Friday, April 24, 2020

Navigating the New Norm of Plant-Based, Non-Dairy Foods

Photo source: Plant Based Foods Association

It’s time to toss away most market research and sales trend data and start fresh, a sort of spring cleaning, a reboot. While some flavor preference data remains valid, along with interest in health and wellness, it’s a new marketplace. Make sure you stay relevant in order to participate.
With that said, there’s new retail sales data that supports some of the old data. 

COVID-19 shopping has shown us a number of things. For starters, the plant-based meat consumer and the plant-based dairy consumer are not necessarily the same person. This is something that the “old data” suggested, and new shopping habits support.

We have known that most plant-based meat consumers are flexitarian. Prior to COVID-19 they explored meat analogs out of curiosity, and if the product was liked and they bought into its sustainability messaging, they often repurchased. However, now during these trying times, most plant-based meat cases remain well stocked, while beef burgers and chicken breasts are flying out of the cooler. The flexitarian wants the real deal and most vegans are not interested in fake meat.

Blended meat and poultry products are a different story, as these contain real meat and are simply mixed with more plant-based ingredients. This might be plant proteins, legumes, grains or vegetables. Think chicken breast stuffed with cauliflower and quinoa, or beef and lentil burgers.

The plant-based dairy consumer, on the other hand, tends to be someone who is avoiding dairy. Maybe it’s a vegan or someone with digestive issues. While some flexitarians like mixing things up, the core user of non-dairy foods is the dairy avoider. This has been shown in various studies and still holds true.

Don’t believe me? According to IRI data, provided courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Association, for the week ending April 12, 2020, as compared to the same seven-day period in 2019: total store dollar sales are up 12.7% compared to a year ago (the prior week was +13.4%). Dairy aisle sales are up 32.1% (the prior week was 30.1%).

Fluid milk sales are up 15.5% (volume sales) and 20.6% (dollar sales). In the previous week, sales were up 13.7% (volume) and 19.8% (dollar). But there’s also growth in plant-based dairy products. Refrigerated alternative beverages are up 14.9% (volume) and 19.1% (dollar) compared to 16.9% (volume) and 19.1% (dollar) in the previous week.

While I don’t have data on other plant-based dairy categories, it is safe to assume that the beverage buyer continues to purchase other non-dairy products. Frozen and cultured were and will likely continue to be the most popular.

In early March, the Plants Based Foods Association released 2019 sales data. It’s important to recognize there was power in plant-based dairy last year and it will likely continue into the new norm.

U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods grew 11.4% in 2019, bringing the total plant-based market value to $5 billion. The total U.S. retail food market had grown just 2.2% in dollar sales during this same period. This data covers the total grocery marketplace and was commissioned from SPINS, a wellness-focused data technology company and leading retail analytics provider.

Sales of plant-based milk-type products grew 5%, comprising 14% of the entire fluid category. Emerging plant-based dairy categories grew faster. Plant-based yogurt was up 31% in 2019 and plant-based cheese grew 18%.

Here are some new plant-based products in the marketplace, many from dairy processing companies.

siggi’s, the pioneer of lower-sugar yogurt with simple ingredients, is now in plant-based cultured category. The product contains three times the protein and 40% less sugar than leading yogurt alternatives.

The launch of siggi’s plant-based recipe comes after two years of development and fills key gaps consumers have desired from similar non-dairy products. The recipe contains 10 grams of protein, 8 to 9 grams of sugar per 5.3-ounce cup, and is made with simple, recognizable ingredients. The product features a thick and creamy texture and comes in four flavors: Mixed Berries, Mango, Raspberry and Vanilla Cinnamon.

The siggi’s plant-based product line is made with a proprietary blend of coconut, macadamia and pea protein. True to siggi’s long-held commitment to lower sugar and simple ingredients, this innovation contains more protein than sugar in each cup.

“I am very excited to offer consumers a plant-based option of our popular products. Like our dairy products, our plant-based products are rich, creamy, lower in sugar, and higher in protein than what’s available on the market today. Nearly 15 years ago, we started a low-sugar, simple ingredient revolution with our signature skyr, and now continue to deliver on that commitment in plant-based as well,” says siggi’s Founder and Chairman Siggi Hilmarsson.

“We are really excited to enter the plant-based segment and offer a truly unique product that delivers on what consumers have asked for,” says Carlos Altschul, president and CEO. “We are proud to continue to enhance the yogurt aisle through innovation.”

Unilever is adding Non-Dairy Sea Salt Caramel Bars to its Magnum Ice Cream brand, joining Classic and Almond varieties. Certified vegan, master chocolatiers source cocoa beans from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms and pair them with a creamy vanilla base made with a blend of coconut oil and pea protein.

O’MY frozen dessert has grown from availability in less than 100 stores at the beginning of 2019 to 1,400 today. O’MY is thoughtfully produced, and includes both Non-GMO Project Verified and Fairtrade Certified ingredients, with 70% or more organic. Each pint carries the Certified Plant Based icon. All of the recipes are crafted to be free from major allergens, including wheat/gluten, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and soy.

With the majority of people limiting their consumption of sugar to some degree, O’MY is moving beyond its allergy-friendly promise to now also contain less sugar while still being made with real ingredients. O’MY recently introduced two new flavors--I Love Chocolate and Cake Walk--with just 2 grams of sugar per serving. The brand is also growing its core line with Cake Batter.

Perry’s Ice Cream is growing its non-dairy Oats Cream brand with two new flavors: Cherry Fudge and Vanilla. The new flavors join the seven that entered the market about the same time last year. The original flavors are: Apple Strudel, Blueberry Pancake, Coconut Caramel, Oat Latte, Peanut Butter Coffee Cake, Peanut Butter & Cookies 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.

Danone North America is growing its yogurt alternative offerings. New Silk Almondmilk Yogurt Alternative Mix-ins comes in four varieties. They are: Apple Cinnamon, Coconut Chocolate Almond, Maple Chocolate Banana and Mixed Berry Chia Granola.

There’s also new So Delicious Coconutmilk Yogurt Alternative Pairings in four varieties. They are: Coco Almond Crunch, Key Lime Pie, Salted Caramel Cluster and Spiced Blueberry.

“For the past 100 years, we have always put the diverse interests of consumers first, and year after year, our innovations are leading the category--growing it and bringing consumers into the yogurt aisle--whether they are new or returning,” says Pedro Silveira, president-yogurt. “We’re incredibly proud to have started and ended the 2010s with breakthrough innovations and look forward to making the yogurt aisle a vibrant and exciting destination in the American supermarket as we enter a new decade.”

He said this at the end of 2019. Not only have we entered a new decade, it’s a new marketplace, a new consumer.

Earlier this week, Danone (global) reported that 1Q20 sales rose to $6.7 billion, up from $6.6 billion for the same period in 2019. This was attributed to consumers stockpiling in Europe and North America during March. Like most consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies Danone withdrew its full-year guidance due to the unpredictable economic impact of the coronavirus.

I will end with what I found to be a very helpful read in understanding the new norm: “Analysis Tips During Very Uncertain Times” from “CPG Data Tip Sheet: Transforming your syndicated data into business insight.” Link HERE.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Dairy Foods Innovation: Product Development and Marketing for the New Norm

I hope that you, your team and all of your families are staying healthy, safe and sane. Thank you to all the dairy farmers, haulers, processors, distributors, retailers and innovators…for your time and energy to keep refrigerators and freezers stocked. Please be smart. Stay active. Eat healthy. Keep clean. Be kind. We can do this. xo

Without conferences or expositions, and following smart quarantine direction, I’ve got time, lots of time. So, I have been reaching out to folks around the world, who have many varied roles in the food and beverage industries, to pick their brains and try to make sense of the new norm.

(Thanks Kerry Kaylegian, associate research professor at Penn State, for that late-night chat on Thursday. It was exciting to hear about the great innovation taking place in your lab. Mums the word by me!) 

Indeed, it is reassuring to know that there’s a great deal of focused product development taking place right now. That’s a good thing because we are going to need to find new ways to serve dairy. We love our cheese, milk and ice cream during uncertain times, but we are going to need to find new ways to serve these products to replace what McDonald’s, Starbucks and Baskin-Robbins has been doing for us for years.

Link HERE to read “Food Makers Get Shot of Reality Now that Panic Buying Has Waned,” published by Bloomberg on April 16.

While supermarket sales are up, it’s not enough to compensate for the loss in foodservice. Every 10% decline in out-of-home food spending translates into a gain of just 3% in the retail channel, according to Rabobank. With nearly half of U.S. cheese production going into foodservice—think pizza, burgers and tacos—there’s going to be lots of excess cheese.

I’ve stocked my refrigerator. I believe I have at least 20 pounds of cheese in varied forms and varieties. There’s no room for any more and we are not eating it as fast as I thought we would. I need to find new ways to eat cheese!

The innovators at Imbibe identified five trends we should all anticipate following COVID-19. These may help with your innovation efforts in identifying new ways to eat dairy. They are:

1. Cost Consciousness: Consumers will seek out products that are affordable and meet taste, quality and functional expectations, especially for everyday items.

2. Demand for Do-It-Yourself: Even after the country reopens, there likely will be residual uncertainty about the safety of crowded public places, namely restaurants. But home cooks need ideas. Meal kits and combination concepts will help. Shake Shack, for example, is offering cook-at-home burger kits complete with cheese, buns and their special sauce.

3. Essential Functions: Expect greater demand for products that support improved immunity, sleep and stress relief.

To read more about “Immunity-Boosting Products on the Rise,” link HERE to a Food Business News column I wrote this week.

4. A Taste of Nostalgia: There’s something comforting in the familiar, from childhood favorite foods to something that reminds us of a recent good time.

5. Rethinking Escapism:  This is all about packaged retail brands creating experiences that mimic foodservice. Consumers became more adventurous with their food and beverage in recent years to escape everyday stresses. Foodservice led this innovation by creating new eating experiences. This presents a huge opportunity for food manufacturers to get more creative with exotic flavors, enticing colors and novel textures.

Link HERE to read more details from Imbibe.
This brings me to some of the products featured this week as a Daily Dose of Dairy. While these concepts were already in the works prior to the pandemic, their uniqueness is extremely timely for the current environment.

The Danone YoPRO Nut Protein Bars that are rolling out to the Australian marketplace are made with an advanced protein blend that combines nuts, peanut butter, soy, collagen and yogurt powder. The bars are sold in the refrigerated dairy case and are making their debut in three varieties. They are: Apple Cinnamon, Mixed Berry and Salted Caramel.

Kemps’ new Bold Cottage Cheese comes in 7.3-ounce single-serve cups, much larger than most single-serve cups that range from 4 to 6 ounces, and is targeted to the male consumer looking for protein without sugar and is interested in strong, bold flavors. The four varieties are: Bacon Cheddar (with real bacon bits and cheddar cheese), Bacon Ranch (with real cheddar cheese and zesty ranch seasoning), Chipotle (with tangy, smoky chipotle seasoning) and Jalapeno Cheddar (with real cheddar cheese and jalapeno pepper bits). 
Each serving provides 210 to 230 calories, 9 to 10 grams of fat and 23 to 25 grams of protein. Whey protein concentrate helps reach that protein content.

Here’s a new one and showcases a new way to eat dairy, Scramblers: The Original Omelet Bar, from Deliciously Different LLC, is a hand-held mini meal that provides the convenience of a protein bar with the texture and nutrition of a real egg omelet.

Developed in partnership with the culinary innovators at Chew, the team of chefs and food scientists focused on clean label and transparently sourced ingredients. The keto-friendly omelet bar is made with whole food ingredients, including free-range, organic, certified-humane eggs from Pete and Gerry’s Organics LLC, along with grass-fed butter, cheese and skim milk.

The bars made their debut in ham with cheddar and spinach with feta varieties. Chicken chorizo is scheduled to roll out in the near future. Each bar provides 130 to 140 calories, 9 grams of protein, 2 grams of total carbohydrates and no added sugar. The fully cooked bar is prepared using a patent-pending process. It comes packaged in a vacuum-sealed tray and has the consistency of a fluffy omelet. The technology allows the bar to have a 12-month shelf-life with no refrigeration or chemical preservatives added.

Latest Sales Data
So where is dairy on that family dinner table? According to IRI data, provided courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Association, for the week ending April 5, 2020, as compared to the same seven-day period in 2019:
  • Dairy aisle sales are up 30.1% compared to a year ago (the prior week was +21.1%). The last two weeks of growth are more modest than a the initial “stock up” phase. See graph below.
  • All dairy category sales increased slightly from the previous week. This uptick is possibly driven by households replenishing.
  • Fluid milk sales are up 13.7% (volume sales) and 19.8% (dollar sales). In the previous week, sales were up 3.4% (volume) and 9.6% (dollar).
  • Butter sales are up 72.7% (volume) and 71% (dollar). In the previous week, butter sales were up 58.6% (volume) and 61.9% (dollar).
  • Cheese sales are up 33.2% (volume) and 40.2% (dollar). In the previous week, cheese sales were up 25.5% (volume) and 32% (dollar).
  • Yogurt sales picked up, but are still at roughly a negative (-2%) in volume and dollar sales. Specific brands, namely those marketed for probiotic function, are flying off the shelf.
  • Pizza sales are up 51.6% (volume) and 57.2% (dollar). In the previous week they were up 46% (volume) and 52.6% (dollar). 

Several dairy categories are showing positive year-to-date numbers as a result of the past several weeks of growth:

  • Milk now reports a year-to-date growth of 2.4% (volume) and 9.8% (dollar).
  • Yogurt sales year-to-date are up 3.9% (volume) and 3.5% (dollar).
  • Cheese sales year-to-date are up 13% (volume) and 17.9% (dollar).
  • Frozen pizza sales year-to-date are up 20.9% (volume) and 23.9% (dollar).
  • Butter year-to-date volume and dollar sales are up almost 25%, driven in part by more home cooking.
Prairie Farms Milk Caps Support Food Banks During COVID-19
The Prairie Farms charitable giving program, Our Caps Your Cause, donates thousands of dollars each year to local non-profit organizations. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Prairie Farms is going to give back even more by increasing support for nearly 50 food banks that are currently registered as an Our Caps Your Cause charity. Points for cap codes redeemed for food banks will quadruple through the end of May. This means each cap is worth 20 cents instead of 5 cents. 

It’s easy for anyone to participate by simply purchasing gallons or half gallons of Prairie Farms milk, peeling the sticker on the cap to reveal the code, visiting the Our Caps Your Cause redemption webpage, choosing a food bank and entering the cap code. Once the 1,000 cap goal is met, the food bank will receive a check for $200. 

To help families navigate the “stay at home” reality, Prairie Farms has launched a webpage that offers a variety of resources including recipes, “how to” cooking tips, coupons and a video series featuring Prairie Farms dairy farm families. 

Thank you, Prairie Farms Dairy! 
And, thank you award-winning Idaho Milk Products for sponsoring this week’s blog!

Friday, April 10, 2020

Dairy Foods: Back to Basics. What we thought was impossible, is happening!

Photo source: Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin

I hope that you, your team and all of your families are staying healthy, safe and sane. Thank you to all the dairy farmers, haulers, processors, distributors, retailers and innovators…for your time and energy to keep refrigerators and freezers stocked. Please be smart. Stay active. Eat healthy. Keep clean. Be kind. We can do this. Xo 

Happy Easter! Happy Passover! The calendar says it’s “Good Friday.” Let’s make it a great Friday. Don’t let the sad state of affairs regarding the dumping of milk overshadow the fact that retail dairy sales are booming. So is home delivery!

Cow Belle is a home milk delivery service in Pennsylvania. Started by Angie Rondolet in 2016, the business has only experienced steady growth. About three weeks ago, as the pandemic crisis hit the U.S., Cow Belle’s orders skyrocketed. Instead of the usual 120 to 160 deliveries per week, the company is up to around 325 now. 
Cow Belle works closely with small local farms and currently can’t keep up with massive demand. This is a stark contrast to the many farms that are sadly dumping milk right now.

Ms. Rondolet had a business plan that included adding a partner over the next year or two. She’s now accelerated the plan and would accept a partner to take over a route immediately.

Indeed, demand for dairy products is strong.

Yesterday I spoke with my friend Julie Smolyansky, CEO, Lifeway Foods, Morton Grove, Ill. In between our usual banter, she shared that Lifeway kefir is experience record orders and shipments. While the last few years have been challenging because of the plant-based movement, the tides have changed.

In markets where the company’s drivers restock refrigerators, they are doing it twice a day. This is about 200 cases of 32-ounce bottles of kefir, or 1,200 bottles of kefir selling in one supermarket in one day!

The dairy supply chain remains strong, reports the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), Washington, D.C. Further, demand for dairy products at retail remains very strong, with total store dollar growth for dairy products up 60% overall, compared to the same weeks from last year, according to the most recent IRI data. These data also demonstrate year-over-year volume growth for refrigerated dairy milk (34%), shelf-stable dairy milk (29%), powdered milk (307%), natural cheese (66%), butter (105%), ice cream (36%), and yogurt (23%). At the same time, frozen, prepared foods with dairy—such as pizza—remain strong.

Photo source: Dutch Farms

All types of cheese sales are experiencing growth. Families are cooking more, making shreds an attractive topping for pizza, tacos and casseroles. Yes, that’s right casseroles. Cocktails and casseroles are two of the most widely circulated recipes on the internet right now.

Sandwiches are back, making cheese slices an attractive filler. And healthy snacking and mini meals are on top of mind, as many quarantined are exercise challenged. Calories matter, making nutrient-dense, reasonably priced foods such as yogurt and snacking cheese staples in most households. 

Cheese is also on the menu for Easter Sunday brunch. Aldi’s Emporium Selection brand currently is offering three spring-themed limited-edition products all made in England and imported into the U.S. There’s a Wensleydale Cheese with raspberry and white chocolate in a pink waxed egg shape. The other egg shape is white waxed and is aged English cheddar. There’s also a yellow-waxed, chick-shaped Wensleydale with lemon and honey.  

Thank you, Aldi, for your holiday-inspired cheeses. Thank you, Dutch Farms, today’s blog’s sponsor, for all your forms and flavors.

With all this great news, I hesitate to share that the dairy industry expects to lose $5 billion to $10 billion in sales over the next six months as restaurants and schools remain closed, according to Andrew Jerome, director of external and member communications at IDFA. The challenge the industry is facing is oversupply. Dairy farmers, unlike other sectors of the economy, cannot just shut down, as cows continue to produce milk. The sudden shift in the U.S. domestic market, as well as weakened export demand, has left about 10% of the normal U.S. milk supply without a home.

Prior to COVID-19, foodservice accounted for roughly 50% of all food sales, meaning Americans ate roughly half of their meals (and lattes) outside the home. When milk doesn’t have a home, the entire dairy value chain is upended and put into financial hardship, and stronger retail demand—while a saving grace—won’t cover the losses, according to Mr. Jerome.

This morning, Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), Rosemont, Ill., shared details of a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, whereby the association is shifting its business plan to better help farmers weather the growing challenges they face amid the COVID-19 pandemic. DMI, which manages the national dairy checkoff on behalf of 35,000 farmers, has prioritized work focused on three key areas: schools, hunger, and foodservice and industry partnerships.

In the letter, DMI President Barb O’Brien said the checkoff’s mission of building sales and trust on behalf of U.S. dairy farmers and importers will prioritize limiting milk disposal and redirecting supply to serve those in greatest need over the next two months. Details of the effort include:

Ensuring access to school meals: By working through the farmer-founded GENYOUth organization, local promotion groups, USDA, and technology and food companies, such as Domino’s, YUM! Brands and others, the goal is to ensure school children continue to receive meals. This is critical not only for the health of children but to maintain the 7% of fluid milk that flows through the school channel.

GENYOUth created the “For Schools’ Sake—Help Us Feed Our Nation’s Kids!” movement, which so far has generated $3 million in corporate and individual donations. More than 5,000 applications have been submitted by school districts across the country requesting up to $3,000 grants for equipment, packaging and other supplies as school foodservice professionals work tirelessly to feed at-risk children. GENYOUth seeks to raise an additional $12 million to satisfy these requests.

Helping food banks meet growing need:
DMI is working with cooperatives and companies, quick-serve and foodservice partners and Feeding America to broaden access to dairy foods for the growing number of people facing food insecurity. The checkoff is convening cooperative leaders seeking to find a destination for excess supply with local processors and food banks. This effort already is diverting more than 100,000 gallons of milk per week in Texas, New Mexico, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, New York and New England into the hunger system.

Convening partners across supply chain: Working with domestic and international partners to realign the supply of dairy products to those in need while working through U.S. Dairy Export Council to assure dairy products continue or resume flowing into the critical export market. After more than 10 years of partnership with dairy farmers, Domino’s is working with GENYOUth and local organizations to pilot a grab-and-go meal program at 31 public school sites in Miami. So far, approximately 23,000 meals have been made available and similar opportunities through other franchisees in Michigan and other locations are being explored.

Photo source: GENYOUth

“The dairy checkoff has earned the knowledge, credibility and relationships to work across the chain to accomplish--on farmers’ behalf--what no other company or sector can do alone,” Ms. O’Brien wrote. “We are urgently executing these strategies across the U.S. to help dairy farmers in this time of crisis, which is more important now than ever in our history.”

Dairy is not the only food sector experiencing dramatic change. The industry analysts at Culinary Tides, San Francisco, issued the “Shifting Sands: Trends Shaping the Food Industry in 2020/21” report this week identifying three trends that are reversing course due to COVID-19.

“Food and beverage trends are pulling back to a more conservative position as consumers exhibit a ‘stall’ pattern of behavior, which characterized by caution, is now being amplified and accelerated by COVID-19,” writes Suzy Badaracco, president. “Three key patterns are expected to reverse course due to COVID-19’s effect: the low /no alcohol trend, the faux meat trend and sustainability purchasing behaviors.”

The “sober curious” movement has been put on indefinite hold. COVID-19 is literally driving consumers to drink. My hometown, Chicago, issued a public health order this week banning sales of alcohol past 9:00pm.

Then there’s the reality that plant-based meats are simply not selling at the supermarket. During uncertain times, meat eaters want real meat.

“It is clear from research that faux plant-based meats are consumed by meat eaters, not vegetarians, with curiosity being their driver,” writes Ms. Badaracco. “As sales numbers on these products continue to slide, COVID-19 will push meat eaters back to animal protein at an accelerated pace, while vegetarians will celebrate plants being plants.

“Plant protein will learn to stand on her own while maintaining her individual personality,” writes Ms. Badaracco. “Dairy is another category that has been maligned lately, but now has a set of conditions which may allow her to shine. Dairy has the winning combination of health attributes and comfort, but she needs to stand up for herself. 

“A newer, more promising direction, which supports the current mood, is to hybridize the categories--an alliance between animal and vegetable protein, with vegetables maintaining their natural integrity and voice.”

Think cheesy broccoli casserole! Or how about this grilled fruit pizza? Photo source: Dutch Farms

For the third reversal, expect sustainability sales to de-escalate due to cost, not desire. There is blurring between sustainability and health, making them more interlinked than they were in past years.

“The usual suspects will show up and include food waste and conscious indulgence. Reduced consumerism, composting and embracing the ugly (produce) will remain despite COVID-19 because they don’t present a cost barrier,” writes Ms. Badaracco. “When consumers experience financial difficulties or uncertainty, sustainability is one of the first things they will step away from, even if temporarily. They will be looking for no cost sustainability solutions to satisfy their drive. Trust issues underly decreased spending behaviors, while fear of uncertainty is underlying their stricter savings behavior. Sustainability spending will bounce back, however its return will be linked directly to economic health and consumer confidence.”

To read more about these trend reversals, link HERE.

Stay well. Stay safe. Stay sane. Happy Spring!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Dairy Foods Packaging Innovation: Take this time to reboot your brand and develop inspirational messaging for post COVID-19 marketing efforts.

I hope that you, your team and all of your families are staying healthy, safe and sane. Thank you to all the dairy farmers, haulers, processors, distributors, retailers and innovators…for your time and energy to keep refrigerators and freezers stocked. Please be smart. Stay active. Eat healthy. Keep clean. Be kind. We can do this. Xo 

It has been truly impressive at how quickly large consumer brands have been able to respond to the changing marketplace. On March 27, The USA Today reported on companies changing their logos to promote social distancing and thwart the coronavirus, this includes McDonald’s breaking up its arches. You can read the article HERE.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams is now offering frozen dessert “social distancing” collections available for home delivery. Themes include “emergency chocolate stash” and “build-your-own sundae.” The “happy (virtual) birthday” collection is all about celebrating a loved one’s day of birth from a socially acceptable distance. The collection includes five ice creams, salted caramel sauce, vibrant sprinkles and birthday candles.

Sassy Cow Creamery in Columbus, Wis., has opened a kindness cooler to help those struggling to make ends meet. Located outside the dairy’s store, the cooler is filled with milk and other dairy products for no charge for those in need. It’s an honor system. It’s all about taking care of people in the community, according to Ames Baerwolf, owner, whose kids came up with the idea while being bored at home.

Watch this VIDEO on the kindness cooler.

Photo source: The Kindness Cooler at Sassy Cow Creamery in Columbus, Wis. (Source: WMTV)

The takeaway here is to get ready for post-COVID-19 marketing. It’s time to reboot your brand and have it talk to consumers and help them heal. Remind them how butter, cheese, milk, ice cream, yogurt and more were there for them during the crisis and will be part of their family dinner as we return to more basic, simpler meals. Domestically produced foods will dominate our plates. Might we be returning to a meat, potatoes, vegetable and glass of milk family dinner table with ice cream for dessert? It’s something to think about.

The dairy industry’s messaging moving forward must focus on the connection. Packaging provides the canvas to communicate.

Haagen-Dazs’ celebratory birthday pint package showcases how a brand can connect with the consumer. Have yours do the same. Link HERE to learn how Double H can assist with your efforts.

A week ago, Delaware-based The Frozen Farmer was featured on The Shark Tank and walked away with funding from Shark investor Lori Greiner, who emphasized she will assist with a branding reboot and package redesign. Greiner noted she would assist The Frozen Farmer with packaging improvement “no matter what,” even before she made Evans an offer.

“These ice creams are the best I’ve ever had in my entire life,” said Greiner in the episode. “I think that your product is fantastic. You have something I think is blue ribbon.”

Many of the Frozen Farmer products are made from the misfit fruits from the fields of Evans’ family’s third-generation farm.

“More than 20% of the fruits and veggies in America don’t make it off the farm because they aren’t perfect enough for the grocery store shelves, resulting in billions of pounds of waste annually,” said Katey Evans, co-owner. “We’re taking the concept of farm-to-table to the next level with a product that offers a way to reduce food waste directly at the farm level by using the imperfect fruit we grow for our line of frozen confections.”

Greiner’s investment relied on Evans’ ability to get The Frozen Farmer into a major national chain. In the six months between the September 2019 filming of the episode and its airing this past Friday, Evans already accomplished that goal.

“You can find The Frozen Farmer on the shelves of every Giant Foods store in the nation,” said Evans, building on the relationship that 2,000-acre Evans Farms already has in supplying the grocery store chain with produce.

Giant Foods carries some of The Frozen Farmer’s fruit flavors like strawberry sorbet and orange creamsicle “nice cream,” along with traditional favorites like chocolate, vanilla, butter pecan and cake batter confetti.

“This isn’t just about us, it’s about all of us--a total food movement for farmers and consumers to become more mindful of where food comes from and how to reduce food waste at any level of consumption,” said Evans.

This is the future of food after COVID-19.

So where is dairy on that family dinner table? According to IRI data, provided courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Association, for the week ending March 22, 2020, as compared to the same seven-day period in 2019:
  • Milk now reports a year-to-date volume growth of +1.4%. This is a change. One week earlier, volume sales were -1.5%.
  • Dairy aisle sales are up 58%.
  • Categories continuing to show grow: milk (volume sales only), cheese, butter and pizza.
Food Safety Best Practices and Resources During COVID-19
During this time of uncertainty, consumers, farmers and retailers have many questions regarding food safety and COVID-19. Yaohua Prices “Betty” Feng, assistant professor of food science at Purdue University, and her lab have compiled information from nationwide food safety experts on a central reference website.
  • The website outlines food safety best practices including:
  • Consumer personal hygiene.
  • Stopping the spread of germs.
  • Grocery shopping recommendations.
  • Guidelines for farmers and producers.
  • Guidelines for manufacturers and retailers.
  • Information for extension educators.

The website is continuously updated with the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19 and food safety. For food safety best practices, please visit the following sites:
English version: Link HERE.
Spanish version: Link HERE.
Chinese version: Link HERE.

World Dairy Innovation Awards…submissions due April 30, 2020.
Dairy processors around the world continue to amaze with their innovation efforts. Here’s a chance to receive recognition: enter The World Dairy Innovation Awards 2020. The U.K.-based FoodBev Media has organized and presented this award for the past 14 years. This year the judges will be selecting winners in 20 different categories. Typically, the finalists and winners are announced at a special gala dinner held during the annual Global Dairy Congress in mid-June. This year’s event has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the announced will be made in a special FoodBev Media & Zenith Global webinar.

For more information and to enter, link HERE. This year, the closing date for entries is April 30, 2020.

To learn what the judges are looking for, link HERE.