Thursday, February 29, 2024

It’s Time to Innovate with Dairy: There’s a New Tool for That!


Cookie Wild is a unique spin on an ice cream bar. The new concept from Amazing Ice Cream consists of a chocolate-coated wafer cookie layered with chocolate fudge and premium ice cream, which is fully enrobed in a chocolate coating. What makes it stand out is the proprietary technology that keeps the cookie crunchy. Amazing Ice Cream will sample its bar at Expo West. 

Dairy Management Inc. is using Expo West to debut its new innovation tool geared toward assisting dairy entrepreneurs. The program—Innovate with Dairy--is made possible through the national dairy checkoff program. 

Innovate with Dairy is designed to be a one-stop shop for anyone seeking information about the innovation process. The tool gives entrepreneurs access to more than 250 vetted dairy resources, including many leading researchers and professors who comprise the checkoff-founded Dairy Foods Research Centers network. 

The tool helps identify high-growth health and wellness opportunities, along with attracting, stimulating and securing investment and talent in health and wellness science, technology and product innovation, according to Marla Buerk, executive vice president of innovation at DMI.

The tool is divided into three phases featuring tutorials that help entrepreneurs. 

Phase 1. Idea development: identifying the growth opportunity and developing the idea. This phase includes guidance on assessing technical and financial feasibilities.

Phase 2. Product development: developing the product, its name and what you need from a trademarking standpoint. There is assistance on package structure, graphics and finalizing the financial assessment.

Phase 3. Product launch: taking the product to market with a promotional and financing plan. This includes ideas and templates on how to approach investors and eventually monitor market results.

The DMI team wants to meet with dairy innovators at Natural Products Expo West in March to share insights about the tool and the dairy industry. Amazing Ice Cream is one of four innovative dairy companies that DMI is hosting at Expo West. The others are:

Darigold is debuting Darigold Belle Creamers (dairy-based, lactose-free creamers made with only five simple ingredients and no oils or fillers) and sampling Darigold FIT (lactose free, ultra filtered milk with more protein and less sugar than regular milk). 

Fiscalini Farmstead is a sustainable fourth-generation dairy farm that makes handcrafted cheeses.

Spare Tonic is a beverage that contains only four ingredients, is packed with probiotics and electrolytes and is Upcycled Certified for a healthy planet.

Explore these dairy innovations and meet with DMI at Booth N2326 in Hot Products (North Hall Level 200).

In addition, DMI is hosting an education session--What Consumers Really Want Top health & wellness needs and trends for food & beverages—on March 14 from 12:30 to 1:30pm at the Marriott Platinum Ballroom 5. 

Here are some highlights:
  • What Do Consumers Really Want? A study of more than 12,000 consumers conducted by ZS revealed over 50% of consumers in the U.S. are dissatisfied with the food and beverages they consume for health and wellness needs. This highlights a gap in nutritional fulfillment and a growing demand for health-enhancing foods. Dairy can do that!
  • DMI will discuss the top consumer needs and how to meet them, as well as bring them to life with the latest growth drivers and in-market innovation examples.
  • Five new dairy product innovations will be showcased: the four exhibitors plus GoodSport, a natural sports drink that’s been scientifically shown to provide rapid and long-lasting hydration and improve performance. 

New Research Identifies Opportunities for Aligning on Consumer Eating Occasions

Hot-off-the-press insights from FMI-The Food Industry Association, Oliver Wyman and Circana demonstrate new opportunities for food industry trading partners to cater to shoppers’ expanding definitions of value. The research--Finding Growth for Food & Beverage at Retail: Winning Eating Occasions throughout the Day--supports go-to-market strategies and ways that grocers can attract more shopper relevance regarding needs, experiences, tastes, rewards, health and, especially, convenience. 

“The research showcases how food and beverages that promote well-being, those that are competitively priced and products that are decidedly convenient to buy and prepare, will ultimately earn shoppers’ allegiance,” said Mark Baum, senior vice president of industry relations and chief collaboration officer, FMI. “We are witnessing shifts toward foodservice spending, a rise in digitization and return-to-office protocols that all provide food and beverage retail with opportunities to improve how they deliver on what matters most to consumers.” 

For instance, the research noted that while 87% of morning eating occasions and 76% of midday eating occasions are sourced from home, there is an increasing trend toward foodservice across many consumer segments, particularly Gen Z and Gen X, reflecting growing demand for convenience.

“Time is of the essence for Americans, especially when it comes to their morning routines,” said Sally Lyons Wyatt, global executive vice president and chief advisor, consumer goods and foodservice insights, Circana. “Sixty-five percent of morning eating occasions are prepared in less than five minutes.”

FMI Vice President, Research & Insights, Steve Markenson emphasized how retailers can share a compelling story for how these solutions meet the value-for-money and health preferences for busy consumers to prepare their midday food and beverages. He said, “The insights demonstrate how our industry can be successful by capitalizing on consumers’ shifting habits, especially when companies consider dayparts, such as snacks, to inspire experimentation and create new memories through food.”

Dairy innovation does that and a whole lot more!

Friday, February 23, 2024

Gen X is Finally Getting the Attention of Marketers. Make sure your dairy foods speak to their needs!


Finally, the time has come. Marketers are acknowledging that Gen X’s dollars matter. (By the way, Gen X, that’s me.) Gen X, also known as the “lost generation,” is sandwiched between Baby Boomers and Millennials. While the smallest of the three cohorts, Gen X has become the focus of new product innovation by food and beverage marketers. They recognize that these consumers in their 40s and 50s, many of whom are in their prime-earning years, are willing to spend on products to assist with defying the aging process. 

And, at the same time, they are willing to invest in brands that assist with restoring confidence and a sense of stability in their young adult children who missed proms, graduations and so many more milestones during the pandemic. Gen X also wants to save the planet, something that Baby Boomers managed to put in jeopardy because of their excessive nature. Think McMansion.  

Chicago-based Mintel predicts that in 2024, brands will be pursuing Gen X for many of these reasons. Mintel explains in its recently published report on this cohort that while a larger share of Gen X identifies as being a rule follower and aims to fit in, there’s an active subgroup that wants to stand out, providing strong fodder for brand outreach. Mintel found that almost three-fifths of American Gen Xers agree with the statement “my life isn’t where I thought it would be at this point.” 

Brands can address this reality in multiple ways. One way is to lean into offerings that make Gen X feel good about where they are and what they are doing. Think philanthropies, social impacts, save the planet, etc. And since the pandemic, Gen X is very much into open discussions about mental health and taking time for “family care,” something many Boomers (sorry to offend some of you) cannot even relate to, as you race to the pickle ball court and ignore your Millennial offspring struggling to get an award for, well, almost everything.

Gen X did not get awards. We did not even get a snack after school unless we foraged for ourselves. We were the original latch-key kids. We are ready for some attention, some TLC. And, we will buy it up. I promise.   

“Marketing to Gen X requires adeptly navigating a budget-conscious consumer that values quality,” said Carol Wong-Li, director-consumers and culture at Mintel. “Gen X likes nice things, but they want to feel responsible about spending on them. They are a generation that gravitates toward following the rules. Brands can celebrate this investment in responsibility and help Gen X push beyond boundaries by establishing a comfort zone of parameters.”

General Mills is on it…and actually has been since Gen X women entered the work force and could speak with their food dollar. The company’s Yoplait brand debuted the “pink lid” marketing campaign in 1997, when the first Gen X women were graduating university. Those pink lids are the “Save Lids to Save Lives” campaign, which raises money for breast cancer research. It’s one of the most notable food campaigns for this cause, and one we’ve known all of our adult life. 

The brand is at it again, at a time when many of Gen X’s daughters are entering the work force and starting their own families. Yoplait is spreading positivity, one lid at a time, from now until the end of March, or until the special lids sell out. The new campaign focuses on boosting confidence in women of all ages through the sharing of compliments. (This is something Gen X invented. Think of all the niceties on Friends.)

On the inside of the special-edition lids, there’s one of more than 120 unique compliments. From empowering affirmations such as “Your confidence inspires everyone,” to heartfelt declarations such as “You radiate joy,” each compliment transforms every interaction with Yoplait into more than just a delicious treat; it becomes a beacon of positivity illuminating the day.

This positivity doesn’t stop there. Yoplait is encouraging women to spread the good vibes by sharing the compliments they find on their yogurt lids, creating a wave of encouragement that can brighten someone’s day.

Morgaine Gaye, a Food Futurologist based in the U.K., recently said food companies that use 2024 as a year to “rechart” will find 2026 to be the big payoff year. She encourages marketers to stop relying on “big data” and think ahead. 

“There’s no data on the future,” she said. But, we can look at the changes consumers have made since the pandemic and make projections. 

“The way of the future is to focus on “reduce, reuse, recycle and regenerate,” she said. 
These are actions that started with Gen X. It’s time to market to us, please.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

The Potential of the Protein Leverage Hypothesis for Dairy Innovation


SPYLT is a line of better-for-you (high protein and low sugar) dairy-based energy drinks. The 11-ounce canned line rolled out in 2022 with two varieties of caffeinated chocolate milk. Light Mode has 60 milligrams of caffeine and Dark Mode has 140 milligrams. This spring there are two new varieties: strawberry and vanilla. This is an example of putting the protein leverage hypothesis to work by reformulating ultra-processed food to help restore greater balance in the diet by raising their relative share of protein.

As featured in Food Business News:

The future is now for precision fermentation. Link HERE to learn more.

More dairy manufacturers are embracing sustainable packaging. Link HERE to learn more. 

Ever hear of the protein leverage hypothesis? It’s new to me but has been circulating in the nutrition science space for around 20 years after researchers from the University of Sydney published the hypothesis in the May 2005 issue of Obesity Reviews. The hypothesis states that human beings will prioritize the consumption of protein in food over other dietary components, and will eat until protein needs have been met, regardless of energy content, thus leading to over-consumption of foodstuffs when their protein content is low. This ultimately is a potential explanation for the obesity epidemic. 

“The idea of protein leverage, that our daily hunt for protein drives our overall eating patterns has been circulating with nutrition science for some time but has yet to transition over into the food world,” according to Nicholas Fereday, executive director-food and consumer trends, Rabobank. “This is likely to change for a number of reasons, not least because it puts forward both a plausible explanation for the impact of highly processed foods on our health, and a practical solution for packaged food companies to work with.” 

The authors of the protein hypothesis—Stephen Simpson and David Raubenheimer—found that the average proportion of calories from protein in the American diet decreased from 14% in 1961 to 12.5% in 2000, with more calories from carbohydrates and fats making up the difference. In their words, “the only way Americans could have maintained target protein consumption was to increase total calorie intake by 14%, creating an energy (calorie) surplus and associated weight gain.” 

Fereday posed the question: Is it possible to redevelop ultra-processed foods to help restore greater balance in the diet by raising their relative share of protein?

He said something we all know. “Consumers are primed for protein.” 

All the recent consumer surveys and trend forecasts show the same thing: Consumers want more protein. 

The dairy industry has the opportunity to give it to them. 

Friday, February 9, 2024

Dairy Foods and the Super Bowl: Everything you need to know and more


Welcome to Super Bowl weekend. I watch the Big Game for the commercials and half time. This year I will also be keeping my eye on Taylor Swift. (I’m confident enough to admit it.) By the way, did you know she sported a milk mustache back in 2008? Or that her favorite Starbuck’s drink is a grande caramel nonfat latte? Or, that for her 34th birthday on Dec. 13, 2023, she had Chef Christina Tosi’s signature Birthday Cake from the famous Milk Bar bakery in New York City. It’s a three-layer vanilla funfetti-style cake with creamy frosting and crunchy cake crumbs. It’s loaded with dairy, everything from butter and buttermilk to cream cheese and yogurt powder. Like it or not, Taylor Swift is a dairy kinda gal. She likes real meat, too!  

Back to the Big Game. Does anybody recall Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s got milk? commercial back in 2013? You can watch it HERE

Dairy has a long history of being part of the Super Bowl. This year is no exception. Expect to see Danone North America advertising Oikos—now in its fifth consecutive year—and Silk products in commercials. Oikos is all about the protein, the message we all need to emphasize.

And while Door Dash is not a dairy brand, the home-delivery service is making whole milk the star of a commercial that debuted about a month ago and will also air during the Big Game. Check it out HERE.

Did you know that whole milk is ready for a banner year? 

With consumer choice, scientific research and congressional legislation all going its way, 2024 promises to be a breakthrough year for whole milk, according to the National Milk Producers Federation. The final numbers are in, and they confirm what we’ve anticipated all year. In 2023, consumers turned away from plant-based beverages at an accelerating rate that caused the category to lose market share to milk, where whole milk and lactose-free varieties are thriving and surpassing their competitors.

With full year data now available from Circana Inc., plant-based beverage consumption in 2023 fell 6.6% to 337.7 million gallons. It’s the second straight year of declines and the lowest consumption since 2019.

Meanwhile, fluid milk keeps chugging away. To be fair, similar to plant based, consumption of the real deal also declined. However, like plant based, its sales volume number starts with a three but is followed by the word billion, not million. Real milk consumption was 3.14 billion gallons in 2023 and the drop was 2.7%, less than half the rate of decline for plant-based beverages. 

Sales of whole milk, the most popular variety, rose last year, and lactose-free milk jumped 6.7% to 239.2 million gallons. Whole milk is also wanted back in schools. Lactose-free milk may become an option for students, too. 

Parents Want Whole and 2% Milk Back in School Meals
Students in U.S. public schools have not been able to access the milk options that they prefer and consume at home--whole and reduced-fat (2%)—for the past 12 years. As the U.S. Senate considers the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2023—bipartisan legislation to reinstate these nutritious milk options in school meals—a new Morning Consult poll of parents with children in public shows near unanimous support for the bill.
Large majorities of parents surveyed in the Morning Consult national tracking poll commissioned by the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) want to see whole and 2% milks back in school meals. You can view the entire report HERE.

Key findings include: 
  • 94% of parents serve whole or 2% to their school-aged children at home, and they want these options to be made available to their children at school;
  • 89% of parents agree that whole milk and 2% milk should be options for children in public schools;
  • Most parents of public-school students believe whole (58%) and/or 2% milk (66%) is currently served in their children’s school cafeterias, although it was banned more than a decade ago;
  • 89% of parents support Congress passing legislation to make these options available;
  • Nine in 10 (90%) view drinking milk as an important component of children’s daily nutritional intake; and 
  • Parents consider whole and 2% milks to be healthy (86%), wholesome (83%), nutritious (83%) and tasty (80%).
The Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2023 would allow schools to once again provide children with a wide variety of milk options that meet their individual needs, whether that be whole or 2%, low-fat, or lactose-free milk. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill in December by a wide margin, while the U.S. Senate companion bill has been cosponsored by 14 bipartisan U.S. Senators.

“Milk’s nutrient package is unmatched, so we want offerings in our schools that kids are more likely to consume,” said Timothy Kelly, vice chair, IDFA Fluid Milk Board, and senior vice president and general manager, Shamrock Foods Company. “The Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act offers exactly that, which will help ensure kids today and those of future generations receive critical nutrition during the school day.”

Why Whole and 2% Milk?
Whole and 2% milk provide children with 13 essential nutrients for growth, development, healthy immune function and overall wellness. Since whole and 2% milk were banned from school meals menus more than a decade ago, school milk consumption and meal participation have declined, meaning children are consuming fewer essential nutrients. This is especially concerning considering underconsumption of milk and dairy products is prevalent among school-aged children, where between 68% and 94% of school-age boys and girls are failing to meet recommended levels of dairy intake per federal guidelines. 

At the same time, nutrition science has evolved in the past decade to show neutral or positive benefits of full-fat dairy foods such as whole milk, including less weight gain, neutral or lower risk of heart disease and lower childhood obesity. 

Learn more about the importance of milk—especially whole and 2% milk—in the diets of healthy children HERE.

Heading to Expo West in March? Dairy will have a strong presence on the expo floor. Undeniably Dairy is offering an education sessions--What consumers really want: Top health and wellness trends for food and beverages--on Thursday, March 14 from 12:30pm to 1:30pm at the Marriott in the Platinum 5 meeting room. Watch this quick VIDEO to learn more. 

Need innovation inspiration?  
For starters, just in time for Valentine’s Day, Dairy Farmers of America rolled out limited-edition Kemps Select Whole Strawberry Milk. 

Oakhurst, the cooperative’s wholly owned subsidiary, just launched limited-edition Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Donut Flavored Whole Milk. The product is the result of a unique collaboration between Oakhurst Dairy and The Holy Donut, a gourmet donut company that produces a very popular Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Donut.

“We wanted to create a new delicious flavored whole milk for our customers to enjoy as a wholesome treat,” said General Manager of Oakhurst Dairy Mark Page. “In the past we’ve focused on Maine-inspired ingredients like the wild blueberry or maple syrup, but this time we wanted to partner with a local Maine food company known for creating exceptional and high-quality products like we do. Enter The Holy Donut.”

Today’s blog sponsor—Dutch Farms—is rolling out whole and 2% milk in a new 96-ounce 100% recyclable plastic bottle. It has superior oxygen and ultraviolet barriers, which results in better natural milk flavor, according to the company. It stands out in the milk case to create a point of differentiation. 

Organic Valley is differentiating with its new Organic Valley Family First Milk. The new milk features all the goodness of the standard 12 essential nutrients in Organic Valley milks, with added DHA omega 3 to support brain health. This new milk is meant to be enjoyed by milk lovers of all ages and comes from pasture-raised cows on Organic Valley’s small family farms. The milk comes in whole and reduced-fat 2%.

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. 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. 

Here’s an opportunity for whole milk, or even better, dairy cream. A number of foodservice media are reporting that 2024 is the year of the drinkable dessert, a.k.a. the milkshake. And this may be with or without alcohol. 

It’s part of the nostalgic phase we are going through, coupled with the attitude that occasional sweet treats are perfectly acceptable as part of a healthful diet. These drinkable desserts may be customized and tend to be easy to make. They can be colorful and have introducing textures. And, most important, they are fun. And consumers are looking for more fun in their life. 

I bet Taylor will be all over them! 

Friday, February 2, 2024

For the Love of Dairy: Putting Dairy Ingredients to Work in Dairy Products and Beyond


(left) Valentine’s Day is still weeks away, and Halo Top says “let the loving begin” with its new limited-edition Chocolate Covered Strawberry pints. It’s made with a number of dairy ingredients, including ultrafiltered skim milk, skim milk, cream and milkfat. Fresh or dried dairy ingredients work in such an application.

Consumers want healthful. They want indulgent. They want convenience. They want inexpensive. And dairy is all of that and has the potential to be more, according to Michael Dykes, president and chief executive office, International Dairy Foods Association at Dairy Forum 2024 on Jan. 22, 2024, in Phoenix. And in a hallway conversation with Sarah Schmidt, vice president of marketing at Associated Milk Producers Inc., she said, “Cows are amazing. Milk is magical.  And, we have the people to deliver this great product to consumers in so many varied ways.”

Those many varied ways are thanks to the dairy ingredients being used in all types of foods and beverages. To read more about “Companies deliver dairy through many new applications,” link HERE to an article I wrote on this this topic for the Jan. 30, 2024, issue of Food Business News

Check out some recent new products that would not exist if it were not for dairy ingredients.

Celebrate the month of love with Dutch Bros’ new Dutch Luv drinks, which all feature the coffee chain’s proprietary soft top. This is a fusion of whipped buttermilk, heavy cream, vanilla syrup and sugar. The topping does not dissolve like foam, rather it slowly seeps down into the drink, providing visual appeal and modifying the flavor of each sip. The Valentine-themed offerings are Dutch Luv Latte (white coffee with frosted sugar cookie flavor topped with pink Soft Top), Dutch Luv Rebel (Rebel energy drink infused with berry flavor topped with pink Soft Top) and Dutch Luv Frost (frosted sugar cookie shake topped with pink Soft Top.)

Premier Protein’s recent flavor innovation is described as “grandma’s kitchen meets modern nutrition.” The newest shelf-stable nutrition shake is packed with delicious cookie dough flavor that hits all the right nostalgic notes. It relies on milk protein concentrate and calcium caseinate to deliver 30 grams of protein in every serving. 

Cibo Vita is expanding its Nature’s Garden Probiotic Yoggies snack line with Mixed Berry,  Peach Mango and Trail Mix varieties, joining the original offering, Strawberry. These sweet treats are real fruit pieces coated in yogurt that contains live probiotic cultures and prebiotic fiber. 

DaoHer Beveragen is adding Crème Brulee Boba to its ready-to-drink dairy-based beverage line. This canned boba milk is made with organic whole milk powder and is sweetened with stevia to keep calories and added sugars down. It joins three varieties of boba milk tea: brown sugar, classic and matcha. In all of the beverages, the boba balls are made from starch and konjac gum, instead of the traditional tapioca, in order to withstand the rigors and shelf life of an ambient canned beverage.

And check out this new--delicious and addictive--snack from Trader Joe’s. The cream cheese filling suggests immediately that the product includes dairy. But it’s not just cream cheese. The “bagel crackers” include nonfat dry milk and whey powder. 

Bounce Protein Balls from Bounce Foods in the U.K., combines almonds and cashews with whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate to deliver 8.2 grams of protein per 35-gram ball. 

The innovations are infinite when you put dairy ingredients to work in new product development. 

New to learn more? Plan to attend the NEW Global Ingredients Summit hosted by American Dairy Products Institute. This two-day event will bring together industry and academia to serve as a launching point for future innovation in the dairy industry. Meet with future innovators by attending student poster presentations and learn about dairy research presented by academics from across the globe. Afternoon concurrent sessions, with separate cheese and milk/whey ingredients tracks, will give you a chance to select your areas of interest and customize your Global Ingredients Summit experience. Diverse topics will include new and emerging technologies in processing, ingredient customization, applications, health and wellness, sustainability, regulatory and more. Link HERE for more information on this event taking place March 11 to 13, 2024, in Reno, Nevada.