Friday, August 25, 2023

Keto Lives On: How Dairy Processors Can Capitalize on this Dietary Lifestyle


Today’s blog has an accompanying 10-minute presentation that may be viewed HERE.

Keto is the most popular type of diet in America these days, with 47 out of 50 states searching for terms related to it more than any other diet, according to data compiled by FitnessVolt. The Mediterranean diet and paleo diet rank second and third, respectively.

FitnessVolt analyzed numerous search terms related to various popular diets across every U.S. state to establish the nutrition plans that Americans are most interested in. Keto is number one. 

The keto diet replaces a large portion of carbohydrates with fats and proteins, with fats making up most of the diet. The benefit here is that you cut back on a lot of empty carbs, such as sugar and refined grains. This is one of the appeals of the word keto on food and beverage packaging. 

Dairy foods are well poised to play in the keto space, as they are naturally a source of fat and high-quality protein, and relatively low in sugars. Lactose, milk’s inherent sugar, can easily be eliminated through ultra filtration, or put to work to offer nominal sweetness through the addition of lactase.  

Formulators of keto foods are getting creative with ingredient technology to add color, crunch, flavor, texture and possibly even more fat and protein through the use of inclusions. With dairy foods, those bits and pieces provide excitement to milk’s whiteness. Think cottage cheese, dips, ice cream, yogurt and even cheese snacks and spreads. 

Mainstreaming of a high-fat, moderate-protein and very-low-carbohydrate diet started around 2018 after a number of celebrities endorsed this weight-loss plan. This eating regimen is one of many that today’s consumers follow, according to the International Food Information Council’s (IFIC) 2023 Food & Health Survey, which showed that the number of Americans following a diet or eating pattern in the past year jumped to 52%, from 39% in 2021 and 38% in 2019. The most common dietary lifestyles according to IFIC are high protein (18%), mindful eating (17%), calorie counting (12%) and clean eating (12%). One might argue that keto, an unregulated marketing term, is suggestive of high protein and mindful eating. 

Today keto (4%) is more popular than vegetarianism (1%) and vegan (1%), according to the 2023 IFIC survey. It’s no wonder why so many new products position themselves as keto or keto friendly. Just like vegetarian and vegan claims attract everyday consumers, the term keto on a package lures in shoppers who are looking to cut back on carbohydrates, specifically added sugars. 

Most marketers never imagined back in 2018 that the term would still be used on product packaging in 2023. Not only is it being used, its use is growing. Why? Here’s my theory. 

Claims such as high protein and low carb are legally defined. High-protein claims can be tricky, as protein quality is factored into the calculation. Low carb, too, is tricky business, as some keto shoppers are good with fiber carbs and inherent sugars. 

And lastly, while keto is suggestive of a high-fat food, really, be serious, few will be drawn to such a label claim. While high fat is what keto is all about, it is doubtful that many would want to load up their cart with foods making this claim. 

The word keto is an innocent suggestion of all of these claims and more. It’s a positive spin on a food item that makes one feel like it’s a smart choice. 

It is important to differentiate between keto and keto friendly, even though neither term is legally defined. Most keto dietary plans suggest a daily intake of less than 30 grams of net carbohydrates. Net carbohydrates, which is also not legally defined, refers to carbohydrates that the body digests and includes sugars naturally found in everything from fruit to milk, as well as caloric carbohydrates, such as wheat flour, oatmeal and other grains. To calculate the net carbs in a food, fiber and sugar alcohol content is subtracted from the total carbohydrate content. 

The keto weight-loss regimen emphasizes a diet that is about 70% fat, 20% protein, and 5% each simple carbohydrates and non-starchy vegetables. Foods labeled as keto tend to have such a composition. By eating only foods with these nutrient ratios, you are supposedly getting the fat you need to get thin through a process known as ketosis. 

Ketosis is when the body burns fat instead of carbohydrates for energy. The liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies, with the latter traveling to the brain and fueling the body, the traditional role of glucose obtained from carbohydrates. Burning ketones in place of glucose is associated with weight loss, reduced inflammation, sustained energy and more. Unlike other dietary lifestyles, the keto diet is not a long-term approach to eating since it does not provide the body with adequate, balanced nutrition.  But keto-labeled foods do help you keep carbohydrates at bay. 

Remember, keto friendly is not the same as keto. Keto friendly is typically more of a low-carbohydrate food. It can be consumed if you are following a keto diet without fear of surpassing that maximum of 30 grams of net carbs per day. 

To make keto and keto-friendly foods, you must eliminate most grains, fruits, sugars and starchy ingredients. Many dairy foods are well poised to play in this space. 

And how do you add color, crunch, flavor, texture and possibly even more fat and protein? Through inclusions. Nuts, for example, are a source of fat and protein. Fabricated flavored pieces can provide excitement to keto-friendly dairy foods when naturally sweetened with carb-free allulose, monkfruit or stevia. 

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