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!

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