Friday, August 28, 2020

Opportunities for Dairies in the Plant-Based Space


This week my colleagues at Sosland Publishing produced a very resourceful webinar as part of its growing “Food Business News--Trends and Innovations Web Series.” The four speakers presented content to assist food formulators and marketers with keeping pace in the rapidly evolving marketplace during an unprecedented time. Link HERE to view the two-hour event to learn what’s new and what’s next for e-commerce, consumer eating patterns, plant-based and clean-label innovation. 

“The future is now for plant-based innovation,” said Tom Vierhile, vice president of strategic insights-North America for Innova Market Insights, in the webinar. “Plant-based eating is moving from trend to food revolution status.”

The challenge is to deliver “clean-label” alternatives, he said. This is especially true in the dairy and meat space. 

“Critics are already questioning how healthy plant-based alternatives compare to real meat or dairy,” he said. “Manufacturers will have to focus on improving nutritional profiles and being as transparent about the ingredients they are using. There are winnable opportunities for those who can improve their products more than anyone else.”

Dairy companies are uniquely poised to do a better job at making clean-label alternatives because of their expertise and manufacturing resources. 

Vierhile pointed out Siggi’s Plant-Based Coconut Blend Yogurt Alternative, which rolled out this past December. The brand’s trademarked tagline is “simple ingredients, not a lot of sugar.” It was paramount that the brand does not stray from this focus with its plant-based offerings. It delivers. 

After taste, stabilization is likely the next most challenging area with plant-based, dairy-type products. The plant ingredients must remain in solution and not be gritty or pasty. 

He explained that formulators are wise to explore thickening ingredients seen as less processed and more natural by the consumer. Gellan gum is one such ingredient. Gellan gum is a water-soluble polysaccharide produced naturally by bacteria. It functions similar to carrageenan, which many in the health- and wellness-community try to avoid because of its reputation as being carcinogenic after digestion. 

Danone North America’s Silk Dairy Free Half and Half Alternative with Creamy Oat Milk and Coconut Milk not only uses gellan gum, it boldly touts the fact that it does not contain carrageenan. 

Many dairies are revisiting their first attempts at plant-based products and reformulating them to improve quality and clean up labels. Wells Enterprises’ Halo Top brand, for example, is introducing a new formulation to better deliver a smooth and creamy texture and flavor-forward taste. The new recipe for all seven flavors—Birthday Cake, Candy Bar, Chocolate, Chocolate Almond Crunch, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Peanut Butter Cup and Sea Salt Caramel--also contains fava bean protein. Each new and improved Vegan Action-certified pint contains 280 to 360 calories and 10 to 20 grams of protein per serving. 

“As a leader in the better-for-you category, Halo Top is always looking for new ways to innovate and bring forward quality products our consumers will love,” says Shilpa Gadhok, senior brand manager, Halo Top. “With our Dairy-Free line, we replaced brown rice protein with fava bean protein for a creamier texture that’s packed with flavor. Plant-based demand is higher than ever, and we want to provide our fans with an offering they feel great about eating, so they don’t have to choose between pursuing a plant-based lifestyle and enjoying dessert.”

My friends over at Powerful Foods are now in the plant-based space, too, with new Powerful Plant-Based Protein Drink. The drinks stay true to the great taste of the brand, while keeping labels clean. Each 11-ounce shelf-stable prisma package contains 20 grams of protein from organic oatmeal and organic pea protein and 5 grams of fiber from the oats and chicory root. Gellan gum keeps the beverage smooth and creamy, while organic stevia sweetens it. The drink has no added sugars and is free from gluten and lactose. A serving contains 180 to 190 calories, depending on flavor, of which there are three. They are: Chocolate, Mocha and Vanilla Bean.

I’ve long said that one of the most under-developed spaces in the refrigerated dairy case is in ready-to-eat desserts. Gregory Struck, founder and CEO of Noops, felt the same. So, he developed a namesake product that is the world’s first protein-rich, plant-based organic oatmilk pudding. In July, the four-variety line--Cocoa, French Toast, Mocha and Sticky Bun--launched online and in select Northeast grocery retailers. 

The innovative superfood pudding is packed with real ingredients and powerful nutrition. Noops’s indulgent satisfaction comes from clean, purposeful ingredients, such as organic oats, organic dates and organic sunflower seed protein. Gellan gum keeps the pudding smooth and creamy while monk fruit extract provides sweetness. Vegan, non-GMO, kosher and allergen friendly, with no added sugar, each 4.75-ounce serving of Noops Oatmilk Pudding provides 5 to 7 grams of protein, 5 to 7 grams of fiber (from oats and inulin) and about half the carbohydrates found in conventional refrigerated puddings, according to Struck. The puddings also provide gut-health and immunity-boosting prebiotics and heart-healthy whole grains.

Struck created Noops after surviving cancer and a rare genetic disease, which he attributes in part to adopting a plant-based lifestyle. 

“Healthy eating gave me a second chance at life, and that was the impetus for starting Noops,” he says. “Our mission is to make nutritious, planet-friendly, plant-based real food with more taste and more flavor than less nutritious alternatives. We’re inspired and motivated by those looking to make a change in the way they feed themselves and their loved ones without compromising on food satisfaction and enjoyment.”

San Bernardo Ice Cream has been an innovator in the industry for decades as one of the world’s largest ice cream suppliers to cruise ships. Founded in 1971, the company re-entered the retail sector in 2016. This was a good thing based on the impact of COVID-19 on the cruise industry. 

The company is now adventuring into the non-dairy space with No Bull Ice Cream. The Florida-based company took more than a year to perfect its recipe. The products are made with non-GMO, sustainable and ethically sourced ingredients, according to the company, with no artificial colors, flavor or preservatives. Organic whole oat flour, pea protein and soluble corn fiber are key ingredients. Flavors are: Blueberry Pie, Caramel Apple Pie, Double Chocolate, Mint Chocolate Swirl, Peanut Butter Fudge, Sea Salt Caramel, Strawberry Frappe and Vanilla Bean.

In June, Migros, Switzerland’s largest retailer, launched a new line of dairy-free yogurts based on oats and chickpea protein. Oat aha! comes in three flavors: Natural, Tropical Fruits and Vanilla. 

Eclipse Foods was fortunate to exhibit at the Winter Fancy Food Show, one of the few food trade events to take place in 2020. The buzz at the show was that its plant-based ice cream was indistinguishable from conventional dairy. 

The company uses a unique blend of plants to replicate milk on a molecular level, creating a true dairy replacement that tastes, feels and functions just like conventional dairy. It is based on sustainable ingredients, such as corn and cassava. The first product made with the “milk” was a liquid ice cream base that spins in any type of ice cream machine, making everything from soft serve to gelato to pints.  

After success at the Fancy Food Show, the company partnered with chefs across the U.S. to develop a new series of limited-edition collaboration flavors for the summer, with 100% of proceeds going directly to the chefs’ charities of choice.

The first round of the collaboration became available July 8. The chefs, their flavors and their charities include: 

  • Greg Baxtrom Olmsted of Maison Yaki, Brooklyn: Blackberry Tarragon ice cream with proceeds benefiting Olmsted’s food bank to feed people in need in Brooklyn. 
  • Moonlynn Tsai, co-owner of Kopitiam and chef of Heart of Dinner, New York City: Honey Phoenix Oolong Milk Tea ice cream with proceeds benefiting Tsai’s Heart of Dinner organization that provides culturally appropriate emergency meal assistance for the elderly and underserved in the Asian immigrant population affected by COVID-19. 
  • Trigg Brown of Win Son, Brooklyn: Sweet Potato and Salty Black Sugar Caramel ice cream with proceeds benefiting Street Soccer USA, which uses sports to improve the health, education and employment outcomes for the most disadvantaged Americans. 
  • Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery, Boston: Sticky Bun ice cream with proceeds benefiting Flour Bakery’s Feed a Bostonian in Need program. 
  • Nicole Krasinski of State Bird Provisions and The Progress, San Francisco: Toasted Almond Thyme ice cream with proceeds benefiting Black Earth Farms, a grassroots Pan African and Pan Indigenous Farming Collective growing food in the East Bay. 

Each month through the summer and early fall, Eclipse will launch a new round of limited-edition chef collaboration flavors. Eclipse 100% plant-based ice creams are available for nationwide shipping. The lineup also includes Eclipse’s signature Chocolate, Cookie Butter and Vanilla flavors, which are $11.99 per pint. Each chef collaboration pint is $17.99. 

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