Friday, December 15, 2023

Doing Dairy Differently in 2024: Creative Approaches to Keeping Dairy Relevant


This week was a loud one for fluid milk, and once again, not in a good way. The folks in Washington D.C. received lots of criticism for prioritizing getting whole milk back into schools rather than addressing issues facing the entire world. If that was not enough, a number of media outlets—including a real nasty piece in Forbes--linked the school milk cause to MilkPEP’s OK2Milk campaign, which addresses “milk shaming.” This is the act of making real milk drinkers feel embarrassed, shameful and disgraced simply for their love of an ice-cold glass of dairy milk. What a mess! You can read the Forbes’ article HERE.

Forbes, however, did a great job recognizing two dairy foods innovators in its 2024 Forbes 30 Under 30 Food & Drink List. In fact, the feature leads with the founders of Painterland Sisters yogurt and Slate protein chocolate milk. Read about them HERE.

Another approach to doing dairy differently—albeit probably one of the most bizarre concepts I’ve ever heard of—comes from Frito-Lay North America. In case you missed it, just in time to kick off the New Year, liquor departments across the country will feature limited-release Empirical x Doritos Nacho Cheese Spirit (42% ABV). It provides a multi-sensorial beverage experience that smells and tastes just like Doritos Nacho Cheese Chips. (I’ve always thought they smelled like stinky socks, so not sure how this is a good thing.) A 750-milliliter bottles has a suggested retail price of $65.00.

“Doritos is all about disrupting culture and bringing our fans unexpected, bold experiences,” said Tina Mahal, senior vice president of marketing for Frito-Lay North America. “We’re always pushing our fans to try new things, so we figure it’s time we disrupt the spirits category by offering our iconic nacho cheese flavor in a bottle.”

To create the flavor, the many flavor layers of Doritos Nacho Cheese are extracted through Empirical’s innovative production process, using real Doritos chips and retaining their essence through vacuum distillation. Unlike traditional distillation methods, vacuum distillation operates at lower temperatures, preserving the full spectrum of flavors derived from Doritos.

Here are five a bit more sensible approaches to doing dairy differently in the New Year. 

1. Lidl has ditched “use by” dates on its own brand of milk and yogurt in the U.K. in order to help customers reduce food waste at home. The company has switched to “best before” dates so that shoppers can use their own judgement on whether the product is good to consume. Brilliant! 

2. The American Dairy Products Institute (ADPI) has taken the initiative to teach university students about dairy ingredients and the infinite ways to formulate foods and beverages with them. The ADPI has a strong commitment to training and believes that it is the key to future-proofing the dairy industry. Since 2017, the ADPI Dairy Ingredients 360 training course (DI360) has provided a 360-degree view of the dairy ingredients industry and is one of the most comprehensive courses available to the dairy industry today. 

New in 2024, through a collaboration with Kansas State University, an ADPI Academic Institution member, the course will be available to undergraduate students as an online, 3 credit course, called “Introduction to the Dairy Ingredients Industry.” The course is open to all students from any university and has no prerequisite requirements so freshman to seniors from any degree program can enroll. Students who do not attend Kansas State University can apply as a non-degree seeking student to KSU.

For many universities that no longer have dairy faculty, it will fill a gap in their curriculum and hopefully attract more students to dairy careers. Students will learn from 25 different instructors (including yours truly) who are subject matter experts in the dairy industry. The course covers the dairy ingredients industry from farm to fork with topics such as milk composition, safety and quality, manufacture of milk, whey, cheese, and butter ingredients, ingredient functionality, applications, and nutritional properties plus markets, pricing, export, supply chain, sustainability and more. 

For more information, including how to enroll, link HERE.

3. Here’s how you move a new product. Dairy farmer-owned functional snacking brand In Good Hands elevated dairy proteins to a culinary delight on its SoCal Cheesy Crunch Tour in November. Tens of thousands of these cheesy protein puffs were sampled and received rave reviews. 

To connect with consumers who appreciate delicious, better-for-you snacks, In Good Hands representatives road around on bike carts at a variety of events that cater to marathon runners, fitness enthusiasts, foodies and those with a penchant for farmer-produced fare, passing out bags of the cheese puffs. 

“In Good Hands Protein Puffs are the ultimate on-the-go snacking solution, and we’re excited to bring them to consumers who are living life to the fullest at events that celebrate an active lifestyle, vitality and farmers,” said Hannah Robbins, head of brand for In Good Hands. “Our branded sampling bikes and our Puff-hat-wearing ambassadors embody the joy our puffs bring to snacking, one delightful crunch at a time.”

Founded by California dairy farmers, In Good Hands Protein Puffs are gluten-free, boasting 12 grams of milk protein, with just 1 gram of sugar and a mere 130 calories per serving. 

Watch the reactions from people trying In Good Hands for the first time HERE.

4. Milk is on the menu at McDonald’s new CosMc’s, a small-format, beverage-led concept. CosMc’s menu is rooted in beverage exploration, with bold and unexpected flavor combinations, vibrant colors and functional boosts. Dairy is part of many of the concepts, either in the form of milk (in lattes) or cream (in frappes and as a whipped topping). The “milk” component is not customizable.  

The same goes with Taco Bell’s new Coffee Chillers and Churro Chillers, the first-ever frozen coffee and shakes to hit the Taco Bell menu. Inspired by authentic Mexican flavors, the frozen dairy-based beverages feature colorful swirls packed with flavor. They are topped with a layer of cold foam. 
Photo credit: Food Beast

Such partnerships are the future for dairy. It’s doing dairy differently. 

5. And finally, limited-edition products are going extreme. Icelandic Provisions, for example, is rolling out the Northern Lights Skyr Kit to commemorate the best day of the year to see the Northern Lights in Iceland, which is December 21. 

To give Americans a taste of the dancing auroras in their vibrant patterns of green, blue and violet, the company is bringing the beauty of the Northern Lights to home kitchens. Launching on December 21st, the Icelandic Provisions Northern Lights Skyr Kit will allow anyone to create their own version of this beloved, natural phenomenon by mixing the bright hues and sparkling effects directly into their skyr, creating a unique flavor that evokes the bursting colors of the Northern Lights and earthy elements of the Icelandic landscape.

The limited-time skyr kit comes complete with a cup of Icelandic Provisions Northern Lights flavored skyr and delicious ingredients to bring the colors of the aurora borealis to life, including green matcha, Icelandic blue spirulina, wild blueberry syrup and edible gold glitter. The kits retail for $11.00.

And, I’ve been enjoying my “12 Days of Ice Cream” holiday countdown calendar from Double Rainbow Gourmet Ice Cream. It features three individual packages wrapped together in a whimsical holiday scene of the streets of San Francisco. Each package contains four cups of ice cream behind perforated, numbered doors for a total of 12 cups of ice cream. Each door is intended to be opened one at a time and will reveal a surprise flavor carefully crafted to capture the essence of the season. (So fun and yummy!)

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year and we’re so excited to make it sweeter,” said Double Rainbow CEO and President Taryn Segal. “This gift brings out the kid in all of us, a feeling of anticipation and joy each day when opening one of the 12 doors. Whether it’s for gifting, sharing with loved ones or indulging in a treat for yourself, this calendar is the perfect way to countdown the holiday season.” 

Let’s do dairy differently in 2024! Cheers!

Friday, December 8, 2023

Dairy Industry Countdown to 2024: Let’s make it the “Year of Proteins from Dairy Ingredients”


Tired of reading about food forecasts for 2024? I am, but it’s part of my job. The key takeaways from the countless lists I have reviewed the past few weeks, in my opinion, is that consumers have become more educated regarding where their food comes from, and this is not going away. Clean label, minimally processed, planet friendly and high protein content are the four attributes fueling food and beverage purchase. Dairy ingredients deliver on all four. It’s up to formulators and marketers to learn how to put dairy ingredients—namely dairy proteins—to work. After all, putting dairy back into dairy makes sense.   

Innova Market Insights data indicates that supplement and sports nutrition launches with dairy-based proteins are gaining ground. From July 2021 to July 2023, dairy-based proteins in new product development experienced a 13% year-over-year growth rate. More than half of these launches were in the form of sports powders. Whey protein isolate was the leading ingredient, but casein protein is the frontrunner of innovation. 

Dairy ingredients have application in all types of foods and beverages, including dairy foods. They are a great tool to boost protein content. 

The most common eating pattern or diet in the U.S. is high protein, according to the 2023 Food and Health Survey from the International Food Information Council. Protein is also the most sought out ingredient in food and beverage purchases. 

Choice of protein is an important marketing tool of a product’s “power.” Unfortunately, marketers are limited in their efforts to communicate this because regulatory authorities have put the topic of protein quality and availability on the backburner. It’s time to bring it back into the conversation. 

Currently the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) is used to assess the quality all protein. This score is an adjustment for the quality of the protein. It is based on the types and amounts of amino acids in the food as well as the overall digestibility. The PDCAAS values range from 0.0 to 1.0, where values are truncated to a maximum score of 1.00, which cows milk, casein, whey, eggs and soy protein all possess. Most plant protein sources have much lower values. 

The Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score (DIAAS), on the other hand, is preferred by many nutrition authorities as a means to do a better job of communicating overall digestibility. The DIAAS analysis enables the differentiation of protein sources by their ability to supply amino acids for use by the human body. It also demonstrates the higher bioavailability of dairy proteins when compared to plant-based protein sources. Let’s focus on making DIAAS a reality in 2024.  

Currently the % Daily Value for protein is determined using PDCAAS. A yogurt containing 10 grams of milk protein may make an “excellent source of protein” claim. A cultured vegan product with 10 grams of protein from peas and nuts most likely only qualifies for a “good source of protein” claim, and when doing so, should not flag 10 grams of protein per serving, as this is misleading. When making or implying any protein content claim, FDA requires the inclusion of the % Daily Value. 

If DIAAS was put into place, products containing whey proteins would be able to better communicate their value. Unfortunately, it’s been 10 years since a report from the Expert Consultation of the Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations (FAO) recommended using DIAAS, yet it has not been implemented. 

Photo source: QNT Life
Data in the FAO report showed whole milk powder to have a DIAAS score of 1.22, far superior to the DIAAS score of 0.64 for peas and 0.40 for wheat. When compared to the highest refined soy isolate, dairy protein DIAAS scores were 10% to 30% higher. 

Dairy proteins have an exceptionally high DIAAS score because of the presence of branched-chain amino acids, which help stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Each dairy protein has more branched-chain amino acids than egg, meat, soy and wheat proteins. Whey protein, specifically, is seen as higher quality because of the presence of leucine, a branched-chain amino acid accountable for muscle synthesis. 

It’s time to start calling out “dairy protein content” or making reference to the inclusion of milk proteins. Other product categories are doing it, such as these MILKii Protein Bars that debuted in Belgium in October.

And, by putting dairy ingredients back into dairy, protein content may get a boost. Labels may often get cleaned up, as dairy ingredients may assist with various functionalities, including stabilization, emulsification and even flavor enhancement. 

Friday, December 1, 2023

Dairy Industry Countdown to 2024: It’s time to start developing seasonal dairy foods for the coming year.


Happy December 1st! Can you believe it’s almost 2024? That means you need to start thinking about your product mix for this coming year!

It was not that long ago—and seriously, it’s been less than a decade—that ice cream marketers finally figured the trick to changing ice cream from being only a warm weather treat to an all-year long one. The solution: limited-time offerings (LTOs), in particular, concepts focused on the snowy, wintery month of December. 

There’s big business in LTOs, especially with products intended to get consumers in the spirit of the season. These products raise curiosity and create an urgency to purchase because of their limited availability. They are typically flavor focused and may provide a multi-sensorial experience, meaning visual cues must be considered, as well as texture and mouthfeel.  

Hope these LTOs inspire your innovation efforts for the coming year.

From the North Pole to Kroger-owned stores nationwide comes The Elf on the Shelf ice cream products, a brand owned by The Lumistella Company. The ice cream is produced and distributed by The Frozen Farmer. There’s Santa’s Cookies Ice Cream in pints (vanilla ice cream loaded with red and green sugar cookie crumbles) and Santa’s Cookies Ice Cream Sandwiches, which is red and green sugar cookie-flavored ice cream nestled between two sugar-sprinkled sugar cookies. The packaging for both products also delivers on the tradition of gift giving and connectivity by including a gift tag for those who purchase the products to write a personalized message.

Publix has launched nine new limited-time own-brand ice cream flavors, with some of them centered on the winter season. The Marshmallow, Candy Cane & Cookie Blast variety is marshmallow-flavored ice cream with bits of candy cane and a chocolate cookie swirl. Peppermint Stick is vanilla ice cream with festive bits of peppermint candy. Santa’s White Christmas is coffee-flavored ice cream mixed with cocoa espresso flakes. These join Eggnog and Pumpkin Pie options. 

Cold Stone Creamery is embracing the holiday season with Red Velvet Cake Batter Ice Cream. This flavor is featured in two Creations: Berry Cozy Red Velvet (with strawberries, graham cracker pie crust and cream cheese frosting) and Red Velvet Luxury (with chocolate shavings, red velvet cake pieces and cream cheese frosting. The chain also brought back fan-favorite Brown Sugar Ice Cream, which is used to make the Brown Sugar Cookie Dough Sensation Creation (cookie dough, brown sugar and caramel).

For a family-style dessert, Cold Stone developed the Chocolate & Velvet Cold Stone Ice Cream Cake. It is layers of red velvet cake and devil’s food cake, red velvet cake batter ice cream and cream cheese frosting all wrapped in fudge ganache.

Baskin-Robbins stores are once again ready for this holiday season. The new Happy Holly-days Cake features a frosted wreath of icing pine branches, eucalyptus leaves and holly berries that make it an Insta-worthy centerpiece. It goes well with any cake and ice cream flavor, including BR’s Flavor of the Month: Cup of Cocoa. This new feature flavor captures the spirit of the season with all the cozy components of hot chocolate. It combines marshmallow- and cocoa-flavored ice creams with mini marshmallows.

While developing Cup of Cocoa, the company tested a variety of different marshmallows and flavor pairings to ensure it was a hot cocoa lover’s dream come true. The cocoa ice cream gives a light chocolate flavor with pops of gooey sweetness from the marshmallow pieces, while the marshmallow-flavored ice cream provides a light and sweet balance to the cocoa ice cream.

Dolcezza Gelato is into the season for the first time. The brand’s special-edition flavors launched exclusively at Whole Foods Market nationwide for $5.99 each. The cozy flavors Sugar Cookie Dough and Hot Cocoa use fresh ingredients from local farmers in the Washington, D.C. area. Sugar Cookie Dough is made with a classic base of sugar cookie batter gelato and has chunks of sugar cookie dough throughout with chocolate chips folded into the mix while Hot Cocoa is made with a spiced milk chocolate gelato with mini marshmallows and dark chocolate cookie pieces crushed into the creamy pint. 

Blue Bunny’s seasonal lineup welcomed three new concepts. Candy Cane Crunch Mini Bars feature pink peppermint frozen dairy dessert dipped in a whipped cream coating and crunchy peppermint candy pieces. Frosted Sugar Cookie Soft is a sugar cookie-flavored frozen dairy dessert with a soft-serve-like texture. Peppermint Stick is pink peppermint-flavored frozen dairy dessert with red and green peppermint candies. 

McConnell’s is putting a twist on the classics with new Peppermint Mocha & Brownie Bites (gluten-free brownie pieces folded into peppermint-spiked mocha cream with swirls of rich, chocolate ganache) and Gingerbread House (house-baked gingerbread cookies folded into oat milk-based cream and painted with swirls of dark, Guittard chocolate). 

Dippin’ Dots has new Candy Cane beaded ice cream. The cool flavor combines a festive mix of red and green peppermint ice creams swirled together with classic vanilla ice cream to guarantee holiday enjoy-mint. It is available at Dippin’ Dots locations, convenience stores, amusement and entertainment venues, and local events nationwide.

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year. We are thrilled to bring Candy Cane Ice Cream to consumers across the country for a limited time this winter,” said Matt Inderlied, senior vice president and general manager for Dippin’ Dots. “There is a high consumer demand for seasonal flavors, especially around the holidays. This Candy Cane-inspired flavor evokes the festive spirit of the season, not only in its look, but in its sweet, minty taste, too.”

Tillamook County Creamery Association also has two new LTOs. Peppermint Bark is made with a base of rich peppermint ice cream and is sprinkled with candy cane bits and white chocolate chip chunks. Holiday Sugar Cookie packs chunks of sugar cookie dough into an extra-creamy cookie dough ice cream.

“At Tillamook, we relish the opportunity to be a part of holiday celebrations. These festive new flavors are a taste of traditional holiday treats with a Tillamook twist,” said Ian Moppert, ice cream scientist. “Many of us have fond memories of eating certain dishes during the holidays, such as our grandmother’s sugar cookies. And just like those beloved cookies, we make our ice cream with no shortcuts. Our ice cream tastes better because it’s made better.”

And in case you missed the Daily Dose of Dairy this past Tuesday, another shout out to Double Rainbow Gourmet Ice Cream for its “12 Days of Ice Cream.” This holiday countdown calendar is filled with a unique selection of festive ice creams in a giftable box. It features three individual packages wrapped together in a whimsical holiday scene of the streets of San Francisco. Each package contains four cups of ice cream behind perforated, numbered doors for a total of 12 cups of ice cream. Each door is intended to be opened one at a time and will reveal a surprise flavor carefully crafted to capture the essence of the season.

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year and we’re so excited to make it sweeter,” said Double Rainbow CEO and President Taryn Segal. “This gift brings out the kid in all of us, a feeling of anticipation and joy each day when opening one of the 12 doors. Whether it’s for gifting, sharing with loved ones or indulging in a treat for yourself, this calendar is the perfect way to countdown the holiday season.” 

Let the celebrations begin!

Friday, November 17, 2023

The Future of Food Innovation Does NOT Need to be Scary…and it Needs Dairy and Plant Based


(I knew that typo on the email would get you to link!) 

The Future of Food Innovation Does NOT Need to be Scary. And, It Needs Dairy and Plant Based

Last night the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) hosted its fifth year of the Real California Milk Excelerator, which is designed to advance innovation in dairy. I’ve been honored to be a Shark Tank-style judge for all five installments of the competition. Before recognizing the companies that will proceed in the program, let’s discuss the importance of food innovation.

TNW newsletter ran this ARTICLE a few weeks ago explaining that the future of food includes “invisible innovation.” The article quotes Beatriz Jacoste Lozano, director of the KM ZERO Food Innovation Hub in Valencia, Spain.

Invisible innovation is all about providing consumers with tried and true products, but taking them up a level or two, with many efforts taking place behind the scenes. This doesn’t mean there’s no room for new concepts, but it does mean that innovators do not need to over think their efforts.  

“If we want a product to work in the market, it needs to be aligned with cultural identity,” said Jacoste Lozano. “Food is something very close to our identity, our memories, our desires. So it has to also be delicious, right, and that is our first requirement for a novel food.” 

KM ZERO is looking to facilitate and accelerate that change through open innovation and investment. So is the CMAB. 

KM ZERO analyses the needs of the food industry. This includes sustainability challenges, such as packaging, water usage, carbon emissions, soil quality, reducing food waste and more. So does CMAB. 

CMAB—and other food innovation accelerators—are part of the future of food. And remember, it does not need to be scary. 

New products must be aligned with personal and cultural identities. The products must serve a purpose, have it be extra nutrition, flavor adventure or packaging. And that purpose must be communicated to the shopper in order to stand out in the very busy marketplace. 

Cincinnati-based data powerhouse 84.51 Degrees offered insights around consumers’ interest in new products in its October Consumer Digest. Highlights include: 
  • Shoppers are seeking innovation but are still price conscious. 
  • Shelf-stable grocery, fresh bakery and frozen food lead as categories where shoppers would most like to see new products available. 
  • Shoppers are seeking innovation to provide functional benefits, clean ingredients and higher protein options. 
  • The most frequent ways shoppers report discovering new items to try are in-store display (47%), product advertisements (45%) and product coupons (42%). 
  • Products that rank high in expandable consumption, such as candy, snacks and drinks, are ripe for consumer experimentation, with purchase decisions often made at the time of purchase, and even in addition to planned purchase. 
These attributes were found in the CMAB open innovation competition. The program sought early-stage applicants with high-growth potential that created a 50% cow’s milk-based product or working prototype.

Amazing Ice Cream, Arbo’s Cheese Dip, Petit Pot and WonderCow claimed victory last night at the 5th Annual Real California Milk Excelerator Final Pitch Event. The four cohort winners each received $30,000 in resources and funding to scale their products in California and will compete for an additional $100,000 in support based on continued performance over a period of one year.

  • Arbo’s Queso Dip (Memphis, Tenn.) – Gluten-free, keto-friendly queso-style cheese dips for retail.
  • Amazing Ice Cream (Stockton, Calif.) – Cookie Wild cookie wafer ice cream bar novelties enrobed in chocolate to stay crunchy.
  • Petit Pot (Emeryville, Calif.) – French-style dairy desserts in paper-based cups made with more than 80% stainable/renewable fiber.    
  • WonderCow Nutrition (Valencia, Calif.) – All-natural bovine colostrum powder supplement that promotes immunity, muscle recovery and gut health. 

Photo (left to right): Donald Anit, founder, Amazing Ice Cream; Andrew Arbos, founder and CEO, Arbo’s Cheese Dip; Maxime Pouvreau, founder, Petit Pot; and Rob and Erica Diepersloot, co-founders, WonderCow

During the live event, two of the 2022 cohort members--dosa by DOSA and Wheyward Spirit--unlocked $100,000 and $25,000, respectively, in additional funding after demonstrating their ability to grow their businesses in California over the past 12 months. 

John Talbot, CEO of the CMAB, said, “It was a close competition this year, with each cohort member bringing something interesting to the table. In the end, however, the four winners each had a solid product and a complete selling story that will connect with consumers. California dairy families understand the value of innovation and invest in research and opportunities like the Excelerator competition to ensure a continued role for real milk and dairy in consumer’s evolving lives.”

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Prioritize Protein in 2024 if you Plan to Play in Plant-based Dairy Space


A whopping 42% of consumers said that “protein” is the most important ingredient going into 2024, according to Innova Market Insight’s global research. So, if you play in the plant-based dairy space, or plan to enter it, protein content must be prioritized right along with taste and price…or else, your product will likely not survive. 

Of the approximately 30,000 new products launched annually, 95% fail, according to numerous studies. The results are costly to bottom lines and brand reputations. Some reports claim more than $500,000 in development costs and 50 days of lost staff hours from each failed product launch. Brands must also be mindful of negative impacts to company sustainability and environmental goals, as well as damage to brand reputation. Learning from mistakes and offering a “new and improved” formulation is not a healthy approach. You have to do it correct the first time, or at least as close to correct as possible with advanced ingredient technology.  

Mark Robert, technical director North America-dairy at Tate & Lyle, and also my former Illini food science classmate, says, “An issue that has emerged is that many plant-based alternative products don’t have a protein source. With dairy-based products, you have casein and whey, and both are high-quality protein sources. But, when the first wave of dairy alternatives came out, many lacked that protein component or didn’t have the right functionality in their proteins.”

Protein content not only contributes nutrition, it also assists with texture, mouthfeel, flavor and even shelf life. It helps keep ingredient labels simple and it also may help reduce food waste, as protein binds water, reducing syneresis and even lowering water activity. In its absence, products such as cream cheese and yogurt alternatives, for example, need to be formulated with stabilizers, emulsifiers and acidulants. 

“The same is true with frozen desserts. With dairy, the proteins contribute greatly to the smoothness and aerating qualities,” says Roberts. “If you want to try and match that texture in plant-based, it can be more challenging, especially if you’re trying to stay on the clean label side of the ingredient statement.”

Read more from him on this topic HERE

The number-two trend from Innova’s research must also be prioritized. It’s “nurturing nature” and is all about sustainability and reducing food waste. Being plant-based is not enough for shoppers to think they are doing the planet good. 

I had the opportunity to attend a media event this week at Fornino in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, to kick off a two-week “Waste Not, Want More” culinary event. You can read more HERE in an article titled “The future of menus includes upcycled ingredients” in Food Business News

The event was where Spare Starter made its debut. Spare Starter is a versatile value-added culinary ingredient made with six vegetables and a proprietary spice blend. It includes parts of vegetables, such as leaves and stalks, which are nutritious but more typically trimmed and discarded. It was developed by two brothers who founded The Spare Food Co., New York, which produces Spare Tonic, a climate-friendly probiotic sparkling beverage made with upcycled whey. (Pictured at beginning of blog.)

Ingredients matter. And reducing food waste is a priority for shoppers. 

At SupplySide West a few weeks ago, Amanda Hartt, senior manager for NEXT Data and Insights at New Hope Network, shared research showing that “concern for food waste resonates across all generations. [Consumers] look to brands that mitigate reducing waste in their supply chain.”

Reducing food waste also factors in the value of the purchase. This is especially true during these inflationary times when shoppers are watching their finances. Brands need to engage shoppers to explain the value products bring to the table. 

Nothing beats the power of dairy proteins, but remember, there are people who do not eat dairy for their own personal reasons. Dairy processors are well poised to produce plant-based options. Just remember to include protein.  

“Solving the protein problem in plant-based dairy alternatives is an essential part of creating products consumers can feel good about eating and enjoy for their own sake,” concludes Roberts. “Whether they’re after a nutritional boost, something to fit their lifestyle or just a tasty non-dairy snack, we are better positioned now than we have ever been to deliver quality products consumers can love.”

Friday, November 3, 2023

The Ingredient List is Gaining Attention.


The award-winning Milk Bar bakery and got milk? have teamed up to release a limited-edition Holiday Milk Collection. The three offerings are Apple Cider Donut Milk, Pumpkin Cinnamon Milk and Sugar Cookie Milk. All are little luxuries crafted with real dairy milk.

For those in New York and Los Angeles, the Holiday Milk Collection will be available in the flagship locations, while those who are home for the holidays can also take part in the magic of this milky goodness by ordering the Holiday Milk Collection do-it-yourself gift set online at Available for nationwide shipping, the Holiday Milk Collection gift set includes all the materials needed to create the trio of festive milk flavors from the cozy comfort of home, along with six classic Milk Bar cookies designed to pair perfectly with each signature milk.

“When we opened the doors to our bakery 15 years ago, one of the biggest sellers was our pints of flavored milk and folks have been begging us to bring them back ever since,” said Milk Bar Founder Christina Tosi.

It’s that time of year when a number of key players in food and beverage issue trends for the upcoming year. The Whole Foods Market’s Trends Council calls them “the top-10 anticipated food trends.” They are predictions. Because “the dairy industry is in really good shape,” as stated on this 3.5 minutes VIDEO from the International Dairy Foods Association on the next generation of leaders in the dairy industry, dairy foods and dairy ingredients tend to not be a “prediction.” Dairy is a known. 

“Our annual food trends predictions list is a way for us to pull back the curtain for customers and share insight into what our buyers and culinary experts are keeping on their radar for the upcoming year,” said Cathy Strange, ambassador of food culture for Whole Foods Market and member of the Trends Council. “From specific product ingredients and flavor trends, to growing movements in the food industry, we can’t wait to see these trends gain momentum in the year ahead.”

These trends predictions provide insight to best practices to leverage and communicate dairy’s amazing taste, sustainability story and nutrition profile. There’s even innovation inspiration. Think “Little Luxuries” like the limited-edition Holiday Milk Collection.   

Whole Foods Market predicts that “plant” will be put back into “plant-based” concepts. This includes a shrinking of ingredient statements throughout the plant-based category. 

“We’re seeing new and emerging protein-forward products with mushrooms, walnuts, tempeh and legumes in place of complex meat alternatives. Even plant-based milk alternatives are participating, with some brands simplifying labels to just two ingredients, perfect for the vegetarian purist.”

Note the words: vegetarian purist. Not vegan. Dairy foods fit into vegetarian lifestyles. Communicate that to shoppers. 

source: HealthFocus International 

This “simplifying of labels” supports new research findings from HealthFocus International that show “many consumers may now realize that the nutrition panel, which reports on just a handful of nutrients, could look very similar for two products that vary dramatically in ingredient purity,” said Julie Johnson, president of HealthFocus International.

“While the nutrition panel has long ranked number-one in information consumers looked for on labels, ingredients have jumped ahead in importance,” she said. “Globally, consumers in 17 of 23 countries ranked ingredients above nutrition as highly important packaging information.”

Other predictions on the Whole Foods list include upcycling of ingredients, regenerative agriculture, formulating with superfoods, complex heat from varietal peppers, clean energy (caffeine) and little luxuries. These are all places where dairy may play. 

Indeed, TikTok creators have brought “Little Treat Culture” into our daily lives. Brands are getting in on the trend by considering both cost and format. Single-serve packages add joy without breaking a budget. The time is now for refrigerated dairy desserts and other single-serve portions of everything from cheese to premium flavored milk.  

The Specialty Food Association (SFA) also recently released its predictions from its Trendspotter Panel. One of those predictions is the growing popularity of Asian-influenced flavors. I wrote about this a few months ago. Read about the Asian flavors trend in dairy HERE.

The SFA specifically identified black sesame and ube as trending flavors. One of the delivery vehicles of choice: milk tea. 

At the end of the day, one of the biggest take aways from all the prediction lists I have reviewed thus far is that “value” will be the name of the game in 2024. Consumers will continue to watch their finances and are researching how to best spend their food dollar. Brands need to engage shoppers to explain the value products bring to the table. 

“This may be versatile uses, low-stress flavor building or longer shelf life, yes, longer shelf life,” said Melanie Bartelme, global food analyst, Mintel, and one of SFA’s trendspotters. “These attributes can help show consumers that these products are ‘worth’ the cost.”

IDFA’s NextGen VIDEO discusses the “new horizon of opportunities” for the dairy processing industry. “NextGen leaders are setting the dairy processing industry up for success in the future.”

We need to explore and engage with food and beverage industry predictions in order to not just stay relevant with younger shoppers, but to be their go-to for attributes they find important.  

“Providing this information will please shoppers; not providing it may have the opposite impact,” according to Steve Markenson, vice president-research and insights, FMI-The Food Industry Association. “They want the details.”

Dairy makes for a wonderful story. It’s a clean, simple ingredient that is a nutritious powerhouse. Let’s tell them the details. 

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Food and Beverage Marketers Should Care about Student Loans. Today’s blog tells you why.


Did you miss the IDF World Dairy Summit 2023, which took place Oct. 16-19 in Chicago? Read highlights HERE in an article I wrote for Dairy Processing

2023 Real California Milk Excelerator: Open Innovation Final Pitch Event...I’m honored to be serving as a judge at the upcoming California Milk Advisory Board’s 5th Annual Real California Milk Excelerator Final Pitch Event on November 16th. Looking forward to learning about the companies and their dairy-based innovations. Interested in watching the pitches to see the four companies (out of the eight) that go home with the $30K prizes? Register HERE.

The Federal Reserve reported that roughly 43.5 million Americans had student loan debt at the end of 2022. This totals more than $1.7 trillion, with each borrower owing an average of $37,787.

Research from 84.51 degrees, the retail data, insights and media company that helps Kroger and its partners create customer-centric shopper journeys, conducted a survey in September showing that 49% of those with student loan debt were extremely concerned with their ability to maintain their monthly budget when the student loan forbearance period ended. Payments started up in October after the pandemic hiatus. About 70% of these respondents claimed they/people in their household had not been making payments during the forbearance period.

When 84.51 degrees asked respondents what categories, if any, do they plan to cut back spending due to upcoming student loan payments, they said:

More likely place to cut back:

  • 58%: Dining out/Take-out
  • 49%: Outside of home entertainment
  • 44%: Food delivery services
  • 42%: Travel
  • 37%: Beauty services
  • 37%: Clothing
  • 29%: Home improvements
  • 29%: Savings

Less likely place to cut back:

  • 27%: Groceries
  • 22%: At home entertainment
  • 18%: Cleaning, beauty, personal care essentials
  • 13%: Investments
  • 11%: Transportation
  • 5%: Housing
  • 13%: None of the above

This matters to food and beverage retail brands. These shoppers are looking for value. Dairy products--and foods made with dairy products--have an opportunity to deliver nutrition and deliciousness while managing a budget. 

The more than half (58%) of shoppers with student debt who plan to dine out or do take out less is a major concern for foodservice. In fact, this week Domino’s Pizza announced that it is giving away $1 million worth of free pizzas to anyone with student loan payments as part of its Emergency Pizza promotion. 

“Student loan payments have resumed for millions of Americans, and we wanted to help in our own little way by using the power of pizza to do something nice for our customers,” said Kate Trumbull, Domino’s senior vice president and chief brand officer. “When life gives you loans, Domino’s gives you free pizza.”

The promotion started on October 25, with Domino’s giving away a limited number of free Emergency Pizza for Student Loans codes each day, until all $1 million worth of free pizza codes are claimed. If codes are available on that day, Domino’s will send customers an email with the free pizza code, which they can redeem on their next online carryout or delivery order placed within the next 30 days. 

Domino’s does not want these customers to forget the convenience of its ready-to-eat pizzas. But many have already. Since the onset of the pandemic, many have learned the power—and increasing variety and quality—of frozen foods.

The Power of Frozen in Retail, a new report from the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) and FMI-The Food Industry Association, shows that frozen foods continue to maintain their relevance to grocery shoppers and offer a suite of valuable benefits that meet their mealtime needs. Frozen food sales reached $74.2 billion over the last year and the core consumer audience remains steady, indicating a bright future ahead for performance. In a survey of more than 1,700 consumers, respondents indicated they find value in frozen foods as total meal solutions that save them time, are easy to prepare and meet their taste expectations. 

Frozen food’s core consumers, defined as those who consume these foods daily or every few days, held at 38% of all shoppers. In addition to appreciating the convenience and time-savings made possible by frozen foods, the core consumer also reports enjoying the quality and nutrition found in the frozen food aisle. 

“This report is filled with ideas on how to meet the shoppers’ evolving perception of value,” said Rick Stein, vice president of industry relations at FMI. “Shoppers are looking beyond price and quality and considering the experience, convenience and relevance that products and their grocery store offer them. For shoppers, frozen foods help meet this new definition of value.” 

The new research also identified that consumers turn to the frozen food aisle as they look for better-for-you products. The majority (66%) of core consumers are more likely to believe that the frozen food department offers a wide variety of better-for-you options. Additionally, nearly three-quarters of shoppers occasionally or frequently look for better-for-you attributes when purchasing frozen foods. 

“Both core consumers and the general shopper are looking for frozen foods that meet their specific lifestyle,” said Alison Bodor, president and CEO of AFFI. “Frozen foods offer the complete package of solutions for today’s shoppers.” 

Consumers also plan to continue their purchases of frozen foods into the future, with 94% predicting to buy the same or more frozen products in the coming months. Alongside a consistent core consumer base, the data illustrates a core consumer audience that appreciates the value they find in frozen foods. 

“Frozen foods remain relevant to shoppers through product innovation, variety and important attributes like sustainability and health and well-being,” said Stein. 

Pizza Fuels Cheese Usage
A new dairy checkoff growth program with pizza partners is expected to drive an additional 12-plus million pounds of cheese use, according to Dairy Management Inc. (DMI). The bulk of the cheese will be used internationally through an effort with a major quick-serve restaurant pizza chain and a U.S. cheese company. The pizza chain has opened its sourcing to U.S.-produced cheese suppliers as it seeks to return its business success to pre-COVID levels. The company also is leaning on the checkoff for strategic support to increase pizza consumption frequency in this market via advertising and marketing communications. 

“The checkoff’s relationships have always been an underpinning of our plan and our partners understand the challenges our farmers face with rising input costs that affect their bottom line,” said Barbara O’Brien, president and CEO of DMI, which manages the national dairy checkoff program. “They are stepping up with innovative ways we can collaborate to drive more sales of U.S.-produced cheese on their products.” 

Pizza remains a largely untapped opportunity in many global markets where it is often consumed about once a year. With consumer tastes rapidly shifting, it is a timely opportunity to support pizza growth internationally.

2023 Real California Milk Excelerator: Open Innovation Final Pitch Event
I’m honored to be serving as a judge at the upcoming California Milk Advisory Board’s 5th Annual Real California Milk Excelerator Final Pitch Event on November 16th. Looking forward to learning about the companies and their dairy-based innovations. Interested in watching the pitches to see the four companies (out of the eight) that go home with the $30K prizes? Register HERE.

Back in the MIdwest, the Winner Is…
Midwest Dairy hosted its annual pitch contest on Oct. 5, 2023, in Chicago. This is the second year Midwest Dairy has partnered with The Hatchery Chicago to sponsor this contest. The Hatchery Chicago is a non-profit food and beverage incubator. They work to support local food and beverage entrepreneurs so they can build and grow successful food businesses, cultivate local job opportunities for people from all backgrounds, and accelerate inclusive economic growth on Chicago’s West side. Midwest Dairy’s partnership with The Hatchery has helped entrepreneurs access space and resources to help launch their businesses. The three judges awarded Bakr Cookies the first-place win. (I had to forfeit being a judge this year because of my travel conflict with Anuga.)

Bakr Cookies uses lots of real butter in its cookies. The recipe also includes fair trade chocolate, clean ingredients, resealable bags, flakey sea salt and elevated flavors. As the first-place winner, Bakr Cookies is receiving a standard private kitchen with window and co-branded signage for 12 months at The Hatchery Chicago. 

The second-place winner was Howdy Breakfast Buns, which specialize in Texas-Czech-style kolaches with a unique milk bread-style dough. The same prize was awarded, but for six months. 

Midwest Dairy’s support has helped The Hatchery propel its mission forward. These funds have helped remove critical barriers for entrepreneurs who otherwise may not have had the opportunity to access production space and resources. These opportunities allow entrepreneurs to launch innovative brands that create a more diverse and inclusive industry landscape with career pathways.

Friday, October 20, 2023

Ten Memorable Quotes from the IDF World Dairy Summit 2023


Photo: U.S. dairy processors stocked the Dairy Bar at the IDF World Dairy Summit 2023 in Chicago. One of the innovations available for snacking came from Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery. New Cheddar Curd Crunchers are a shelf-stable version of the company’s popular refrigerated cheese curds. These are curds that have been freeze dried. They still look like cheese curds but now have a crunch. The product is marketed as being “perfect for hiking, fishing, camping, sporting events and road trips.” It’s 100% natural cheese and high in protein with no added sugar. A keto-friendly call out is on the front of the reclosable 2.11-ounce pouch. 

It was great to see so many Daily Dose of Dairy subscribers at the IDF World Dairy Summit 2023 that took place this week in my amazing home town of Chicago. Welcome to the many new subscribers I met at the Summit. 

The Summit’s theme--BE Dairy: Boundless Potential. Endless Possibilities—reflected the content that focused on developments in dairy science, technology, knowledge and innovation from all over the world. 

While I attended as many of the eight plenary sessions and 21 concurrent break-out sessions, it was impossible to be in more than one session at a time. From those I attended, here are 10 of the most memorable—and inspiring—quotes. 

“In the spirit of unity and collaboration, the IDF World Dairy Summit 2023 is an invitation to seize boundless potential and realize endless possibilities. This international congregation of dairy enthusiasts, researchers, policymakers and industry leaders holds the key to transforming dairy’s promise into a vibrant reality. As the summit unfolds, let us immerse ourselves in the knowledge, connections and inspiration it offers, ultimately forging a united front in advancing dairy excellence across the globe.” Piercristiano Brazzale, President, International Dairy Federation 

“I think climate-smart agriculture creates an enormous opportunity. U.S. farmers want a system that is both voluntary and incentive based. We want a system that understands the market and encourages the market to recognize the contribution we’re making…This is an exciting future for dairy and for U.S. agriculture and I think providing leadership globally.” Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture

“The future of the dairy industry and our ability to remain globally competitive depends on developing the workforce of the future, cultivating the next generation of leaders and empowering and supporting diversity in leadership roles.” Michael Dykes, President and Chief Executive Officer, International Dairy Foods Association

“[We have] a lot of confidence in dairy.” (Said when referencing the more than $1 billion the company is investing into a new, state-of-the-art dairy manufacturing facility in Lubbock, Texas.) Mike Durkin, President and Chief Executive Officer, Leprino Foods

“Since 1966, milk has been in Nestle’s portfolio…We are ready for the challenge to keep the category exciting for the next generation.” Heike Steiling, Head of Nestle Product Technology Centers-Dairy, Nestle

“For a growing number of consumers today, trust is about purposeful, mindful production and safe and affordable nutrition.” Zoe Kavanagh, Chief Executive Officer, The National Dairy Council, Ireland

“In 1984, Starbucks served its first latte with whole milk…In the U.S. last year, 79% of all ‘milk’ used in Starbucks was from cows…We’re not getting away from dairy…We are committed to dairy.” Angela Anderson, Director-Sustainable Dairy, Starbucks Corp.

“Do not think of yourself as a commodity, but rather a product that is essential to everyone’s life all around the world.” Jeff McCrory, Chief Strategic Officer, Mischief, Canada 

“We nourish billions of people every day…We need to do what we do based on science. When there are gaps in the science, we need to fill them in.” Nicholas Gardner, Senior Vice President-Sustainability and Multilateral Affairs, U.S. Dairy Export Council 

“Milk is perfection…We need to be proud to be there. And we are there…There are endless possibilities. Let’s showcase what we can do.” Caroline Emond, Director General, International Dairy Federation

The IDF World Dairy Summit 2024 takes place October 15-18 in Paris. Hope to see you there!