Thursday, November 16, 2017

Dairy Foods Vision: Clean Evolves to Premium and Health-Promoting in 2018 and Beyond

Thank you to my friends at William Reed for inviting me to your conference extraordinaire this week. Food Vision USA, in its third installment, was held in Chicago and featured an impressive line-up of speakers. Clean label, sustainability and transparency were recurring themes throughout the three-day conference.

I participated in a roundtable working lunch hosted by Shelley Balanko, senior vice president, The Hartman Group, where we discussed the similarities and differences between value and quality and how this influences consumers’ shopping habits.

Today’s consumers expect more than just great-tasting foods and beverages, according to Balanko. They want to know what’s in their food and drink, how it was made, who made it and why. They seek the answers to these questions not to satisfy a craving for data in this information-age, but to determine food and beverage quality. Clean, natural and less processed foods are deemed high quality in a culture that is increasingly focused on health and wellness.

Here’s what I want to emphasize to dairy processors. Balanko said that “premium” is a rapidly growing segment within the food and beverage marketplace. It is driven by consumer demand for better health and more compelling food and beverage experiences.

I’ll take this a step further and say, in dairy, premium is the new clean. This is not to say clean label should be ignored. In fact, just the contrary, it’s expected and should be the norm. But dairy can only go so clean before becoming, well, unaffordable, poor quality and simply, bad.

An incredible piece was issued by Iowa State University a few weeks ago. It’s something I’ve communicated for some time and now I feel validated. Read this and you will understand why focusing on the quality and function of ingredients is so important moving forward in the world of dairy.

“Consumers may not recognize costs, consequences of demand for ‘clean’ food,” posted Oct 31, 2017.

Eating “clean” is all about avoiding foods with additives, preservatives or other chemicals on the label. Considering the numerous studies linking certain foods with health ailments, clean eating makes sense, right?

While it may seem well intentioned, Ruth MacDonald and Ruth Litchfield, professors of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University, warn of the consequences in terms of food waste, safety and cost. Clean food advocates suggest avoiding foods with ingredients you cannot pronounce.

MacDonald says several food manufacturers, restaurants and grocery stores have responded by removing additives to fit the definition of clean. 

The ISU professors say just because an ingredient or additive has an unfamiliar name does not automatically make it bad for you.

[I would like to add that “dihydrogen monoxide” sounds horrible. Right? That’s water!]

The decision to remove additives appears to be driven more by market demand than consideration of the benefits these additives provide and the potential food safety risk, they said. Removing nitrates from deli meats and hot dogs is just one example.

MacDonald, who has spent more than 25 years investigating links between diet and cancer, says nitrates play a necessary role in preventing the growth of Clostridium botulinum, a deadly bacterium that causes food poisoning. Therefore, completely removing nitrates would be problematic. MacDonald says food labels boasting “no nitrates” are typically referring to the synthetic version. If the package says “naturally cured” or “uncured” it likely includes celery juice--a natural source of nitrates--as an ingredient. The nitrates in celery juice are not chemically different from synthetic forms, she said. 

Consumer concern over nitrates is not without merit. Studies using animal models have found high doses of nitrates may increase the risk for colon cancer. Before rushing to eliminate nitrates from your diet, MacDonald says it is important to understand what that risk means:

Nitrates are a naturally occurring chemical found in many fruits and vegetables and do have some health benefits.

The research is based on animal tests, and evidence for similar effects in humans has not been found.

Human diets are complex and many factors influence the potential effects of nitrates on the colon.

“People have a hard time understanding the risk-benefit ratio when it comes to foods. They see a chemical, such as nitrates, listed on the label and assume it is bad or the food contains a high amount,” MacDonald said. “The food safety risk without these preservatives is so much greater.”

The chemical function of nitrates is the same regardless of the source, MacDonald added, so replacing synthetic nitrates with natural sources does not make food safer. In fact, research has shown that the amount of nitrates in celery juice is not always consistent. MacDonald says with synthetic nitrates, food manufacturers can add the precise amount to protect against food poisoning.

The same is true for products with “no high fructose corn syrup” on the label. Litchfield and MacDonald say that does not mean it is sugar free. Similar to nitrates, manufacturers replace the corn syrup with other sweeteners such as tapioca syrup, a common substitute in ketchup. MacDonald says the syrups are made using a similar conversion process, but consumers may notice a difference in price. That’s because tapioca syrup comes from cassava, which must be imported and may cost more.

“There is no evidence that high fructose corn syrup is bad for you or less natural or safe,” MacDonald said. “The food industry is developing all these alternative sweeteners--beet syrup, fruit sugars and agave syrup--but they are all sugar. The names just sound better on the label.”

[I just wrote a very comprehensive article on clean-label dairy foods--the whole farm-to-fridge story--for Food Business News. It can be accessed HERE. In addition, just this week I wrote an online Q&A on formulating next-generation clean-label dairy foods. It can be accessed HERE.]

Here’s the deal with clean label, in general.

Litchfield expects food waste in the U.S.--already about 20 pounds per person each month--will only get worse with the removal of additives and preservatives. Ingredients such as sodium benzoate, calcium propionate and potassium sorbate control the growth of microorganisms in foods without changing the character or taste of the food, she said. Without these and many other additives, foods will spoil faster, increasing food safety risk and the likelihood of more food ending up in the trash.

“Many food additives make the food structure more stable, such as keeping marshmallows soft and crackers crispy. Additives reduce off-flavors, prevent separation of liquids or oils or give foods a pleasant feel in our mouths. Taking these types of ingredients out of foods will probably increase the amount of food we throw away,” Litchfield said.

Americans expect their food supply to be safe, plentiful, convenient and low cost, which explains why grocery stores now offer more than 40,000 different food items. The convenience and choice many consumers value would not be possible without advances in food technology, the professors said--all things for consumers to consider when they ask for “clean” food.

Thank you Ruth MacDonald and Ruth Litchfield!

OK, folks. Not so fast. Like I mentioned, clean label should not be ignored by dairy foods processors. It’s expected. This is food from Mother Nature. Keep it that way. But, depending on the product, its intended distribution and its “affordable” price point, a few “less desirable” ingredients may be necessary. This is where we focus on premium and value-added nutrition. That brings me to dairy foods’ potential roll in health, wellbeing and weight management.

The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation’s 2017 Annual Food and Health Survey shows that one in three shoppers are interested in the benefit of weight loss or weight management in foods. This is particularly true of younger shoppers, those between the ages of 18 and 49 years.

Dairy foods can play in this space, cleanly!

An improved understanding of appetite regulation mechanisms is enabling formulators to develop foods that help consumers feel full and satisfied. This in turn helps them eat less and ultimately lose weight, followed by maintaining weight. Fat, fiber and protein contribute to a feeling of fullness, with each of these macronutrients possessing unique benefits. For example, emerging research shows that prebiotic fibers may positively affect gut microbiota influencing the host—the consumer--to eat less while also increasing metabolism.

The BENEO-Institute, an initiative of BENEO, hosted an expert exchange during the recent Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) in Chicago. Dr. Raylene Reimer, associate professor in the faculties of kinesiology and medicine at the University of Calgary, explained how prebiotic fibers from chicory root benefit the gut microbiota and how this relates to successful weight management. She presented emerging science regarding the gut-brain axis, effects on body composition, satiety, energy intake in adults, children, and during pregnancy, and much more.

Rapidly growing science is showing that the role of gut microbiota in weight management is leading to an increased interest in the quality of carbohydrates and dietary fibers, which play an important role when it comes to influencing the gut microbiota. The good news is that these fibers can also assist with clean-label formulating of functional dairy foods.

Prebiotic chicory root fibers effectively support digestive health in children and adults. Chicory root fibers, inulin and oligofructose are the best-studied prebiotic fibers. They support regularity and wellbeing, which meet consumers’ needs and make them an important focus for product development efforts. The physiological mechanisms underlying digestive support by chicory root fibers are related to their prebiotic effect. They selectively stimulate the growth of good bacteria promoting saccharolytic fermentation, in particular, Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli.

Dr. Reimer has conducted numerous randomized controlled trials with prebiotics that have helped take evidence-based findings into clinical and consumer application. In addition, Dr. Reimer was one of 12 experts worldwide to recently draft and publish the updated definition and consensus statement on prebiotics.

So, what’s the latest on that updated definition and the ingredients that fit the bill?
My colleague at Food Business News, Jeff Gelski, wrote an excellent review of the status of the fiber definition. You can read it HERE.

To summarize his reporting, FDA received 12 petitions on nine different potential fibers for inclusion in the definition. This list includes inulin, soy fiber, polydextrose and resistant starch.

“The petitions were all nicely put together in providing all the evidence that they could find for a specific end point (in regard to a beneficial physiological effect),” said Paula Trumbo, who works within FDA’s Office of Nutrition and Food Labeling, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

She said FDA will not amend its fiber definition, but it will amend the list of isolated and non-digestible carbohydrates that meet the definition. This situation should create new opportunities for businesses to manufacture products that address the specific physiological benefits of fiber.
This is great news for dairy foods, which can use fiber food ingredients to add value in terms of reducing added sugars, replacing fat, increasing fiber content, assisting with weight loss and weight management, and cleaning up labels.

Adding fiber to dairy foods is a win-win for processors and consumers.

The Daily Dose of Dairy blog will not publish on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. For those who partake in turkey, stuffing, cranberries and green bean casserole, Happy Thanksgiving! To you and to readers outside the U.S., thank you for being the best you can possibly be to promote the beauty of all foods dairy!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Disrupt the Dairy Case with Flavor in 2018

The past two months have been a whirlwind of trade shows and conferences, with marketers showcasing their 2018 rollouts and analysts providing insights to help guide the future. Now it’s time for the forecasts.

I take all the insight gained from exploring what’s moving and shaking in other categories and try to translate that into dairy. And I can tell you: It’s time to disrupt the dairy case with flavor.

If you want to compete in the protein snack sector, get bold with strong taste. If you want to be dessert, fluff up and provide some comfort and indulgence. And if you want to seriously be considered an adventurous food, pump up the heat and explore the flavors of global cuisines.

Here’s are a few interesting points to ponder, courtesy of McKinsey & Company, Chicago.

  • The consumer of today is in charge of proliferation of product options. (In other words, they are driving innovation based on their wants and needs. Listen to them!)
  • Millennials have very different habits from prior generations. Here’s a big one: They prefer shopping over buying. What are you going to do to get their attention and turn them from being a shopper into being your customer?

Focus on flavor in 2018!

Here are five flavorful ways to disrupt the dairy case in 2018 to get shoppers to become customers.

1. Coconut. Once shunned for its high saturated fatty acid content, coconut is now viewed as a healthy food ingredient, and thus the flavor possesses a healthful halo. Coconut-based dairy alternatives are trending, but it’s not necessarily because they are non-dairy. It’s because they contain coconut. Dairy foods, such as yogurt, ice cream and even sweet cheese spreads, can be formulated with coconut--to deliver potassium, magnesium and other minerals--and enhanced with coconut flavor for extra deliciousness or layered with other flavors. Chocolate is a favorite. But don’t dismiss citrus fruits or a little heat. That brings me to…

2. Chiles. They are getting more specific and associated with a destination. They complement all types of cheese snacks, cheese spreads and dips, but don’t stop there. A little sweet heat in a yogurt smoothie merchandised in the grab-and-go case is just what might catch that millennial’s attention.

Earlier this year, Président brand cheese launched three new flavors of its award-winning rondelé cheese: Thai Sweet Chili, Pineapple & Ginger, and Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper. The new flavors combine simple ingredients with high-quality milk and cream and put an emphasis on the distinct, contrasting yet complimentary tastes of the flavorful inclusions. I just cannot help but think how much more interesting the first two would be with a touch of coconut.

3. Smoky Wood. Most people will agree that everything is better with bacon. That’s why it is everywhere. What’s next after bacon? It’s what makes bacon so flavorful, sans the piggy. It’s smoke and wood flavors, and they are starting to show up in all types of food and beverage. Dairy foods are the perfect complement to these deep, earthy flavors. Think smoked Gouda. But then take it a step forward. Imagine a line of cheese curds or cubes with various smoked wood flavors, from apple to pecan. They are a way to standout in the growing category of cheese and meat snacks. These flavors are also great in fresh cheese spreads and dips. The smoke and the wood can be paired with other flavors. Think grilled pineapple cream cheese spread. Let’s be on the forefront of this trend and not play catch up later.  

4. Limited-Edition Flavors…in milk! Imagine my surprise, and excitement, to see cookies and milk (yes, real, authentic, from the cow MILK) featured in a pilot food program at the United Club in Orlando airport this week. I chatted with the chef about the program and she said they are experimenting with botanical flavors of milk for nighttime relaxation drinks.

Now’s the time to start a limited-edition flavored milk program.

The Farmer’s Cow started such a program this year and has really livened up the milk case, while also increasing sales. It’s sixth flavor—Pumpkin Pie Milk—is out right now. It is made with creamy whole milk blended with natural pumpkin flavor and just a touch of spice. There are no artificial flavors or colors, and no high fructose corn syrup. The suggested retail price is $5.99 for a quart. It is produced in small batches and sold in collectible glass bottles. Like a pumpkin, its bright orange cap makes it stand out in the dairy case. The flavor is described as being like a slice of homemade pumpkin pie topped with fresh whipped cream without the crust or fuss. Other limited-edition flavors included maple and blueberry.

5. Peanuts and Peanut Butter. For some reason peanut and peanut butter almost always gets paired with chocolate. There’s no denying it’s a great combination, but, there’s been a great deal of innovation with peanuts and peanut butter all on their own. Part of this is because of the protein trend, as peanuts and peanut butter are concentrated sources of protein. This gives them a healthful halo, much like coconut.

Hershey’s recognizes the power of peanuts. Rolling out December 1, new Hershey’s Gold is a caramelized crème bar with peanuts and pretzels and no chocolate. Sampled at NACS, this bar has a satisfying crunch. The saltiness of the peanuts and pretzels give the bar a savory taste. This combo translates well into a yogurt topping.

Let’s get creative with peanut flavors. Think puddings and parfaits, spreads and dips, and wait for it…peanut butter flavored milk. Chocolate and P.B. was a limited-edition flavor from Prairie Farms late last year through this summer. Based on whole milk, it tasted like a drinkable peanut butter cup. But…I’m more of a Reese’s Pieces kind of gal. Bring on the P.B. only!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Plan for 2018: Next-Generation Dairy Foods Made with Dairy Proteins, Courtesy of Food Science

In order to explain food science to a room of high school seniors during a career fair at my sons’ high school, I knew I had to bring it to their level. That would be one of having strong opinions that are not scientifically based. For most of these kids, GMOs were developed by the devil and high fructose corn syrup by its cousin. And a “stranger thing” in a parallel universe is responsible for that can of Chef Boyardee ravioli. That was my way in.

I asked the kids to think of a center-of-store packaged food that they won’t eat and why. One boy went at with Chef Boyardee ravioli. After I gave him his minute, I stopped him. I explained how there’s an organic counterpart produced under the Annie’s label. Same concept, similar technology to form and fill the mini pastas, and identical retort process to give those cans a shelf life of about two years. That’s food science. He was speechless.

I distributed a small paper cup of raw whole almonds to each student and slapped a $100 bill on the table. I challenged them to squeeze the almonds to fill up the cup. I would pay the first student who could squeeze out even one drop of nut juice (thanks KJ for the descriptor). We all know I came home with the cash.

This really got them thinking.

I explained that science is used to make all types of food, conventional to organic. I opened their eyes to looking at the prepared food to think about its origins, the energy and resources that go into making that food, and even its impact in terms of waste and disposal.

Examples and stories, that’s always been my preferred way to communicate. After the almond activity, it was an easy sell for them to see how much less processed cows milk is as compared to nut and pea beverages. Still, someone spoke up and shared her view about it simply not feeling right to drink another mammal’s milk.

That’s a valid opinion. One I felt was not mine to counter. This thought process, my friends, is one of the biggest threats to fluid milk.

Interestingly, she had no problem with foods made with milk. Something for us to think about.

Now, open mindedness is not a strong suit of 18-year-olds who are at the top of the world and basically checked out as they await their college acceptance letters, but I decided I would push a little harder. I still had 10 minutes on the clock. I brought up flavors and colors, and explained how the latter are sourced.

One student accused the food industry of feeding him petroleum via artificial colors. I countered him and said that it’s his choice to choose his beverages. I asked him if he was fine with his lemon Gatorade having no color, which would be the same for every other flavor of Gatorade. He said this was not acceptable. I informed him that his purchasing dollar keeps artificially colored Gatorade in the market, as there once was a clear line that was free of artificial color. No one bought it.

I did offer that food scientists are working very hard with trying to develop naturally sourced vibrant colors with the same performance and longevity as their artificial counterparts.

On that note, my younger son cannot be happier that the original Trix has returned. He could care less about the color source. The fact that he often consumes three large bowls with about three glasses of milk in a single sitting works for me. I think that fills his daily dose of numerous vitamins and minerals at a very small price. That’s food science, my friends. It’s delivering safe and delicious nutrition and calories at an affordable price.

Food science is also allowing the industry to get creative with milk proteins. It’s time to start thinking about the next-generation of protein-enhanced dairy foods in order to keep dairy relevant with those 18-year-olds who will soon have more spending power.

From my recent marketplace and tradeshow observations, I believe there are three huge opportunities for dairy processors for innovation this coming year.

1. Team up with Coffee and Caffeine. It’s time to compete in the energy drink space as well as get more aggressive in sports nutrition. Coffee and milk are a perfect duet. Together they provide natural and sustained energy along with recovery protein.

Mövenpick of Switzerland now offers Coffee Shot, which is made from 100% roasted coffee extract and 1.5% fat milk with no artificial additives. Mövenpick Coffee Shot Espresso is an ice-chilled caffeine kick in shot format. It’s described as an Italian coffee treat with that extra caffeine kick of a triple espresso and is designed to boost energy at any time of the day. Each 100-milliliter bottle contains 109 milligrams of caffeine and a mere 66 calories, 1.4 grams of fat, 8.4 grams of sugar and an impressive 3.8 grams of protein. With some added whey proteins, this drink could be an endurance shot-style beverage.

Innoprax, also of Switzerland, recently added Caffe Lattesso Sport to its coffee-milk lineup. Each 250-milliliter cup with sipping lid contains 16 grams of high-quality milk protein for building and preserving muscle mass. The powerful caffeine boost (140 milligrams) from fresh espresso stimulates the central nervous system and helps the consumer take full advantage of their potential, according to the company. Ideally one should enjoy a cup of Caffe Lattesso Sport one hour before or after training. The drink is a blend of 75% lactose-free skimmed milk with added milk protein, 21% Arabica highland coffee and 4% sugar. (Note the lactose-free attribute.)
2. Focus on Frozen Protein Snacks. There’s a lot of better-for-you products competing for space in retail freezers, mostly in the form of pints or multi-pack novelties. The opportunity is in individual units for the grab-and-go consumer. It’s all about the convenience channel, including the kiosk at the gym and vendors at sports complexes.
Kri of Greece extends its High Protein Super Spoon brand to the freezer case. The brand made its debut about two years ago as a refrigerated yogurt. Now it’s a frozen product. The product is Greek yogurt combined with superfruits and frozen in single-serve cups that come with a spoon. Flavors are: Blackberry, Black Currant, Blueberry and Cranberry. Each 105-gram cup packs in 9.3 grams of protein.

In Sweden, Lohilo plans to roll out in early 2018 a line of grab-and-go protein ice cream bars. The initial rollout will be in Caramel & Pecan and Cookies & Cream flavors. The bars are designed to be an alternative to traditional post-workout and energy bars. Lohilio products are “lo” in carbs, “hi” in protein and “lo” in fat. The lactose-free bars contain 3.2 grams of sugar and 6 grams of protein.

3. Go Lactose Free. That brings me to lactose. Back to that room full of high school seniors. Would you believe a show of hands revealed that half the class, if not more, is lactose intolerant? I don’t believe it either. The problem is, they do. Lactose continues to be a major deterrent to consuming dairy foods. All innovation moving forward should make a lactose free claim a priority. Have this work to your advantage in terms of manipulating sweetness and possibly reducing added sugars.

That’s what Germany’s Emmi is doing with its Caffe Latte ready-to-drink coffee milk line. The beverage brand now includes a range of lactose-free formulations. Starting in February 2018, there will be new Emmi Caffe Latte Balance without lactose and reduced in calories and fat.

The people at Omira GmbH in Germany have built an entire business around lactose-free dairy foods with its MinusL brand. This month the company is adding three protein power foods to the lineup. There’s a 1-liter milk carton that contains 51 grams of protein and a fresh cheese with fruit cup concept that provides 12 grams of protein.

The dairy industry must constantly evolve to stay relevant, to be part of the conversation.

Need some additional brainstorming assistance? Let me introduce you to my oldest son’s classmates.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Include Transparency in your Clean-Label Efforts. Here’s Why!

Going clean label is so much more than simple ingredients. That’s the foundation of the effort, while sourcing, processing and even a company’s philanthropic initiatives are now part of clean-label programs, which is why transparency has become the latest buzz word in food and business marketing. It’s all about explaining why a company does something.

Link HERE to read an article I recently wrote for Food Business News on “The complexity of clean label.”

Today’s shoppers want more information about what is in the foods they buy. They want to know where the food comes from and why the food contains certain ingredients. It’s not that they are necessarily opposed to the ingredients, they just want to know why they are in the product.

This growing consumer demand for transparency is being addressed both by regulation and with the rise of voluntary claims marketers make on packages and media. Each industry and segment are at a different stage of transparency, according to Kristi Weaver, partner, McKinsey & Company, Chicago, who was a featured speaker at the TransparencyIQ conference held Oct. 18, 2017 in Rosemont, Ill. For example, while artificial growth hormone-free liquid milk has become standard in retail, the market for cheese has yet to tip, with not even 30% of conventional U.S. cheese sporting the claim.

 “Consumers today expect transparency from retailers and manufacturers,” Ms. Weaver said. “This impacts their purchase decisions.”

In the overall food industry, information about product ingredients ranks highest, followed by manufacturing process and sourcing practices. Many marketers invest in clean-label claims to remain competitive. Others do so to secure a competitive advantage based on consumer demand and their willingness to pay.

Transparency is materializing for consumers on two different levels, according to Weaver.

“There’s mandated transparency, which regulatory agencies act as advocates for the consumer and set up rules around,” she said. This includes labeling laws, such as the Nutrition Facts and nutrient content claims; dietary restrictions, such as a ban on trans-fatty acids; sourcing claims, such as organic; and manufacturing claims, such as no hormones in poultry.

“There’s also voluntary transparency, where companies advertise product attributes that cater to their target consumer,” said Ms. Weaver. “These attributes address one or more dimensions of a product, including ingredients, manufacturing, process and more. Voluntary transparency can be a source of competitive advantage.”

She presented a scenario with retail packaged chicken, which can easily be translated to many dairy foods. With chicken, hormone-free is required. “The category has tipped towards antibiotic-free,” she said. “Vegetarian-fed and cage-free are a competitive advantage.”

Companies that are in the process of making voluntary claims are wise to communicate their goals. In dairy, if you have plans to remove all artificial colors by the end of 2018, communicate this to consumers. They appreciate the information. 

This past August, Kalona SuperNatural announced that it is the first dairy brand to offer 100% grass-fed products certified by the American Grassfed Association (AGA). As part of this initiative, in early 2018, two new products with this certification will be hitting store shelves, Plain and Vanilla Organic, 100% Grass-fed Cultured Whole Milk Kefir.

The AGA certification guarantees that the milk used to make their 100% grass-fed products comes from cows that are pasture-grazed and fed 100% forage, with no use of grains or grain products. It also prohibits the use of confinements, growth hormones, antibiotics and GMOs.

“Launching new products with the AGA certification gives us a competitive advantage in the marketplace,” says Mindy Seiffert, director of sales and marketing at Kalona Organics. “Today’s consumers are seeking transparency, credibility and authenticity when it comes to label claims on their products.”

Phil Forbes, farm liaison for the Kalona SuperNatural brand, says, “Our driving force behind getting AGA certified was transparency. We strive to get third-party verification on any claim we make on our products. AGA certification helps the consumer feel confident that when we say our kefir [coming soon in 2018] is 100% grass-fed, that it indeed is just exactly that.”

Grassland Dairy Products is launching its Non-GMO Project Verified butter products as it transitions its butter brand to being free from artificial growth hormones. The cream is sourced from American dairy farmers who meet the Non-GMO Project standards and are also compliant with Validus Dairy Animal Welfare Review practices. This is communicated to consumers.

“Butter is a very simple and natural product. Over the years, we witnessed a shift in consumers who want more accredited transparency in their food, we believe offering a Non-GMO Project Verified butter option would offer consumers more choices for their families,” says Trevor Wuethrich, president of Grassland.

He is right, consumers want to know more and rely on labels for that information.

At TransparencyIQ, Patrick Moorhead, chief marketing officer for Label Insight, Chicago, shared proprietary 2017 research showing that nearly half (48%) of consumers currently do not feel adequately informed about a product even after reading its label. Two-thirds of consumers hold the manufacturer/brand accountable for communicating critical product information in order for them to make an educated decision regarding purchase.

Here’s where it gets real, according to Mr. Moorhead: 39% of consumers would switch from their current preferred brand to one that offers more product transparency, while 81% would consider a brand’s entire portfolio of products if they switched to that brand because of transparency.

Label Insight data is able to put a price tag on transparency. Almost three-fourths (73%) of consumers are willing to pay more for a product that offers complete transparency. This is more than what, it’s why.

Why? Why? Why? It’s a recurring theme in transparency programs.

“People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it,” said Gina Asoudegan, senior director of mission, Applegate Farms, Bridgewater Township, N.J. She shared how Applegate Farms has driven industry change by forging alliances with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which are non-profit, voluntary citizens’ group, and third parties.

“Transparency for Applegate Farms is less about pushing our product and more about talking to people about our product,” she said. “You need to sell them your mission because today’s consumers buy based on their values.”

This is exactly how Stonyfield Farm made a household name of itself some 20 years ago. I remember being surprised by former-CEO and Co-Founder Gary Hirshberg’s openness in discussing the company and its efforts while other company’s executives shied away from interviews. He felt it was important to inform shoppers “why,” and in doing so, they would be loyal customers. He was right. 

When he and Samuel Kaymen joined forces in 1983, they were simply trying to help family farms survive, protect the environment, and keep food and food production healthy through their nonprofit organic farming school. When they commercialized their yogurt production, it was not all organic, as demand for the yogurt exceeded supply of organic milk and other ingredients. Still, they focused on producing healthy, delicious food void of “unclean” ingredients.

Like anyone who became acquainted with Gary in the 90s, I quickly learned that part of his mission was to raise consumer awareness about the health- and wellness-benefits of consuming yogurt and other dairy foods. He wanted all processors to thrive and believed by making, promoting and selling the best dairy products possible, everyone was a winner. He believed winners had nothing to hide.

At the TransparencyIQ conference, Ludovic Meilhac, partner at McKinsey & Company, emphasized how transparency is much more than ingredient disclosure, with many layers of interdependent strategies to consider. Product developers and marketers must consider all aspects of transparency to have a chance in succeeding.

This includes being transparent along the way, not just when you reach your clean-label goals. That was the message shared by Deborah Arcoleo, director of product transparency, The Hershey Company, Hershey, Pa. She shared five lessons learned while implementing the company’s transparency program. These all apply to dairy foods marketing.

Lesson One: What matters is what people want to hear, not what you want to say; and consumers like knowing that even more information is available even if they don’t anticipate needing it.

Lesson Two: Consumers want to hear the whole story, not just the good bits. ‘Fess up to what you’re not satisfied with and what you are going to get better.

Lesson Three: The absence of information is information. Consumers will make up a story--often inaccurate--for why they can’t find what they are looking for.

Lesson Four: At the individual product level, your ability to be transparent is only as good as your data architecture. You can’t share what you don’t store and maintain.

Lesson Five: People are hungry for knowledge of how food is grown and where it comes from. Videos of farms and farmers brings product to life and educates them about the food system.

Happy Halloween! Have a spooky weekend! Why? Because it’s fun!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Global Cheese Trends 2017

From the World Dairy Expo’s Dairy Product Contest in Madison, Wis., at the beginning of October to Anuga 2017 in Cologne, Germany, and then to Chicago (nice season Cubbies, til next year!) for this week’s NACS 2017, the exposition of the National Association of Convenience Stores, cheese has been getting lots of attention. Artisan cheesemakers, regional creameries and global brands are showing the industry that cheese, a simple, clean-label, natural food that starts with four ingredients—milk, cultures, enzymes and salt—can be enjoyed as a snack, an on-the-go mini meal, an entrée and as dessert.

Let’s explore some recent entries to the global cheese case. But first, congrats to Sartori Company, for its Grand Championship winner at the World Dairy Expo. The Plymouth, Wis.-based cheesemaker took home the high honor for its Black Pepper BellaVitano Cheese.

Link HERE for more information on Word Dairy Expo and the contest.{7279EF7C-C92C-4BB7-9153-6D3578965EF4}&pid={772BEDAE-50B9-46F8-861D-E13763FDE010}

At Anuga 2017, a biennial fair that is the world’s largest food exposition for the retail trade and the foodservice and catering markets, cheese dominated the dairy hall, which is one of 10 expositions within the overall Anuga show. To read last week’s blog on Cultured Dairy Product Trends from Anuga, link HERE.

This 34th Anuga was impressive and a record setter. More than 7,400 companies from 107 countries presented products from all over the world and all categories over the course of five days. Around 165,000 trade visitors from 198 countries took advantage of this unique offer for sourcing, information and ordering at top level.

“Anuga is the world’s biggest and most important business platform for the international food industry,” said Gerald Böse, president and CEO of Koelnmesse. “The trade fair brings the global supply and demand together very precisely. With its clear concept and focus on relevant themes, it is a reliable marketplace for the global food world for customers from Germany and abroad.”

To read an overview of the entire Anuga expo, including a slideshow of some amazing innovations, link HERE to an article I just wrote for Food Business News.

The Anuga taste Innovation Show competition is part of the exposition. Nearly 900 companies placed more than 2,300 products in the new products database on the Anuga website for consideration for the taste recognition. In total, the jury selected 67 products and concepts.

Two winners were cheese.

This includes Hard Feta from Polyphemus Fine Dairy Products, which is Greek feta cheese p.d.o. (protected designation of origin) with a maximum moisture content of only 50%. The reduction of moisture lends this feta cheese a strong taste and a harder, more crumbly texture. This cheese benefits from an additional maturing time (at least 4 months), which allows its proteins to decompose into short-chain proteins and peptides for extra taste and aroma.

Lustenberger & Dürst SA in Switzerland received the Anuga taste Innovation Show accolades for its convenient LeSuperbe Swiss Raclette Gourmet Baking Tray product. The packaged Swiss raclette cheese comes with a baking tray that makes it possible to prepare slices of raclette directly in the oven without an additional tin. The consumer does not need a classic raclette oven or any other baking tray. It can simply be prepared directly in this innovative box. Furthermore, the raclette slices can also be directly melted in the microwave. After preparation, the baking tray can be lifted out of the oven or the microwave with the hand because the box does not gets hot.

Other innovations spotted on the show floor include Basiron Choco, which combines two foodie favorites: cheese and chocolate. The limited-edition cheese from Veldhuyzen, The Netherlands, will be available starting mid-November, just in time for the holidays. The large waxed rounds are designed for in-store cutting.

Also perfect timing for the holidays, Germany’s Bayernland offers Mozzarella Wraps. For retail, the wraps come as individual 130-gram sheets of mozzarella. The user simple fills, rolls, slices and enjoys. For foodservice, resealable tubs contain eight wraps sitting in brine. 

The Netherland’s Vandersterre Holland B.V., makers of the popular Prima Donna line of cheeses, is rolling out Jersey Gouda under its Landana label. Made from the milk of Holland-reared Jersey cows, the company describes the gouda as “different cow, different milk, better cheese.” There are two varieties. Mild is aged for about eight weeks, while Mature is aged for about 17 weeks for a fuller, richer flavor and body. Also new under the Landana brand is Smokey Hot Pepper, which is traditional Dutch cheese with smoked jalapeno peppers for an interesting kick. 

Germany’s Alpenhain now offers a convenient, spreadable form of camembert. New Camembert Crème come in natural and chive varieties. The cheese is made using fresh local Alpine milk without added flavor enhancers, preservatives, colors, emulsifying salts or thickening agents. It can be used as a bread or crackers spread, alone or with jam or honey, or as a cooking tool in everything from sauces to stuffed chicken breast. The spread comes in 125-gram containers for retail. For foodservice, chefs can work with 1.5 kilogram tubs or offer guests 25-gram portion packs.

After launching a corporate realignment this spring, the DMK Group of Germany used Anuga to roll out an integrated range of products. New Milram cheese varieties include Rügener and Küstenkäse in slice format. This convenient form brings the flavors of northern Germany to the nation’s sandwiches. These two cheese originals, made of milk from the island of Rügen, owe their particularly intense flavor to the red smear cultures used in their production.

 Austria’s Concept Fresh continues to grow its no-melt cheese sold under the Gusteria brand. The most recent introduction is Burger, which are patties sized for bun. This joins the brand’s snacking size that rolled out two years ago. Both the burgers and the snacking medallions come with grill marks, so that they can be easily microwaved and served. The burger made its debut in the Classic flavor. The snacks come in three flavors: Chili-Paprika, Classic and Herbs.

M.J. Dairies of Bulgaria showcased an innovative kids’ cheese snack. The recloseable tub is designed to resemble a fish bowl, while the cheese snacks it contains come in the shapes of fish, dolphins and starfish. The cheese is vacuum packed inside the tub, with or without brine.

Switzerland Cheese Marketing is introducing Smart Snack. The branded snack is from and with Original Swiss Emmentaler AOP, a raw milk cheese made with cows milk from the valley of the Emme in the canton of Berne and made in the same region by local dairies. Each 178-gram upscale package contains two slices of the cheese (70 grams total), two slices of bread (80 grams total), a jar of spread (28 grams) and a knife. There are three varieties. Break Filler has whole meal bread with cranberries and cherry and orange spread. Life Saver has whole meal rye bread with chia seeds and a peppery pear and passion fruit spread. Soul Food has whole meal oat bread with apricots and apricot and pimiento spread.

Because kids want their own fun snack products, Italy’s Parmareggio SPA is rolling out the ABC and 123 collections. These snack packs contain single-serve portions of parmesan cheese along with accompaniments such as breadsticks, crackers, muffin and even a juice box.

Greece’s Alpha Gefsi Edesmata offers consumers a fun way to enjoy feta, which is as a dip and spread. Often mixed with Greek yogurt, or various herbs, spices or chopped vegetables, the product line recently had a makeover, with packaging now showing food photography and offering serving suggestions.

Italy’s Granarolo Group is making ricotta cheese a convenient snacking product by making it available in single-serve cups. The product is also lactose free and marketed as a high-protein food.

The company is also one of a number of Anuga exhibitors who introduced baked cheese snacks. Granarolo Cheese Crisps are 100% Italian cheese snacks that are gluten, lactose and carbohydrate free. High in protein, the shelf-stable cheese snacks come in five varieties. They are: Black Olive, Classic, Onion, Paprika and Pizza.

Such baked cheese snacks are gaining momentum throughout Europe, so much so, that non-dairies want a piece of the action. Hungary’s Felfoldi Confectionery Ltd., will be rolling out Let’s Cheese early next year. These 100% cheese oven-baked snacks are marketed as rich in protein and calcium. They come in range of varieties, including ethnic flavors such as Hungarian and Italian, as well as Hazelnut, Natural and Pork Rinds.

At the NACS show in Chicago, which ends today, Friday, October 20, Sargento, Plymouth, Wis., brings a flavorful twist to the familiar with a new and unique cheese snack. The Southwest Blend Snack Stick is natural cheese that blends the creaminess of Monterey Jack with Chipotle Cheddar, Colby and Pepper Jack cheeses.

About a year ago, Tyson Foods Inc., Springdale, Ark., introduced the Hillshire Snacking brand, which includes an array of individually portioned protein snacks for an elevated on-the-go eating experience to satisfy a more sophisticated food palate. The line includes Hillshire Snacking Small Plates, with each offering containing 15 or more grams of protein per serving. The plates are combinations of meat (salami slices, spicy pork chunks or grilled chicken chunks), cheese, crackers, crisps and nuts. At NACS, the brand revealed it latest addition to the line. The new combinations come with alcohol flavor-infused meats. Varieties are: Apple Chardonnay, Smokey Bourbon and Whiskey & Brown Sugar.

Chicago-based Kraft Heinz Co., is also grows its meat and cheese P3 (portable protein pack) snacking line. New P3 Protein Plates contain 60% more food than the original snacking size, according to the company. They are currently available in four varieties: Turkey, Cashews, Cheddar and Cranberries; Chicken, Almonds, Colby Jack and Blueberries; Ham, Cashews, Cheddar and Cranberries; and Turkey, Almonds, Monterey Jack and Blueberries. All P3 Protein Plates are designed to be shelved in the refrigerated section.{7279EF7C-C92C-4BB7-9153-6D3578965EF4}&pid={772BEDAE-50B9-46F8-861D-E13763FDE010}