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!