Friday, June 11, 2021

June is National Dairy Month: Seven Newsy Items to Power-Up Your Business as the World Opens Up


We’re almost half way through National Dairy Month, a recognition first bestowed to June in 1937 as National Milk Month that soon evolved into including all dairy foods. National Dairy Month functions as a marketing and promotions campaign for retailers, brands and farmers to encourage consumption of nutrient-rich dairy foods. 

This June has been full of interesting dairy news, and like I stated, we are not even half way through it. Here are seven newsy items you will want to catch up on. 

1. Is it time to reevaluate organic dairy production standards? An article published in the May 2021 issue of Journal of Food Science, and made available to me last week, suggests it may be time to change the rules governing the use of antibiotics in organic livestock. Read more in an article I wrote for Food Business News HERE.

2. The FDA has amended the standard of identity for yogurt. On June 9, FDA issued a final rule to amend and modernize the standard of identity for yogurt by allowing for greater flexibilities and technological advances in yogurt production. This is something that has been long overdue. It’s nice to see FDA back in action. (The industry has been waiting for this for more than a decade!) This initiative is part of FDA’s Nutrition Innovation Strategy, which has as one of its goals to modernize food standards to maintain the basic nature and nutritional integrity of products while allowing industry flexibility for innovation to produce more healthful foods. 

Currently, FDA has separate standards of identity for yogurt, low-fat yogurt and nonfat yogurt. Under the final rule, low-fat yogurt and nonfat yogurt will be covered under FDA’s general definition and standard of identity, which allows nutritionally modified versions of traditional standardized foods. The final rule expands the allowable ingredients in yogurt, including sweeteners and reconstituted forms of basic dairy ingredients. It establishes a minimum amount of live and active cultures yogurt it must contain in order to bear the optional labeling statement “contains live and active cultures” or similar statement. Additionally, the final rule supports the many innovations that have already been made in the yogurt marketplace, including continuing to allow manufacturers to fortify yogurts, such as adding vitamins A and D, as long as they meet fortification requirements. The rule also allows various styles or textures of yogurt as long as they meet the requirements in the standard of identity. The compliance date of this final rule is January 1, 2024. For more information, link HERE.

Photo source: Dairy Management Inc.

3. The USDA rolls out the Build Back Better initiative. The USDA is back in action, too. Thanks Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. 

Citing lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and recent supply chain disruptions, on June 8, the USDA announced plans to invest more than $4 billion to strengthen critical supply chains through the Build Back Better initiative. The new effort will strengthen the food system, create new market opportunities, tackle the climate crisis, help communities that have been left behind and support good-paying jobs throughout the supply chain. Today’s announcement supports the Biden Administration’s broader work on strengthening the resilience of critical supply chains as directed by Executive Order 14017 America’s Supply Chains. Funding is provided by the American Rescue Plan Act and earlier pandemic assistance such as the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

“The COVID-19 pandemic led to massive disruption for growers and food workers. It exposed a food system that was rigid, consolidated and fragile. Meanwhile, those growing, processing and preparing our food are earning less each year in a system that rewards size over all else,” said Vilsack. “The Build Back Better initiative will make meaningful investments to build a food system that is more resilient against shocks, delivers greater value to growers and workers, and offers consumers an affordable selection of healthy food produced and sourced locally and regionally by farmers and processors from diverse backgrounds. I am confident USDA’s investments will spur billions more in leveraged funding from the private sector and others as this initiative gains traction across the country. I look forward to getting to work as co-chair of the new Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force and help to mobilize a whole-of-government effort to address the short-term supply challenges our country faces as it recovers.” To read more, link HERE.

4. The USDA is also focusing on food security for all Americas. Vilsack is on a roll. (Thank you!) A week earlier, when he first announced the Build Back Better initiative, he shared USDA’s plans to purchase healthy food for food-insecure Americans and build food bank capacity. This $1 billion brings the total amount dedicated to food bank efforts to more than $5 billion.

“Hunger is on the decline thanks to aggressive action by the Biden-Harris Administration, but we must do more to improve partnerships and infrastructure that power emergency food distribution to ensure the food provided is nutritious and supports a better food system,” said Vilsack. “Now is the time to apply lessons learned from food assistance activities early in the pandemic to improve how USDA purchases food and supports on-the-ground organizations with The Emergency Food Assistance Program. We will put special emphasis on reaching rural, remote and underserved communities, local and regional food systems, and socially disadvantaged farmers.”

As someone who volunteers regularly at a food bank in Chicago, I am especially grateful for the up to $100 million being dedicated to infrastructure grants to build capacity for food banks. This is a lot about refrigeration storage. The food bank hub where I volunteer—where donations and purchased food comes in and volunteers separate and then distribute to outreach facilities—has very limited refrigerated space for, you guessed it, all things dairy. Imagine my struggle with this fact. Looking forward to positive change. To read more, link HERE.

5. Innova data affirms that whey and milk proteins shatter new product launch records in 2020. That’s right, on June 1—World Milk Day--The U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) shared data from Innova Market Insight’s Database showing an upward growth trajectory in the number of new global food and beverage product introductions made with whey proteins and with milk proteins. A record 7,409 whey protein products were introduced around the world in 2020, with annual launches nearly doubling from 2015. This represents a double-digit (13.9%) compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2015 to 2020, demonstrating that food formulators are tapping into these nutritional and functional ingredients to fuel innovations that deliver on consumer desires. 

Milk protein product launches also smashed prior year records, reaching 9,413 products in 2020, a 3.7% CAGR from 2015 to 2020. Aggregated dairy protein product introductions outpaced plant proteins in 2020 by over 3,000 products (17,652 dairy proteins and 14,584 plant proteins), maintaining a consistent lead held for the past decade. 

“This impressive growth in whey, milk and dairy protein introductions aligns with other Innova Market Insights’ survey data showing strong consumer demand for proteins from both animal and plant based sources,” said Lu Ann Williams, global insights director at Innova Market Insights. “Innovation potential remains bright across global markets and diverse product categories for these versatile ingredients from cow’s milk, offering formulators the sweet spot of nutritionally high-quality proteins that complement today’s plant forward lifestyles.”  Photo source: Dutch Farms

Kristi Saitama, vice president, global ingredients marketing for USDEC, said, “Consumer interest in protein for health is no longer just in Western markets where the protein trend started but is gaining momentum and driving new product introductions around the world. Launch activity is likely to accelerate in coming years as manufacturers in Asian, Latin American, Middle Eastern and African countries further discover and seek out whey and milk protein’s powerhouse nutritional package to develop local-friendly products supporting consumer health and wellness goals, such as fitness, weight management and healthy aging.”  For more information, link HERE.

6. There’s a new guide out to assist marketers with making cheese relevant for generations of snackers. Snacking has become a way of life. For some, snacks are mini meals, as the consumer is mindful of nutritional value. For others, the snack may be a treat, an indulgence or a quick boost of energy. Cheese is all of this and more. To learn more, link HERE.

7. And lucky #7, a recent survey shows that Americans love dairy. The International Food Information Council (IFIC) conducted an online survey April 1 to 6, 2021, which included 1,014 adults ages 18 to 80 who consume dairy at least a few times a year. The results were weighted to ensure proportional results. The research was supported by the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA). 

The results showed that despite the ever-growing options available for dairy alternatives, dairy itself remains overwhelmingly popular among dairy consumers. According to the findings, nearly three-quarters (72%) of adults who consume dairy foods or beverages do so several times a week, compared to about one-quarter (28%) who say the same of nondairy alternatives like nut-, oat- or soy-based milk, ice cream, yogurt or cheese.  

Older adults have the strongest preference for dairy compared to other age groups, with four in five (80%) of those age 55+ saying they consume dairy foods or beverages multiple times per week, compared to two-thirds (67%) of 18- to 34-year-olds and 73% of those ages 35 to 54. Conversely, only 10% of adults age 55+ consume plant-based alternatives multiple times a week, compared to about one-third of younger people (34% of those ages 18 to 34 and 31% of those 35 to 54). Half of adults age 55+ say they never consume nondairy alternatives, standing in stark contrast to just under 8% of 18-34-year-olds who say the same. 

When the results are broken down by specific foods, Americans prefer cheese made from dairy over plant-based versions. (This is no surprise!) About three-quarters (74%) said they always choose the dairy version of cheese, while 20% sometimes choose nondairy. Photo source: Dutch Farms

Comparing other products, 68% always choose the dairy version of butter, while 23% sometimes choose nondairy; 66% always choose the dairy version of ice cream, while 26% sometimes choose nondairy; 64% always choose the dairy version of milk, while 26% sometimes choose nondairy; 62% always choose the dairy version of yogurt, while 22% sometimes choose nondairy; and 45% always choose the dairy version of yogurt-based smoothies or drinks, while 27% sometimes choose nondairy. Women are significantly more likely than men to sometimes choose both dairy and plant-based versions of milk (29% of women vs. 23% of men), though overall product preferences are mostly similar by gender. For more information on the survey, link HERE

Friday, June 4, 2021

Dairy Foods Innovation 2021: Ten-Plus Ice Cream Brands that Provide Inspiration for Innovation


Photo source: Milk Cult

While it’s not officially summer, for many readers of today’s blog, it’s time to get outside and enjoy the sunshine and mask-free fresh air. Once again, the marketplace is changing and marketers are pivoting to adjust. To help maintain the momentum of retail sales’ gains during the pandemic, brands are getting creative with formulations, marketing and messaging. This is very apparent in ice cream, with the retail freezer a hot spot in the supermarket.  

Shoppers are increasingly choosing to grocery shop inside the store as COVID-19 concerns abate, according to the April IRI survey among primary grocery shoppers. Additionally, shoppers are spending more time in the store, which once again makes it paramount that your product gets their attention. 

“Consumers who have been vaccinated are more likely to do all shopping in-store and are the ones driving the more relaxed in-store mindset,” says Anne-Marie Roerink, president, 210 Analytics. “This points to potentially ongoing shifts back to pre-pandemic behaviors as more people get vaccinated. As retail demand continues to be elevated, some categories squeezed out gains over 2020 whereas others fell short of matching the 2020 records.”

210 Analytics, IRI and the American Frozen Food Institute partnered to understand how the frozen food department fared relative to their 2020 and 2019 performances. Data show that with the exception of prepared vegetables, all areas tracked ahead of the 2019 pre-pandemic sales levels. Not surprisingly, however, is that 2021 vs. 2020 numbers are down, as more consumers venture out to eat and treat themselves. Still, retail ice cream sales were up 6.8% in April 2021, as compared to the 52 weeks ended April 30, 2019. Only two areas, frozen novelties and desserts, grew dollar sales in April 2021 versus year ago levels. And impressively, frozen novelty sales were up 31% in April 2021 as compared to the 52 weeks ended April 30, 2019.

Frozen novelties are booming thanks to the constant innovation taking place in this space. Formulators are prioritizing texture differentiators, along with pushing the envelope on flavor exploration. 

Source: IRI, courtesy of 210 Analytics 

Milk Cult, a Washington, D.C.-based ice cream company, has rolled out four handcrafted, made-from-scratch frozen novelties. There are two sandwiches: vanilla ice cream with chocolate chip cookies and vegan avocado with chocolate wafers. 

Photo source: Milk Cult

“We reworked our own version of the public school cafeteria lunch cookie and paired it with a custard base French vanilla ice cream. Except the cookie had to be soft when frozen, with natural ingredients, and salty as hell,” according to the company. 

There are also two Dippy Boys novelties: vanilla ice cream with a chocolate shell and potato chips (opening image) and vegan Makrut lime in a candy shell and crispy rice.

The inspiration for the flavor profiles came from collaborations with a few of D.C’s Michelin-starred restaurants and James Beard award-winning chefs. 

“It’s taken eight years and a lot of trial and error to hone in on the four distinct flavors for our ice cream novelties,” says Ed Cornell, co-founder and co-owner of Milk Cult. “We put attention into every detail and step of production from the flavor profiles to the selection of ingredients, the assembly process and resulting texture.”

Founded in 2013 in Washington D.C., by two friends turned co-founders, Milk Cult began as a mobile vending ice cream company. The duo noticed the ice cream food category lacked innovation from the natural food perspective. Since then, Milk Cult has grown through local grocery channels and was met with intense consumer demand. 

“Consumers are smart and can tell when something is hand-crafted, yet there was a lack of options and choices in ice cream novelties,” says Pat Griffith, Milk Cult co-founder. “It was a space where we thought better products could be made, and we wanted to build something from scratch. We were always intentional about the product.”

The concept of providing unexpected textures in ice cream really started to resonate with U.S. consumers when mochi went mainstream. Today there are a number of mochi brands in the frozen novelty space, all of which continue to innovate with flavors. 

My/Mochi, for example, is expanding its portfolio with three new globally inspired flavors that include the brand’s signature chewy, sweet rice dough shell. Flavors are: Coconut, Guava and Horchata.

Chewy textured ice cream is not unique to mochi. Brown Sugar Boba Ice Milk Bar from Taiwanese Company I-Mei Foods was available in Costco this past spring. Boba, also known as bubble tea, is an Asian beverage that combines milk-based tea with chewy tapioca pearls. The multi-textured novelty mimics the real deal through creative use of ingredients, including milk powder, coconut oil and a range of stabilizers to mimic the tapioca pearl eating experience.

Turkish ice cream, known as dondurma, is known for its unique texture. The slightly stretchy, chewy texture helps with savoring the flavors a bit longer, as dondurma does not melt in the mouth as quickly as other types of frozen dairy desserts. In fact, sometimes it is served like a slice of cake: on a plate with a knife and a fork.  

Gallivant Mawa Ice Cream has been named one of five finalists in the ice cream/frozen dessert category in the World Dairy Innovation Awards 2021. Mawa ice cream is made with milk and mawa, which are South Asian milk solids. Mawa is prepared by slow cooking full-fat milk for many hours, reducing it to one-fifth its volume by removing moisture. The solids have rich, silky caramelized notes, which when used in the manufacture of ice cream, results in a “creamier than gelato” frozen dessert, according to Snehee Chaplot, founder and CEO.

Chaplot created nine flavors of Gallivant Mawa Ice Cream for the initial rollout. They are: African Chocolate, Chinese Black Sesame, Guatemalan Cardamom, Indian Mango, Japanese Matcha, Madagascar Vanilla, Persian Pistachio, Thai Coconut and Vietnamese Coffee.

Another finalist in the competition is N!cks Ice Cream, which is described as Swedish-style ice cream that is so creamy, so light and so Swedish. Swedish-style is low-fat, low-calorie and keto-friendly, as the product contains no added sugars. The brand’s unique formulation—including sweeteners, fibers and texturants—results in a creamy mouthfeel that compares to mainstream ice cream, according to the company. The brand further differentiates with many of its flavors, such as Swedish Lemon Bar, which is cheesecake ice cream with a ribbon of lemon puree. (This product line will be featured next week as a Daily Dose of Dairy.)

“In North America, we continue to target new business in attractive subcategories. One subcategory is low-net carbohydrate ice cream,” said Nick Hampton, executive director and CEO, Tate & Lyle plc, at the company’s Full Year 2021 Earnings Presentation on May 27, 2021. “Last year, we started discussions with a customer who wanted to reformulate their low net-carb ice cream to use an alternative fiber and improve its mouthfeel. Using our prototype pantry approach, we created several ice cream variations to optimize the formula and meet our customers’ requirements.”

The system includes a blend of stabilizers, allulose, soluble corn fiber and monk fruit extract. 

Well Enterprises embraces the concept of multiple textures and flavors in its Blue Bunny Load’d brand. The brand commenced in 2018 with Load’d Sundae Cups, followed by Load’d Cones in 2020 and now Load’d Bars. 

The bars are described as having “two times the mix-ins” and are loaded with “ooey-gooey” swirls and pieces in every bite. The five varieties:

Bunny Tracks: vanilla frozen dairy dessert filled with caramel swirls and chocolate-flavored peanut butter bunnies topped with caramel sauce dipped in milk chocolate-flavored coating and peanuts.

Cookie Dough: cookie dough frozen dairy dessert filled with chocolate fudge swirls and cookie dough pieces topped with fudge sauce dipped in milk chocolate-flavored coating and cookie crunch.

Salted Caramel: salted caramel frozen dairy dessert filled with salted caramel swirls and salted caramel bunnies topped with caramel sauce dipped in milk chocolate-flavored coating and cookie crunch.

Strawberry Shortcake: strawberry-flavored frozen dairy dessert filled with strawberry swirls and shortcake pieces topped with strawberry sauce dipped in whipped cream-flavored coating and shortbread crunch.

Super Fudge Brownie: chocolate frozen dairy dessert filled with chocolate fudge swirls and brownies topped with fudge sauce dipped in milk chocolate-flavored coating and chocolate cookie crunch.

The brand continues to grow the cups and cones lines, too. For example, there’s new Load’d Sundae Caramel Fudge Brownie Cup, which is vanilla-flavored frozen dairy dessert, fudge brownie and caramel swirls, fudge brownie pieces, fudge chunks and caramel-filled bunnies.

When Unilever decided to expand the Klondike brand from square chocolate-covered frozen dairy dessert treats into cone novelties, the company knew it had to stand out among others in this space. How? By providing multiple textures in one product. New Klondike Cones feature a distinctive swirled-shape top with sauce that travels throughout the entire center of the crispy cone. It includes flavorful toppings and a chocolate cone tip. Varieties are: Classic Chocolate and Nuts for Vanilla, Double Down Chocolate and Classic Chocolate, and Unicorn Dreamin’ and Vanilla Chillin’. Unicorn is a green cone filled with strawberry and bubblegum frozen dairy dessert, strawberry sauce core, and chocolatey coating.

Award-winning chef Christina Tosi has long appreciated the ability to manipulate texture and offer innovative flavors in the ice cream she developed for Milk Bar, the rule-breaking dessert company she founded and operated through stores mainly in New York City. Of course, the pandemic required that she pivot her business and now four of her ice creams flavors are available in retail pints.  

Like novelty cups, pints present a package size that readily accommodates lots of inclusions along with unique textures, as compared to larger multi-serve containers that may get too messy when overwhelmed with extras that impact the frozen state.   

Milk Bar’s Birthday Cake is birthday cake-flavored ice cream, birthday cake crumbs and ribbons of birthday frosting. The Cereal Milk ice cream base tastes like the bottom of the cereal bowl with some extras in the form of a salty-sweet cornflake crunch. Cornflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow is an ode to the Milk Bar’s bestselling cookie. It combines cornflake crunch, chocolate chunks and gooey marshmallow swirls throughout a cookie dough ice cream. Lastly, there’s Milk Bar Pie. This is vanilla ice cream with swirls of a gooey butter filling and toasted oat crumble.

“I have dreamed about bringing Milk Bar to the freezer section (the holy grail of the supermarket in my opinion) for nearly a decade. I knew coming in now, we’d need to do more than bend pieces of our finished treats into an ice cream pint. So we toiled and tinkered, taking our favorite flavor profiles and imagining them through ice cream bases, swirls, gobs, fudges, frostings, crumbs and crunches to create our proudest on-shelf creation yet,” says Tosi. “Our ice creams are meant for the unapologetically indulgent moments and mean serious business, no two are alike. Whether we already have a place in your heart or you’re looking for even more joy and spirit in your ice cream bowl, we got you!”

Chef-inspired ice cream at retail has always been a niche, but the pandemic inspired many culinary professionals to package their product for the masses. This is no easy feat, as hand-crafted ice cream sold on premise is easier to manage for quality than packaged pints going through the supply chain where they may encounter temperature abuse multiple times during distribution. 

That’s something Tosi and others have learned during the scaling process. What works in foodservice may not work for retail. 

Until the pandemic, Chef Liz Rogers only sold her homemade Creamalicious Ice Cream online and at her Southern-style restaurant, Wing Champ, in Sharonville, Ohio, just outside Cincinnati. She prides herself on being truly innovative with her whimsical two-in-one desserts that pair fresh-baked pastries with homemade ice creams. As you can imagine, these unique textures require extra care.

Chef Liz crafts her Southern artisan desserts by celebrating her roots and community. The award-winning flavors are inspired by her family’s recipes and have been passed down four generations. Varieties are: Banana Pudding, Gigi’s Sweet Potato Pie, Mama Poonie’s 3 Layer Caramel Cake, Pecan Pie, Pineapple Upside Down Cake, Porch Light Peach Cobbler and Red Velvet Cheesecake.

The Ben & Jerry’s and Häagen-Dazs brands have long emphasized the multi-texture, varied inclusion ice cream experience. The brands both continue to innovate. Earlier this year, for example, Häagen-Dazs Duo rolled out to the U.K. marketplace. The two-in-one format combines complementary yet contrasting flavors and textures of ice cream in one container. The concept debuted in three varieties. They are: Belgian Chocolate & Strawberry, Belgian Chocolate & Vanilla Crunch, and Dark Chocolate & Salted Caramel Crunch. These novel ice cream products were created in response to the growing consumer demand for interesting eating experiences.

Staying relevant to consumers in a discretionary category such as ice cream and frozen novelties will require innovation. Delivering unique eating experiences is one way to get there. 

It’s time to grab me a scoop!