Friday, October 30, 2020

Impossible Milk Is Impossible: Real Dairy Delivers on Taste, Price, and Diet and Health Considerations


Boo! Happy Halloween. Private-label retailer Aldi is ready for Halloween. This new frozen jack-o-lantern-shaped pizza is topped with butternut squash sauce, cheddar, mozzarella and mascarpone cheese. It’s delicious! 

There’s also a range of spooky cheeses. The Freaky Franken is a mild Derby cheese infused with dried sage. Scary Pumpkin Spice is a pumpkin-shaped Wensleydale seasoned with cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. No Rest for the Wicked is a sweet, strawberry, prosecco-infused Wensleydale cheese. Bat Knit Crazy Cheddar is aged cheese wrapped in black wax.

To read more about “Holiday-themed offerings get extreme,” link HERE to an article and slideshow I wrote for Food Business News this week. 

This has been one heck of a week for sensationalized headlines, and I anticipate they will ramp up before calming down. My advice: avoid the news, make sure you vote, wear a mask and innovate with real dairy. It is impossible to efficiently and effectively feed humans without the nutrients found in real dairy foods.  

A studied published in the November 2020 issue of the Journal of Dairy Science shows that removal of dairy cattle to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) would be difficult to do without reducing the supply of the most limiting nutrients to the population. In other words, humans need the nutrients dairy cattle provide. 

Questions regarding the balance between the contribution to human nutrition and the environmental impact of livestock food products rarely evaluate specific species or how to accomplish the recommended depopulation. The objective of this study was to assess current contributions of the U.S. dairy industry to the supply of nutrients and environmental impact, characterize potential impacts of alternative land use for land previously used for crops for dairy cattle, and evaluate the impacts of these approaches on U.S. dairy herd depopulation. 

The researchers from the Department of Animal and Poultry Science at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va., and the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center, USDA-ARS, Madison, Wisc., modeled three scenarios to reflect different sets of assumptions for how and why to remove dairy cattle from the U.S. food production system coupled with four land-use strategies for the potential newly available land previously cropped for dairy feed. Scenarios also differed in assumptions of how to repurpose land previously used to grow grain for dairy cows. 

The current system provides sufficient fluid milk to meet the annual energy, protein and calcium requirements of 71.2, 169, and 254 million people, respectively. Vitamins supplied by dairy products also make up a high proportion of total domestic supplies from foods, with dairy providing 39% of the vitamin A, 54% of the vitamin D, 47% of the riboflavin, 57% of the vitamin B12, and 29% of the choline available for human consumption in the U.S. 

Retiring (maintaining animals without milk harvesting) dairy cattle under their current management resulted in no change in absolute GHGE relative to the current production system. Both depopulation and retirement to pasture resulted in modest reductions (6.8% to 12.0%) in GHGE relative to the current agricultural system. Most dairy cow removal scenarios reduced availability of essential micronutrients such as α-linolenic acid, calcium, and vitamins A, D, B12, and choline. Those removal scenarios that did not reduce micronutrient availability also did not improve GHGE relative to the current production system. These results suggest that removal of dairy cattle to reduce GHGE without reducing the supply of the most limiting nutrients to the population would be difficult.

And that’s why “Impossible Milk” is impossible.  

To read the study, link HERE.

It’s not surprising that the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) quickly got loud after all the press “Impossible” was getting this week. On October 29, NMPF asked FDA’s ombudsman to ensure that rules are properly enforced regarding the labeling of milk.  

“Allowing unlawfully labeled ‘plant-based’ imitation dairy foods to proliferate poses an immediate and growing risk to public health; it is a clear dereliction of the FDA’s duty to enforce federal law and agency regulations,” wrote NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern. “The FDA’s Office of the Ombudsman must intervene to break the bureaucratic logjam that is adversely affecting consumers. Doing so would fit squarely within the Office’s own mission to ensure even-handed application of FDA policy and procedures.” 

The FDA ombudsman, based in the agency commissioner’s office, “serves as a neutral and independent resource for members of FDA-regulated industries when they experience problems with the regulatory process.” The NMPF is urging the ombudsman’s office to take appropriate action to remedy the FDA’s lax approach to enforcing its own rules on the use of dairy terms on products containing no dairy ingredients, which have proven impacts on public health, a new phase of advocacy brought about by the agency’s regrettable inaction. The American Academy of Pediatrics and other organizations have offered evidence of nutritional deficiencies caused by confusion over the contents of plant-based versus dairy beverages.  

The good news is that smart consumers recognize the value of real dairy foods, especially during these uncertain times and with many having to watch their grocery spending. The word on the street is that stocking up is starting again, and this will likely have a positive impact on retail dairy sales. 

For the 52-week period ended Sept. 6, 2020, as compared to the same period a year ago, IRI retail volume sales data are: 

  • Butter/Butter Blends: +27.9%
  • Cheese +14.6% 
  • Cottage Cheese: +4.0% 
  • Cream: +22.7%
  • Half & Half: +8.3% 
  • Ice Cream/Sherbet: +9.5%
  • Milk +2.9% 
  • Sour Cream: +16.1%
  • Yogurt +3.6% 

Dairy foods are thriving because they taste great, are price competitively and are good for health. These are the three things consumers are most concerned with when exploring trendy new foods, according to the just-released Kearney’s 2020 Food Trends Survey. This is why it is paramount that dairy foods processors continue to innovate during these uncertain times. 

For more than a century, food manufacturers and retailers have assumed consumers were anxious to sample and adopt the hottest new food trends, according to the report’s authors. It turns out the strongest foundation a new food trend can have is to be grounded in the basics, starting with taste. This is the primary standard consumers use to determine the new food trends to try and the new foods they will or will not add to their regular diets. The research also looked at how COVID-19 has affected purchase patterns across income brackets. 

The top-three selection criteria cited by the 1,000 consumers surveyed for Kearney’s 2020 Food Trends Survey were, in order: taste, price, and diet and health considerations. Asked why they might try a new food trend, 78% of respondents mentioned taste, 61% said price and 55% cited diet and health concerns. The findings were even more conclusive when asked what it would take for them to incorporate a new food trend into their regular meal schedules. Eighty seven percent reported it would be dependent on taste, 64% answered price and 59% mentioned diet and health issues.

“The real message here is that successful new products develop from communities of consumers with evolving tastes and preferences,” says Katie Thomas, leader of the Kearney Consumer Institute and the study’s co-author. “Food manufacturers and retailers can take cues from what consumers actually like, need, and what really motivates everyday purchase behavior, rather than being overly reactive to a quick hit flavor.” 

Steven Cunix, manager in Kearney’s Consumer practice and the study’s other co-author, says, “It’s always said that ‘new products are the lifeblood of the food industry,’ and that may be true, but our survey suggests that the reason pumpkin spice products remain perennially popular, while some ‘hot’ foods like celery water might not be remembered three months from now, is simple: consumers prefer the taste of pumpkin spice over celery.”

The research also showed that consumers are overwhelmingly willing to “test the waters,” with 88% of respondents reporting that they try at least one new food trend per year and 45% stating that they’re willing to pay a premium for new items.

The 2020 Food Trends Survey also found that recommendations and advertising attracted respondents to new food trends, but were less effective when it came to consumers’ decisions to add trending items to their regular diets.

As to the other reasons consumers would or would not try new products, overall 39% of respondents identified price as the number-one reason for passing on trends. Price was the primary deterrent in 43% of respondent households with incomes under $100,000, versus 29% in households with incomes over $100,000.  

Fifty-five percent of respondents identified diet/health as one of the top-three reasons for not trying new food trends, with 24% citing it as their main reason. Respondents in higher-income households were more deterred by unhealthy products. Diet and health issues were cited as one of the top-three reasons for not trying new trends by 63% of respondents earning more than $200K annually and by 53% of respondents with annual incomes under $25,000. Heath concerns were the number-one reason for not trying a new product for 26% of respondents ages 18 to 24, compared to only 20% of respondents age 65 or older.

Perhaps as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, respondents identified availability as the fourth most important factor in product selection. Forty percent identified availability as one of the top-three reasons for not trying new food trends and 12% choosing availability as their number-one reason. Older respondents and those in households without kids at home saw availability as a larger issue.

For a full copy of the report, link HERE.

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