Friday, January 26, 2024

Every Day This Week was a Great Day for Dairy: Let’s keep up the momentum


(left) From the Winter Fancy Food Show: DaoHer Beverage debuted Crème Brulee Boba, a canned boba milk made with organic whole milk powder and sweetened with stevia to keep calories and added sugars down. It joins three varieties of boba milk tea: brown sugar, classic and matcha. 

Every day this week “was a great day” for dairy, not for Barbie, specifically The Barbie Movie, and if you saw it, you know the line from the movie I am referencing regarding “a great day.” It is a bit personal, because if you remember, Barbie drinks real cows’ milk in the movie. 

Mooing on, we should all be stoked for what 2024 promises. Let’s make every day a great day for dairy!

The week started with numerous dairy innovations debuting at the Winter Fancy Food in Las Vegas, followed by lots of energy at Dairy Forum in Phoenix and ending with an informative webinar by the Hartman Group titled “Taste of Tomorrow 2023: Navigating Food Through the Eyes of Gen Z and Alpha.”

In between all that excitement, I received so many new dairy product announcements this week that the Daily Dose of Dairy is set for a while. 

Here’s one of my favorites. Once Upon a Farm, a childhood nutrition company, is entering the dairy category with real dairy! The company is launching organic A2/A2 Whole Milk Shakes. Available in three flavors—Banana Crème, Strawberry Crème and Triple Berry--these organic whole milk shakes are made with farm-fresh fruits and veggies, A2/A2 organic whole milk and no added sugar. These sippable shakes use organic A2/A2 grass-based whole milk sourced from Alexandre Family Farm. 

In addition, Once Upon a Farm will release a second product line in its dairy portfolio--Whole Milk Smoothies—this spring. Varieties are Banana Berry Blast, Mango Pear-adise and Orange Squeeze. The whole milk smoothies compliment the brand’s existing Dairy-Free Smoothie line. 

“At Once Upon a Farm, we are committed to maximizing nutrition for our customers, little and big,” says Jennifer Garner, co-founder and chief brand officer. (Yes, it’s the actress.) “This announcement is so exciting we are dancing in the barn. We are launching scrumptious, sumptuous, A2/A2 Whole Milk Shakes, in partnership with Alexandre Family Farms.  You asked and boy, are we excited to share with you.”

Alexandre Family Farm’s Farmer-Owner Stephanie Alexandre (who was at the Fancy Food Show, but always had such a crowd around the booth that I could not stop and say hello), says, “We are so honored to partner with Once Upon a Farm on their A2/A2 Whole Milk Shakes featuring our A2/A2 organic whole milk known for its easily digestible protein. Our shared passion for delivering the best organic food, especially through nutritious whole milk products for growing children, drove us to partner from the very beginning. As the first certified regenerative, organic and humane dairy in the U.S., we admire the commitment and leadership of Once Upon a Farm in shaping a healthier future for children through its innovative dairy products.”

Once Upon a Farm Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer Cassandra Curtis, says, “When we decided to go into dairy, it was imperative that we partnered with farms that are making a positive impact on our planet and in the dairy industry specifically. For us, it was a no-brainer to partner with Alexandre Family Farm…You can taste the quality in our shakes.”

(right) From the Winter Fancy Food Show: Champignon North America continues to grow its imported Briette cheese line. These soft-ripened cheeses are aged from the outside in. The cultures added during the cheesemaking process form a bloomy white exterior and creamy inside as the cheese ages. The two new varieties are Chai and Tropical. They join Blue, Buttery Red, Dulce de Leche, Mild and Smoky. 

Quality was in full force at Dairy Forum 2024 in Phoenix. Industry leaders showed up and committed to “elevating” dairy to feed the growing population.  

“Dairy consumption is hot. We’ve had a record year,” said Michael Dykes, president and chief executive office, International Dairy Foods Association, Washington, D.C. “We’re simply eating more of our dairy than we are drinking.”

Doing a better job of communicating dairy’s healthful halo is a priority for IDFA, according to Dykes. He believes that dairy will have a prominent role in the food as medicine movement. This includes foods for healthful living, from birth to forever. 

(left) From the Winter Fancy Food Show: This pre-baked, ready-to-build Charcuterie Chalet Kit includes cheese spread to hold the pieces together. 

That brings me to The Hartman Group webinar, which presented data from an October-November 2023 online survey. You can watch the webinar  HERE

Findings include ideas on how to best market to parents and younger consumers. For example, Gen Alpha (0 to 12 years old) is likely going to be one of the most food savvy generations when they become adults thanks to efforts by their millennial parents. The research showed that “shared cooking moments become an avenue for parents to blend culinary education with cultural exploration and lessons on balanced eating,” said Laurie Demeritt, CEO of The Hartman Group. “Cooking has taken on a whole new sense of meaning in parents’ lives, not just for functional and practical reasons but for emotional and cultural reasons, too.”

  • 69% of Gen Alpha parents cook with their children
  • 77% of parents with children 6- to 12-years old cook with them
  • 63% of Gen Alpha parents cook with their children as a way to share their culture

(right) From the Winter Fancy Food Show: Petit Pot is now offering its Original Organic Rice Pudding in recyclable, light-weight shareable 14-ounce paperboard cartons. And, Original Rice Pudding comes in two-packs of 3.5-ounce paperboard containers. Paperboard eliminates breakage and reduces freight costs.  

Gen Z (13 to 26 years) has an “everything in moderation is OK” attitude. They believe in finding balance and believe there is a place for indulgence. (Think dairy desserts!) 

“Gen Z balances comfort with culinary discovery, broadening the definition of ‘familiar foods’ through their rich ethnic diversity and openness to new tastes,” said Andrea Kwamya, Consumer Insights Consultant for The Hartman Group. “Gen Z navigates budget constraints and evolving tastes by seeking diverse, flavorful and healthy food options, diverging from their parents’ choices and embracing global and local foods. 

“For the on-the-go Gen Z consumer, convenience is a major factor influencing eating habits, prioritizing quick, easy options with minimal cleanup,” said Kwamya. “[Gen Z] cares about additive nutrients. They want more protein. They believe in indulgence.”

And, the United Club loves dairy! Check out the latest offerings. Breakfast buffets across the country not only serve Greek yogurt, there’s cottage cheese, too. In Los Angeles, there’s a horchata station and in Phoenix a gelato bar. 

Together we can make every day a great one for dairy. 

Friday, January 19, 2024

Prioritize Protein and Process in 2024


Nestlé is growing its Lindahls Pro+ protein yogurt range in the UK with a Strawberry Sundae flavor. The product offers 18 grams of protein per serving and features a 50:50 blend of whey and casein, which provides for immediate and long-term energy. The product is also low in sugar. This is just the type of processing that helps consumers get the daily nutrients the body requires.

Happy New Year! We are already half way through January, woo hoo! The days are getting longer and the weather…well, it will get better soon. 

Let’s kick off 2024 with what I believe will be the two best messages for dairy processors to focus on this year. They are protein and process, with the latter making reference to the insane amount of media attention “processed foods” are garnering these days. 

If you are unaware of NOVA—a name, not an acronym—read more HERE. But in a nutshell, NOVA is a food classification system that categorizes foods according to the extent and purpose of food processing, rather than in terms of nutrients. Make no mistake, processed foods are important for global food supplies and dietary patterns. This includes making foods with plant proteins and cellular agriculture. (Talk about ultra processing!) 

NOVA focuses on the specific types of processing that modify foods. Like converting milk into cheese, ice cream and yogurt. And because we all know that fluid milk consumption continues to decline, while we are “eating” more dairy, processed foods are not only important for feeding the world, they are also delicious and nutritious. 

NOVA classifies all foods and food products into four distinct groups. NOVA specifies the foods that belong in each group and provides precise definitions of the types of processing underlying each group. NOVA is now recognized as a valid tool for nutrition and public health research, policy and action, in reports from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Pan American Health Organization. And this is why dairy processors need to be proactive and talk about process. 

Here’s a brief summary of NOVA’s four-tier classification system, and where dairy fits in. 

Group 1. Unprocessed or minimally processed foods
Unprocessed (or natural) foods are edible parts of plants (seeds, fruits, leaves, stems, roots) or of animals (muscle, offal, eggs, milk), and also fungi, algae and water, after separation from nature.
Minimally processed foods are natural foods altered by processes that include removal of inedible or unwanted parts, and drying, crushing, grinding, fractioning, filtering, roasting, boiling, non-alcoholic fermentation, pasteurization, refrigeration, chilling, freezing, placing in containers and vacuum-packaging. These processes are designed to preserve natural foods, to make them suitable for storage, or to make them safe or edible or more pleasant to consume. Many unprocessed or minimally processed foods are prepared and cooked at home or in restaurant kitchens in combination with processed culinary ingredients as dishes or meals.

Group 2. Processed culinary ingredients
Processed culinary ingredients, such as oils, butter, sugar and salt, are substances derived from Group 1 foods or from nature by processes that include pressing, refining, grinding, milling and drying. The purpose of such processes is to make durable products that are suitable for use in home and restaurant kitchens to prepare, season and cook Group 1 foods and to make with them varied and enjoyable hand-made dishes and meals, such as stews, soups and broths, salads, breads, preserves, drinks and desserts. They are not meant to be consumed by themselves, and are normally used in combination with Group 1 foods to make freshly prepared drinks, dishes and meals.

Group 3. Processed foods
Processed foods, such as bottled vegetables, canned fish, fruits in syrup, cheeses and freshly made breads, are made essentially by adding salt, oil, sugar or other substances from Group 2 to Group 1 foods. Processes include various preservation or cooking methods, and, in the case of breads and cheese, non-alcoholic fermentation. Most processed foods have two or three ingredients, and are recognizable as modified versions of Group 1 foods. They are edible by themselves or, more usually, in combination with other foods. The purpose of processing here is to increase the durability of Group 1 foods, or to modify or enhance their sensory qualities.

Group 4. Ultra-processed foods
Ultra-processed foods, such as soft drinks, sweet or savory packaged snacks, reconstituted meat products and pre-prepared frozen dishes, are not modified foods but formulations made mostly or entirely from substances derived from foods and additives, with little if any intact Group 1 food. Sweetened yogurt and flavored milk are in this category. Ingredients of these formulations usually include those also used in processed foods, such as sugars, oils, fats or salt. But ultra-processed products also include other sources of energy and nutrients not normally used in culinary preparations. Some of these are directly extracted from foods, such as casein, lactose, whey and gluten. And the list goes on with additives and manufacturing techniques. 

The International Food Information Council (IFIC) is active in the conversation regarding NOVA’s classification system and overall consumer perception of food processing. The organization hosted a webinar--The Processed Foods Paradox: Consumer Insights on Today's Most Controversial Foods—on Jan. 18, 2024, to explore consumer attitudes and behaviors about processed foods and their potential place in healthy dietary patterns. 

This conversation is important, according to Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, president and CEO of IFIC, as all members of the food and nutrition industry need to decide what are the next steps now that NOVA is out there. 

The 2025-2030 U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is considering this question: What is the relationship between the consumption of dietary patterns with varying amounts of ultra-processed foods and growth, body composition and risk of obesity?

The fact is that despite multiple efforts by the Dietary Guidelines—think Food Pyramid, MyPlate and all the other tools out there—Americans’ diet quality has not improved over the years. Four key nutrients—calcium, vitamin D, fiber and potassium--remain deficient in many diets. It is key to understand the role of processed foods in improving the diet.  

Question: Using your best judgement, do you consider the following dairy products to be “processed food?” Select yes, no or not sure.

“There is scientific evidence on the importance of diet quality, yet more insights are needed regarding how to help consumers effectively shift behaviors to achieve improved diet quality over time,” said Reinhardt Kapsak. “Further, amidst the emerging evidence, food policy discussions and headlines [about ultra-processed foods], something is missing and often excluded, and that is consumer perception.”

In other words, if a cup of sweetened yogurt enriched with prebiotic fiber is the preferred way to consume key nutrients, then so be it! If chocolate milk is what growing kids want to drink, then so be it! You get my drift. 

The IFIC recently conducted consumer research on this topic and it will be published later this month, according to Alyssa Pike, senior manager-nutrition communications at IFIC. She provided a sneak peek at this data and looped it back to insights from IFIC’s 2023 Food & Health Survey. 

Here are seven takeaways. 

1. More than eight in 10 consumers say that eating a healthy diet is important to them. 
2. Americans say eating more fruits and vegetables, followed by balance, variety and moderation are top actions they can take to eat healthier. 
3. More than three out of four (76%) consumers say they consider whether a food is processed before purchasing it; however 70% acknowledge they do not fully understand what’s a processed food. 
4. The ingredient list is the most common reference point for deciding whether a food is processed.
5. Most Americans consume processed foods. Slightly more than half believe processed foods can be part of a healthy diet.
6. Consumers purchase packaged foods for many reasons. Taste and price are top purchase drivers. 
7. High protein and mindful eating are the most common diets/eating patterns. 

And this is why dairy foods marketers need to focus on protein and “minimal” processing messages in 2024 and beyond. Happy New Year!