Friday, June 26, 2020

Summer Inspiration Series: Formulating and Marketing for the New Norm School Lunch Rooms and University Dining Halls

Photo source: General Mills/Yoplait

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. 

Institutional foodservice is getting revamped. For some elementary schools not much will change, as many are supplied with packaged meals from contracted vendors. The story is different for most middle schools and high schools where larger appetites and diet-conscious students pick and choose from an array of featured and ala carte items.

For university dining halls, there will no longer be a taco bar, make a sandwich or create your own pasta. Pre-packaged foods will dominate, with minimal onsite assembly of hot entrees. Schools that had at all-you-can eat meal plan will likely switch to a mini-mart format for carryout consumption.

These institutions need assistance from food and beverage manufacturers, who in turn need their packaging suppliers to provide solutions. Now’s the time to get busy, as many universities have moved up their open date, with campuses opening up in less than 60 days. This is a huge opportunity for packaged goods companies.

The dairy industry does a great job of offering individually wrapped single-serve products. Now’s the time, however, to start thinking of different portion sizes, alternative packages and targeted marketing. Further, production of these products will need to increase.

Think single-serve cottage cheese cups, which have been gaining traction in retail. These now have a place in dining halls. The same for parfaits, dessert cups and overnight oats. Condiments will be portion packs. Think dressings, dips and cheese sauce for chips and fries. Some of these products may require tweaked formulas to better handle the rigor of distribution and handling.

Fountain drinks and milk dispensers will be replaced with packaged beverages. Might the paperboard milk carton become fashionable again? These young adults needs pints of white for breakfast and lower-sugar, fun flavors with their meals. Cartons can be adorned with school colors and trivia. Feature athletes and award winners. Cartons provide an economical canvas to communicate with students.

This may be the first freshman university class to not feel the threat of gaining the freshman 10, as there will be better portion control and readily available nutrition information. Dairy processors must market smart products. Keep sugar content low and protein high. Educate students about protein quality. Keep labels clean and simple because students will be reading them. This is an opportunity to provide young adults with dairy facts and make them customers for life.
Photo source: University of Wisconsin-Madison, Babcock Hall

USDA Announces Flexibilities in School Lunch Programs

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced on June 25, 2020, a range of nationwide flexibilities to ensure America’s children receive the nutritious food they need throughout the upcoming school year. These waivers give states, schools and childcare providers time to plan for how they will serve children in the fall, including allowing for new and innovative feeding options as the nation recovers from the coronavirus.  

“As the country re-opens and schools prepare for the fall, a one-size-fits-all approach to meal service simply won’t cut it,” says Perdue. “The flexibilities announced today give states, schools, and child care providers the certainty they need to operate the USDA child nutrition programs in ways that make sense given their local, on-the-ground situations and ensure America’s children can count on meal service throughout the school year.”

As fall nears, schools are considering many different learning models. This announcement empowers them to operate the School Breakfast Program (SBP) and National School Lunch Program (NSLP) to best serve their students throughout the 2020-2021 school year. It also allows providers in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) to tailor operations to serve the children in their care. USDA is providing flexibilities around meal patterns, group-setting requirements, meal service times and parent/guardian pick-up of meals for kids across all three programs to address anticipated changes for the coming school year. 

USDA is also announcing a new flexibility that waives the requirement for high schools to provide students the option to select some of the foods offered in a meal. While this practice, known as “offer versus serve” is encouraged, social distancing or meals-in-the-classroom models would make this regulatory requirement difficult. Collectively, these waivers reduce barriers to meal service options that support a transition back to normal operations while simultaneously responding to evolving local conditions.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Summer Inspiration Series: Formulating for Empowerment

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. 

There’s been a lot of self-help, professional help and reflection in my life this past month. I believe it’s important to share, so others know they are not alone. I learned about three weeks ago that I am grieving loss of control of planning the future and loss of relationships (at trade shows and conferences). I would do anything for a long TSA line at O’Hare and a crowded Natural Products exposition where I get bumped every few minutes. (It was very disappointing to learn that the East installment, which was scheduled for late September in Philadelphia, got cancelled this week.)

Most people are grieving loss of some type of control, even though many are not aware. This loss of control fuels the desire to control what can be controlled. And that my friends, is diet. It’s the “what we eat, when we eat and where we eat.” Right now, we still have that power. Savvy marketers will formulate and position foods and beverages to empower consumers to choose their product.

“To combat current feelings of powerlessness, consumers are focusing on things they can control,” says Laurie Demerrit, chief executive officer, The Hartman Group, Bellevue, Wash. “Consumers are not opting out of consumption but are acting more intentionally and seeking out ways to feel empowered in their purchasing behavior.

“The importance of personal empowerment is buoyed by new emphasis on the connectivity of communities in myriad ways, including concern about protecting essential workers, caring for vulnerable populations and supporting local businesses,” she says. “How the ‘me’ directly affects the ‘we’ is a concept consumers won’t quickly forget. However, consumers will increasingly demand visible action—not just lip service—around connecting and caring for communities.

“We are seeing consumers employ distinct strategies to balance their desire for fresh and the need for long-lasting, such as buying fresh and organic in specific categories and seeking quality cues that speak to fresh and less processed when purchasing frozen and shelf-stable formats. And while many companies are questioning whether they placed the right bet by focusing on issues related to sustainability, there is evidence that conscious consumption is actually up during this time.”

Photo source: California Milk Advisory Board

Here’s a great headline in the summer issue of Natural Products Insider: “Sustainable Sourcing: Not ‘Selfies with Farmers.’” The article’s author, Blake Ebersole, president, NaturPro Scientific, writes, “Sustainability means different things to different people, but there’s one thing it definitely is not: a photo-op. In evaluating and improving supply sustainability, real benefits come from real investment.” 

He also wrote: “Regenerative farming practices have arrived at the front of the sustainability discussion.”

Consumers are in control of how they spend their money. Empower them to invest in your sustainability story, not just your happy cows on a happy family farm.

“Consumers are not opting out of consumption but are acting more intentionally and seeking out ways to feel empowered in their purchasing behavior,” says Demerrit.

There’s a renewed focus on the role of individual action and conscientious, making it perfect timing for General Mills, the maker of Yoplait, Liberté and Mountain High yogurt products, to start a three-year regenerative dairy pilot in western Michigan, a key sourcing region for its fluid milk supply. General Mills has partnered with consultants Understanding Ag and dairy cooperative Foremost Farms to pilot regenerative practices and provide support to participating dairy farmers. 

Implementing regenerative practices on dairy farms requires a holistic approach to managing land, cows and manure. This is the third regenerative agriculture pilot that the company has launched--and the first for its dairy ingredient supply--since making a commitment in 2019 to advance regenerative agriculture practices on one million acres of farmland by 2030. 

“As an industry, dairy farms have been especially hard hit in recent months and their resiliency is being tested. We believe regenerative agriculture builds and strengthens farmer resilience so they can better withstand pressures, be it societal, financial or environmental,” says Doug Martin, president of the General Mills U.S. yogurt business. “Consumers increasingly want to support brands and companies they trust are acting as environmental stewards. This pilot with Yoplait is a great example of the role our brands can play in unleashing the scale of our supply chain--supporting farmers, promoting animal welfare, and improving the health of the planet, all while delivering a great-tasting product.” 
Photo source: California Milk Advisory Board

The three dairy farms in the pilot, which collectively manage more than 14,000 acres, were chosen for their proximity to General Mills’ dairy manufacturing facility in Reed City, Mich., which produces a variety of Yoplait products. As the pilot begins, Understanding Ag consultants will meet with each dairy farmer to co-develop and implement custom regenerative management plans for a portion of their operation. Throughout the pilot, partners will monitor data and measure impacts to soil, biodiversity, water, animal well-being and farm profitability. 

This effort is something consumers want to support. On a more personal level, consumers are taking control of their health. Products need to speak to their needs. These needs must be communicated to the shopper so they feel empowered to choose your product. 

In the past few weeks, upon carefully analyzing recent new product entries and supportive promotion efforts, there appears to be four product themes emerging as marketing call outs to shoppers during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Calm/Soothe/Refresh. That’s what you find in new Dunkin’ Refreshers iced beverages. The rollout came with this messaging: After a long and challenging spring, people are looking for much-needed moments of mental and physical refresh. Dunkin’ has prepared the perfect way to give its guests that new glow and a boost of brightness, energy and excitement.

“Dunkin’ has been there to keep our guests running during these difficult months. Now, with the start of summer, it’s the perfect time for something fresh and exciting to energize and enliven people again,” says Jill Nelson, vice president, marketing strategy at Dunkin’, Canton, Mass. “With a combination of iced green tea, B vitamins and bright bursts of flavor, Dunkin’ Refreshers stand apart as the perfect, new choice to help anyone get their glow back.”

Strength/Power. Chobani demonstrates this theme with its new Chobani Complete. 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.

Protect/Immunity. Danone North America is debuting Super Danimals, a low-fat yogurt created to help support the immune system of kids. While the product was under development for more than a year, its timing is impeccable. The company conducted extensive research, which revealed a priority for parents is to find products that can support children’s immune systems, and this was discovered before COVID-19. 

Super Danimals features probiotics and vitamins C and D, all of which are associated with boosting immunity. It’s also free of artificial preservative ingredients and contains no colors or flavors from artificial sources. One 4-ounce cup contains 80 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 4 grams of protein and 9 grams of sugar (4 grams are added).

“Based on our research, we know children’s health is always on parents’ minds, and families are exploring new ways to help support their children’s immune systems with the snacks they buy,” says Kristie Leigh, senior manager of scientific affairs at Danone. “By regularly adding Super Danimals to a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle, parents can feel good about helping support their children’s immune systems with a tasty snack their kids love.”

Revive/Energy. All three of Trimona’s new organic whole milk Superfood Yogurts complement the four themes of “formulations that empower” consumers. Revive (Turmeric + Ginger) contains maca, lucuma, mesquite, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and black pepper, and is described as a blend to revive your creativity and your spirit. The other two are: Protect (Acai + Beets), with acai, maca root, aronia, beetroot and lucuma, a blend to protect your body and your soul, and Refresh (Matcha + Maca), with matcha tea, maca, lucuma, spirulina and chlorella, a blend to refresh your memory and your day.

Each Trimona Superfood Yogurt cup contains billions of probiotic cultures and no added sugar. A 5-ounce cup contains 110 calories, 6 to 7 grams of fat, 5 grams of protein and 5 grams of inherent sugar. The yogurt is sweetened with monkfruit. 

“We have been working on these products for almost two years and are delighted with the result. Our products combine the healthy benefits of our non-strained, grass-fed organic yogurt and superfoods,” says Atanas Valev, founder. “We’d like to think of our new line as Yogurt 2.0. It is arguably the healthiest yogurt snack in the market. It is a truly innovative line of products that will bring incremental sales to the yogurt isle.”

These are all products with purpose. They empower consumers to mindfully eat, giving shoppers the ability to control what they use to fuel the body.  

Demerrit concludes, “Personal resilience—already gaining footing in health and wellness trends of proactive, holistic medicine and mindfulness—will have enhanced traction as consumers manage the effects of the pandemic on themselves and their communities and face fears about future crises. Specifically, holistic immunity and thrifting behaviors will expand to support physical and economic resilience while calls for systemic change address community resilience.”

Get Educated on Crisis Management.
There is one way to test out your crisis management program and that’s a global pandemic. Crisis management is a critical organizational function. It can be divided into three phases: 1) Pre-crisis; 2) Crisis response and 3) Post-crisis, according to Jane Dummer, consultant to the food industry.
Read more HERE and listen to her short podcast on the topic by linking HERE

Need Help Formulating High-Protein Dairy Foods? 
Thank you to today’s blog sponsor, Idaho Milk Products, which will be offering virtual tours of its Milk Innovation Center that includes a state-of-the-art processing area, an instrumental lab and a multi-purpose room for product evaluations and conferencing. The virtual tours will primarily focus on the process formulations for ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages, protein bars and ice cream. This addition provides customers the ability to work directly with the Idaho Milk Products research and innovation team to build custom applications and work on new product developments based on their individual needs.

“Idaho Milk Products’ fresh, highly functional milk ingredients are tailored to meet the desire to increase the protein load in RTD beverages, yogurts, RTMs (Ready-to-Mix), weight management, and sports and adult nutrition products,” says Dr. Chenchaiah Marella, vice president of research and product development. “With state-of-the-art equipment in our Milk Innovation Center, we assure our customers are receiving expert help in formulating their products with quality ingredients in a timely manner and with confidence.” For more information, link HERE

Federal Dietary Committee Recommends 3 Servings of Dairy Per Day, Puts Dairy in Healthy Foods Category with Fruits, Veggies, Legumes, Whole Grains

The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) released the following statement on June 17, 2020:

“Today, members of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) confirmed dairy products should maintain a central, important role in federal nutrition recommendations for people beginning at a very early age. In addition to maintaining three servings of dairy per day, the committee found strong evidence pointing to positive health outcomes from dairy foods. In fact, a diet including low-fat and fat-free dairy, legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables is considered the ideal, healthy dietary pattern for all ages.

“In other key findings from their draft scientific report presented today, the DGAC highlighted new evidence strengthening dairy’s role in maintaining bone health for adults. For mothers, the committee dispelled misinformation about dairy’s link to asthma, saying there is no association between a mother’s consumption of dairy and the development of asthma in children. And a new topic introduced in these Dietary Guidelines lays the groundwork for clearer nutrition recommendations for children from birth through 24 months of age, with the experts recommending small amounts of some foods including dairy foods, alongside fruits and vegetables, nut and seed products, and whole grain products, beginning at 6-12 months and continuing thereafter. For toddlers, dairy foods are particularly important for the vitamins and nutrients they provide. This recommendation could not be clearer, demonstrating what the American Academy of Pediatrics has stressed for years, that dairy plays a critical role in the diet of children to bolster long-term health.

“Once again, the committee found no linkage between consumption of dairy foods and incidences of breast cancer, which should put an end to a longstanding disinformation campaign to alarm and confuse the public.

“IDFA is disappointed that the reported outcomes today did not include a mention of relevant scientific studies which show the benefits of dairy at each fat level. There is robust evidence to support the inclusion of dairy foods at all fat levels in recommended food patterns. With the DGAC’s role coming to an end, IDFA encourages USDA and HHS to remedy this oversight in the final guidelines to be released this year.

“The conclusions offered today by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee firmly establish dairy as one of the most nutritionally beneficial foods in dietary patterns alongside fruits and vegetables, legumes and whole grains. IDFA is pleased to see federal nutrition guidance continue to affirm the important nutritional contributions made by dairy foods and remind Americans that a healthy diet includes three daily servings of dairy.”

Friday, June 12, 2020

Summer Inspiration Series: Formulating for the Class of 2020

Photo source: Krispy Kreme

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.

Congratulations to the Class of 2020…the new norm generation. Their lives have been turned completely upside down and are forever changed. They are the customer to focus on.

My heart goes out to all parents who have been celebrating graduations through video streams and drive-by commencement ceremonies. That’s on my family’s plan this weekend when my youngest graduates from high school. Congratulations!

In the past few months during quarantine, curfew and boredom, these young adults had to grow up quickly. Their eating habits have changed. Marketers of all types of products have taken note and are adjusting their offerings and their business to better appeal to this demographic.

It’s no longer Millennials and Gen Z. They are the 2020ers.

Over the next few years while we entertain a recession, their discretionary spending money will be used carefully. It’s time to revisit your business’ learnings from the last recession and adjust accordingly. But, take note, as a society we have changed tremendously over the past decade in terms of our eating habits.

This week the International Food Information Council (IFIC) published its 2020 Food & Health Survey, which was conducted between April 8 and April 16, about one month into the COVID-19 mayhem. The survey showed that 85% of Americans have made at least some change in the foods they eat or how they prepare food.

Among the 85% who have made any change, 60% of Americans report cooking at home more. Respondents also said they are snacking more (32%) and thinking about food more than usual (27%). Consumers under age 35 are most likely to have made changes, both in terms of healthier and less healthy choices. These changes will likely continue as we move forward.

Hindsight is 2020 (as compared to 2010)
Taste and price remain the top factors for purchase decisions, and while there has been movement year to year in the degree to which purchase drivers impact consumers, the comparison of 2010 results to 2020 shows almost no change. Yet, Americans have a different view of themselves and their own evolving purchasing decisions: 54% of all consumers, and 63% of those over age 50 care more about the healthfulness of their choices than they did in 2010.

According to consumers reflecting on their own habits over the past year, 28% are eating more protein from plant sources, 24% are eating more plant-based dairy and 17% are eating more plant-based meat alternatives. Those following a specific diet or eating pattern are huge drivers of these numbers: 41% of dieters say they increased consumption of protein from plant sources (vs. 18% of those not following a diet) and 28% say they eat more plant-based meat alternatives (vs. just 9%).

MORE THAN 50% VIEW DAIRY AS HEALTHY! Also, the number of consumers who view animal protein as healthful has increased. These are important figures to act on. It is paramount that the industry sell the healthfulness of dairy foods.

Fewer Americans are avoiding sugars this year, although it is still a very common practice: 74% are trying to avoid or limit sugars, compared to 80% in 2019. The top ways they are doing so is by drinking water instead of caloric beverages (60%) and limiting consumption of certain foods and beverages (42%). The most popular reasons people avoid sugars include not wanting extra calories (46%), believing that sugar is unhealthy (42%) and thinking it helps them lose or maintain weight (40%).

A “natural” label is most influential both when shopping and when purchasing food prepared outside the home. The Class of 2020 is likely reading more about food and making purchase decisions on product claims.

In my opinion, this is one of the most interesting findings from this year’s survey: Consumers perceive health differences in products even if they have the same Nutrition Facts Panel. Telling them the product is “all natural” does matter. Short ingredient lists, no artificial ingredients and use of familiar, traditional manufacturing technologies are all associated with perceived healthfulness of foods.

The 2020 Food & Health Survey provided an opportunity to examine some of the more significant trends in food attitudes and behaviors since 2010. The factors with the most influence on food-purchasing decisions, tracked by the survey, have remained relatively stable over the past decade, with taste consistently dominating the list, followed by price, healthfulness, convenience and sustainability (specified as “environmental sustainability” since last year).

Nearly 6 in 10 consumers say it is important that the food products they purchase or consume are produced in an environmentally sustainable way (similar to the 54% who said the same in 2019). Four out of 10 (43%) consumers also say it is important that a food manufacturer “has a commitment” to sustainability and 40% say the same about knowing food was produced using farming technologies that seek to reduce the impact on natural resources.

America’s Dairy Farmers Celebrate 2020 Graduates
In case you missed what the U.S. dairy industry did to celebrate the Class of 2020, a few weeks ago on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Fallon announced a pizza giveaway funded by America’s dairy farmers and executed by Pizza Hut. Together, they gave away half a million pizzas to graduates and their families. We enjoyed ours! Thank you.

“Our brand has a long history of celebrating moments that matter--like graduations--and Pizza Hut takes pride in being a part of our customers’ big days. So, it’s only natural that we’d be there for students and their families to help celebrate the accomplishments of the graduating class of 2020,” said George Felix, chief marketing officer, Pizza Hut. “We’re proud to partner with America’s hard-working dairy farmers to bring students who are missing out on their chance to cross the stage with their diploma, an opportunity to celebrate with their favorite Pizza Hut pizza.”

Marilyn Hershey, a Pennsylvania dairy farmer and chair of Dairy Management Inc., said, “America’s dairy farmers have great appreciation and respect for the hard work that graduating students have put in and nothing celebrates that better than cheese and pizza enjoyed with family and friends.”

And in closing…two great quotes for our graduates.

“Never show up late with a coffee in your hand. The message when you do that is, you are not as important to me as this iced vanilla latte.” Jimmy Kimmel

“It’s natural that you may be worried about the future, what’s on the other side of this pandemic, but know that your generation is equal to this moment, and to the unprecedented opportunity for change that is coming. Before any great creation, there will always be chaos. Now go find your new order in it.” Stephen Colbert

Friday, June 5, 2020

Summer Inspiration Series: Make dairy foods recession proof. Help retailers provide shoppers meal solutions, along with a touch of comfort.

Photo source: Dutch Farms

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. 

Comfort, that’s what a lot of the world needs right now, especially the U.S. We are all fortunate to be working in the food industry because food is the one thing that unites us. Every food and beverage brand right now has the ability to connect with consumers and provide comfort. This may be in the form of nutrition, philanthropy or simply nourishing the soul. Now is the time to strengthen this brand connection in order to keep it recession proof. Because…we will be in a recession very soon.

Ben & Jerry’s is one of the best brands throughout food and beverage to make an emotional connection with consumers to keep them coming back for more. Penzey’s spice company is another that never ceases to amaze me. If you are unfamiliar with this online brand with store locations scattered throughout the country, link HERE.

This week the company introduced salt-free Justice seasoning featuring shallots, garlic, onion, green peppercorns, chives and green onion. Described as “Justice has been the guiding light that has brought us through every storm. It’s also a pretty tasty blend. Every meal is better with Justice. Garden tomatoes, chicken salad, grilled asparagus, salmon, roasted potatoes or even scrambled eggs become something remarkable when liberally seasoned with Justice.”

Sales of Justice have surpassed expectations…mine is on a few weeks backorder. It’s an affordable luxury that gives me a bit of comfort while also helping spice up my cooking, all without extra sodium. (That’s something my ticker appreciates these days.)

Consumers continue to speak with their dollar and are not willing to sacrifice the basics during this time. Increased cooking and baking have contributed to large dairy retail sales increases, as dairy is an ingredient in many home-prepared foods.

This is not expected to change. While June welcomed partial lifting of on-premise dining restrictions in many states, slightly slowing retail sales growth, the dairy category is still being prioritized by shoppers, according to IRI data, provided courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Association. Dairy aisle sales are up 20.7%, outpacing total store dollar growth of 12.4%.

For the week ending May 24, 2020, as compared to the same seven-day period in 2019:

  • Fluid milk sales are up 6.1% (volume sales) and 10.6% (dollar sales). In the previous week, sales were up 7.5% (volume) and 12.3% (dollar).
  • Butter sales are up 50.7% (volume) and 39.6% (dollar). In the previous week, butter sales were up 33.6% (volume) and 38.1% (dollar).
  • Cheese sales are up 18.2% (volume) and 26.6% (dollar). In the previous week, cheese sales were up 22.0% (volume) and 29.6% (dollar).
  • Yogurt sales are up 3.9% (volume) and 4.3% (dollar). In the previous week, yogurt sales were up 2.5% (volume) and 2.1% (dollar).
  • Ice cream sales are up 13.4% (volume) and 21.9% (dollar). In the previous week, they were up 18.5% (volume) and 26.3% (dollar).

Photo source: Dutch Farms

Market research provider Euromonitor International expects per capita global consumer expenditure to decline by approximately 5% in 2020 and the global economy to enter the worst recession since the Great Depression. Meal occasions have come into the home and are expected to stay. For some, it’s because they’ve discovered the art of cooking, but for the majority, it will come down to economics. The dairy industry is poised to position its products as nutrient dense, delicious and affordable components of every meal.

This week Euromonitor published “Six Themes Transforming Consumer Markets Due to COVID-19.” You can download the free report HERE.

The six themes that focus on food and nutrition are:

From Sustainability to Purpose: Initiatives move beyond ethical and eco-conscious to a holistic approach that creates social, environmental and economic benefits. Food waste, animal welfare and food security will be brought to the forefront while packaging sustainability and sustainable sourcing take a back seat.

Hometainment and the New Experiential Consumer: Out-of-home activities are brought online, and these virtual experiences must provide as much value as in-person occasions. Meal occasions are brought into the home and could stay as some consumers find a new love for cooking.

Where and How Consumers Shop: Rapid shift to e-commerce, click-and-collect options and the direct-to-consumer (D2C) channel accelerate digital disruption.  A turning point for e-commerce and a boost for meal kits is tempered by an adverse impact on impulse channels.

Wellness Redefined: Consumers focus on achieving optimal health. Happiness becomes a tangible commercial prospect. Healthy eating will become an even more important topic as the balance of exercise versus nutrition becomes disrupted by sedentary lifestyles.

Innovation and the New Core: Efficiency and value drive product development. Brands need to recognize and align with fundamental consumer needs. There will be an emphasis on economy products and well-positioned premium products that can replicate the restaurant experience in the home.

The New Normal--What’s Here to Stay: Online shopping, remote living, decreased discretionary spending and self-care will shape consumer behavior.

Photo source: Dutch Farms

It’s time to market dairy foods to complement these themes. Here are some suggestions on ways to make dairy foods recession proof.

Cheese presents one of the greatest opportunities, as it’s an affordable way to add deliciousness to meal time. Recipe blends—think macaroni and cheese, lasagna, taco, quesadilla, pizza, etc.—enable retailers to cross merchandise products to provide meal solutions. These products empower consumers to get creative in the kitchen with minimal extra effort. They bring the restaurant experience to the kitchen table.

Cooking creams and sauces are popular in select markets in Europe and present an opportunity to offer meal solutions, again with cross merchandising. These are refrigerated viscous dairy products with extras. Think of ready-to-use pourables for Alfredo, carbonara or stroganoff. Just add pasta, and voila!

Butter should fare well on its own, but with some herbs and seasonings, can be marketed alongside meat and poultry. The goal is to offer consumers meal solutions, especially ones with culinary inspiration. Help them bring the restaurant experience to their home.

Here’s a new one for you to ponder: dunking dairy. Imagine a dome-cup, much like we find in the yogurt department, but maybe a little sturdier. The bottom contains delicious whole milk—maybe even a little richer with some extra cream—the top contains two cookies for dunking. In Europe you can find similar concepts with a ready-to-drink latte on the bottom and a biscuit on the top. Such a concept brings the coffee house to you, while also offering portion control with the sweet treat.

Please stay safe and smart. Let’s do our part to unite through our love of dairy. Sending out a hug to all.