Thursday, May 26, 2022

Foodservice, Sweets and Snacks, Oh My!


It’s been an exhausting food week in Chicago. The National Restaurant Association kicked things off on Saturday. This was followed by Sweets & Snacks opening up on Tuesday and culminated with Chicago Venture Summit Future-of-Food on Thursday.

I encourage you to read my take on the National Restaurant Show, published online by Food Business News HERE. For Sweets & Snacks, you will need to wait until next week’s blog, but I’ve shared a few character pictures. 

The Chicago Venture Summit Future-of-Food, the Windy City’s new flagship food innovation conference led by World Business Chicago, included a live welcome from Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Here’s what she had to say. 

“Our local food innovation and startup ecosystem is core to our city’s economic progress and future prosperity,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “As the global capital for food innovation with the largest concentration of food and beverage Fortune 500s, I’m honored to welcome more than 600 founders, innovators and investors for our first-ever Chicago Venture Summit Future-of-Food.”

According to Pitchbook data, Chicago food innovation companies raised $732 million in venture capital in 2021 alone, a 508% increase over 2019. In Q1 2022, local companies raised $111 million in venture capital. 

“Growth across all industries and sectors in Chicago is being enabled through tech and innovation,” said Michael Fassnacht, president and CEO, World Business Chicago, and chief marketing officer for the City of Chicago. “Today Chicago’s food, beverage and agriculture sector is the nation’s largest, generating over nine billion annually and employing over 65 thousand people; where over 2,800 companies located here are actively participating and contributing to the city’s vibrant startup and venture ecosystem.”

There’s a lot more for me to recap on this amazing meeting. For now, you can learn more HERE.

Thought you might like this comment from Julie Stamberger, CEO, chair and co-founder, The Planting Hope, a Chicago-based company that develops, launches and scales uniquely innovative plant-based and planet-friendly food and beverage brands. 

“Read the label of (almond milk),” she said. “It’s water that is not good for the environment and is highly unsustainable. There’s no nutrition in almond milk.”

And lastly, before I enjoy some needed rest this long holiday weekend, I want to share details on The California Milk Advisory Board’s (CMAB) annual dairy innovation competition: the Real California Milk (RCM) Excelerator. Created in partnership with innovation consultancy VentureFuel, this year marks the fourth installment of the competition. This year’s event focuses on accelerating ANY dairy-based product, from traditional consumer food and beverage items to textiles, haircare and beyond. The competition will award up to $500,000 in prizes for new innovative dairy products that introduce novel benefits in any form and drive consumption of Real California dairy.

“Real dairy provides a package of functional and practical benefits that’s hard to replicate. We’re seeing an increase in unique products that leverage these benefits emerging in the market. By expanding the competition to all new dairy-based products, versus a specific category, we’re creating more opportunity to make a meaningful difference in consumers’ lives and in the utilization of milk from California’s family dairy farms,” said John Talbot, CEO of the CMAB. “With the Excelerator platforms we’ve established over the past four years, we will be able to support companies as they innovate and establish these products in the market.” 

As one of the biggest dairy competitions in the world, the program seeks early-stage, high-growth potential applicants with a 50% cow’s milk-based product or working prototype. Up to eight applicants will be selected to join the RCM Excelerator program. Each will have access to a group stipend and a robust network of resources to refine and scale their product and business. They will also participate in the CMAB/VentureFuel Mentorship Program, consisting of elite counsel from successful founders, investors, leading corporate executives and experts across design, marketing, sales, manufacturing, distribution, farming and processing industries.

For more information, link HERE. The deadline to apply is July 17, 2022.

Hello Summer! In you are in the U.S., have a nice Memorial Day Weekend!

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Dairy Done Right has a Place in a Plant-Forward Diet


Fun things first. Check out It’s a daily food-centered word puzzle similar to Wordle. 

On Wednesday I stood in a long line at the coffee shop in the Drake Hotel, Chicago, where Bridge2Food held its Plant & Protein Summit Americas. (Excellent conference and so glad to see so many Daily Dose of Dairy subscribers in attendance.) I am not sure if the 10-plus people in front of me were all attending the conference, but I do know that not a single one ordered their latte, cappuccino or other blended coffee beverage with dairy milk. (I was eavesdropping.) Everyone requested oat milk. I take my coffee black, but just to mix things up for the barista, I ordered a latte and asked for 2% milk. I saw shock cross her face and I queried about the milk preference at this location. She declared oat milk the winner. 

Why share this with you? Because “plant based” is not going away and it is getting smarter. And those that do it right—tasty, nutritious, affordable and profitable—will succeed. For the others, it’s just a matter of time before they pull the plug. Funny thing, dairy is all these things already, yet curious consumers are not satisfied and they are looking for something that claims to be better for them and for the planet. Hybrid products--dairy and plant protein--are a great option. 

Bolthouse Farms has been doing this for some time. One of my favorite workout replenishers is the Bolthouse Farms Protein Plus Shake that contains 30 grams of protein from reduced-fat milk, soy protein concentrate and whey protein concentrate per 15.2-fluid-ounce bottle. The company explains the reason for the blending on side label panels. Consumers get it. 

The company is growing its Breakfast Smoothie line with Mixed Berry Parfait, a blend of berries, yogurt and whole grains. The beverage is an excellent source of fiber, provides 11 grams of protein (from yogurt, whey protein concentrate and soy protein isolate) and 21 essential vitamins and minerals. One of the whole grains is oat flour, which adds an extra layer of functional nutrition to the beverage. 

Did you know that while oat milk lacks the amount of complete protein found in cows milk, oat milk does have something not inherent to cows milk? That is beta glucan, a type of soluble fiber with heart health benefits, and enough of a sell for older consumers who have to restrict their caloric intake because of slowed metabolisms. They might choose to get their beta glucans from the white stuff that goes in their coffee and cereal bowl. They may opt for their protein in a beverage like the Bolthouse Farms drinks or even some other format. 

Let me preface and say dairy milk and products made from dairy milk are not going away. There are so many opportunities to improve and speak to health- and planet-conscious consumers that you must think out of the box.  
One way to think out of the milk jug is to think protein beverage mixes. During the past few weeks I have featured three recent introductions as a Daily Dose of Dairy. All are targeted to specific demographics and all contain quality dairy protein. One is even manufactured by a dairy cooperative. 

Organic Valley is rolling out Pre- and Postnatal Support Smoothie Mixes for expecting and new moms. They are made with organic ingredients, including pasture-raised milk from Organic Valley’s small family farms. Consumers are instructed to blend it with 2% milk. The Prenatal Support Smoothie Mix offers important nutrients for expecting moms including DHA, folate and folic acid. The Postnatal Support Smoothie Mix provides new moms with DHA plus fenugreek. 

Health and wellness retailer GNC has released new private-label protein beverage mixes and bars in partnership with Girl Scouts of the USA. The limited-edition spring flavor is inspired by Girl Scout Lemon Cookies.

Whey is the only protein in the GNC AMP Wheybolic Whey Protein mix, while the GNC Total Lean Shake contains an array of whey and milk protein ingredients. The GNC Total Lean Layered Lean Bar is a hybrid, with whey and soy proteins, as well as bovine collagen. 

Nutritional Growth Solutions Ltd., is launching Healthy Heights KidzProtein beverage mixes to support children’s development. The mixes contain a proprietary blend of micro- and macronutrients demonstrated to support optimal childhood growth and development, as well as a fruit and veggie blend. One serving provides 10 gram of protein and an array of vitamins and minerals.

More thinking out of the jug comes from Nestle USA. The company is introducing Boosted Brew Original Keto Coffee Enhancer. It is a shelf-stable, one-step product that gives a boost of energy to a cup of java simply by stirring. Ingredients are: allulose, butter, MCT oil, inulin, buttermilk powder and acacia gum. 
Clio Snacks has also gone where few companies have dared with its refrigerated enrobed yogurt parfaits. New for the summer is limited-edition S’mores Granola & Yogurt Parfait Bars, which pairs together creamy marshmallow-flavored yogurt with a layer of graham-style granola, bringing the benefits of whole milk Greek yogurt—10 grams of protein and probiotics--to this campfire-inspired treat. 

The fact is that many consumers prefer dairy in formats other than fluid white milk. REPEAT after me: “This will not be changing in the near future.” 

But change is constant and that’s why on Wednesday, Chobani announced a $1 million gift to the University of Idaho-led Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment, better known as CAFE. The gift will be used to help fund construction of the nation’s largest research dairy. 

Located in the south central portion of the state, Idaho CAFE spans three counties with a 2,000-cow research dairy and 640-acre demonstration farm in Rupert, a public outreach and education center in Jerome and collaborative food science efforts developed in partnership with the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls. 

With deep roots and a major manufacturing, research and development presence in Idaho, Chobani says it has long been committed to taking a holistic and inclusive approach to sustainability, especially within the dairy industry.

“Sustainability is part of the fabric of Chobani. Caring for our people and animals, conserving resources, putting back what we take, this is how we operate, and this is how dairy farmers operate,” said Hamdi Ulukaya, Chobani founder and CEO. “As more and more people--consumers, investors and regulators--focus on sustainability, the dairy industry must be part of the conversation.”

Sustainability and regenerative agriculture go hand-in-hand. If you regularly read my blog, you have noticed that I am a big believer of regenerative agriculture and soil health, as well as the critical role that livestock play in regenerative agriculture. (I guess you can call me a born-again tree hugger.) I am not the only one. In fact, the topic, along with sustainable manufacturing and over processing of plant proteins was a recurring theme at the Bridge2Food event. This was not some kumbaya conference with attendees and speakers simply singing praise about the plant-based food movement. It was about getting smarter and better in the plant-based space by identifying issues and hurdles in order to help feed the growing population and fight climate change. Dairy processors are already doing this. 

For example, Blue Ocean Barns announced this week that three dairy companies--Ben & Jerry’s, Straus Family Creamery and Clover Sonoma--have signed deals to begin rolling out its natural seaweed (Asparogopsis taxiformis) supplement for their cows as they move to dramatically cut the greenhouse gas footprint of their farm operations.

This dehydrated form of red seaweed has been proven to safely cut cows’ methane emissions from burps by more than 80% without changing the taste of milk or meat, according to peer-reviewed publications. The California Department of Food and Agriculture authorized commercial use of the supplement as a digestive aid for cattle earlier this spring.

A major reduction in livestock-generated methane gases could significantly slow the progress of climate change, according to the United Nations Environment Program. In fact, studies at the University of California, Davis, and the University of Oxford have concluded that methane reductions can actually have a cooling effect on the climate. Global methane emissions are generated predominantly by the agriculture industry and are more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over the first two decades of release. About a quarter of all methane emissions worldwide come from cattle enteric fermentation (cow burps).

“We are working closely with food industry leaders eager to achieve rigorously verified and auditable greenhouse gas reductions within their own supply chains,” said Joan Salwen, co-founder and CEO of Blue Ocean Barns. “Ben & Jerry’s, Straus Family Creamery and Clover Sonoma are pioneering companies directly engaging their farmers and processors to ensure their collective success in direct reduction of methane emissions.”

That’s “Doing Dairy Right.”
Separately, Ben & Jerry’s parent company—Unilever--announced plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on 15 dairy farms to half the industry average by the end of 2024 with the help of the seaweed supplement. Ben & Jerry’s plans to then expand successful pilot project initiatives to farms across its global dairy supply chain. 

“We believe in using the power of our business to create positive change,” said Jenna Evans, global sustainability manager for Ben & Jerry’s. “The fact that Brominata (the supplement) is effective in small quantities and easy for farmers to use makes it both environmentally and economically sustainable. We couldn’t be more excited to be an early adopter and to join other businesses in ushering in a new era of sustainable dairy.” 

In California last summer, Straus conducted the first commercial trial using the red seaweed on the Straus Organic Dairy Farm. For the next phase of the Petaluma, Calif.-based company’s rollout of Brominata, Albert Straus’ farm will be the first organic dairy in the United States to feed Brominata to cows as part of its goal of being carbon neutral by 2023. All of the dairy farms that supply Straus Family Creamery will be carbon neutral by 2030. 

“If we can get up to 90% reduction in methane emissions through feeding red seaweed to cows, this is a huge leap forward for us in creating a sustainable farming system that is beneficial to the planet and our communities,” said Albert Straus, founder and CEO. “Red seaweed is the next critical step we need to reach our carbon-neutral farming model.” 

It’s the circle of life. An algae assisting a ruminant animal to feed consumers and heal the planet. 

Clover Sonoma’s Chief Growth Officer Kristel Corson said, “We look forward to being a part of a larger movement to identify and trial sustainability innovations that reduce methane emissions. In 2021, we conducted an emissions and inventory analysis to help us set goals that reduce our climate impact. Our seaweed trial with Blue Ocean Barns is one step in that process and will help us execute a climate solution that will elevate the dairy industry overall. As part of a collaborative effort, we can make significant progress in helping our planet survive and thrive.”

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Dairy is Better Than Ever


Photo source: Tate & Lyle

The past two weeks have been packed with positive dairy information that we can all use to stay motivated. Let’s continue to innovate and keep dairy relevant to consumers during these turbulent times. 

For starters, have you heard that a third (34%) of younger Europeans (18-35-year-olds) are consuming more dairy than they were three years ago? This is according to an online survey of 1,554 consumers (18-65-year-olds) conducted in August 2021 by Tate & Lyle PLC. The survey found that the frequency of young consumers (in the UK, France, Germany, Poland, Spain and Sweden) eating dairy products is high, with 71% eating cheese, 81% drinking milk and 69% eating yogurt at least once a week. Furthermore, 77% of 18 to 35-year-olds said they are happy to consider eating more dairy products if they could try products with less fat, sugar and allergens. 

I am going to take an educated guess that these same preferences hold true in the US and other developed countries. 

“Our research has uncovered some interesting emerging trends when it comes to how and why consumers are purchasing dairy,” says Beth Nieman Hacker, market research director at Tate & Lyle. “It is so important to understand how behaviors, values and appetites are changing and the drivers behind these shifts, so food and drink brands can launch products that meet the needs of consumers today.”

The research uncovered opportunities for food and drink manufacturers to do more to encourage young people to eat dairy products. Health is a key priority for the younger generation, with one in four (39%) 18 to 35-year-olds stating they felt dairy products contained too much fat and 34% claiming that dairy products contain too much sugar. With that said, younger consumers are much more likely to eat dairy alternatives, with 35% eating non-dairy cheese, 33% eating non-dairy ice cream and 46% non-dairy milk at least once a week.

A flexitarian diet seems to be on the rise amongst consumers of all ages. This demographic switches between dairy and dairy alternatives, depending on the meal type. Thirty-nine percent said they eat dairy cheese at dinner, compared to 26% who chose a dairy alternative; 32% preferred dairy yogurt at breakfast, while 26% liked a dairy alternative yogurt as a mid-morning snack.

Consumers are also looking to make more sustainable choices with almost a fifth (18%) of older consumers saying products with environmental certifications would be a big factor in them increasing their dairy intake, while younger consumers were looking for more environmentally friendly packaging (19%) and a longer shelf life (20%).

Speaking of sustainability, the dairy industry aims to be carbon neutral by 2050. HERE is a four-minute interview to learn what this means for farms.

And here’s an excellent read about “What Happens to Your Body If You Drink Milk Every Day.” Written and reviewed by two registered dietitians, this article appeared last week in Eating Well, a premier consumer publication designed to educate about nutrition using scientific facts. You can read the article HERE.

The author concluded that “if you aren’t lactose-intolerant or allergic to dairy, it’s totally OK to enjoy a regular glass of milk each day. From improving bone health to helping mitigate cognitive decline, drinking milk and incorporating other dairy items into your diet can come with some health benefits. Since there are dairy farmers all across the U.S., try choosing milk that is produced locally. Making a connection with a local farmer can help you get a better-quality product that takes less of a toll on the environment, too.”

“While dairy products have long been associated with goodness, in today’s world, the dairy industry must adapt to modern consumer tastes, convenience and healthier lifestyles,” said Delphine Forejt, dairy category development manager at Tate & Lyle.

And processors are doing just that! Congratulations and thank you. 

Wells’ Enterprises is listening. The company’s Halo Top brand has been reformulated. The new recipe features a creamier texture—thanks to the use of ultrafiltered milk--while still staying significantly lower in calories and sugar than regular ice cream. It’s also a good source of protein, enabling ice cream lovers to feel good about every bite. 

Halo Top is debuting its new recipe with a brand new flavor: Chocolate Cake Batter. This chocolaty cake batter light ice cream contains colored sprinkles to transport you back to your childhood kitchen, sneaking batter straight from the bowl. 

Now let’s talk plant-based milks. Rosemary Trout, program director and assistant clinical professor of culinary arts and food science at Drexel University in Philadelphia, analyzes the burgeoning plant-based milk category. I highly recommend watching this 12-minute VIDEO to hear her provide an unbiased description of the various options in the marketplace. She does a fabulous job of breaking down the products, including their nutrition and functional profiles. 

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!