Thursday, December 12, 2019

Dairy Foods Flavor Forecast 2020

As the year starts to wind down, food and beverage market analysts issue forecasts for macro trends that will drive innovation. I take those trends and combine them with the knowledge gained throughout the year from attending international trade shows and talking with suppliers and marketers.

While the past few years focused on innovation by creating disruption, in other words, thinking way out of the box and shaking things up, we are starting to see innovators regroup and return to the basics with comforting, familiar flavors. There’s enough disruption in the world and consumers are looking for connections. They want a story.

Innova Market Insights ranked storytelling as the number-one trend among its top-10 trends for 2020. Survey findings from Innova show 56% of global consumers say stories around a brand influence their purchase decision. They want authenticity and transparency, and this comes from the story of the company, of the product and even the flavor of the product.

You can read more about storytelling by linking HERE to an article written by my colleague Jeff Gelski at Food Business News.

When it comes to consumers’ evolving preferences in flavors, there are three food and beverage themes I’ve identified for 2020. They are: warm, earthy and nostalgic. These flavors are often recognized as closer to Mother Nature, e.g., minimally processed. Often times the flavors are coming from the addition of whole ingredients.

They are also often less sweet. And with most consumers aware of the health benefits of decreasing sugar intake, less sweet is good.

In many instances, the colors associated with these flavor themes are going to be in the brown, beige and neutral range. Muted shades and pastels will provide subtle bursts. Vibrant blues, purples and reds, along with bright yellows and oranges will be limited to special occasion foods and beverages, such as confections and cocktails. (And, of course, some ice creams and even kid-focused yogurts.)

Oats speak to all three themes. And while oat beverages are currently dominating headlines, expect to see oats being used to flavor dairy foods. Think clusters, crumbles, cobbler and cookie pieces. Think oatmeal.

Along with rolling out a range of oat drinks and fermented oat blends—both free of dairy—Chobani is also introducing Chobani Greek Yogurt with Oatmeal. This wholesome, hearty product line pairs the nutrient density and probiotic benefits of traditional Greek yogurt with satisfying whole grain oatmeal, offering 4 grams of fiber per cup. Varieties are: Apple Spice Greek Yogurt with Brown Sugar Oatmeal, Blueberry Greek Yogurt with Maple Oatmeal, Banana Greek Yogurt with Maple Oatmeal, and Peach Greek Yogurt with Brown Sugar Oatmeal.

One of McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams’ limited-edition fall flavors was Cinnamon & Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. It was house-baked, brown sugar-laden oatmeal raisin cookie pieces in cinnamon-spiked ice cream.

Previously the 70-year-old artisan ice cream maker offers Winter Pear Crisp, which blended a delicate purée of D’Anjou pears with a swirl of homemade pear jam and crispy oatmeal crumbles.

Trending brown flavors are those that go well with oats. Think Stroopwafels and S’mores. This includes brown sugar, caramel, graham, honey, maple and molasses.

Fruits that complement brown flavors will be big in 2020. Think apples, bananas, coconuts, peaches and pineapples. Nuts and warming spices, such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, will often provide an additional layer of flavor into these fruit systems.

Herbs and spices have become common flavoring elements in beverages, and drinkable dairy products are no exception. Expect to see more calming lavender, gut healthy ginger and powerhouse turmeric in drinkable yogurts and cultured dairy foods. They often contribute to the product’s health and wellness positioning.

All types of tea are finding their way into dairy foods. Sometimes it’s as a latte or other drinkable concept, other times it’s in ice cream. The reason is two-fold. First, tea is associated with many Asian ethnicities and regional Asian cuisine is on fire in foodservice. Second, consumers are embracing the healthful aspects of consuming tea antioxidants. This is particularly true of matcha, which has an earthy, slightly bitter flavor. Matcha is the finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea leaves. It’s loaded with health and wellness compounds.

New Good Culture Wellness Probiotic Gut Shots complement many of these flavor trends. The gut shots start with a base of pasture-raised kefir that supports digestive health and boosts immunity, while rebalancing gut flora and improving digestion. The 50 billion live and active cultures are what give Good Culture’s kefir its gut-friendly strength. The shots are lightly sweetened with sweet potato juice and coconut sugar (lower glycemic index) and contain no synthetic hormones, preservatives, gums, nor anything artificial.

The four varieties are: Chai + Matcha to create calm, focused energy for mind and body; Chocolate + Chaga to boost energy and deepen immunity; Pineapple + Turmeric to support brain function and joint health; and Vanilla + Collagen to strengthen hair, skin and nail health.

Peanut Butter--crunchy or creamy--has always been a popular flavor in ice cream, but usually paired with chocolate. Now it’s coming out on its own or with other brown foods, namely banana, coconut and yes, peaches.

This past summer, Chobani made nut butter the star in a new line of nut butter on the bottom Greek yogurts. The dairy and plant-protein snack comes in five flavor combinations. They are: Chocolate Greek Yogurt with Hazelnut Butter, Honey Greek Yogurt with Almond Butter, Plain Greek Yogurt with Almond Butter, Vanilla Greek Yogurt with Almond Butter and Vanilla Greek Yogurt with Cashew Butter.

Cheese ingredients are trending, too. Think goat cheese and honey swirled ice cream or mascarpone cheese tiramisu clusters in a dual-compartment yogurt. Cheese is comforting. It’s warm, earthy and nostalgic.

Dairy foods, in general, are comforting. They are warm, earthy and nostalgic. Let’s make 2020 the year of dairy.

The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) recently launched its third annual IFTNEXT Food Disruption Challenge. This is an innovation pitch to help emerging and investment-ready food start-ups, entrepreneurs and innovators gain visibility and make strategic connections to help advance the science of food and its positive impact on the sustainability of the global food supply. Link HERE for more information and an application to participate. Enrollment continues through January 9, 2020.

Throughout the competition, finalists are selected in two stages, with six finalists chosen to participate in a six-week mentoring program where they receive guidance from business experts. From there, finalists are selected to present their innovations in a high-profile pitch competition at IFT20 in Chicago on July 14, 2020. A panel of prestigious judges representing influential sectors of the food and related industries will select the recipient of the IFTNEXT Future Food Disruptor of the Year award, which includes a $25,000 cash prize. IFTNEXT Food Disruption Challenge session attendees at IFT20 will be asked to select an IFTNEXT Future Food Disruptor People’s Choice awardee for a cash prize of $5,000. In addition to the cash prizes, other services and products for entrepreneurial advancement will also be included.
IFT20 is an annual event hosted by IFT that brings more than 17,000 science of food professionals together--including scientists, researchers, academics, ingredient, technology and manufacturing companies--with the intention to inspire and transform collective knowledge into innovative solutions that help advance our planet’s food safety, nutrition and sustainability.

QUICK FAVOR: If you have not already, please complete 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.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Dairy Foods 2020: The Fads, the Trends and What Really Matters—Insights for Innovating and Marketing Dairy Foods in the 2020s

Photo source: Amazon

It’s that time of year when we frequently hear the question: Do you believe in Santa? I pose the question: Do you believe in the magic of dairy? I do. And here’s why.

When I started writing for the dairy trade in 1993, Dean Foods—as owned by the Dean family—developed the Milk Chug, making fluid milk a convenient, portable beverage that fit into a car’s cup holder. That’s what you call believing--and understanding--the needs of the future. The Dean Foods team collected market intelligence with foresight to the rapidly expanding and diversifying on-the-go beverage category. The company recognized the opportunity for milk to compete in the single-serve market. The Milk Chug was born.

Sadly, through mergers, acquisitions, divestitures and really, let’s face it, mismanaged priorities, Dean Foods is now bankrupt. There was such potential for the Milk Chug. I’m not even sure it’s in retail distribution anymore.

While the situation is sad, there’s a lesson to be learned. And that is that it’s important to prepare for the future by observing today’s shoppers’ behaviors and what makes them tick. Instead of reacting to the fad of the day, look at the fad and identify what is it about the fad that makes consumers obsess.


With that, I would like to point out the irony in “plant-based” restaurants today proudly featuring French fries and ketchup, imposing a healthful “plant” halo on them. Remember when the National School Lunch Program tried to make ketchup count as a vegetable serving? After all, pickle relish already made the cut.

Today there’s a segment of the population that sees ketchup as healthful because it’s plant based. Some might even say ketchup is riding the fermented food trend, as ketchup is basically acidified tomatoes and salt. Yep, it’s high in sodium. I guess that’s temporarily not a concern among plant-based fanatics. But it will be, once again, very soon. Lowering sodium intake is a long-term health trend. It’s not a fad.

Plant-based groupies also ignore the high-carbohydrate (often simple sugars), high-fat and high-calorie content of the many “plant-based” foods being marketed as such. This includes everything from breaded, fried buffalo cauliflower florets to doughnuts. Yes, many doughnuts qualify as being plant-based foods. But, let me reassure you, added sugars, senseless fats and excessive calories do matter. Mindful eating is a long-term health trend. It’s not a fad.

Fads are quick, short behavioral changes that many follow on impulse, because it sounds cool. Consumer media loves reporting on them as they make for great headlines.

But fads die quick, often quicker than the speed that they rolled in on. Trends, however, have longevity and evolve over time. They may be viewed as the “what” that comes out of the fad.

There are three “whats” in the plant-based diet fad.

1. Consumers want to diversify their sources of protein.
2. Consumers want to eat more whole fruits and vegetables, as well as grains, nuts and seeds. Offering them in fun, flavorful formats helps increase consumption.
3. Consumers are interested in the environmental impact of their food and beverage choices.

Ponder these “whats” as you innovate for the 2020s. Remember, taste always reigns.

With that said, here’s my two cents on “lab-made” foods. If GMOs and rBST make people fearful of the food supply, do you really think today’s shoppers…in the 2020s…are going to purchase lab-made milk? Hey, maybe 30 years from now. Think way in the future. But lab-made milk will not be going in most shopping carts during the 2020s. And if it does, I promise you it will be one of the shortest lived fads ever, even shorter than high-protein ice cream.

I never shied away from cautioning against entering the high-protein ice cream category, a fad that is now on a rapid downward slope. I made more than a few folks angry when I said it was a fad. The reason being that most people consume ice cream for the pleasure of it. It’s an indulgence. It must taste good.

So what were the “whats” in high-protein ice cream? The biggest one was that consumers were looking for new formats of high-quality protein. Lower sugar and lower calories were attractive, too. But at the end of the day, that’s not what most consumers wanted from their ice cream. It made more sense in bars and beverages. Ice cream will remain a treat for the majority!

The dairy industry owns delicious protein. Lower-sugar and lower-calorie milk beverages, yogurts, smoothies and other cultured dairy products are very feasible with advanced clean-label technologies.

Do you believe in dairy? If yes, focus on turning these “whats” into products that shoppers gravitate to now and in the future. And thank you Milk Chug. The package did encourage innovation among other processors.

QUICK FAVOR: If you have not already, please complete 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.