It’s that time of year when food and beverage authorities make their predictions for what will be trending the upcoming year. Last year, plant based, keto and immunity were the consensus. And while these three trends will continue to fuel new product innovation, there are other noteworthy trends to be aware of, and one of them is “real food,” which, of course, is what dairy is all about. Consumers are also looking for authenticity and transparency. Dairy excels in this department, too. And lastly, most flavor forecasts are typically not category specific, so I like to review them and make them relevant to dairy. Read on to learn more about what will be “hot” for dairy in 2023.
Julian Mellentin, director of New Nutrition Business and a professional colleague, says that consumers’ expectations of convenient, packaged food and beverage is trending towards being simpler and less processed. This is set to become more important over the rest of this decade, he says. I agree.
There’s growing evidence that consumers are increasingly shunning ultra-processed foods (UPFs) and looking for more “real foods.” In a recent survey of consumers by New Nutrition Business, 20% of Americans and 40% of Spaniards consumers said they were trying to avoid UPFs, the highest numbers since the consultancy began asking this question.
“The growing consumer interest in ‘less processed’ has grown out of the clean-label trend of identifying something undesirable in our food and avoiding it,” says Mellentin. “What’s different is that we are entering a new phase. Brands will have to do more to reinvent UPFs and to deliver products that get closer to consumers’ expectations of ‘real food.’”
Most dairy has never been considered a UPF. The exception is canned aerosol cheese and some processed cheeses. This puts dairy in a very favorable position with consumers.
Avoiding UPFs means, to a growing number of consumers, choosing fresh and natural foods. When the International Food Information Council asked Americans about the most common attributes of a healthy food, the top answer, given by 37% of people, was “fresh,” while 20% of consumers said, “minimal or no processing.”
“The opportunity over the next three to five years is for packaged food companies--gradually, step-by-step--to renovate products,” says Mellentin. “That will require a focus on ingredients and processing technology, which deliver the safety, convenience and palatability people seek while doing so with as little processing as possible, or at least with a type of processing that people accept.”
Ingredient suppliers have an important role to play in enabling this change. Further, dairy processors do not need to reformulate their entire product line.
In other words, aerosol cheese is not going away!
Pavel Kolarov, CEO of Trimona Foods Inc., shared with me that there’s a growing momentum behind the A2 movement now more than ever before.
That covers trends in concepts and recipes for 2023. Let’s move onto flavor trends. There are five that standout for dairy innovation. They are Latin American, botanicals/florals, sweet heat, nostalgic/comfort and all-day breakfast.
Latin American flavors are all the rage. The flavors that translate to dairy applications include horchata. The flavor profile for horchata has many interpretation, almost always with a sweet cinnamon profile. There’s also tepache. This is a cold fermented beverage with pineapple and cinnamon. Sounds to me like a great drinkable yogurt profile.
And let’s not forget aguas frescas. While the translation means “fresh water,” aguas fresca de leche includes milk. Think of it is a thinner, lightly flavored milk beverage with the purpose of refreshment rather than nourishment.