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.”

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