Friday, May 29, 2020

Summer Inspiration Series: Create a Category

Photo source: Organic Valley

The “Summer Inspiration Series” of Friday blogs is all about stepping out of our comfort zone in terms of innovation. Why not? We’re already operating in an unprecedented manner. Some blogs may explore new concepts in “other” food and beverage categories and discuss how they may apply to dairy, others may focus on new consumer behaviors and brainstorm on how dairy foods processors may respond in coming months.

Let’s talk about creating a new category. This is not just a new formulation, such as high-protein ice cream, nor is it as simple as new packaging, such as yogurt in a pouch. Think of it as a concept that IRI, Nielsen and Spins do not know how to categorize. Recent examples among dairy processors would be refrigerated dairy bars.

In the U.S., Kraft kicked off the category in 2011 with MilkBite bars. The concept was ahead of its time and was discontinued less than a year later. Then in 2017, Prairie Farms introduced Milk Snack Bars, which is alive in the marketplace. Take note, similar refrigerated dairy-based snack bars, with fillings ranging from whipped dessert to quark, have been around in Europe for some time. Prairie Farms’ Milk Snack Bar is a two-layer whole milk crème-filled chocolate cake bar dipped in chocolate.

Clio Greek Yogurt Bars debuted in early 2019. Each bar—in full and mini size--is creamy, whole milk Greek yogurt wrapped in chocolate. Varieties are: Blueberry, Espresso, Hazelnut, Honey, Peanut Butter, Strawberry and Vanilla.

Earlier this year, Danone North America announced the rollout of Oikos Pro Bars, which has since been delayed. The bars deliver on-the-go nutrition with 20 grams of protein and 8 grams or less of sugar per 60-gram bar. Made with a Greek yogurt and nut butter base, varieties are: Blueberry Cashew, Chocolate Peanut Butter and Salted Caramel Almond.

That’s creating a category.

Another new category emerging is cheese wraps. Lotito Foods was first to market in June 2016 with Folios, which are par-baked sheets of cheese made from Cheddar, Jarlsberg or Parmesan all-natural cheeses. Folios are free of carbs, gluten and sugar. They presented a new way to eat cheese, as they can be used as a wrap, much like one would use a tortilla or flatbread or they can be the cheese slice in the wrap. They can also be warmed and molded into a crispy cheese bowl. The standalone bowl can be used to serve a cold salad or the cheese bowl can be served in a bowl and be used to serve hot foods, such as chili, pasta or soup. As the bowl starts to melt, it gets consumed with its contents.

Since late 2019, Crystal Farms has offered Cheese Wraps in Marble Jack (Colby and Monterey Jack) and Mozzarella varieties.

One could argue that the many variations of cheese snack packs now in the market are a new category. Some contain hard boiled eggs, nuts, dried or fresh fruit, crackers, spreads, meats and more. They qualify as a new category because, like I mentioned up front, IRI, Nielsen and Spins are not sure how to categorize them and they really need their own grouping.

Dutch Farms, for example, rolled out Protein Packs in the fall of 2019. Designed for consumers seeking high-protein, low-carb snacks, On-the-Go Protein Packs join Dutch Farms’ On-the-Go Snackers and On-the-Go Snack Packs. They come in two varieties: String Cheese with one hard-cooked peeled egg, and pepperoni; and Pepper Jack cheese stick with one hard-cooked peeled egg, and Genoa salami.

So, let’s talk egg bites. Starbucks cafes have been selling eggs bites since early 2017. These fully cooked portable breakfast items warmed by the barista quickly became a hit because of their protein content and premium quality. Consumers who have come to appreciate these flavorful, nutritious mini meals can now choose from a number of retail brands and prepare them at home.

To read more about this emerging new retail category, link HERE to an article I wrote earlier this week for Food Business News titled “Egg Bites Emerging as a Retail Food Trend.”

The newest player is Organic Valley, with the only nationally distributed organic egg bites product in the U.S. The refrigerated heat-and-eat product is made with organic free-range eggs from the cooperative’s small family farms, along with Organic Valley cheese and Organic Prairie meat. The two-bite, 4-ounce package contains 14 to 16 grams of protein and less than 250 calories. They can be popped in the toaster oven or microwave and ready to eat in less than 90 seconds. Varieties are: Feta and Chive, Sausage and Pepper Jack, and Uncured Ham and Swiss. They will start shipping July 27 and have a suggested retail price of $3.99 per pack.
Put your thinking caps on and let’s create more categories. It’s time to get busy in your kitchen.

Chef Nelson Serrano-Bahri (pictured below), innovation and culinology manager, Emerging Business for Ingredion Inc., hosted a Zoom meeting on May 7 (my birthday, what a good time during a pandemic!) titled “Ingredion At Home: The Basics of Recipe Development.”

Chef Serrano-Bahri and The Hatchery will be offering this free event again on June 11, 1:00-2:00pm CDT. Link HERE to register.

He normally is based at The Hatchery, a non-profit food and beverage incubator based in Chicago. Since the stay-at-home orders, he has been working out of his home kitchen. He shared with viewers the tools and tricks to bring your concept to life and get it market ready during quarantine.

He identified the following tools to equip your kitchen for commercial innovation projects.

Blenders and Food Processors: A commercial-grade food processor works better than a blender when working with ingredients, such as fruits and vegetables (to make puree), dough, nuts and dried fruit. Blenders are best for creating emulsions and mixing wet ingredients.

Bowls: Invest in stainless-steel bowls because they are sturdier and less likely to break if they fall. Plastic bowls tend to be more reactive to acids. Weigh the bowls and mark them. You can never have enough. Invest in many sizes.

Mixers: A mixer with a larger motor, such as 600 watts, provides more capacity and more flexibility. A paddle attachment is useful when adding ingredients during the mixing process.

Photo source: Ingredion Inc. 

Pot Holders and Towels: Cotton towels may function as both pot holder and cleaning tool. Slightly dampened, pot holders and towels help keep bowl and cutting boards in place during mixing and chopping. Color-coding pot holders and towels helps to prevent cross-contamination.

Power Cords and Strips: Water-resistant outdoor-style power cords are less of a fire hazard. Avoid power strips, as they may overheat.

Scales: Most home cooks use volumetric measuring devices such as cups and spoons; however, the industrial world is all about weight, so you may as well start your innovation project using the right measurements. Invest in a scale. While an inexpensive kitchen scale should suffice for major ingredients, a more precise scale is important for those “less than 2%” ingredients, which includes colors, flavors, high-intensity sweeteners, preservatives and functional ingredients.

Spatulas and Spoons: Like bowls, you can never have enough mixing utensils. Serrano-Bahri prefers rubber spatulas, as wooden kitchen tools can break or chip.

And last, yet most important, is proper sanitation. Cleaning and washing is on top of mind in this pandemic world we now find ourselves in. To save costs with cleaning solutions, Serrano-Bahri combines one-third a cup of bleach with a gallon of water. He cautions that bleach is reactive and should not be mixed with degreasers, which may create fumes. Properly label all homemade solutions in spray bottles to prevent misuse.

In celebration of June being National Dairy Month, Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) and state and regional checkoff teams around the U.S. are showcasing dairy’s resilience and community impact during the COVID-19 pandemic. The efforts begin on June 1--World Milk Day--with a “Raising Gallons” video that DMI created in partnership with state and regional checkoff organizations. You can view it HERE.

The video features Olympians, NFL players, famous chefs and others raising a gallon of milk to show their appreciation for dairy farmers while supporting the checkoff’s goal of getting nutritious dairy to food-insecure Americans through its Feeding America partnership. The video fittingly is kicked off by Pennsylvania dairy farmer and DMI Chair Marilyn Hershey and concludes with Feeding America’s Director of Dairy Supply Chain Partnerships Jerod Matthews, who encourages consumers to post their own “raising gallons” photo using #UndeniablyDairy. MilkPEP will match donations to its GiveAGallon campaign up to $100,000.

“This pandemic has shown just how essential Feeding America and dairy farmers are to helping feed those in need,” says Hershey. “We’re working toward a common goal, and our checkoff strategy of getting dairy into the hands of those who need it wouldn’t be possible without Feeding America and its nationwide network of 200 local food banks.”

Additional checkoff-led efforts nationally and locally will promote “30 Days of Dairy” throughout June. Each day of the month will be filled with virtual farm tours and content that celebrates the role dairy plays in people’s lives while illustrating dairy farmers’ resilience and contributions to their communities, tagged with a newly created “30 Days of Dairy” badge.

“The celebration of National Dairy Month has taken on new meaning this year given the global pandemic,” says Heather Oldani, executive vice president of communications for DMI. “Despite challenging times, farmers have shown a tireless commitment to waking up each morning to ensure a safe, nutritious supply of dairy is available at our grocery stores, in our homes and in community food banks. The essential role farmers have played has made it possible for the rest of us to continue to enjoy the dairy foods we all love.”

The James Collective, an integrated marketing communications company, provides five “Crisis Communication Tips for Food and Beverage Brands.”

1. Be transparent and communicative with your audience, in any way you can. While brands should be careful with how they cover topics and announcements that are related to a crisis such as the pandemic, it is important to use owned channels (such as newsletters, websites and social media) in addition to other channels as appropriate (such as traditional/digital media) to communicate the company’s commitment to safety, their consumers AND their employees. If your company has put particular programs in place for the health, safety, physical/mental wellbeing of employees, tell people. Communicate the safety procedures you are practicing in your manufacturing and logistics, and explain what that looks like to your consumers. From new sanitation policies at warehouses and manufacturers to updates on takeout options at restaurants, consumers are smart and eager to see how their favorite companies are adjusting service to reach them in these strange times.

2. Be truthful. Now more than ever, it is vital that brands communicate with their audiences in a way that is authentic and honest. Your audience will know and care if the information you share, say and post is true. The trust you build with your audience now will exist long after this crisis is behind us, so take the time now to build it. Tell your audience the what and why behind the actions your company is taking. If you’re using the time to give back to your community and those in need, share the feel-good details. If your business has had to make difficult decisions to weather the storm, explain them with empathy. Now more than ever, people are choosing to support businesses that they feel align with their own beliefs and values, so make sure that your brand is clearly communicating where their values lie.

3. Invoke your company’s voice and spirit wherever possible. While the world is collectively experiencing hard times (and will continue to be for the foreseeable future), that doesn’t mean your messaging needs to be all doom and gloom. If your brand voice is fun and cheeky, use that. If you celebrate beauty, find ways to celebrate the beauty of the current moment. Now is a time to find ways to engage and celebrate your community, consumers and buyers. This could be with grocery retailers, in partnership with non-profits, influencers, your loyal consumers and more. Despite everything going on in the world around us, people are still looking to their favorite brands to provide services and entertainment that speak to the current moment. Get as creative as you’d like.

4. Be proactive and realistic about the future of your business. For many food and beverage companies, the current global health crisis has offered a glimpse into a future where direct-to-consumer (DTC) reigns supreme and the brands that use that glimpse to tailor their business strategy now are the ones that are setting themselves up for security and success down the line. If your company was not utilizing DTC channels prior to the pandemic, now is an excellent time to heed the requests of your customers and find a way to deliver your product to them directly. If your business was already operating DTC, use this time to build on that strategy. Tell your story on all of your owned channels. Surprise and delight. Make customers want to keep interacting with your brand and establish loyalty to your product. This could be anything from providing digital resources/recipes, providing creative and exceptional customer service, aiming for speed in shipping, anything to establish the value your company provides, and to allow your audience to feel that by supporting your business, they are a member of a community. Even once the economy begins to reopen, these trends are unlikely to disappear. Prepare now in a way that ensures you keep customers coming back.

5. Create an emergency plan. If you didn’t prepare for crisis before, do so now. If this crisis has taught one thing, it’s that there’s no such thing as overpreparation. Learn from the mistakes and successes you may have seen over the course of the past few months. Where did your brand unexpectedly exceed or grow? Where was your company left scrambling to quickly adapt to the new regulations and policies necessitated by the pandemic? Now is a time to future-proof your business by using the learnings of this pandemic to prepare for the next crisis. Create a strategic emergency communications plan now so that you’re prepared for any future crises that may come your way.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Summer Inspiration Series: Focus on Lifestyle Foods

This weekend is the official kickoff to summer 2020 in many countries, including the U.S. It’s going to be a different one, with little to no travel and for cautious folks who listen to the scientific experts, no large gatherings and lots of social distancing. That should not stop you from getting outside and making some vitamin D. Use the solitude to start brainstorming on future innovations.

This blog kicks off the “Summer Inspiration Series,” where I will either explore new concepts in “other” food and beverage categories and discuss how they may apply to dairy, or will look at consumer behavior trends and brainstorm on how dairy foods processors may respond in coming months. When possible, I will provide a sneak peek to a dairy processor taking this approach with a new innovation. Today that processor is Chobani with its new Chobani Complete line scheduled to hit shelves late summer or early fall.

Today let’s talk about lifestyle foods. This is a term first used publicly by Chipotle Mexican Grill with its line of Lifestyle Bowls, which were introduced in January 2019. Inspired by wellness experts, the meals are designed to assist diners with their health and fitness goals. The company is now adding five more concepts to the lineup.

Chipotle partnered with YouGov to better understand how consumers’ food behavior patterns have shifted during this unprecedented time of social distancing. The brands’ joint study found more than a third of Americans (35%) are struggling to maintain healthy lifestyles and four in 10 (44%) are not maintaining a regular workout schedule since spending more time at home. Diets have fallen victim to increased snacking and consumption of processed foods, as the study found that more than a third of those surveyed (36%) have been eating more “junk food” during this period. Sixty seven percent of participants indicated they are trying to avoid or limit heading to the grocery store leaving a need for convenient and healthy options.

Lifestyle Bowls are designed to help consumers pursue their dietary goals from home, or on a blanket at the beach with a few family members, no closer than six feet from the next small group. Chipotle collaborated with an inspiring roster of wellness influencers to create the five new Lifestyle Bowls: professional basketball skills trainer Chris Brickley, cycling instructor Cody Rigsby, nutrition expert Dr. Mark Hyman and fitness athletes Tia-Clair Toomey and Mat Fraser. The five new menu items are in addition to Chipotle’s Lifestyle Bowls for specific diet regimens, including a Paleo Salad Bowl, Keto Salad Bowl, Whole30 Salad Bowl, Vegan Bowl, Vegetarian Bowl and High Protein Bowl.

Photo source: Chipotle Mexican Grill

The endorsements are a critical part of the branding and help the diner connect to their meal. They provide inspiration and help motivate. The Chris Brickley Bowl, for example, is a protein-forward meal of brown rice, double chicken, fresh tomato salsa, roasted chili corn salsa, cheese, lettuce and guacamole, while the Dr. Mark Hyman Salad focuses on nutrient density with its mix of super-greens lettuce, brown rice, black beans, chicken, fajita veggies, fresh tomato salsa, tomatillo-green chili salsa and guacamole.

Nestlé is introducing Life Cuisine, a new brand designed to deliver delicious, satisfying meal solutions that help consumer’s varying approaches to eating well. From gluten-free to high-protein, Life Cuisine is made with flavorful ingredients that help one power through the day, their way.

The brand recognizes that through the years, the definition of wellness has evolved from calorie-conscious eating to a more holistic approach that extends well beyond just what’s on the plate. Once-niche dietary trends like gluten free and meatless meals have become more mainstream. This new dynamic has inspired people to learn more about different foods, seek more specific product attributes and balance their lifestyles, according to the company. New Life Cuisine answers that call with a variety of nutritious options catering to four consumer lifestyles: low carb, high protein, meatless and gluten free.

“Eating well is no longer ‘one-size-fits-all,’ so our offerings can’t be either,” says John Carmichael, president, Nestlé Foods Division. “As needs evolve and expand, our team of culinary experts and nutritionists works in lockstep to deliver contemporary meals made for these emerging food lifestyles, from gluten free to meatless and beyond.”

The Life Cuisine frozen brand includes layered bowls, cauliflower-crust pizzas and sous vide egg bites.

Chobani has been evolving into a lifestyle brand as it has grown its offerings beyond the original Greek yogurt cup line. New Chobani Complete will further extend the company’s reach to meet consumers’ lifestyle choices.

Described as “Advanced Nutrition Yogurt” on front labels, the product also boasts upfront that it delivers “20 amino acids” and is “complete protein.” (All dairy yogurt contains this, but it’s the first time, to my knowledge, being called out). Labels also state that the yogurt is lactose free, easy to digest, made with only real fruit, has no added sugars, contains soluble fiber and is prebiotic and probiotic. Key ingredients are: chicory root fiber, lactase, monk fruit extract, stevia and an impressive cocktail of lactic acid cultures.

The 5.3-ounce cups come in Blueberry, Key Lime, Peach, Strawberry and Vanilla and contain 120 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 15 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and 7 grams of inherent sugar. There’s also a 24-ounce vanilla container. The 10-ounce drinks come in Banana Cream, Mixed Berry Vanilla, Strawberry Cream and Vanilla. One serving contains 190-200 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 25 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and 12 grams of inherent sugar.

Lifestyle foods…something to think about. Happy summer!

Friday, May 15, 2020

A Sneak Peek at the Summer 2020 Ice Cream Season; It’s Time to Start Planning for 2021

Ice cream is in demand. While many scoop shops and street vendors remain closed because of quarantine orders, retail and online---yes, online—sales of ice cream are breaking records. It’s no wonder. Ice cream is comforting. I think most of us can appreciate a little mood bolster during these uncertain times.

Ice cream sales were up 27.4% (volume) and 34.9% (dollar), according to IRI data, provided courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Association, for the week ending May 3, 2020, as compared to the same seven-day period in 2019. In the previous week, sales were up 41.5% (volume) and 49.3% (dollar).

Dairy dollar sales overall have outperformed the total store in velocity for each of the past seven weeks and for 2020 year-to-date. In the latest week, total dairy sales were up 26.8% compared to the same week last year, while total store sales were up 15.4%. Consumers are not willing to sacrifice the basics during this time. (Ice cream is proving to be a necessity.) Increased cooking and baking have contributed to these large dairy increases, as dairy is an ingredient in many home-prepared foods.

Online ice cream sales are faring well for many players, as consumers find that sending a cooler (with dry ice) to family or friends for a birthday, graduation or simply for encouragement is a gift well received. (Thanks to a number of you who have offered me a tasting. I just don’t have freezer space.)

Earlier this year, Alden’s Organic had been working with Healthy Goodness, a frozen food fulfillment service specializing in natural foods, to make its newly launched Dairy Free line available for purchase online. When the pandemic hit, instead of pausing, Alden’s knew they needed to go all in and added all 46 SKUs to the e-commerce platform.

“Even during these challenging times we knew we needed to push ourselves to make this happen if we could,” says Eric Eddings, president and CEO of Alden’s. “E-comm frozen sales are up 31% since the COVID crisis, and we think this is a trend that will continue even after we recover from it.”

Alden’s Organic expects e-commerce to supplement its national grocery distribution, which remains and will continue to be the mainstay of the business. The company also has plans to launch new products through both channels in the near future.

Lots of new ice cream products have started rolling out to retail freezers, which may be contributing to some of the sales growth. New products attract consumers’ attention. It raises their curiosity and invites purchase. This is especially true during these trying, boring and repetitive times, which for many feels like Bill Murray’s experience in Groundhog Day. New ice cream products bring a little bit of excitement to the day, breaking up the monotony.

While all of the innovations entering the marketplace were developed and likely even produced prior to that early March closing of the country, there are many noticeable themes, which happen to be relevant to the current situation. Funny how that happens!

1. The first is lots of bright and bold colors. From birthday cake to unicorn, there’s a lot of color in new ice cream products. Color lifts spirits. Pink, red and various berry colors are also prominent. Think ruby red chocolate and rose wine. (Spirits lift spirits, too.)

Häagen-Dazs, a brand of Vevey, Switzerland-based Nestlé, added two new flavors to its Spirits collection. The Rosé and Cream flavor is wine-infused sweet cream ice cream folded together with a refreshingly tart rosé-flavored swirl. The Whiskey Hazelnut Latte ice cream is a spiked-latte-inspired treat, featuring whiskey-infused coffee ice cream blended with ribbons of hazelnut fudge and chocolate espresso flakes. All the products contain less than 0.5% alcohol by volume, according to the company.

The brand is also growing its multi-texture Trio Crispy Layers line with Ruby Cacao Crackle Pistachio Sweet Cream. Ruby cacao combines intense berry fruitiness with fresh, sour notes and a hint of cacao rawness to deliver a sensorial delight unlike anything else, according to the company.

Serendipity Ice Cream is getting magical with Unicorn Bliss Sundae. It is a whimsical combination of vanilla ice cream mixed with pink and blue cookie dough, topped off with a magical glittery unicorn swirl.

HP Hood is growing its New England Creamery sub-brand with limited-edition Unicorn Confetti Light Ice Cream. A number of the brand’s flavors focus on New England nostalgia. New Boston Common Cow Chow, for example, is corn cereal-flavored reduced-fat ice cream with pieces of chocolaty sugar cones, peanut butter swirl and chocolate cookie crumble swirl.

Blue Bell’s newest ice cream flavor is Confetti Cake. It is cake batter ice cream combined with confetti cake pieces and multi-colored sprinkles, all surrounded by a blue icing swirl. This limited-edition item comes in half-gallon cartons.

“We have combined two party favorites, cake and ice cream, to create a flavor that is as colorful as it is delicious,” says Carl Breed, corporate sales manager. “And, it tastes exactly like a cake. Confetti Cake is light and has the perfect amount of sweetness.

“Our Confetti Cake cartons will be hard to miss at your local store,” he says. “The background is a blue icing covered in confetti sprinkles.”

Blue Bell has two other cake-inspired ice cream flavors currently in stores. Cookie Cake is a sweet cream ice cream loaded with chocolate chip cookie cake pieces and swirls of chocolate and vanilla icing. Red Velvet Cake is a red velvet cake ice cream with pieces of red velvet cake and a cream cheese icing swirl. Both flavors are sold in pint and half-gallon sizes.

Color is in foodservice, too. Hamburger Stand and Wienerschnitzel, both part of The Galardi Group, now offers the Froot Loops Dipped Cone and Shake. It’s the company’s creamy soft-serve combined with real Froot Loops.

2. There’s also a great deal of fruit, even some vegetables, finding its way into ice cream. Whole food nutrition gives consumers permission to indulge. Parents appreciate getting some extra produce into their kids’ diets, especially during these activity-deprived times, when many have become couch potatoes.

U.K. grocer Waitrose Partners is debuting store branded Scrumptious Summer Blueberry Crumble Ice Cream. It’s one of 70 limited-edition products designed to uplift spirits. The new range focuses on nostalgic flavors and classic recipes, all with a modern twist.

“This summer, more than ever, we know our customers will be spending more time at home, in their gardens or outdoor spaces, enjoying the sunshine,” says Beth Elliot, brand manager. “Summer dining is a fast-growing area for us, and we know our customers want to shop in more convenient and quicker ways right now. We’ve reflected this by creating a range of ready-to-eat food and quick-to-prepare dishes which are tasty, exciting, foodie and fun, making them the perfect options for carpet picnics and barbecues.

“By putting all our summer products in an eye-catching, bright design, it helps our customers to shop quickly for food and drink and the innovative dishes and playful combinations showcase the very best flavors to brighten up summer with,” she says.

Peekaboo just launched Unicorn Swirl with Hidden Zucchini and Cookie Dough with Hidden Zucchini at Target stores throughout the U.S. With the new flavors comes a packaging makeover with whimsical, eye-catching graphics to better appeal to youngsters. The two new flavors join the original five, which debuted two years ago. They are: Chocolate with Hidden Cauliflower, Cotton Candy with Hidden Beets, Mint Chip with Hidden Spinach, Strawberry with Hidden Carrot and Vanilla with Hidden Zucchini.

3. Many 2020 flavors are “two-fers,” a dessert within a dessert. Think cake, cobbler and cookie.

Velvet Ice Cream is doing this with two new fruit-forward dessert flavors that celebrate the tastes of spring and summer. Blackberry Cobbler is creamy vanilla ice cream swirled with blackberry sauce and chunks of crisp cobbler. Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream is cheesecake ice cream, swirls of blueberry, bits of graham cracker and chunks of decadent cheesecake.

4. There’s not a lot of dark flavor innovation. Of course, chocolate is not going away, but in many instances it’s a layer, a swirl or an inclusion.

Unilever’s is growing its successful Talenti Layers line that launched last year. There are four new offerings, all showcased in the brand’s signature clear pint container.

Coffee Cookie Crumble is the brand’s take on an Affogato. It is made with fair trade Brazilian and Colombian coffee beans and traditional Italian amaretti cookies. The classic coffee and ice cream dessert comes to life with layers of cold brew gelato, chocolate flakes, chocolate coffee sauce, vanilla bean gelato and amaretti cookie pieces.

Banana Caramel Crunch was inspired by the classic southern dessert of banana pudding. Talenti’s unique twist combines indulgent layers of banana pudding gelato, pie crust pieces, dulce de leche and more pie crust pieces.

Lemon Berry Pie is lemon zest steeped in fresh cream, milk and sugar to create lemon gelato. This gets paired with graham pieces, blueberry sauce and pie crust cookies.

The first and only dairy-free Talenti Layers option is Coconut Chocolate Cookie Layer. Inspired by coconut macaroons, the new offering is crafted with real coconuts from the Philippines and features coconut sorbetto, oat crisps, dairy-free hot fudge and chocolate cookie pieces.
Turkey Hill Dairy is adding four varieties to its Trio’politan line, which made its debut two years ago in five varieties. The concept is a blend of three classic and bold flavors in each container that take Neapolitan’s traditional recipe to nontraditional levels.

“Trio’politan is about having choices and having fun,” says John Cox, president. “The flavors were chosen based on their ability to complement each other but also be strong enough to stand on their own for ice cream lovers who might ‘selectively scoop’ to get the flavor they really want.”

The new offerings are: Caramel, Chocolate and Vanilla (caramel ice cream with caramel swirl, chocolate ice cream and vanilla-flavored ice cream with dark chocolate chips); Caramel Macchiato (coffee ice cream with caramel swirl, chocolate ice cream and caramel ice cream with chocolate crunchies); Coffee Cake (cake batter-flavored ice cream with cinnamon graham cracker swirl, vanilla-flavored ice cream and cinnamon ice cream with cinnamon chips); and Triple Vanilla (vanilla bean ice cream, brown sugar bourbon vanilla-flavored ice cream with vanilla cookie crumb swirl and homemade vanilla ice cream).

Wells Enterprises Inc., is adding four new offerings to its popular single-serve Blue Bunny Load’d Sundaes lines. Chocolate Caramel Pretzel is vanilla-flavored frozen dairy dessert, sea salt caramel and fudge swirls, salty pretzel bark, milk chocolaty pretzel balls and chocolaty sea salt caramel bunnies.

French Silk Pie is French silk chocolate-flavored frozen dairy dessert, whipped créme and fudge swirls, dark chocolate flakes, pie pieces, dark chocolate curls and chocolaty fudge bunnies.

S'more S'mores is graham-flavored frozen dairy dessert, marshmallow and graham swirls, chocolaty chunks and chocolaty marshmallow bunnies.

Turtle Cheesecake is cheesecake-flavored frozen dairy dessert, caramel and fudge swirls, cheesecake pieces, chocolaty pecans, pecans and chocolaty sea salt caramel bunnies.

5. And lastly, while better-for-you ice cream remains a healthy sector of the category, pardon the pun, indulgence reigns. In many instances, better-for-you has evolved into simpler, cleaner recipes.

That’s what Crystal Creamery is all about this ice cream season. The Modesto, Calif.-based company is phasing in its new and improved ice cream formulations that also come in updated packaging. The new recipe uses the simplest of ingredients, such as cream, sugar and milk sourced from local family farms, while excluding artificial flavors, coloring, sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, synthetic gums or mono and diglycerides.

“We spent a tremendous amount of time and care listening very carefully to consumers through marketing research and learned more about their desire for transparency and clean ingredients,” says Brian Carden, senior director of sales. “After many product trials and fine tuning, our team is proud to be able to have landed on the most delicious, creamiest formula that consumers have come to expect from Crystal Creamery.”

There are 29 flavors of premium ice cream available including classics like Vanilla and Rocky Road but also newer and indulgent flavors like Caramel Pretzel, Chocolate Avalanche and Moose Tracks.

In addition to the recipe reformulation, the Crystal Creamery ice cream carton has been modernized with a fresh, updated package design that continues the brand’s iconic depiction of its heritage and local roots.

Better-for-you ice cream brand Enlightened has partnered with Delish, one of the fastest-growing food social media sites in the world, to bring keto-friendly P. B. Cookie & Brownie Dough ice cream. It is made with vanilla ice cream packed with peanut butter cookie dough, brownie dough, chocolate chips and a rich peanut butter swirl. Each serving has only one gram of net carbs and less than one gram of sugar. It’s also gluten-free and uses monk fruit and erythritol, which are zero-calorie natural sweeteners that don’t cause spikes in blood sugar.

It sells for about $5.99 at Whole Foods Market. It is also available online through Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods delivery partners, as well as directly from Enlightened.

Expect to see more philanthropic products, too. People feel good when they help others.

Tops Friendly Markets is supporting Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center with the latest flavor in its private-label Tops ice cream lineup. The Williamsville, N.Y.-based retailer has introduced Orange DreamCycle Ice Cream, with a portion of the proceeds from the flavor going to benefit Roswell Park.

The product is being introduced to commemorate the 25th year of the annual Ride for Roswell, which the retailer has long sponsored. The product is a light vanilla ice cream split with a creamy light orange ice cream. It contains no artificial flavors or partially hydrogenated oils, and is free of high-fructose corn syrup.

Get creative. Put your ice cream to work.

Need inspiration? Balchem can help. The company’s lab team members focus on providing customized, personal service to help ice cream innovators create unique flavor and texture experiences to help them stand out in the freezer. Link HERE for more information. Thank you Balchem for sponsoring this blog.

Stay well. Stay Safe. Stay sane.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Dairy Foods Innovation: Single-Serve, Grab-and-Go Will be the New Norm for Schools, Cafeterias and On-the-Fly Dining

Photo source: Lycored

As the world starts to heal and reopen—fingers crossed it goes well—dairy foods manufacturers need to rethink about the products they offer through various foodservice channels. Let’s jump to August when school cafeterias and university dorm dining halls hopefully reopen. And from now until then, think about foodservice in grocery stores and urban bodegas. Don’t expect to see any functioning salad bars or hot buffets. The same for self-serve soup and condiment stations.

Currently hotels that formerly offered complimentary self-serve breakfasts now provide to-go bags. This will likely continue for some time. Evening receptions have been cancelled. Lounges are closed. These channels need solutions from food and beverage marketers because consumers are loyal to hotels and airlines for their perks.

There’s no doubt we will be in packaging overload. Smart materials companies are working on more environmentally friendly solutions. Recycled and repurposed packaging will become necessary. Convenience and portability will be paramount.

Now’s the time for dairy processors to get creative with their packaging suppliers. Make the container work for the product.

Expect to see more refrigerated vending, such as that offered by Farmers Fridge.

This Chicago-based company has almost 100 locations throughout the Windy City and its suburbs, mainly in hospitals and office buildings, but can also be found in large apartment/condo buildings, with multiple vending machines at O’Hare airport. The company has expanded Midwestern distribution to Milwaukee and Indianapolis, and is now growing on the East Coast, with multiple locations in Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York City. The company adapted to the COVID-19 quarantine by delivering directly to homes in select zip codes.

Most of the foods come in recyclable plastic jars. There are cheese cubes as a snack and cheese shreds as a layered ingredient in a number of salads. Sliced cheese can be found in the wraps and sandwiches. The Greek yogurt parfait contains fresh berries and house-made granola.

These are products prepared and packaged at a nearby commissary. All of the items are made fresh daily and delivered via temperature-regulated vehicles to the refrigerated vending machines early in the morning. This type of food preparation will be part of the new norm in eating outside the home.

Dairy processors should start getting creative with commercially produced products that will complement freshly prepared products. Yogurt and cottage cheese parfaits are one such opportunity. How about ready-to-drink lattes that have a biscuit in a dome top? Cheese snack packs will continue to become more diverse. The way we eat outside the home will be very different for some time.

Photo source: Farmers Fridge

If all goes well, my high school senior will have some sort of commencement ceremony this summer, that rite of passage necessary for getting excited about moving to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in August. It will not be a college move-in like any of us experienced. While I cannot even begin to think about the logistics of the actual housing situation, one thing is for sure, the elaborate dining halls that have come to be over the past 20 or so years will be gravely modified. I expect mostly pre-made and packaged foods. It might be a shopping-type experience where students collect items for a day or two at a time, returning to their room where they dine alone or with a roommate. Dairy needs to be part of that experience.

Keep it looking delicious
Need help keeping fruit prep in yogurt and other cultured dairy foods looking delicious? Natural red, orange and yellow colors may help.

Lycored uses proprietary techniques to produce a wide range of versatile carotenoid-based color solutions, including lycopene from special tomato plants and beta-carotene from its own strain of Blakeslea Trispora fungus. Both are certified kosher and halal; vegetarian friendly; non-GMO; and heat, light and pH stable.

Lycored carried out a three-phase evaluation of the true-to-fruit authenticity and stability of both of its carotenoid-based colors in fruit preparations for yogurt. You can view product changes over shelflife in this short VIDEO.

Over the 30-day period, the study showed that the company’s colors remained stable, compared to the control and other colored sample. Lycored’s colors remained vibrant and did not bleed. Using these colors presents dairy manufacturers with the opportunity to color products naturally without compromising on stability. These super-stable colors offer new ways to position cultured dairy products as more natural and fresher with longer shelflife. They can also potentially reduce the operational costs involved in packaging, transport and storage of final product.

Link HERE to download a white paper on this topic.
Photo source: Lycored

Latest Sales Data
  • Dairy continues to be doing very well at retail. Here’s the most recent IRI data, provided courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Association, for the week ending April 26, 2020, as compared to the same seven-day period in 2019.
  • Dairy aisle dollar sales are up 15.3% year-to-date, still outpacing the total store sales, which are  up 11.5% year-to-date.
  • Fluid milk sales are up 15.1% (volume sales) and 21.2% (dollar sales). In the previous week, sales were up 7.4% (volume) and 12.9% (dollar).
  • Butter sales are up 68.3% (volume) and 76.8% (dollar). In the previous week, butter sales were up 0.9% (volume) and 15.0% (dollar).
  • Cheese sales are up 36.8% (volume) and 46.5% (dollar). In the previous week, cheese sales were up 11.0% (volume) and 21.2% (dollar).
  • Yogurt sales are up 10.7% (volume) and 10.0% (dollar). In the previous week, yogurt sales were down 2% (volume) and 1.3% dollar sales.
  • Yogurt is often purchased for on-the-go consumption. Could this spike be reflective of more shoppers purchasing food for out-of-home consumption as they return to work?
  • Ice cream sales are up 41.5% (volume) and 49.3% (dollar). In the previous week, they were up 12.5% (volume) and 26.0% (dollar).
While these numbers are impressive, as stay-at-home orders get lifted, these numbers will likely slow. Let’s keep dairy on the menu in foodservice as the world reopens and consumers acclimate to the new norm of eating outside the home. 

Now’s the time for dairy processors to get creative with their packaging suppliers. Make the container work for the product. And make sure the product looks delicious!

Friday, May 1, 2020

Whipped Strawberry Milk: Let’s brainstorm on this one!

Photo source:

Happy May Day! In case you were unaware, May Day is not only a celebration of the seasons changing, it is a day to commemorate workers’ rights. Let’s never forget all of the people involved in the food supply chain who daily take health and safety risks to ensure we have ample. Thank you to all the dairy farmers, haulers, processors, distributors, retailers and innovators…for your time and energy to keep refrigerators and freezers stocked. 

May Day this year also marks changes to many quarantines. We are now in the new norm.

Ready! Set! Go!

That new norm apparently includes a phenomenon known as “whipped strawberry milk.” It has only three ingredients: strawberry Nesquik, heavy whipping cream and your milk of choice. The consumer whips the strawberry mix with the cream until it forms a thick foam. Then it tops a glass of milk. Strawberry garnish and straw are optional.

This follows in the footsteps of Dalgona coffee, a whipped coffee beverage that originated in South Korea. The frothy, foamy iced coffee is made with instant coffee, sugar and iced milk. Suggested toppings are a dusting of cocoa or cinnamon.

There are other whipped dairy beverages popping up on social media, everything from peanut butter cup to pina colada. Let’s brainstorm on this.

Yes, many consumers are locked inside and looking for things to do. Yes, many consumers are exploring new foods and ingredients…and possibly even appliances such as the hand mixer that they only use to whip potatoes once a year for Thanksgiving.

Many are garnering a new appreciation for textures, colors and even flavors. After all, there may be supply chain issues with imported products such as chocolate and vanilla, the two most common flavors. I challenge you to brain storm. Think bubble tea, aeration, hydrated chia seeds, and more. 

This week I wrote an online article for Food Business News titled “Dairy back in demand due to stay-at-home orders.” You can read it HERE. What you see in this chart is the focus of the column. These numbers are inspiring. Now that we are buying milk once again, let’s get creative with flavors and textures.

Table source: Sosland Publishing/Food Business News

Need help keeping strawberry milk looking delicious? Natural red color may help. 
Lycored tested the stability of two of its natural red lycopene-based colors versus the artificial colorant Red 3 during and after ultra-high temperature (UHT) processing in a flavored milk drink matrix. Accelerated shelf life tests were carried out to evaluate the stability of the colors when exposed to light, dark and ambient conditions, simulating real-life storage, transportation and retail environments.

The natural colors outperformed the artificial color across all tests, demonstrating that there are considerable advantages to selecting lycopene-based red shades over other artificial or natural colors for UHT applications.

“The long-term shift away from synthetic colors and towards natural ones is expected to continue for the foreseeable future, as more and more food and drink manufacturers convert to natural,” according to Tammi Higgins, Global Head of Coloring at Lycored. “Those who don’t risk alienating consumers and turning them on to alternative products that have embraced the natural trend.”
Natural colors, however, can be more challenging to work with. In particular, they tend to be more sensitive to pH, ultraviolet light and extreme temperatures.

Link HERE to download a white paper on this topic and to learn more about Lycored’s resilient natural red colors. This picture shows how these colors perform.
Send an inspirational note to someone with food insecurity
Lycored is calling on the nutrition industry to reach across the quarantine divides and nourish people in need of connection during the COVID-19 crisis. The company is asking for anyone who can to send a note of support to a stranger. For every letter that is written, they’ll add fresh fruit or vegetables to a food delivery to a vulnerable person. You can write your own note by linking HERE. I did it. It’s easy and makes you feel good.

Every anonymous note of encouragement, appreciation or general positivity will be printed and included in meals being delivered to seniors and homeless people. Lycored’s partner in the initiative is, one of the largest food banks in California. It is based in Monterey County, close to the farms where Lycored grows tomatoes for its range of natural wellness products.

“In these times, the nutrition industry has the potential to play an important role. With many of us at home, we are checking in with ourselves and reflecting on the good things we have, what sustains us and what matters most,” says Golan Raz, Head of Lycored’s Global Health Division. “At the same time, we have a wonderful opportunity to find ways to reach across the quarantine divides. We can nourish our bonds and support others, physically, mentally and spiritually. We hope everyone can devote a little time to this small, simple, friendly task.”

Zev Ziegler, Head of Global Brand & Marketing, Health, at Lycored, says, “In everything we do, Lycored is dedicated to nourishing, balancing and sustaining wellness, and to doing social good. They say a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet, and that’s never been more true. With so many of us currently isolated from each other, it’s important to find new ways to connect, even if only virtually. This is a time for people across the world to reflect on what joins us together and we want the whole industry to join us.”

Happy May Day!