Thursday, January 27, 2022

Ten Take-Aways from Dairy Forum 2022…for personal, professional and industry growth.

 It was wonderful to see so many of you at Dairy Forum 2022 to learn what is NEW, NOW and NEXT for dairy. This year’s program was all about reconnecting, inspiring and sharing knowledge and insights to push our industry forward toward bigger and better things. 

I attended many sessions and am sharing 10 messages I collected that resonated with me. I hope they positively impact you personally and professionally. 

1. The United States is poised to become the world’s dominant supplier of dairy products. This is possible because of all of us, according to Michael Dykes, president and CEO, International Dairy Foods Association.

“We are leading on sustainability, health and wellness, technology and innovation, attracting and retaining the best workforce, and growing our markets in the United States and abroad,” said Michael Dykes, president and CEO, International Dairy Foods Association. “While serious headwinds continue, the outlook for our industry is bright, thanks to your ability to embrace innovation, invest in growth and remain unified.” 

Hear Dykes’ big take-aways on the U.S. dairy industry in a 7-minute video HERE.

2. Our industry’s products are as varied as the consumer’s tastes and those tastes are changing rapidly, according to Christina Adams, partner, McKinsey & Company. It is a good time to take items out of your portfolio. Simplify it, then focus on innovation and put in new products. 

3. Trends are stupid and too late, according to Keith Schroeder, CEO, High Road Craft Ice Cream Inc. Most dairy industry business models are broken, as they focus on the commodity side of things and this fails to attract disruptive top talent to innovate. 

4. Millennials don’t want to be a head count. They want their head to count, according to Jim Donald, chairman of Albertson’s and former CEO of Starbucks, Pathmark Supermarkets and Extended Stay Hotels. Make them feel valued and provide them a sense of belonging. 

5. About 75% of millennials use social and environmental commitments to decide where they want to work, according to Ludovic Meilhac, partner, McKinsey & Company. 

6. Diversity is when you have more than one person in the room. Inclusion is the condition where “insider-ness” is maximized and “outsider-ness” is minimized. Inclusion is not the absence of exclusion; it is the intentional and deliberate acts undertaken to ensure others have a sense of belonging, according to Steve Robbins, diversity, inclusion and cultural competency expert. 

7. To be a modern food brand, you have to meet consumers where they are. You want to show up every day, according to Tressie Lieberman, vice president of digital and off-premise at Chipotle. Make the consumer feel known and valued. “Win today (the sale) and create the future.”

8. It’s time to focus on the future of food, not the past, according to Yin Woon Rani, CEO, Milk Processor Education Program.

9. If consumers are willing to change, they expect you (the industry) to change, according to Ludovic Meilhac, partner, McKinsey & Company.

10. Anything is possible, just count 5-4-3-2-1, according to Mel Robbins, expert on leadership and defeating doubt, award-winning CNN commentator and best-selling author. Her “5 Second Rule” helps to get you out of the place between knowledge and action, which she calls the “knowledge-action” gap. It’s the place where you know what to do but can’t seem to make yourself do it.

You can learn more by watching her 45-minute Ted Talks. Here’s the LINK.

Together we can discover what is NEW, highlight what is NOW and co-create what is NEXT for dairy!

Thursday, January 20, 2022


Growing interest in immune health is forecast to continue to grow, according to the International Food Information Council’s online surveys completed November 4 to 9 (n=1000) and December 2 to 6, 2021 (n=1000). More than half (57%) of respondents expressed interest in foods or beverages that support immune health. 

Dairy foods have long been a player in this space with probiotics in cultured dairy foods, with or without vitamin D fortification. It’s time to make sure you are adding these beneficial bacteria to everything from yogurt to kefir to cottage cheese. This includes frozen variations, as well plant-based alternatives.  

Probiotics has become a familiar term to many since the pandemic. Awareness of their immune benefits is rising and companies are exploring ways to differentiate in the competitive market. This might be through the inclusion of other recognized immunity-boosting ingredients or prebiotic fiber. Maybe it’s the inclusion of botanicals or nootropics. 

The global probiotics market size was estimated at $54.8 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 7.2% from 2021 to 2028, to a valuation of $95.3 billion, according to Grandview Research. It is driven by the growing consumer inclination towards preventive healthcare in conjunction with the development of efficient probiotic strains. 

Probiotics, when consumed in adequate amounts, have desirable effects on the body, such as improved gut health and reduced intestinal inflammation. Probiotics play a great role in preventive healthcare as they prevent the occurrence of diseases by strengthening the immune system. Thus, rising awareness regarding preventive healthcare is expected to boost the market growth over the forecast period, reports Grandview Research in “Probiotics Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Product (Food & Beverages, Dietary Supplements), By Ingredient (Bacteria, Yeast), By End Use (Human, Animal), By Distribution Channel, And Segment Forecasts, 2021 – 2028,” which was published in August 2021. 

“The market in the U.S. is characterized by the presence of demographic-specific probiotics, such as for geriatrics and genders. These niche markets have offered regional players the chance to adopt different strategies to enhance their product portfolio and maximize their resources. Excessive demand for probiotic-based food and beverage products as well as dietary supplements is expected to drive the U.S. market over the next few years,” according to the report. 

The human probiotics segment led the global market in 2020 with a revenue share of more than 91%, according to Grandview Research. On the basis of end use, the market has been broadly classified into human and animal probiotics. Technological advancements with respect to human-grade probiotics have broadened the scope of the products fit for human consumption. This is in reaction to the integration of novel food-grade ingredients in juices and other non-milk-based applications by prominent market players. 

Probiotics are a great way to keep consumers focused on dairy, where, despite all the marketplace challenges since the onset of the pandemic, demand has only kept growing. Per-capita dairy consumption in the U.S. is at the highest levels since 1960. Exports in 2021 are on pace for a record, too, reports the National Milk Producers Federation. 

Retail sales figures from 2020 are now available from IRI. The data show that 2020’s gains in grocery-store purchases weren’t just a rechanneling of lost school and restaurant business toward at-home consumption. By comparing 2021 with 2019, we can see that dairy’s gains are built to last.

Retail fluid milk may have declined when compared to 2019, but this is attributed to consumers shifting toward dairy in other forms. Plus, don’t forget, kids are back in school and getting their daily dose of milk in the classroom. And, fast-food kids’ meals are back in style for quick meals between activities. Milk makes them better.

Did you know that my wonderful state of Illinois is helping kids get the nutrient-dense milk they need when they are eating out? Governor J.B. Pritzker signed House Bill 3490 into law on Dec. 10, 2021. It states that if a restaurant includes milk as a beverage in a kids’ meal, the drink must be dairy milk and contain no more than 130 calories per container or serving. 

The National Milk Producers Federation said that even though retail fluid milk sales are down compared to the 2019, there still are some bright spots. Because grocery-store milk prices have increased, actual fluid-milk revenues rose nearly $900 million over the past two years. That’s actually a bigger gain than plant-based beverages, which saw sales of their more-expensive products rise only $513 million.

Further, fluid’s decline wasn’t uniform across all categories. Whole milk consumption increased 0.5% over the past two years and is now well-established as the most popular variety of conventional milk, showing that fluid milk is more popular when it tastes more like milk. Just think of the potential if probiotics were included!

Hope to see many of you at Dairy Forum 2022 this week. 

Friday, January 14, 2022

The Year of Keto Claims


The Fresh Thyme Market near my gym recently placed “keto friendly” shelf tags throughout the store to help consumers identify foods compliant with the keto dietary lifestyle. They can be found by creamers, cheese and eggs, among other products. 

While keto is not legally defined, most keto dietary plans suggest consuming less than 30 grams of net carbohydrates per day. To put that in perspective, a two-thirds cup serving of traditional vanilla ice cream contains about 25 grams of net carbs.  

So what are net carbohydrates and why keep them low? Like keto, the measurement of net carbs is also not legally defined. The industry-accepted definition is a measure of the carbohydrates that the body digests, in other words, caloric carbohydrates. This is everything from wheat flour to honey, as well as the sugars naturally found in milk, fruits and vegetables. Grams of net carbs are calculated by subtracting grams of fibers and sugar alcohols from total grams of carbohydrates.

With sugar reduction fueling the health and wellness trend, along with fats no longer the enemy and protein the shining star, a keto-friendly label helps consumers choose foods that they believe are heathier for them. 

“During the pandemic, many consumers changed their diet to keto for better health or shedding excess pounds,” according to the “Keto and Paleo Consumers: High Protein/Low Carb Diet Trends and Opportunities” report from Packaged Facts. The November 2021 report states that 5% of consumers follow the keto diet always or almost always and that there is broad consumer interest for occasional usage of keto-friendly foods. 

Based on the number of new keto-friendly product announcements I’ve received in the past month, marketers have taken note about the opportunities to better target those with occasional interest. Retailers such as Fresh Thyme Market are embracing this opportunity, too.  

The keto diet mandates very-low carbohydrate intake, high fat and adequate protein content. It forces the body to burn fat by making carbohydrates scarce. It’s about 70% fat, 20% protein, and 5% each simple carbohydrates and non-starchy vegetables. 

Medical doctors started using a high-fat, moderate-protein and very-low-carbohydrate diet to control seizures in patients with epilepsy in the 1920s. It’s only been in the past decade or so that this eating pattern became associated with weight loss. While many food marketers were skeptical on the longevity of its popularity, it’s safe to say that it is definitely the four-letter word of the year. 

General Mills has been playing in the keto space for some time. During the summer of 2020, the company introduced the :ratio line of snacks, which included yogurt-type cultured dairy cups and crunchy bars. The primary components of the dairy snacks are ultra-filtered nonfat milk, milk, milk fat and avocado oil. The addition of non-dairy fat prevents the product from being called yogurt, per the U.S. standard of identify for yogurt. The product, however, is cultured with yogurt cultures (Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus). Thus, the product is described as “flavored yogurt cultured dairy snack.” 

Less than a year later, :ratio protein joined the lineup. The primary components of these dairy snacks are ultra-filtered nonfat milk and whey protein concentrate.

For the New Year, the :ratio brand introduced a range of new products that span across categories aimed at providing consumers with variety. All of the products have 1 gram of sugar per serving and provide a convenient option for consumers tracking macronutrients.

There are new flavors of :ratio Keto Dairy Snacks. Blueberry, Mixed Berry and Peach are joining the original five: Black Cherry, Coconut, Mango, Strawberry and Vanilla. One serving provides 15 grams of protein. There’s also new :ratio Keto Granola, :ratio Keto Soft Baked Bars and new keto-friendly Wonderworks Frosted cereal.

In August 2021, Trimona Foods, the maker of Trimona Bulgarian Yogurt, had its entire product line Keto Verified. With zero added sugars and A2/A2 tested organic milk, Trimona meets the needs of keto diet followers and the “keto-curious” by offering an easy way to add fermented dairy to the daily diet. 

It’s possible for dairy processors to take keto friendly to the next level by touting the presence of better-for-you practices, such as grass fed and regenerative agriculture. Such specialty items are being sought out by health-conscious consumers who want to make a difference, for themselves and the planet. They also command a premium, which makes them attractive to retailers. 

Condolences for Dr. John Bruhn

It is with a heavy heart that I share the loss of a dear friend to many of us in the dairy industry. Dr. John Bruhn of Davis, California, passed on Dec. 18, 2021. 

You can read about his amazing life and accomplishments HERE.