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.”

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