Thursday, December 16, 2021

Getting Gutsy in 2022


Sitting in the dentist chair this week for my regular cleaning, the hygienist started lecturing me on gut health instead of telling me how to floss. Imagine how thrilled I was when she explained how the probiotics in yogurt decrease the pH in the mouth and this helps prevent bacteria from forming plaque. (I believe more research is required in this area, but it was refreshing to know it is part of the dental office conversation.) She even went on to discuss the role of good bacteria and gut health and the overall impact on immunity. At this point I think she could have said I needed a root canal and I still would have been as excited as a kiddo on Christmas morning. 

Research shows consumers understand the benefits of probiotics. The pandemic fueled their interest in immunity and gut health. When a dental hygienist chooses to discuss probiotics versus flossing, I think it is safe to say that the time is right to make foods for gut health a priority.

A few weeks ago, The Hatchery held its Annual Fundraiser and Dream Commercial Pitch Competition. The virtual event featured Dr. Erika Ebbel Angle, CEO and cofounder of Ixcela, a health and wellness company that helps individuals improve their internal health. She explained how a properly balanced gut microbiome improves energy levels and mood, supports the immune system, and even helps to protect us from other health issues. 

This 11-minute TED Talks is similar to the discussion that took place at The Hatchery event. I highly encourage watching it. Link HERE.

I believe gut health will be the leading mega trend of product innovation this coming year. It includes positive nutrition and may complement other mega trends, such as global inspiration, convenience and better-for-you indulgence. (Lifeway’s new Chocolate Truffle Kefir covers a few of these trends.)

“66% of global consumers say they have become more conscious of their overall health as a result of COVID-19,” according to FMCG Gurus. 

Positive nutrition is all about maximizing intake of healthful foods. Consumers want products that deliver on multiple wellness benefits, including gut health, energy, healthy aging and mental health, a.k.a., positive mood. 

Julie Smolyansky, president and CEO of Lifeway Foods, followed Dr. Ebbel Angle. She explained how “kefir” comes from the Turkish word “keif,” which means feel good.  

“People simply feel good after drinking kefir,” she said. “The connection between the gut and the brain is incredibly strong.

“Staying relevant is the #1 thing for legacy brands like us,” said Smolyansky. “Innovating constantly is very important for us. Innovation is also communicating with communities.

“Staying ahead of trends is important,” she said. “You have to consistently get the word out about science. Bringing wellness to people through food is so important.” 

Happy Gut = Happy Mood. Please commit to marketing gut health in 2022. It might be gutsy for a traditional dairy, but I can promise you that the plant-based and animal-free fermented products will be active in this space.  

And, in case you missed this on the plant-based category, here’s a statement from the National Milk Producers Federation that was issued on Dec. 6, 2021.

Dairy Defined: Tough Times Arrive in Fake-Food Land

The hype couldn’t last forever.

No matter how many celebrity funders are brought on board or “next best thing” pitches are made to launch a product, eventually, over-the-top marketing comes back to bite, and that’s what’s been happening in the world of fake food. Here are a couple recent examples.

Oatly, the darling of the plant-based beverage set, lost one-fifth of its trading value in one day last month after warning it wouldn’t meet revenue expectations. As is the fashion of the day, Oatly blamed the pandemic and supply chains, but the simple truth is, consumer demand isn’t what it was earlier hyped up to be. Third-quarter sales in the Americas, expected at 40 million liters a month, fell short by 3 million.

The company is facing quality control issues as well, with a recall in its native Sweden for potential loose metal in its products. Of all the ingredients seen in plant-based beverages, “loose metal” would be among the least desired, and that’s saying a lot. Oatly’s trajectory toward making oats and chemicals America’s drink of choice is falling like a lead balloon – evidence of that via a battered share price, which has kept falling since the bad news was revealed, is a welcome sign of marketplace sanity.

Beyond Meat is another case study in facts can complicate an all-too-perfect narrative. Last month the company had to dramatically lower its expectations for revenue growth, using the pandemic as a cover for a consumer market that’s fizzled much faster than anticipated. Share prices fell accordingly, and like Oatly’s, they keep heading down. Beyond Meat isn’t in the fake dairy business (though it’s made rumbles), but it’s all the same story in animal agriculture, with so-called “innovators” making a short-term splash, then fading with their ad campaigns.

None of this, to be sure, means these companies are going to disappear. Overpriced, flavored plant water has been around for four decades, and while we still wonder why anyone thought they could improve upon the venerable Boca Burger, Beyond Meat has carved its niche. Consumers want variety, and consumer attraction to alternative products is something P.T. Barnum would have found completely understandable generations ago. Though we regret their effects on public health and the environment, fake foods are likely to proliferate even further, as test tubes and fermentation labs bring new imitators that will employ the same sales tricks as their plant-based predecessors. The imposters, it’s safe to say, are here to stay.

What doesn’t need to stay are lax labeling standards and consumer misinformation. A market functions better when it’s transparent. That’s true at a local supermarket as much as it is on Wall Street. This principle is becoming even more important in dairy as where-your-food-comes-from questions become even more crucial to consumer trust and honest marketing.

Over time, promotional flim-flam gets found out, and investors and the public learn that The Next Big Thing isn’t what it was cracked up to be. But the process would move more quickly--and less painfully--if consumers held a clearer understanding of true food “innovation” and better tools for identifying what a food is and what it isn’t. The sooner the puff-up-and-bust cycle is recognized, the more consumer dollars will be better directed toward more nourishing products, the ones that will survive the ups-and-downs of food fads and cash grabs.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Plant Based World Expo 2021: 10 Take Aways


New York City’s Javits Center welcomed the Plant Based World Expo yesterday (Dec. 9), and continues until the end of today. This is only the second installment of this trade fair in North America, with the first one having taken place in June 2019. Proof of vaccination and masks required at all times, unless tasting a sample, the expo was packed. Innovations from brands were plentiful and a number of suppliers also exhibited in efforts to assist entrepreneurs with getting their concept to market. This included today’s blog sponsor, Lycored, which offers a number of plant-based coloring solutions that have application in dairy and meat alternatives, as well as other plant-based products, including condiments and desserts. Thank you Lycored. Visit them at booth #553.

Like with many expos, I sampled, selectively, and focused on the plant-based products intended to replace dairy products such as butter, cheese, ice cream, milk and yogurt. I also found the Opening Keynote session--Growth of the Plant-Based Industry—extremely informative, as it shared perspectives from retail and foodservice. Here are 10 Take Aways.

1. Some of the products are really good, and some are really not very good. I was pleasantly surprised how well a vegan cream cheese tasted in a New York-style cheesecake. There was also a milk alternative that tasted delicious.

2. During the keynote, Rachel Dreskin, CEO of the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA) said that plant-based milk currently has 16% share of the milk space at traditional retail and 50% in the natural foods segment. Improved product quality is driving growth. Consumers, especially young consumers, like plant-based milks (with oat the leader) for what they are, not necessarily as an alternative to milk. It’s an evolution in mindset with Gen Z. Whereas Millennials and older consumers see plant-based milk as an alternative, younger consumers just see it as another option. This will only become stronger with sensory and nutrition improvements. 

3. And those improvements are happening as innovators think out of the box. Who says mozzarella—dairy or plant based—should be shredded on top of pizza? Miyoko’s Creamery, a leader in the plant-based alternative category, threw away the rule book to craft the finest vegan pizza mozzarella by focusing on the desired end result: delicious meltiness. Rather than creating a solid block of vegan cheese and shred it, Miyoko stripped out the solids and ingredients that hinder meltability, such as anti-caking agents used to prevent clumping, and focused on the melt with this first-of-its-kind, revolutionary liquid cheese. The clean-label perishable product features organic cashews and organic sunflower oil as the top-two ingredients. The formulation includes a touch of mushroom extract for umami and vegan cultures for mozzarella flavor development. When used according to instruction on pizza, you would never know it was plant based. Congrats to Miyoko. 

4. But, then there’s the nutrition component that needs to be addressed. This product is not necessarily more healthful for “you” than the low-moisture, part-skim mozzarella traditionally used on pizza. It’s higher in sodium (791mg vs. 682mg per 100g) and almost void of protein (3g vs. 24g per 100g). Both contain 20g of fat per 100g; however, the plant-based has a notable reduction in saturated fat (2.9g vs. 11g per 100g). It also is a bit lower in calories (250 vs. 300 per 100g). The health of the planet is a big message for many plant-based dairy marketers. So, I guess if sodium and protein are not a concern, and saturated fat and the planet are, this product is a winner. 

5. Then there’s the plant-based bacon strips I tasted. I will start by saying they were all delicious. However, coconut oil melded with smoky flavor and lots of salt is likely going to be yummy in whatever shape it comes in. Enough said. If a vegan or vegetarian wants bacon, there are plenty of options. Flexitarians will often say it is bacon that keeps them from going vegetarian. That no longer needs to be the case. Vegetarians say it’s the cheese that keeps them from going vegan. That may be slowly changing with commodity cheeses, but as of now, nothing beats true blue, brie and aged cheddar.

6. Retailers are looking for plant-based products to fill gaps in their stores, according to keynote speaker Marcellus Harris, assistant commodity manager for poultry at Kroger. The retail giant is committed to the plant-based movement and currently has more than 100 plant-based items in its private-label Simple Truth brand, 30 of which were added this past year. “Plant-based focus extends across all our customers,” he said. It’s driven by flexitarian families, with improved health a priority. “But, the consumer is flipping the package over.” 

7. That back side needs to be clean, simple and not suggest being overly processed. “You have to make plant-based the easy choice,” said Susie Weintraub, CEO of Envision Group/Compass Group, the largest global on-site foodservice company. “It has to taste great and be affordable.”

8. Weintraub shared a very interesting perspective on the role of plant-based in foodservice. She explained that Compass serves about one million meals a day and the company “has the ability to influence, promote, educate and inform.” But this can only happen with partnerships with brands. Compass employs more than 7,000 chefs and the company spends a lot of time training and educating them to help them create plant-based recipes. But they can only do so much. I repeat what she said, “You have to make plant-based the easy choice.” This means taste is paramount and price is a huge factor. Sampling helps.

9. Benjamin Davis, vice president of content, Plant Based World Conference & Expo kicked off the keynote by stating that when the first expo took place in 2019, people were just starting to understand plant based and the pandemic provided time for a global adoption of the trend. “We live in unprecedented time where there’s undeniable social responsibility combined with a massive financial opportunity,” he said. 

10. He also said, “Plant-forward is used to describe cuisine that focuses more on plant-based ingredients than animal-based ones. It’s a great step-in-the-right-direction for both health and sustainability and caters well to a flexitarian audience.” 

Real dairy--delicious and nutritious--can be part of a plant-forward diet. 

Hope this gives you something to ponder for your innovation plans for 2022!

Friday, December 3, 2021

Dairy Foods Flavor Trends 2022: Make it an elevated experience

Photo source: Balchem

It’s that time of year when food and beverage authorities make their predictions for what will be trending the upcoming year. No surprise, plant-based, keto and immunity are the consensus. 

Flavor forecasts are typically not category specific, so I like to review them and make them relevant to dairy. That’s the topic for today. 

But first, on a lighter note (because the emergence of the omicron variant and Thanksgiving COVID cases has many of us very stressed out)…

Yesterday--as was February 12th of this year--was 12022021. It’s a very rare date, and lucky us got to experience it twice this year! It is both a palindrome (reads the same backward as forward) and an ambigram, which is this case, it reads the same right side up and upside down (when viewed in digital typeface). 

If you use a zero with the month, February 2nd of last year provided the same phenomenon: 02022020. It was actually a “universal palindrome” because it reads the same whether written as month/day/year or day/month/year. The last universal palindrome occurred on 11/11/1111. The next one won’t come until 12/12/2121. (I hope the future is warned what comes next.)

Feb. 2, 2020, was a Sunday, in fact, it was Super Bowl Sunday. The Kansas City Chiefs had their first victory in 50 years. It was also the second day of official pandemic reporting, with a total of 11 confirmed cases in the U.S. That seems like a lifetime ago. 

And while it was “the end of the world as we know it” (love that REM song), if you add the numbers together (0+2+0+2+2+0+2+0 = 8), you get the number 8, which in numerology indicates assertion, determination and responsibility. Turn 8 on its side and it becomes the infinity symbol. In astrology, the number 8 often refers to Saturn, the planet of karma, practicality and resilience. In hindsight (2020), that date told us a lot about where we are today. We’ve pivoted, adapted (or still trying to) and recognized that we have to take responsibility for our health and the planet’s health. 

So what does all that have to do with dairy flavor trends? Well, consumers have a new-found appreciation for almost everything, from celebrating holidays in person with friends and family outside their bubble to traveling to in-person tradeshows. They are craving elevated experiences. That’s the flavor connection.  

Flavor development, have it be in milk, yogurt, ice cream or any other dairy product, needs to consider experience. This is delivered through taste, texture, appearance and yes, marketing. The world does not need another vanilla or chocolate ice cream brand, regardless of its nutritional composition or the addition of functional ingredients. 

Photo: Tahini swirled yogurt with cardamom blood orange from

With that said, there are three key flavor trends to consider going forward. All can be part of limited-time and seasonal flavor programs. Aldi’s holiday ice cream flight was one of the most innovative ice cream concepts this year and I hope there are more like it by the private-label retailer and others. 

The three key flavor trends are:

1. Immunity-boosting fruits, namely oranges, specifically blood oranges, are high in vitamin C and have a strong association with immunity. Elderberries, which are high in antioxidants, have become recognized as a superfruit during the pandemic. Using these fruits—alone or in combination with other flavorful ingredients—adds a healthful halo to dairy products.  

2. Mood enhancers, including botanicals and florals associated with states of being, such as relaxation, energy and sleep, readily combine with traditional flavors. Think lavender vanilla. Honey falls into this space, too, as it is a soothing flavor. It also includes indulgent flavors, which are simply meant to be enjoyed.   

Photo: Blood orange ice cream with ginger and dark chocolate chips from

3. Destination flavors, think of everything from cotton candy fairgrounds to a honey tahini Mediterranean cruise to apple picking. Marketing is very important in this concept, with seasonal availability creating an urgency to purchase. And, when there’s a story to tell that brings the flavor back to its origins, everything from the region from where it is sourced and the people who produce it, to how it’s grown and its impact on earth, tell it. 


Friday, November 19, 2021

Something Sweet to Think About (for the ageing population)

If you know me well, you are aware that I have never been a fan of anything chocolate. In fact, I have never been much of a sweets person. I’ve always preferred salty and savory. But, that changed in the past few years and it started before the pandemic; however, the pandemic made me more mindful of my changing tastebuds and the accompanying sugar intake. A lot of us “ageing” folks are with me. 

This is why I found BENEO’s webinar this week on formulating foods for healthy aging so interesting. I was completely unaware that on December 14, 2020, The United Nations General Assembly declared 2021 to 2030 to be the Decade of Healthy Ageing. Three days later, the World Health Organization issued the Baseline report for the Decade of Healthy Ageing, which included data stating that at least 14% of all people aged 60 years and over, which is more than 142 million people, are currently unable to meet all their basic daily needs.

Now, sweets are not a basic daily need; however, for many older adults, it’s the highlight of their day. (I’m not there yet, but I am starting to understand the “sweet treat” daypart.) This presents an opportunity in the category I have long noted as being the most underdeveloped in the U.S.: refrigerated dairy desserts. 

Here’s the deal. It has to taste good. It has to feel good. It has to satisfy. And remember, it’s a sweet treat, so sweet taste is paramount. There are many ways to deliver sweet, and for sweet treats for the ageing population, I highly recommend staying away from sweeteners with off notes, may cause gastrointestinal distress or rapidly raise blood glucose levels. We grew up with sugar and TAB (saccharin) as our benchmarks for sweet taste.  

“Getting older is a privilege,” said Denisse Colindres, manager of nutrition communications for BENEO in North America. “Good choices on nutrition and lifestyle allow us to age optimally.”

I highly encourage you to watch this 45-minute webinar. I watch a lot of webinars and present many as well. It’s not often I can say I’ve heard some new information. This one kept my attention. Link HERE

The fact is, by 2050, 2.1 billion people will be over 60 years old. (I will be 83 years proud!) Product development focused on this age group should be on your radar to aim for positive ageing. 

A leading concern is blood sugar levels rising, and this is without that daily sweet treat. It just happens with ageing. 

Natural Grocers, a chain of better-for-you food and supplement stores founded in 1979 and located across the U.S., issued its sixth annual top-10 nutrition trend predictions for 2022. They were identified by the company’s team of health and wellness experts in collaboration with its purchasing and analytics teams. The predictions include healthspan, sensible indulgences, functional flavors, pet nutrition and saying goodbye to burnout.

“As we look back at another year in which our communities have felt the obvious and hidden effects of a global pandemic, there is no denying that people are changing how they approach their health,” said Shelby Miller, Natural Grocers’ manager of scientific affairs and nutrition education. “People are considering how their everyday choices affect their long-term health, and our trends for the coming year reflect how those decisions are intricately tied together to shape our wellbeing and our ability to thrive and flourish.”

The number-one trend is “From Lifespan to Healthspan.”

“With a growing realization that healthspan is as important as lifespan, in 2022, we will focus not only on how long we can live, but also on how healthy we can live those years. This will look like supporting health with diet, lifestyle and supplements not in mid- to late age, or only when a health issues arises, but throughout our lives,” according to the retailer.

This supports BENEO’s perspective of “Seeking positive ageing in every generational phase of life. People want to enjoy their life and be their best self.” Let’s help them!

Here’s another webinar you won’t want to miss. We will be presenting some never-before-revealed data on the future of dairy foods innovation.

2021 to 2022 Dairy Industry Outlook
Hope you join me on the Dec. 1 webinar hosted by Dairy Processing to discuss the dairy manufacturing economics of this past year and what we can expect in 2022. Cypress Research surveyed dairy processing professionals in June and July of this year and 148 respondents shared their input on their company’s performance in 2021, compared to 2020; the outlook for their company for 2022; and their views on the overall health of the dairy industry in the coming year. Register HERE.


Friday, November 12, 2021

Think of the Children. Market how dairy meets their nutritional needs.


With a headline of “Think of the Children,” I bet you thought I was going there…the “V” word. Well, if I had littles, they would be scheduled to get their first dose. 

But really, that’s not what this blog is about. It’s about making every bite and sip count in the youngest mouths on this planet. As you may recall, for the first time ever, the U.S. government got involved with nutrition directions for youngsters. (Thanks for trying to keep us healthy.) The 2020-2025 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans include recommendations for children under two years of age. They suggest that infants and toddlers feed only on breast milk for at least six months and give no added sugar to children younger than 2. 

Older kids have long had recommendations and are not as strict. But still, every bite and sip matters. This is why it’s paramount that the dairy industry manufacture products that cater to their nutritional needs, as well as sensory desires. They like sweet flavors and appetizing colors. 

The toddler phase may be considered the “terrible twos,” but it is a highly critical development phase for children and has long-lasting effects on the body and the brain. For tweens and teens, choosing nutrient-dense foods instead of empty calories will lead to building better bodies and better eating habits as adults. These kids are active and burning many calories in a day, so focusing on ingredients that provide energy and satiety throughout the day is key to optimal health. 

So, let’s talk about Ripple Kids. Have you seen any of the commercials? Check out this social media VIDEO.

Since its release in early 2021, Ripple Kids has been loud about how it delivers all the nutrients kids need without dairy. The brand was even named a finalist in the Best New Natural Kids Product category for the NEXTY Awards. Data shared at the 2019 Food for Kids summit from a study done by Linkage Research & Consulting reported that 60% of households with kids are buying plant-based foods, and 80% are also feeding the foods to their children, according to Imbibe. 

Ripple Kids was developed with pediatricians for early childhood nutrition. In addition to the 8 grams of plant-based protein from peas, Ripple Kids has 50 milligrams of DHA, choline and prebiotic fiber, along with many of the essential nutrients found in dairy milk: calcium, magnesium, riboflavin, and vitamins A, D and B12. 

I applaud Nestle for bringing the Nido brand into a ready-to-drink, shelf-stable format. New Nido School Years is formulated for children ages 4 and up. It is made with real milk and 40% less added sugars than other flavored milks. Some varieties include fruit puree, too. The milk is touted as containing vitamin D and calcium to help support bone health and vitamin A and zinc to help support immunity. The 8-ounce aseptic boxes come in four varieties: banana, mango, strawberry and vanilla. They are sold as individual cartons and in six packs. 

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.

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. 

USDA Invests $20.2 Million in Grants for Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced an investment of $20.2 million in the Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives program. The DBI awarded $18.4 million to three current Initiatives at University of Tennessee, Vermont Agency for Food and Marketing and University of Wisconsin, and $1.8 million to the California State University Fresno, a new investment this year to be managed in partnership with the California Dairy Innovation Center (CDIC).

Since its inception in 2019, DBI initiatives have provided valuable technical assistance and sub-grants to dairy farmers and businesses across their regions, assisting them with business plan development, marketing and branding, as well as increasing access to innovative production and processing techniques to support the development of value-added products.
For more information, link HERE.

“These awards will expand the scope of the Dairy Business Innovation program and provide much-needed support to small dairy farms and businesses as they continue to recover from the pandemic,” says USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Moffitt. “In addition to initiatives in the Southeast, Northeast and Midwest, a new initiative for the Pacific Coast is funded, led by California State University Fresno. These DBI initiatives provide the dairy industry with additional capacity and expertise that will go beyond immediate assistance and set the stage for a more secure future.”

The California investment will serve to create a “Pacific Coast Coalition” to support dairy businesses in California, Oregon and Washington. Through this program, Fresno State and collaborating institutions will deliver hands-on technical assistance to dairy businesses, providing access to laboratory space and equipment to facilitate development and innovation. The Coalition has a strong focus on education as well and will offer learning opportunities on technical topics and related areas of interest such as supply chain innovation, distribution, packaging, marketing and branding strategies. 

“This collaboration is why the CDIC was created, to support collaboration and attract investment in California’s dairy industry,” says John Talbot, CEO of the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB). “We’re pleased to join the group of existing coalitions in Wisconsin, Vermont and Tennessee, in order to advance our industry nationwide.” 

California leads the nation in milk production and milk is the number one agricultural commodity in the state. California also is a leading exporter of dairy products. The Pacific Coast region is home to hundreds of dairy businesses that are well-positioned to serve the needs of growing markets in Asia and Latin America. 

“The Pacific Coast Coalition will contribute to our competitive advantage in global markets and directly benefit our regional businesses. It will be instrumental to stimulating innovation and entrepreneurship, strengthening the development of our workforce pipeline, and ultimately leading to the increased use of our milk in value-added products,” adds Talbot.  

DFA’s CoLAB Accelerator Seeking New Applicants for 2022 Program 

Applications are now being accepted for the 2022 Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) CoLAB Accelerator program, which will begin in April and run through June 2022. The program, now in its sixth year, is designed to foster relationships with startup companies and help advance innovative solutions in the areas of ag-tech and dairy food products. 

“At DFA, our mission is to deliver value to our family farm-owners. This program is one way that we’re investing in new opportunities for the industry and helping drive innovation on the farm and in the dairy case,” says Doug Dresslaer, director of innovation at DFA. “What’s particularly exciting with our program is that we continue to work with many of our past participants, which is the end goal to really develop long-term relationships.” 

Ag-tech companies can address any portion of the dairy value chain, including but not limited to animal health, farm data management, herd health and management, supply chain optimization, farm labor and sustainability. Some ag-tech categories of particular interest to DFA include antibiotic alternatives, renewable or alternative energy methods, farm labor solutions, food waste technologies, automation and robotics, on-farm connectivity, animal identification and monitoring and animal transport technologies to name a few. 

On the food front, the farmer-owned Cooperative is seeking early-stage food product companies that are dairy-focused or dairy-based, including products using milk, cheese, butter, whey or other dairy-based ingredients. Companies developing innovative processing or manufacturing technologies for dairy products, including sustainable packaging, will also be considered. For more information, link HERE.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Wanting More Will Be Amplified in 2022! Is your product lineup ready to meet consumers’ expectations?


Photo source: Photo source: Rachel Vanni/Mochidoki

With 2021 being the year of restrictions—often times not knowing what they were and changing when you crossed city and state lines--consumers wanted more out of things they could control. This was particularly true with foods and beverages, and this trend of wanting an amplified experience is not going to go away. In fact, it is expected to intensify in 2022, with consumers wanting a lot more out of less, with the less referring to portion size, which is part of their effort to decrease food waste. It’s their small way to assist with the future of our planet. 

“One of the biggest shifts we are seeing is that the health of the planet is now the top concern of consumers,” says Lu Ann Williams, global insights director, Innova Market Insights. “Personal health has been the big concern for the past few years, but consumers now tell us that this has been surpassed by global issues.”

A sense of joint responsibility for our shared planet is guiding the choices consumers make and the lifestyles they wish to lead. Innova’s consumer study, conducted across 11 countries, revealed that when it comes to food choices, the top-two environmental actions people are taking are reducing waste (43% of respondents) and eating in moderation (32%).

This is why they want an amplified eating and drinking experience. They want more from every bite or sip. They want to make the calories count and be enjoyed. Health, responsibility and the simple craving for pleasure will all combine in 2022. This includes delivering amplified and authentic eating experiences. Authenticity can include flavors rooted in history and culture as well as the way a particular product was grown, made or produced. 

Flavor trends for 2022 are all about getting used to “the new normal.” This includes making our lives more sustainable and capturing consumer interest through flavor.

Balchem recently conducted consumer research (September 2021, n=320 respondents) on attitudes and behaviors related to ice cream buying and consumption habits. One interesting finding is that “names matter.”

The research showed that name and descriptions of flavors have influence when buying ice cream. Two out of five (44%) respondents said the name of the ice cream is a key factor in deciding what to buy, with 43% saying the description of the flavor is also important. Additionally, 23% said they buy certain flavors based on their current mood.

Photo source: Rachel Vanni/Mochidoki

When asked what factor is considered when buying ice cream, 55% said they will buy a flavor they would love themselves. When asked, 36% would buy something they think their family would love and only 15% said they would buy a flavor their kids would love. 

Balchem has identified a number of flavor trends for 2022 and beyond. One of them is “What’s Old Is New Again” and another is “Whimsical and Nostalgic.” This includes retro flavors and descriptors that focus on providing a pleasurable experience, and are the counter to another trend of being “Wellness Inspired.” 

The trend of “Global and Provenance” is fueling innovation in the mochi space, the hand-held Asian-inspired ice cream treat that provides an authentic, amplified eating experience, often times for under 100 calories. 

Mochidoki, for example, is a New York City mochi ice cream company that just opened its second brick-and-mortar location on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The new shop is all about providing consumers more of what they are looking for when going out for ice cream. It features family-friendly, zen garden-inspired outdoor seating and a whimsical, location-exclusive new flavor (Everything Bagel), as well as seasonal tea and mochi pairings. 

Mochidoki’s ingredient-driven ethos has amassed a loyal national following, and the brand has become the preferred mochi ice cream provider to top restaurant and hospitality groups nationwide, from Nobu and Tao to Wynn Resorts and Blue Ribbon. 

The Everything Bagel features cream cheese ice cream wrapped in light, chewy mochi, flavored with everything bagel spices, including garlic, salt, sesame and poppy seeds. It joins other famed flavors, including Red Bean with chopped azuki red beans, Black Honey Walnut with kuromitsu (Japanese molasses), Salted Caramel with cracked caramel candy and Matcha made with organic, premium matcha. 

To review more findings from the research and other flavor trends, link HERE

Real California Milk Excelerator

Sweet treats with functional benefits took home the four finalist spots in the Real California Milk Excelerator product innovation competition created by the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) and VenureFuel. The finalists tap into the nutritional and flavor profiles of milk and dairy ingredients to deliver performance and recovery benefits in 
products consumers crave.

All four finalists complement one or more of Balchem’s trends for 2022. 

The finalists are:

Nightfood: Uniquely formulated by sleep experts and nutritionists, Nightfood ice cream delivers great taste for those nighttime cravings and a sleep-friend nutritional profile to help promote quality sleep.

ReThink Ice Cream: Low sugar, stomach and diabetic-friendly ice cream that is infused with fiber and sourced from lactose-free A2 dairy, ReThink Ice Cream is a decadent source of natural nutrition.

Sweetkiwi: Founded by a McKinsey 2021 Black Executive Leader and certified cultured dairy professional, Sweetkiwi makes whipped Greek yogurt that is low in calories and high in nutrition. The pints are under 320 calories and formulated with fiber, protein and probiotics for better gut health with fewer calories.

Wonder Monday Snacks: A 2020 RCM Snackcelerator finalist, the company returns with a new protein keto cheesecake snack bar with 10 grams of clean protein to indulgently refuel.
The final, live competition takes place on November 18 at 5:00pm PST. The finalists will compete for $150,000 in marketing support to bring their visions to market, with a runner-up receiving $100,000 towards the same goal. Registration for the event is available HERE

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Good-bye Plant Based, Hello Personalized Nutrition


The concept of personalized nutrition started to gain mainstream momentum before the pandemic, and then, well, things changed. It’s not a new concept. Scientists have been actively talking about it since the turn-of-the-century, some progressive players even before that. 

Personalized nutrition is about adapting food to individual needs. We know consumers react differently to diet—just think of the body’s response to something as simple as lactose—but there’s more to it than the overt signs. Genetic makeup, lifestyle and environment have an impact on long-term health and wellness. 

“While there are food products available that address requirements or preferences of specific consumer groups, these products are based on empirical consumer science rather than on nutrigenomics and nutrigenetics. The latter two build the science foundation for understanding human variability in preferences, requirements and responses to diet, and may become the future tools for consumer assessment motivated by personalized nutritional counseling for health maintenance and disease prevention,”  according to a 2008 article in Medscape. You can read it HERE

“Personalized nutrition is an approach that provides targeted nutritional advice to an individual based on information specific to that person,” said Jos Ordovs, PhD, director of the Nutrition and Genomics Laboratory and a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, in the March 8, 2019, Tuft’s University Health & Nutrition Letter. “Advances in science will increase the odds that a particular dietary pattern is successful for a particular individual.” You can read more HERE.

Food Technology provides an excellent review of the pros and cons of personalized nutrition. You can read it HERE

All of these articles were published pre-pandemic. The concept was put on hold by many as plant-based and sustainability started dominating the food and nutrition conversation. That is expected to change, sooner than later. And it’s time to get on board. 

In fact, this week at SupplySide West in Las Vegas, some degree of personalized nutrition was highlighted by most ingredient suppliers. Have it be a nutrition bar designed for kids, a soup for the elderly or an ice cream bar for expecting women, innovation in this space is on the path to accelerate fast.    

“Personalized nutrition is expected to be the next disrupter after plant-based meat,” said Michael Gusko, global director of innovation, GoodMills Group, at the NEWTRITION X. Innovation Summit 2021 held in conjunction with Anuga in Cologne, Germany, on October 12, 2021. “It’s all about consumers taking control of their health.”

Mariëtte Abrahams, moderator of the event, and personalized nutrition business consultant and founder of Qina, said, “Personalized nutrition has experienced unprecedented growth over the last year.” 

Nestle Research estimates the market will be worth $1.3 billion in 2025 and $64 billion by 2040. This growth is being fueled by researchers such as Gusko and Abrahams who are enthusiastic about focusing on disease prevention and helping individuals to improve their health through data and knowledge.

Photo source: BENEO

“The current nutrition paradigm is based on one-size-fits-all nutrition recommendations: eat more wholegrain, fruits and vegetables; eat less processed foods, fat, salt, sugars and red meat,” said Gusko. “But based on new science, we move much closer to finding the true answer. Our food in the future will be much more personalized. Personalized food is an answer to global health issues such as obesity, diabetes and even cancer, and offers tremendous opportunities for businesses.”

He explained that there are four requirements to make the future of personalized food a reality. First, we need a deep understanding of the different factors that influence a person’s dietary needs. 

“A growing body of scientific work is finally starting to open the black box between diet and health,” said Gusko. “Research reveals large variations in blood sugar responses between people when participants ate the same test meals. The results explain why some people struggle to lose weight, even on calorie-controlled diets, and highlight the importance of understanding personal metabolism when it comes to diet and health.”

Understanding is one thing, but putting that knowledge to work is another. That’s where technology comes in. And as of right now, we are not as sophisticated as we need to be but we are on the right path. 

“We need technology to collect data, combine it with personal diet requirements and turn this into advice for a personalized diet,” said Gusko. “The increased availability of technology such as fitness trackers, continuous glucose monitoring sensors and the emergence of low-barrier blood, DNA and gut microbiome testing solutions, enable the assembly of the necessary personal data, while digital technology helps to create user-friendly apps to support food decisions.”

Third is functional foods. We are there, but many of us are using intuition to choose what foods are best for our body. The technology needs to catch up.  

“We need differentiated food offerings that take advantage of the new nutritional insights into the individual metabolism to create foods that influence metabolism much more than mainstream foods can,” said Gusko. “If we want to fully exploit the true potential of our food in a targeted manner, we must use the incredibly versatile biodiversity of nature, which can provide us with truly functional ingredients that push nutritional boundaries and have an eye-opening effect on personal health.”

The fourth and final requirement is the most important. It’s consumer acceptance. 

Photo source: BENEO
“Consumers need to be ready for the future of food,” said Gusko. “There is mounting evidence of consumer interest in products that are ‘tailored for me.’” 

A major global study undertaken by Leatherhead Food Research indicated that globally, more than three in 10 (32%) consumers said they wanted products to match their personal dietary and nutritional needs. This was as high as 44% in the Brazil sample and 46% in the China sample. UK consumers were the least positive at 17%. 

“This variability in demand demonstrates the need for companies to take a country-specific approach to address consumer needs,” said Gusko. “Choice fatigue is the flipside of the personalization trend. Brands need to consider that consumers may be both overwhelmed by the sheer number of possibilities as well as underwhelmed by the end results of their experimentations. For this reason, limiting choices within safe parameters, which still give consumers the feeling of control over their food and beverage choices while, at the same time, minimizing disappointment, is a commendable strategy.”

There’s a great deal of opportunity for dairy foods to be formulated for personalized nutrition. Carbohydrate, fat and protein selection are part of the equation. Vitamins and minerals, too. Taking it to the next level, natural ingredients with known benefits, such as botanicals, have a place in personalized nutrition. Many botanicals are described as adaptogens, as well as nootropics. The latter is a term with the Greek translation of “towards the mind” and refers to compounds that directly or indirectly influence cognitive brain function. Examples include ashwagandha, citicoline and green tea extract. 

Adaptogens, on the other hand, are a class of non-toxic herbs, mushrooms and minerals known to boost the immune system and help the body fight off the effects of stress. These plant-based compounds have been used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions. Ginseng, for example, is said to regulate the body’s response to physical or mental stress. 

Proper dosing is necessary for the consumer to reap any purported benefits. This makes single-serve dairy foods, such as a container of yogurt, an ice cream novelty or a milk-based beverage attractive delivery vehicles. One serving can promise a specified amount of the compound. 

“Demand for personalization is poised to be a major disruptor of the food and beverage sector,” concluded Gusko. “But it isn’t going to happen overnight. It will be an ongoing journey of innovation, education and assimilation. Companies that start now will be best placed to meet the heightened personalization demands of the future. What seems implausible today, will be tomorrow’s reality.”

Let’s make sure dairy is a leader in this space! 

Friday, October 22, 2021

Building Better Dairy Foods


As a degreed food scientist who focuses on dairy, it is frustrating to see the potential for dairy innovation in today’s marketplace, accompanied by the hesitancy of dairy processors to get out of their comfort zone. Before I delve into future-proofing dairy, I must share a link to an amazing article written by my colleague Monica Watrous at Food Business News. Link HERE to read “Stop marketing products as ‘guilt free.’” My favorite line: Guilt is not an ingredient.

The fact is that the pandemic has made consumers more aware of not only where food comes from, but also how it comes to be. As Monica writes, “Food choices are not a measure of one’s virtue. Cravings do not indicate weakness. Ordering a salad rather than a burger does not confer moral superiority. There are numerous ways to highlight a product’s potential health benefits, identifying measurable attributes consumers may care about, such as high-fiber, low-sugar or gluten-free.”

Those attributes are made possible by food science. Guilt is studied in the scientific field of psychology. 

“Even in this era of real and clean foods, there is global acceptance of science in the food supply,” according to HealthFocus International. “Consumers want more from their foods and beverages, and added nutrition and health benefits to a product through the use of unrecognizable ingredients is driving this broad acceptance.”

That’s right. The use of unrecognizable ingredients might just be acceptable, but what is key is likely explaining the science behind the ingredient, including where it comes from, what it does and why one should be consuming it. To build better dairy foods we need to better communicate the science. 

Attending SupplySide West/Food Ingredients North America? Visit Agropur at booth 1820. 

Research from HealthFocus International shows that 63% of consumers are willing to accept scientific and technical improvements to foods and beverages if they provide desirable benefits and 57% believe processed foods and beverages can be made healthier. 

The reality is that convenience often means processed, and convenience is not an attribute that most consumers can afford to discount in today’s hectic and uncertain world. I write this after media has been reporting on a recent study from Ohio State University showing that highly processed foods harm memory in the aging brain. (Brain, Behavior and Immunity, Volume 98, November 2021, pages 198-209)

Source: HealthFocus International

The study showed that four weeks on a diet of highly processed food led to a strong inflammatory response in the brains of aging rats that was accompanied by behavioral signs of memory loss. Researchers also found that supplementing the processed diet with the omega-3 fatty acid DHA prevented memory problems and reduced the inflammatory effects almost entirely in older rats. It’s this type of science that must be used and communicated to consumers. 

This past Saturday, October 16, 2021, was World Food Day, which carried the theme: Our actions are our future. Better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life. This highlights the economic, social and environmental dimensions of agri-food systems and recognizes that the ways we produce, prepare and store the food we eat everyday makes us an integral part of our food systems. However, most of our current food systems are unsustainable and contribute to environmental degradation and climate change.

Source: HealthFocus International

The Food and Agriculture Association (FAO) of the United Nations defines a sustainable food system as one that delivers food security and nutrition to all in such a way that the economic, social and environmental security of future generations is not compromised. This requires science. 

Science is that intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. It’s something that the pandemic has shown us to be something many folks do not believe in, especially in the U.S. (This is so disturbing. Please get vaccinated. I got my booster this past week and am ready to take on the world!)

HealthFocus’ research shows North Americans to be the least accepting of food science. We need to change this mindset. The research shows that consumers become more accepting of food science when the ingredient in question has been shown to have important health benefits and contributes to improved nutrition. This education might require baby steps, but now is the time to take a step back and start building better dairy foods, all while communicating the steps along the way to consumers. 

The first in-person U.S. ingredient exposition will take place this week in Las Vegas. Food science, and other scientific disciplines, will be alive and on display at the combined SupplySide West/Food Ingredients North America show. (Crazy keeps me sane, which is why I am taking only a day trip on Thursday to walk the expo for about six hours. Hope to see you there!) 

If you are attending, today’s blog sponsor, Agropur, will be showcasing science in action at booth 1820. One concept being sampled is a new low-calorie, fudge-flavored frozen dessert made with three Agropur whey protein ingredients. BiPRO 9500 whey protein isolate offers complete solubility and clean flavor. Processed by cold microfiltration, the ISO Chill 9000 whey protein isolate contains a full balance of undenatured bioactive whey proteins, while BioZate 8000, a hydrolyzed whey protein concentrate, offers rapid digestion and absorption and a creamy taste. The concept includes 1.8 grams of SlimBiome, a natural, patented functional food ingredient scientifically proven to promote digestive health and reduce food cravings though a feeling of fullness. Chromium and konjac gum are components of SlimBiome and help consumers maintain normal blood glucose levels.

There’s also a new snack shake concept at this year’s show. This low-calorie beverage includes Agropur’s ISO Chill 8000, a spray-dried whey protein concentrate, and ISO Chill 9000 whey protein isolate along with SlimBiome. One serving contains 100 calories, 15 grams of protein and 3 grams of SlimBiome. 

Other scientific news recently in the dairy world includes research showing that dairy fat might actually be good for heart health, contradicting years of other messaging. Published in the September 21, 2021, issue of PLOS Medicine, the study involved an international team of scientists who challenged the perception that full-fat dairy products should be avoided because of their high-saturated fat content. They investigated the dairy fat intake of 4,150 60-year-olds in Sweden--a country with one of the world’s highest levels of dairy production and consumption--by measuring blood levels of a specific fatty acid that is mainly found in ruminant foods, such as dairy foods, and that correlates with dairy fat consumption. Experts then followed the group for 16 years to observe how many had heart attacks, strokes and other serious circulatory issues. They did not find a higher blood level of this particular fatty acid to be linked with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease or with overall increased death. This observational study has an added benefit since it shows the use of fatty acid biomarkers. These biomarkers are thought to provide a more objective and precise measure of dairy fat intake compared to the use of food questionnaires.

The researchers confirmed these findings in other populations after combining the Swedish results with 17 other studies involving a total of almost 43,000 people from the U.S., Denmark and the U.K. 

“We found those with the highest levels actually had the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease,” said Matti Marklund, senior researcher at the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney and joint senior author of the paper, in a statement. “These relationships are highly interesting, but we need further studies to better understand the full health impact of dairy fats and dairy foods.

“Our study suggests that cutting down on dairy fat or avoiding dairy altogether might not be the best choice for heart health,” he said. “It is important to remember that although dairy foods can be rich in saturated fat, they are also rich in many other nutrients and can be a part of a healthy diet. However, other fats, like those found in seafood, nuts and non-tropical vegetable oils, [e.g., omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA] can have greater health benefits than dairy fats.”

Hmm, seems to me that DHA in dairy makes a lot of sense!  

The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) is on board to help dairy innovators use science and sensibility to future-proof the industry. The IDFA recently completed a pre-competitive strategic planning process led by IDFA members to determine the forces shaping the industry and to update IDFA’s strategic focus to prepare the industry to grow and thrive over the next decade. The IDFA Vision for the Future identified several possible, plausible scenarios that could positively and negatively impact the future of the dairy industry. Industry leaders then made strategic choices that will best position the industry to thrive in the long term while avoiding pitfalls that could hamper the industry’s potential.

“I applaud our IDFA members for spearheading the IDFA Vision for the Future planning process so that the dairy industry is better prepared than ever to chart our own path toward growth and success,” says Michael Dykes, president and CEO of IDFA. “Like other sectors within food and agriculture, the dairy industry has been and is undergoing rapid and substantial transformation driven by major forces of change and disruption, including consumer preferences and behaviors, retailer channel environment, global trade and political dynamics, regulation and science and technology. These forces are complex, interrelated and can be highly uncertain. I’m grateful to our IDFA members for taking this important initiative to better prepare the U.S. dairy industry for future challenges and opportunities.”

And the State of California is investing heavily in dairy foods innovation, back by science. 
The California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) announced this week the 12 entries in its Real California Milk Excelerator competition that will move into the semi-finals scheduled for this coming week. The virtual final competition takes place on November 18, and once again, I am honored to be a judge. 

The 2021 Real California Milk Excelerator taps into the thriving functional foods market, a market that has grown significantly over the past year and is projected to reach over $275 billion globally by 2025 and focused on early-stage, high-growth companies with a cow’s milk-based product that plays a critical role in personal performance and/or recovery.

“This is where it all comes together. Our finalists have honed their pitches and will be putting it all on the line to showcase how their products best integrate the natural ingredients, flavor and nutritional profile of milk and other dairy products to deliver a functional benefit to consumers,” says John Talbot, CEO of the CMAB. “We are excited to see any of these 12 innovative products make it to the final four.” 

Fred Schonenberg, founder of VentureFuel, a corporate innovation consultancy that partnered with CMAB to run the program, identified and recruited applicants from their global network of investors, founders and academics, says, “How do you determine if a startup has breakthrough growth potential? You look to see if retailers will shelve it, if consumers will buy it, if reporters will write on it and investors will invest in it. Each of our judges have unique vantage points on what’s next, that when combined, gives us a holistic view on what will succeed tomorrow.” 

The 12 semi-finalist applicants competing this week are: 
  • Alexandre Family Farms: fourth-generation California dairy farmers with functional brand extensions for liquid milk, powder and yogurt focused on properties for anti-anxiety and gut health.
  • Boba Guys: trendy tea brand Boba Guys, with 15 brick and mortar locations in California, is developing a bottled milk tea latte with key nutrients, vitamins and caffeine to optimize performance and recovery.
  • Churn: the pioneer of chef-crafted, health-conscious, flavor-driven grass-fed butter, Churn is bringing innovation and education to the dairy industry with flavored butters meant to empower elevated cooking at home and inspire the happiness that comes along with it.
  • Kefir Lab: Kefir Lab takes kefir and makes it more effective with organic milk cultured with 24 live and active potent protein strains for a bottled kefir that boosts immunity, metabolism and brain health. 
  • Nightfood: Nightfood ice cream delivers great taste for those nighttime cravings and a sleep-friend nutritional profile to help promote quality sleep. 
  • Positive Chemistry: a dissolving pouch that melts in the bath, releasing a bubbly, fizzing mixture of real milk and salts to promote recovery for skin, muscles and the soul. A hidden exfoliating sponge with a message of positivity is designed to float to the top of the bath.
  • Rizo Lopez Foods: award-winning and family-owned, Rizo Lopez utilizes Old World recipes and traditional techniques for their Ready2Go Whey products derived from a specially processed whey protein concentrate for a creamy, delicious and gut-healthy drink. 
  • ReThink Ice Cream: low-sugar, stomach and diabetic-friendly ice cream that is infused with fiber and sourced from lactose-free A2 dairy, ReThink Ice Cream is a decadent source of natural nutrition. 
  • Sweetkiwi: founded by a McKinsey 2021 Black Executive Leader and certified cultured dairy professional, Sweetkiwi makes whipped Greek yogurt that is low in calories and high in nutrition. Sweetkiwi pints are under 320 calories and formulated with fiber, protein and probiotics for better gut health with fewer calories. 
  • The Indian Milk & Honey Co.: sugar-free probiotic lassi with Ayurvedic immunity supporting herbs and spices, that also support mental clarity, in an environmentally friendly carton.
  • Top O’ the Morn Farms: A California-owned dairy farm with an expansive line of fresh products, Top O’ the Morn’s Cow-Pow chocolate milk is a clean-label, pre- or post-workout beverage fortified with whey protein isolate and natural caffeine. 
  • Wonder Monday: a 2020 RCM Snackcelerator finalist, Wonder Monday returns with a new protein keto cheesecake snack bar with 10 grams of clean protein to indulgently refuel.

  • Attending SupplySide West/Food Ingredients North America? Visit Agropur at booth 1820.