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. 

No comments:

Post a Comment