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!


  1. The Forbes article, extremely biased, incorrect and negative was written by someone who describes themselves as: "I am cofounder and president of the Reducetarian Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing consumption of animal products." Can't someone from the dairy side put forward our side of the story? Much of the commentary in this article should be classified as misinformation!

  2. Hi Donna, I might not have made it clear in my last comment that I was referring to the Forbes article!