based beverages in distinctive curvy bottles, continues breaking barriers on “What Plants Can Do” with the launch of Übermilk, a nutritious line of oat milk beverages. Available in three varieties--Unsweetened, Unsweetened Vanilla and Chocolate—Übermilk provides 8 grams of plant-based protein per serving including all eight essential amino acids and fatty acids from plant oils, as well as calcium, iron, vitamin D, potassium and vitamin E.

“Übermilk is a leap into the next frontier,” says Greg Steltenpohl, founder and CEO of Califia Farms. “Nutritionally, Übermilk is one of the more nutrient-dense plant milks on the broader market with a powerful combination of both macro and micro nutrients, and most importantly it wins on taste and texture, thanks to our naturally creamy and great-tasting Oatmilk serving as the base.”

Leveraging Califia Farms’ new oat-based milk made from whole grain, gluten-free oats, the Übermilks combine 8 grams of complementary plant proteins from pea, oats and sunflower seeds. They are also rich in omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids from flax and sunflower oil.

“Made from a blend of seeds and pulses, Übermilk removes any compromise for anyone seeking better nutrition from plants,” says Ashley Koff, a registered dietitian and CEO of The Better Nutrition Program.

Functional coffee beverages provide a convenient opportunity for dairy processors to enter the non-dairy space. Imagine a range that includes lattes with milk, oats and almonds. There’s something for everyone and it’s being produced by a dairy. Further differentiate through the addition of extra nutrition. That’s what Danone North America is doing with its Stok brand. It now offers cold brew with almondmilk and cold brew with oatmilk.

The dip space provides a great deal of plant-based innovation opportunity, too.

Good Foods uses high-pressure processing (HPP) to make its new line of vegan Plant-Based Dips, which come in four varieties: Buffalo Style, Creamy Cilantro, Avocado Pesto and Queso. The HPP process, which pasteurizes without heat, allows for the dips to be made with all-natural ingredients. No preservatives are added, and thus the dips have a clean label with an extended shelf life. In addition, HPP keeps nutrients intact.  The creamy almond and vegetable-based dip comes in 8-ounce tubs and contains 45 calories per 2-tablespoon serving.
With digestive wellness one of this year’s hottest better-for-you trends, it only makes sense for plant-based yogurts to be designed for the gut-friendly platform. That’s what you get with new Simply Free yogurts from Choopoons. Made from simple ingredients, the cultured products are packed full of fiber, prebiotics, probiotics, omega-3 essential fatty acids and plant-based protein. They are made from cucumber seeds for protein and sweetened with cacao fruit pulp (the fruit surrounding the cacao beans) rather than refined sugars. They also have a glycemic index of less than 30.

Marketed as Greek Style Plant Powered Wellness Yogurt, the unique 8-ounce jars come in Banana Cinnamon, Mango, Pineapple and Raspberry varieties. One serving provides 200 or fewer calories, along with 4.5 grams of fat, 10 grams of protein, 16 grams of fiber, 1200 milligrams of omega-3 ALA and one billion CFU of probiotics.

Maison Riviera is a new player in the yogurt space. The company is making its debut with a line of namesake vegan coconut-based yogurt alternatives in exotic and tropical flavors. The rich, creamy, indulgent product comes in 4.2-ounce glass jars and is sold in packs of two. The five varieties are: Lemon, Mango & Passionfruit, Pineapple & Coconut, Raspberry & Black Currant, and Vanilla. One serving provides 3 grams of protein with only 7 to 9 grams of sugar. It’s fortified with calcium and loaded with probiotics.

It’s time to grow your business and explore plant-based formulations.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

It’s Time to Get Smart with Your Brew: Functional coffees appeal to the growing clean-energy consumer

Photo source: BENEO

Ready-to-drink coffee drinks—regular or cold brew; sweetened or unsweetened; plain or flavored; alone, with milk or plant-based whitener—are currently one of the most popular beverages. It’s not only for their convenience, it’s also that their inherent caffeine serves as a source of natural, clean energy, something many consumers are looking for in their beverages.

To read more about the clean energy trend, link HERE to a recent article I wrote on the topic for Food Business News.

In addition to providing clean energy, there’s overwhelming scientific evidence showing that coffee offers potential health benefits, from liver health to longevity, according to the National Coffee Association (NCA) USA. When coupled with the nutrient density of real cows milk, you’ve got a true powerhouse beverage.

Just imagine the marketing possibilities when functional ingredients are added, such as protein, probiotics and prebiotic fibers. These ingredients are recognized as assisting with everything from refuel and muscle building to digestive health and immunity.

“Coffee and health is an opportunity for the coffee industry to connect with consumers,” says William (Bill) Murray, NCA president and CEO. “The message is clear: coffee is good for you. But it’s up to the industry to share that story.

“Coffee is America’s most beloved beverage,” he says. “New consumer values have changed the game for coffee. But the industry is adapting--and thriving--by embracing innovation and transparency.”

Milk processors can do the same!

More than ever before, consumers are paying attention to what’s in their cup, glass, bottle or can. It’s time to get smart with your formulation efforts.

Functional coffee beverages provide a convenient opportunity for dairy processors to enter the non-dairy space. Imagine a range that includes lattes with milk, oats and almonds. There’s something for everyone and it’s being produced by a dairy. Further differentiate through the addition of extra nutrition.

Danone North America continues to grow its Stok cold-brew coffee brand. The Stok Protein Espresso is now available in 15-ounce cans and is a blend of coffee and dairy. The brand also now offers cold brew with almondmilk and cold brew with oatmilk.

The NCA does not see a significant change in the quantity of coffee that people are consuming, but the association says there has been a clear change in the quality and consideration of each cup. Driven by younger coffee drinkers, NCA is seeing a gradual but steady increase in the share of coffee prepared out-of-home and consumed after breakfast.

The under-40 demographic is a powerful force in the coffee market. They are driving growth in cold brew and ready-to-drink, which are both demonstrating impressive growth trends, according to Murray. Considering how recently they’ve reached mainstream markets, awareness of these beverages is high: 80% and 89%, respectively.

Both of these categories offer opportunities for innovation, from preparation methods to functional ingredients. Milk processors are key to these efforts.

JoeFroyo Functional Cold Brew is right on trend. The perishable beverage combines the kick of caffeine from cold-brew coffee with probiotics and protein from drinkable yogurt. Free from artificial colors and sweeteners, and containing no lactose, gluten or preservatives, the drink is fortified with milk protein isolate and whey. The refrigerated drink uses high-pressure processing to extend shelf-life without relying on chemical preservatives.

“The functional beverage market is seeing exponential growth right now, but wherever we looked, we could see drinks that sacrificed taste for benefits or benefits for taste,” says Zach Miller, president and CEO. “With JoeFroyo, we tried to create a functional beverage that checked all the boxes. It’s full of long-lasting energy, natural health benefits and we never compromise on great taste.”

At the beginning of the year, Shamrock Farms introduced Rockin’ Protein Energy. 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. Varieties are: Café Latte, Caramel Latte and Mocha Latte.

Smari is rolling out Kaffi Icelandic Protein Coffee. The new 8-ounce refrigerated coffee-milk line comes in three varieties. Keto Latte is designed for the keto dieter, with 60% of calories coming from fat, 35% from protein and 5% from net carbs. The 8-ounce bottle contains 110 calories, 7 grams of fat, 1 gram of sugar and 10 grams of protein. The perishable beverage provides as much caffeine as almost 2 cups of coffee (150 milligrams). There’s also two flavored lattes. They are: Iced Mocha and New Orleans.

In Germany, DMK Group now offers Milram Kalder Kaffe Powerful Cold Brew Coffee beverage made with low-fat milk. Containing no-added-sugars, the perishable product is marketed as a natural energy drink.

Super Espresso from Kitu Life is a 6-ounce can loaded with 180 milligrams of caffeine from three shots of organic espresso and no added sugar. It does, however, provide sustained metabolic energy from whey protein concentrate and coconut medium-chain triglyceride oil (MCT) oil. It also contains l-theanine, an antioxidant found in green tea. This combination of ingredients is said to provide a smooth, sustained, energy boost without the crash.

“Everybody needs energy, and until now, the only fast and effective energy options on the market are loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients,” says Jordan DeCicco, co-founder. “Super Espresso provides the energy we all need without the sugar, and the added benefits of healthy fats and a little bit of protein.”

Many of these natural energy drinks do not contain added sugar, further contributing to their healthful positioning. Ingredients such as inulin/chicory root fiber may assist with sweetness without contributing to sugar content. Such fiber is also recognized for its ability to mask off tastes from intense sweeteners, and in some applications, contributes a creamy mouthfeel without adding fat.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Frozen Dessert Innovation: Gaining Inspiration from Foodservice

Photo source: Parker Products

For most food and beverage categories, trends start out at restaurants, cafes and even quick-service chains. Ice cream is no exception.

Culinary professionals have few limits when they get creative in the ice cream category. While ingredient sourcing and long-term shelf life stability are critical considerations in the packaged product space, these are not barriers for most foodservice establishments, where ice cream may be churned onsite, in small batch and/or using local ingredients.

Many of you will be attending the International Dairy Foods Association Ice Cream Technology Conference this week in Florida. I am sorry to miss it due to a personal commitment but am sure lots of great ideas will come out of the conference. I look forward to reading about the annual contest’s winning flavors and regret missing the opportunity to taste them. Have a scoop for me, please!

Let’s explore some recent foodservice ice cream innovations and get a kick start on the innovation inspiration that will be exchanged at the conference. Don’t forget to stop by Parker Products’ display of inclusions, including 2020 Feature Flavors such as Tin Cup Whiskey Cake, It Takes Two to Mango, Get Churr-Own, Crystal’s Geode Cookie and more.

On the morning of April 17, the conference will commence with insights from Salt & Straw, a Portland, Ore.-headquartered scoop shop with a presence along the West Coast. One of the company’s most recent innovations is Wild-Foraged Berry Slab Pie (pictured). Like all of its creations, a local story is involved and always shared with guests.

Originating in July 2015, Salt & Straw’s Slab Pie flavor was inspired by a friend who was foraging wild berries in Washington State and the culinary experts had to get them into ice cream. Pies were baked and globs were added into a salted vanilla base.

Almost four years later and the artisan ice cream makers are still working with those same berries, but this year have expanded the repertoire to include cranberries, cherries and other fruits that they’ve cooked into a gorgeous pie filling that gets heaped into vanilla base alongside chunks of golden-brown pie crust.

These artisan ice cream crafters are known for collaborating with some of Portland’s most talented chefs to create some of the shop’s featured flavors. Smoked Sea Salt & Chocolate Crack (pictured) was based on a dessert by Naomi Pomeroy of Beast. At the time of the ice cream flavor’s fist rendition, she really fancied feuilletine, which are delicate baked crêpes crushed into small, crisp shards, almost like fancy French corn flakes. Coating these in chocolate protects them from going soggy in ice cream, and a smoked salt base provides both a contrast to the sweet, rich bits and a canvas for the surprisingly sophisticated crack.

Since its first release in July 2012, the company revisited the formulation with each new limited-edition offering. There have been adjustments to the levels of salt and smokiness and they’ve played with different chocolates.

The 2019 rendition has a toastier, crunchier texture from combining feuilletine with genmai, a sweet Japanese short-grain rice deep roasted until puffy, fragrant and complex. Guests can expect a light smoked salt base with gratifyingly crackly bits of chocolate scattered throughout.

New for this spring, Salt & Straw created Spring Flower menus, with some offerings unique to each of its major markets. Each menu featured a number of dairy and vegan options. In Portland, there was: Rhubarb Crumble with Toasted Anise, Wildflower Honey with Ricotta Walnut Lace Cookies, Chocolate Rose Petal, Hibiscus with Rosé Lemon Curd, and Orange Blossom Sorbet with Edible Flowers.

After a long, cold winter season, Cold Stone Creamery celebrated spring with the rollout of Wild Blueberry Muffin Batter Ice Cream and non-dairy Whipped Meyer Lemon. The new flavors are served in promotional creations through mid-May. Pie Like You Berry Much is the Wild Blueberry Muffin Batter Ice Cream with blueberries, graham cracker pie crust and sugar crystals. Golden Oreo Lemon Whip features to Whipped Meyer Lemon with strawberries, Golden Oreo cookies and whipped topping.

Have you heard of Creamistry? Founded in 2013 and franchising since 2014, Creamistry is an Irvine, Calif.-based franchise that serves made-to-order liquid nitrogen ice cream using all natural and organic ingredients that can be customized with more than 60 flavors and toppings. Currently, there are over 60 shops open and operating in six states, with more than 200 additional locations in various stages of development worldwide.

Here’s how Creamistry works. Customers choose a portion size, then an ice cream base and flavor. Then the fun begins with the addition of premium toppings and upgrades including candies, cookies and cereals, fresh fruit, sauces, made-to-order waffles, and freshly baked brownies. Each scoop of ice cream is hand-crafted to order using liquid nitrogen. Creamistry’s unique freezing process results in fresh ice cream that is luxuriously rich and decadently creamy.

Creamistry's new Creations menu:

The company recently introduced a menu featuring reinventions of classic combinations and drawing inspiration from other cultures. The Lunch Box PB&J is a take on a childhood favorite that is comprised of peanut butter ice cream, fresh strawberries, strawberry sauce and topped off with crushed toast to bring back the memories of a simple afternoon snack. Creamistry’s take on the popular Mexican frozen dessert Mangonada features mango sorbet covered in chamoy and tajin. It is accompanied by spicy Takis chips and a dash of fresh lime juice. The Unicorn Creation is a combination of birthday cake ice cream, mini marshmallows, blue marshmallow cream and, of course, unicorn dust.

While Cool Haus is becoming a household name thanks to its growing retail packaged pint business, it’s the innovation you find at the scoop shops that really impresses. The culinary team sets out to build masterpieces and they do not disappoint.

To make Candy Cap Mushroom (pictured), they soak dried candy cap mushrooms in the ice cream base. This mushroom breed has an inherent sweetness with tastes of maple and vanilla bean and the inherent earthy-ness of mushrooms, of course (similar to a porcini).

Fast Food Ice Cream is salted Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream, chocolate malt balls and French fry crisps. Street Cart Churro features mouthwatering bits of sugar-coated fried dough goodness. And, well, you have to taste it to believe its deliciousness. Fried Chicken and Waffles is brown butter maple ice cream with maple candied chicken skins and caramelized waffles.

Restaurant Hospitality recently published an article on trending ice cream shops for grown-ups. You can read it HERE.

These establishments are designed for ice cream-loving adults who want to get their scoop fix in a more sophisticated setting. Dubbed barlors, short for boozy ice cream parlors, many focus on serving whiskey and beer-infused sundaes and frozen cocktails. Many are franchising and spreading across the country.

Buzzed Bull Creamery, for example, specializes in mixing ice cream or coffee with liquor to make such dessert treat flavors as Honey Bourbon Pecan (pictured), Lemon Cake Gin and Hard Apple Pie.

For the younger consumer, unicorns, glitter and shimmer is holding strong. This past month, Marble Slab Creamery and MaggieMoo’s Ice Cream and Treatery’s handspun shakes introduced two new offerings nothing short of magical. New over-the-top Majestic Shakes in Cookie Dough and Cotton Candy are showstoppers. I challenge packaged ice cream innovators to turn these concepts into retail products.

The Cookie Dough Majestic Shake is an imaginative combination of cookie dough shake served in a glass jar rimmed with vanilla frosting and chocolate sprinkles. The shake is topped with a mountain of vanilla frosting, brownies, Oreo Cookie, cookie dough pieces, chocolate pirouette and finished with Hershey’s chocolate drizzle and a colorful fun wide-mouth straw.

The Cotton Candy Majestic Shake is a dreamlike creation of blue cotton candy shake served in a glass jar rimmed with vanilla frosting and rainbow sprinkles. The shake is creatively capped with lots of vanilla frosting, a rainbow swirl lollipop, marshmallows, cotton candy and mini gumballs.

Ice Cream Contest Celebrates the Birthplace of the Sundae

Back in 1881 in Two Rivers, Wis., George Hallauer asked Ed Berner, owner of a soda fountain, to top his dish of ice cream with chocolate sauce, an ingredient used only to make ice cream sodas. It became a popular treat limited to only being sold on Sundays. Legend has it that one day a little girl asked for one on another day of the week, suggesting they pretend it was Sunday. To communicate the order, sundae was written on the check.

The State Historical Society dedicated a marker in a downtown park in 1973 commemorating the first ice cream sundae and city limits billboards advertise the town’s claim to ice cream sundae fame. Berner’s original soda fountain still exists and every July, the town celebrates Ice Cream Sundae Thursday.

This year Two Rivers is hosting a bigger tribute to the sundae, and the city invites craft ice cream makers to participate in the celebration. “Every Day is Sundae Week” will kick off on Friday, June 14 with a concert and beer and ice cream pairing event in Central Park. On the following day there will be a host of activities, including a public tasting and ice cream flavor contest, an ice cream sundae building contest and more.

Amateur and hobbyist ice cream makers are invited to submit their most inventive flavors for judging. In addition to cash prizes for best of show and people’s choice, all entrants will have their costs sponsored and the best flavors will be featured at ice cream parlors and restaurants throughout the summer. For more information, link HERE.

World Dairy Innovation Awards
Many dairy processors have introduced great new products this past year and I encourage you to enter the World Dairy Innovation Awards 2019. U.K.-based FoodBev Media has organized and presented this award for the past 13 years, and this year will be selecting winners in 22 different categories ranging from products, brands and catering to marketing, packaging and sustainability. All are designed to celebrate excellence and innovation across every category of the global dairy industry.

Every year, some of the biggest, most world-renowned brands and groundbreaking new start-ups enter the awards, highlighting their newest innovations on this global platform. The finalists and winners of the 2019 awards will be announced at a special gala dinner during the 13th Global Dairy Congress on the evening of June 26, 2019, in Lisbon, Portugal.

For more information and to enter, link HERE. This year, the closing date for entries is May 10, 2019.

Once again I am fortunate to be one of the judges. To learn more about the judges and what they are looking for in a winner, link HERE.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Bacon > Cheese > Plants: Never Forget Taste Reigns

Photo source: Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board

It’s cheese. I am convinced it’s cheese that allows only a mere 2% of the American population to call itself vegan. And with BaconFest—a three-day event in Chicago where bacon is the star, in the buff and added to everything from cookies to ice cream to, you guessed it, cheese—kicking off this afternoon, I have a theory that bacon is what keeps the number of self-proclaimed vegetarians in the U.S. hovering at about 5%.

These are the only two foods I know of that can be described as “making everything better.” And it shows in consumption data. Both continue to grow in the midst of the plant-based movement.

According to the USDA Economic Research Service, Americans consumed 1.5 cup-equivalents of dairy products per person per day in 1976 and in 2016. While overall quantity is the same, the mix has changed. Fluid milk consumption has fallen from 0.9 to 0.5 cup per person per day, while cheese consumption has doubled.

U.S. cheese consumption is expected to continue to grow over the next decade, topping 38 pounds per person by 2026. That’s a lot of cheese. Could it be to make all those plants taste better? This is not anything new. Think broccoli in cheese sauce.

While cheese as an ingredient—both in the home kitchen and in commercial manufacturing--continues to grow, retail sales are also booming. Year-to-date retail volume sales are up 3% compared to the same period in 2018, according to IRI data provided to Dairy Management Inc., courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Association. Cheese prices are at favorable levels, down 1.8% vs. the same period last year.

Source: IRI data provided to Dairy Management Inc., courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Association

Natural cheese continues to be the driver, with early 2019 growth observed across most top-selling cheese varieties and forms. Most cheese blends and shredded forms—what home cooks often use in the kitchen--continue to outperform the category as a whole at retail. Sales of imitation cheese—those vegetable oil and plant-based dairy case invaders—continues to decline despite the fact that products continue to enter the category. Why? They just don’t beat the real thing.

Let’s take a moment to celebrate the hard work that goes into making delicious cheese by recognizing the 2019 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest Winners. Out of a record-breaking 2,555 entries in this year’s contest, a team of 60 elite cheese judges evaluated entries from 35 states based on technical merits, including flavor, texture, appearance and, of course, taste.

A Baby Swiss Wheel made by Guggisberg Cheese, Millersburg, Ohio, was named the best cheese in the United States with an impressive score of 98.54 out of 100. Marieke Gouda of Thorp, Wis., claimed both the first and second runner-up positions. Coming in just one-tenth of a point behind the Champion Cheese, with a score of 98.41, was Marieke Gouda Premium, a gouda cheese aged 18 to 24 months. Marieke Gouda Overjarige earned a score of 98.39.

Overall, Wisconsin cheesemakers dominated the 2019 competition, earning gold medals in 60 of the 116 contest classes and sweeping the gold, silver and bronze medals in 25 classes. New York cheesemakers earned nine gold medals, while those in California and Idaho earned six each. Gold medals went to dairy processors in Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Vermont and Washington.

The U.S. Championship Cheese Contest is the largest technical cheese, butter, yogurt and dry dairy products competition in the country, and has been held biennially since 1981. For more information on the contest link HERE. For complete results for all entry classes, link HERE.

Photo source: Chr. Hansen Inc.

Interested in tasting some of the winning cheeses? Plan to attend the Chr. Hansen Reception & Auction of Champion Cheeses on April 17, 2019, as part of the 2019 Cheese Industry Conference in Madison, Wis.

The conference is co-hosted by the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association and the Center for Dairy Research. Innovation sessions on topics such as trending new flavored cheese concepts, creative packaging and ingredients to improve cheese yield and quality will be offered during this two-day event (April 17 and 18). For more information, link HERE.

Here’s a sneak peek at Chr. Hansen’s new CHY-MAX Supreme, a coagulant designed to increase yield by up to 1%. Launched this week, such groundbreaking innovation in the coagulant space is rare.

“We understand the challenges of modern cheesemakers who are under pressure to generate maximum value, increase flexibility and meet customer demand for better functionality and convenient cheese formats,” says Soeren Herskind, vice president of commercial development at Chr. Hansen. “With a small but crucial change to our renowned CHY-MAX enzyme, we are making a big difference across cheese production and functionality for cheddar, continental or pasta filata/mozzarella cheese types.”

Photo source: Chr. Hansen Inc.

CHY-MAX Supreme is the third generation of the CHY-MAX fermentation produced chymosin range of coagulants and a result of five years of intensive research. It helps cheesemakers deliver a greater commercial return by offering up to 1% more cheese over the market leading coagulant without compromising whey quality. It enables faster, more precise production and better slicing and grating of cheese with controlled protein breakdown over time.

The new coagulant maximizes value by allowing the cheesemaker to produce considerably more cheese out of the same amount of milk. A 1% yield increase of global cheese production means more than 220 million kilograms of cheese without more milk to the vats.

That is enough to satisfy the yearly cheese consumption of 15 million American consumers!

World Dairy Innovation Awards

Many dairy processors have introduced great new products this past year and I encourage you to enter the World Dairy Innovation Awards 2019. U.K.-based FoodBev Media has organized and presented this award for the past 13 years, and this year will be selecting winners in 22 different categories ranging from products, brands and catering to marketing, packaging and sustainability. All are designed to celebrate excellence and innovation across every category of the global dairy industry.

Every year, some of the biggest, most world-renowned brands and groundbreaking new start-ups enter the awards, highlighting their newest innovations on this global platform. The finalists and winners of the 2019 awards will be announced at a special gala dinner during the 13th Global Dairy Congress on the evening of June 26, 2019, in Lisbon, Portugal.

For more information and to enter, link HERE. This year, the closing date for entries is May 10, 2019.