Thursday, January 23, 2020

Probiotics Make Dairy Foods Special

The 2020 Winter Fancy Food Show took place this past week in San Francisco. It was great to see so many of you, and sorry to have missed so many others. With enough charcuterie, cheese and chocolate to fill four football fields, the show confirmed the growing popularity of specialty foods, which are defined as foods or beverages of the highest grade, style and/or quality in their respective categories. Their specialty nature is derived from a combination of some or all of the following qualities: uniqueness, origin, processing method, design, limited supply, unusual application or use, extraordinary packaging, or channel of distribution/sales. Dairy is an important sector of the specialty foods marketplace. All dairy---not just cheese! And take note: adding probiotics and going lactose free are two easy ways to make ordinary dairy—special!

My friends at Sierra Nevada Cheese Company—with the tagline of “Real Cultured Dairy. Simple. Wholesome. Pure.” know this. The company used the Winter Fancy Food Show to debut its new Probiotic Yogurt Drinks that come in Blueberry, Strawberry and Tropical flavors, in 10- and 32-ounce bottles.

The California-based dairy is doing all the “special” things with its new drinkable line. It’s loaded with probiotics, a better-for-you attribute consumers are increasingly looking for, according to the 2019 Food and Health Survey from Washington, D.C.-based International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC). Three out of four consumers recognize probiotics as being healthy. Almost half perceive dairy as healthy. Let’s get more probiotics in more dairy foods…and if you are making plant-based counterparts, get them in there, too.

The IFIC research shows that about a third of shoppers are trying to consume more probiotics. Just about the same are trying to consume more dairy. Put the two together. Make dairy special with probiotics.

Probiotics are live microorganisms, most often lactic acid bacteria, which when consumed in adequate amounts, may provide a health benefit. They join the trillions of bacteria that inherently reside in the gastrointestinal system and help create a better-balanced microflora. This in turn helps regulate an array of bodily functions, including digestion, and positively impacts overall health and wellbeing.

Probiotics are often taken to counteract the side effects of antibiotics, e.g., cramping, diarrhea, ulcers, etc., as antibiotics destroy both good and bad bacteria. Probiotics also play an integral role in immune function by preventing the attachment and activity of pathogenic bacteria in the gut. Thus, taking probiotics helps restore good bacteria and encourages their proliferation.

Source: 2019 Food and Health Survey from Washington, D.C.-based International Food Information Council Foundation

Keep in mind that all probiotics are not created equal. While the simple term “probiotic” on a food is useful and accepted, as it is suggestive of being beneficial to health, when any specific claim is made, it is best to identify the strain and provide supportive research.

Sierra Nevada Probiotic Organic Yogurt Drinks are made with the Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12 strain, which is associated with immunity and intestinal health. It is one of the most documented probiotic strains with more than 300 published studies.

Chr. Hansen, Milwaukee, Wis., supplies the BB-12 strain, as well as Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG. The latter is documented for its stimulating effect on the human immune system.

2019 Food and Health Survey from Washington, D.C.-based International Food Information Council Foundation 

Sierra Nevada is also adding the lactase enzyme to its drinkable yogurt and testing to make sure the product is lactose free, an attribute that appeals to consumers with—real or perceived--lactose intolerance or insensitivity. Adding lactase also breaks down milk’s inherent sugar—the disaccharide lactose--into the monosaccharides glucose and galactose, which are perceived as sweeter than lactose. This makes an added sugar reduction possible. This appeals to the four out of five (80%) shoppers who are limiting or avoiding sugars in foods, as reported by IFIC.

Congratulations to Sierra Nevada for rolling out this on-trend dairy food that qualifies as better-for-you, and special. And specialty foods are a booming business.

“Specialty food and beverage sales account for 16% of all food and beverage,” said David Browne, senior analyst, Mintel, Chicago, who provided a state-of-the-industry update at the Fancy Food Show. He emphasized that there’s a rising trend in functional beverages that promote energy, mental focus, relaxation and digestive health. That includes dairy!

A major driver of specialty foods is the growing trend of mindful snacking throughout the day. High-protein and low-sugar options are helping lead the way. Many dairy products fit this description. It’s time to package and market them as snacks.

Ingredient sourcing may further allow one product to stand out more in the marketplace. Package claims attract dedicated consumers, according to David Lockwood, director of consulting at Mintel, who also spoke at the Fancy Food Show. All-natural leads the way, with 68% of specialty food consumers buying all-natural products. Next is organic (55%), followed by non-GMO (45%) then locally sourced (41%).

Dairy processors you got this! Hope to see many of you at Dairy Forum in a few days! Let’s talk innovation!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Make Dairy Special with these Five Opportunities

The Winter Fancy Food Show starts this Sunday. It’s a good reminder of how special dairy foods can be when prepared, packaged, merchandised and marketed as premium products.

Research shows that while white milk consumption is down, sales of specialty dairy products is on the rise. An analysis of activity in the food and beverage marketplace and general consumer trends allowed me to identify the following opportunities to make dairy special.
In no particular order, expect to see robust dairy foods innovations with these five items trending: cream, eggs, oats, nut butters and sweet treats with less sugar.

1. Cream/Coffee Cream/Whipping Cream. All white milk lumped together as a category may be down in sales, but specialty products such as lactose free, higher protein and flavored are doing well. Whole milk, too, is showing positive growth. Fat is back and that is exemplified in the creamer category.

After years of little to no growth, the coffee and tea creamers market is on an upswing, as I recently wrote in an article for Food Business News that can be viewed HERE. Some of this growth correlates to an increase in coffee and tea consumption, especially among millennials who like to customize their beverages. 

The popularity of the keto diet has also been a significant contributor to the popularity of creamer. The keto diet is approximately 70% fat, 20% protein, and 5% each simple carbohydrates and non-starchy vegetables. By eating a lot of fat and few carbohydrates, the body is forced into a metabolic state known as ketosis. This is when the body burns fat instead of carbohydrates for energy. The liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies, with the latter traveling to the brain and fueling the body, the traditional role of glucose obtained from carbohydrates. Burning ketones in place of glucose is associated with weight loss, reduced inflammation, sustained energy and more. Those following a keto diet are drinking creamer like milk.

Expect to see more innovation in the creamer space, which will lead to more premium flavored whole milks, a.k.a. dessert drinks. Just keep the added sugars low and lactose free is a nice call out.

 Source: IRI/DMI custom milk database

2. Eggs. Thanks to national consumer marketing efforts by the American Egg Board, egg consumption is up at both retail and foodservice. Per capita egg consumption has grown by more than a dozen eggs over the last five years, and is nearing 261, the highest in 30 years, according to USDA. And, eggs were recently named one of the fastest growing foods (in annual eatings per capita) by NPD, a global market research firm.

Eggs and dairy foods make a good team. Think snacks packs with cheese and hard-boiled eggs. Think eggnog and frozen custard.

Expect to see more dairy and egg innovation, especially in the beverage space. Prairie Farms now offers drinkable custard in chocolate and sweet cream flavors, with both tasting like melted ice cream. The dairy has also been offering eggnog as seasonal flavor for the spring in addition to the more traditional winter holidays. The nogs and custards are made with classic recipes that blend locally produced milk, cream, sugar and egg yolks, with just the right amount of spice.

Zabalatte is a dairy-egg protein beverage ready to enter the market. Inspired by the traditional Italian dessert zabaglione, Zabalatte is a nutrient-dense beverage that serves as an on-the-go breakfast, a mindful snack or simply a delicious treat. The concept comes in three varieties—Blueberry, Coffee Espresso and Orange Cream—with a 12-ounce serving containing 16 grams of high-quality complete protein. For more information, link HERE.

3. Oats. 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.

Land O’Lakes recently introduced Kozy Shack Creamery Oats made with reduced-fat milk and steel-cut oats. The microwavable single-serve oatmeal cups also contains—you guessed it—eggs! The gluten-free product comes in three varieties: Cinnamon, Maple & Brown Sugar, and Original Recipe. The 7-ounce cups are intended to be microwaved for about 1 minute prior to serving, with one serving containing 200 to 210 calories, 4 grams of fat, 3 grams of fiber, 15 to 19 grams of total sugars, and 6 to 7 grams of protein.

The company also has a new dairy-egg rice pudding, which will be featured this week as a Daily Dose of Dairy. Both product lines are part of a collaboration with leading retailers to liven up the dairy department by featuring new, innovative items.

4. Nut Butters. They are showing up everywhere, including with dairy. Chobani, Oikos and siggi’s all are offering yogurts with nut butter. Planet Smoothie is blending almond butter with nonfat yogurt in its new Nuts About Almond Butter smoothies line. The Muscle Up Buttercup smoothie delivers 29 grams of protein in a 22-ounce size. It’s a blend of almond butter, cocoa, bananas, nonfat frozen yogurt, vanilla and whey protein, with a dash of sea salt. The Almond Berry Blast smoothie is blended with almond butter, blueberries, strawberries, bananas, whole grain oats, and vanilla. Finally, for coffee lovers there is the Almond Mocha Jolt smoothie blended with almond butter, coffee, cocoa, bananas, nonfat frozen yogurt and nonfat milk. I challenge someone to turn this into a ready-to-drink concept. Maybe add some egg protein, too.

5. Sweet Treats with Less Sugar. As of January 1, 2020, manufacturers with annual sales of at least $10 million must be using the new updated Nutrition Facts label, which includes a mandatory added sugars line as a subset of total sugars. Smaller companies have an extra year to comply. But…consumers still like their sweet treats. Innovators are challenged with manipulating sweeteners, flavor enhancers and other ingredients to deliver sweet but without all the added sugars. These products will appeal to the four out of five (80%) shoppers who are limiting or avoiding sugars in foods, a figure reported by Washington, D.C.-based International Food Information Council Foundation in its 2019 Food and Health Survey.

Expect to see more dairy foods sweetened with honey or maple syrup, along with increased use of lactase enzyme. Lactase breaks down milk’s inherent sugar—the disaccharide lactose—into the monosaccharides glucose and galactose, which are sweeter tasting than lactose. This process also renders the product lactose free, appealing to the growing number of consumers who avoid dairy because of real or perceived sensitivities to lactose.

Let’s make dairy special! Hope to see many of you at the Winter Fancy Food Show!

Friday, January 10, 2020

Want to Keep Dairy Relevant in 2020? Mama Got This.

Happy New Year! It’s only 10 days into 2020 and wowza, what more can happen? The world is in chaos while the fluid milk industry is in a state of flux. Coke now owns fairlife and Elsie is hoping the banks keep her alive to celebrate her 84th birthday this year. Wishing the best for our friends in Australia.

Inspiration—and hope--often come from the least likely sources. Returning from an anti-war rally yesterday afternoon with my two sons (concerned 17- and 20-year old men), our lyft driver reassured them that, “mamas make things better.”

That got me thinking. Dairy cows are mamas. Their milk—and the dairy foods made from their milk—are comforting. Not much beats a cold glass of milk with hot chocolate chip cookies when you’re feeling a little down, other than a pint of your favorite ice cream. For us stressed out mamas, it might be a glass of wine and some aged cheddar. Dairy is quite comforting in its many formats.

Many of us are going to need comforting in 2020. Without a doubt, this year will be unlike any other in the past decade or two. Let’s make sure dairy foods are there to comfort and nourish…and, of course, enjoy.

It’s time to earn back consumers’ trust through transparency and storytelling, the non-fiction, fresh-from-the-farm type of narrative. Innova market analysts say that in 2020, you can win with words. It will be the year of storytelling.

“Manufacturers are increasingly focusing on ingredient provenance platforms in order to highlight the taste and quality of their products, as well as their uniqueness and sustainability efforts. Provenance platforms can communicate a whole range of messages to the consumer, including flavor/taste, processing methods, cultural and traditional backgrounds, as well as the more obvious geographical origin.”

It’s all about transparency to build trust. The majority of consumers--regardless of age or engagement with sustainability--want transparency from companies, reports The Hartman Group. Consumers often implicitly differentiate between products, brands and companies when they are assessing sustainability. Consumers often hesitate to award companies the halo of sustainability, even when they have favorable views of their products. Despite their doubt around corporate motivations, consumers are relatively clear about what a responsible company looks like. The Hartman Group’s research identifies seven factors that are important to consumers when they want to determine whether a company is responsible. (See infographic.)

They want to know what actions a company is taking to reduce its environmental impact, as well as how a company’s products are manufactured to assure quality and safety standards. Ingredients and how they are sourced matters. So is employee wellness and regulatory compliance. Nearly a third of consumers want to know how a company treats the animals used in its products. Tell mama’s story.
The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation has forecast a number of broad trends for food and nutrition in 2020. Dairy friends, we got this! Just tell mama’s story.

For several years, the IFIC Foundation’s annual Food and Health Survey has asked whether sustainability was a factor in consumers’ food and beverage purchasing decisions. Between 2012 and 2018, that number ranged between 35% and 41% of consumers. However, when the 2019 Survey asked whether “environmental sustainability” was a factor in purchase choices, that number dropped to 27%, indicating that consumers’ notions of sustainability extend beyond just the environment. When it comes to environmental sustainability, consumers are eager to know and do more. According to the 2019 Food and Health Survey, 63% said it is hard to know whether the food choices they make are environmentally sustainable. Among that group, nearly two-thirds (63%) say environmental sustainability would have a greater influence on their choices if it were easier to know. Tell mama’s story.

Consumers also consider factors such as the labeling of various product ingredients and attributes, along with production methods and food packaging, to be under the sustainability umbrella. IFIC says we can also expect concepts like soil health and regenerative agriculture—“giving back to the land” rather than just conserving resources—to gain traction in 2020. Tell mama’s story.

On an almost daily basis, we get new indications that our climate is becoming more precarious, from unprecedented wildfires around the world to the increasing incidence and severity of hurricanes, to the accelerating rate of polar ice loss. (Yes, my sons and I have marched for climate change. This mama’s got this!)

There’s no doubt that in 2020 consumers will become more concerned about the role the food system plays in climate change, such as the effects of agricultural production, food waste and transportation of goods. The dairy industry needs to make sure that consumers understand the critical role that ruminant animals—in particular mama cows—play in feeding the world.

Source: Global livestock feed dry matter intake [Adapted from FAO, 2017 (Adapted from Mottet et al., 2017)].

Thank you Greg Miller, global chief science officer at the National Dairy Council, and executive vice president, Dairy Management Inc., for sharing this article on why animal-sourced foods are necessary. In fact, many nutrition authorities believe they are the best source of high-quality nutrients for children 6- to 23-months old.

Link HERE to read “Animal source foods: Sustainability problem or malnutrition and sustainability solution? Perspective matters.”

Here’s an excerpt from my August 30, 2019, blog titled “Dairy Foods Rule: A Simple Explanation on Why Cows—their meat and milk—Are Paramount for Feeding the Future.”

As explained by Eric Bastian, vice president of industry relations for Dairy West, Twin Falls, Idaho:

  • Two-thirds of global agriculture land is not suitable for growing crops that humans can digest for energy and nutrition. But these lands are suitable for growing grasses and similar plants that ruminant animals consume. 
  • These plants are basically sources of cellulose. In fact, half of all organic carbon on earth is tied up in cellulose. Humans are not able to use this carbon for energy. Ruminants can, and they do so very efficiently. 
  • Ruminants, namely cows, goats and sheep, digest cellulose and convert it into foods that humans can eat. They make all of that organic carbon that cannot be digested by humans available to humans in the form of high-quality protein, essential fatty acids such as omega-3s and conjugated linoleic acid, and an array of other nutrients. Milk, for example, provides calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamins A, B2, B3 and B12. 
  • Think about a stalk of corn, which provides two to three cobs. Humans can only digest the kernels, and for that matter, not even all of the kernel. The fibrous outer shells of corn kernels pass through the gastrointestinal system undigested due to lack of the necessary digestive enzyme. The rest of that corn plant is useless to humans for energy; however, it’s a meal for ruminant animals such as cows. Cows effectively convert the nutrients in that stalk, husk and cob to meat and milk for human consumption. 
This is why we need ruminant animals to feed the projected 9.7 billion humans who will inhabit earth in 2050.

Humans are omnivores. We are animals that have the ability to eat and survive on both plant and animal matter. Animal nutrients are powerful. The bear, also an omnivore, gets it. When they are foraging the forest and dining on berries and leaves and see a salmon swimming nearby, they ditch the plants and go for the animal nutrition. Bears are smart. They understand the power of high-quality animal protein. That mama bear wants to feed her cubs the best food possible. After all, “mamas make things better.”

It’s time to share these talking points with consumers. Tell mama’s story.

According to IFIC’s forecast for 2020, environmental concerns will continue to drive greater adoption of plant-based diets. However, consumers’ conceptions of plant-based diets vary. About one-third (32%) of consumers say plant based is a vegan diet, while another 30% define it as a diet that emphasizes minimally processed foods that come from plants, with limited consumption of animal meat, eggs and dairy.

Another one in five (20%) believe it to be a vegetarian diet that avoids animal meat, while 8% say it is a diet in which you try to get as many fruits and vegetables as possible, with no limit on consuming animal meat, eggs and dairy. Let’s educate consumers about the importance of dairy…for nourishment, comfort and enjoyment. Tell them mama’s story.

In 2020, IFIC projects fad diets and get-thin-quick regimens will continue to lose popularity, supplanted by more holistic and sustainable concepts like intuitive eating, which rejects many of the tenets of fad diets like “good foods” and “bad foods.” The “un-diet” will focus less on food restrictions and more on natural cues our body gives us, like when we are full, and on healthier relationships with food overall.

Communicating dairy protein’s role in satiety is key here. The Strong Inside message is powerful. To learn more, link HERE.

Non-dairy white beverages, and non-dairy cheese, ice cream and yogurt are going to continue to share space with the “real” stuff in refrigerators and freezers. In 2020, IFIC projects we will see more of these products in other foods, for example, vegan pizza and probiotic smoothies. Further, consumers’ comfort level with food technology is expected to increase. Think lab-made milk. But wait, what about GMOs and artificial growth hormones. My, consumers are fickle! That’s where trust through transparency comes in, and, that’s right, mama got this!

According to IFIC, despite--or perhaps because of--growing acceptance of innovative and diverse food alternatives, familiarity will hold a greater pull for many Americans. Consumers in 2020, especially older ones, will base many of their purchase decisions on the brands and ingredients they know.

The 2019 Food and Health Survey showed that 70% of Americans’ trust in a brand had at least some impact on what foods and beverages they buy. But those factors are much more important to older consumers: Trust in a brand impacted the purchase decisions of 85% of consumers age 65 and above, but only 66% of younger consumers. At the same time, nearly two-thirds (63%) of consumers said recognizing the ingredients that go into a product had at least some impact on their purchasing decisions. Food labels will be more important than ever, as consumers increasingly seek information about ingredients they seek or try to avoid. Mama got this!