Friday, May 26, 2017

Anuga 2017: This innovation food expo is a must-attend for dairy processors who want to be ahead of the trend

In less than five months, Anuga, the world’s leading food fair for the retail trade and the foodservice and catering markets, will take place at Koelnmesse in Cologne, Germany. This biennial event is a central business and communications platform for all players involved in the development, manufacturing, marketing, distribution and sale of food and beverage. It’s where new products make their debut to complement today’s and tomorrow’s trends.

The 2015 expo attracted nearly 160,000 trade visitors from 192 countries. Event organizers anticipate breaking this record in 2017, as Cologne continues to attract buyers and sellers from all countries around the world. That’s because Anuga has become the benchmark for all food trade fairs worldwide in terms of both quality and quantity.

Anuga prides itself on being 10 trade shows under one roof. This design is a well-arranged layout divided up into themed areas, which makes it easy to focus and get work done. The halls are: 1) Bread & Bakery, 2) Chilled & Fresh Food, 3) Culinary Concepts, 4) Dairy, 5) Drinks, 6) Fine Food, 7) Frozen Food, 8) Meat, 9) Hot Beverages and 10) Organic.

Trust me, the dairy hall takes an entire day to explore. Hope to see you there this fall…but for now…Happy Summer!

Mark your calendar for the 34th Anuga taking place October 7-11, 2017. For more information, link HERE.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Texture: The Often Ignored, Yet Critical Component of Dairy Foods Product Development

Most consumers don’t think about a food’s texture or mouthfeel unless it is inferior. They have expectations, and when a product does not deliver, the consumer often no longer is a customer.

Most innovators, in particular entrepreneurs with a dream product in mind, tend to focus on flavor and nutrition. Texture and mouthfeel are secondary, and in some instances, not addressed until too late. Then the whole innovation process needs to start over.

In live (active cultures and enzymes), fresh dairy foods, texture changes over shelf life. Ingredients may interact and cause everything from clumping to syneresis.

Here are four tips to incorporate into innovation efforts for cultured dairy products, namely yogurt, and dairy desserts.

1. Texture must be addressed early on in the innovation stage.
Research shows texture is equally important as flavor in product innovation and must be a consideration in the early stages of product development—and all the way through the end of shelf life. Specialized formulations, along with processing and distribution, may all take a toll on product texture. You must monitor texture changes every time you make an ingredient change. Even a simple 10% reduction in added sugars can make an impact.

Sensory scientists must be involved from the very beginning of product innovation. Sensory science provides an understanding of ingredient behavior and interactions. It helps eliminate unnecessary trials and focus on viable ingredient solutions.

2. Identify target texture attributes and develop a process to consistently deliver them.
Yogurt is one of the most segmented categories in the food industry, according to research conducted by sensory scientists at Ingredion Inc. A key way manufacturers differentiate their yogurt products is through texture. Consistency is paramount.
Did you know there are more than 25 different sensory terms identified as descriptors for the texture of yogurt? Preferences vary by target consumer, product type and usage occasion.

3. Use effective language to communicate the texture of the product.
Research shows that yogurt texture is a leading influencer of product liking scores. Marketers must identify the target consumer early on in the innovation stage, formulate to deliver the texture the target consumer prefers and use effective language to communicate the expected texture of the finished product. Thick should not be lumpy, but it is not necessarily creamy either. A light or 100-calorie portion is not thick, but it also is not runny.

4. Differentiate between sweetness and “added sugars” in order to better manage texture and mouthfeel.

International Food Information Council Foundation’s 12th Annual Food and Health Survey shows that more consumers link sugars to weight gain. In fact, according to this report issued early in the week, one-third of Americans, which is up from 25% in 2016, say sugars are most likely to cause weight gain. This needs to be top-of-mind for dairy foods innovators.

The addition of “added sugars” to the Nutrition Facts label has many yogurt manufacturers exploring ingredient technologies to keep this number as low as possible. The challenge is when sugars are reduced, the entire matrix gets disrupted. This is true for most food systems, including yogurt, flavored milk and ice cream.

Formulators must remember that sugar is a solid. Removing any solids from yogurt impacts texture. With reduced sugar, yogurt is less firm when stirred. It is also less cohesive and has less body in the mouth. Because of reduced solids, the yogurt also disappears faster in the mouth. With yogurts intended to be mini meals, it is essential to build back a full-bodied texture, which consumers typically perceive as more satiating and satisfying.

“There is sweetness; then there is sugar,” says Ivan Gonzales, marketing director-dairy, at Ingredion. “Our research shows that today’s health- and nutrition-conscious consumers are searching for the sweetness—and texture--experiences they love in yogurt, but with less sugar and fewer calories.”

There are ingredient systems that provide sweetness with sugar-like taste profiles and the mouthfeel of sugar, but with fewer calories and simple labels. This ranges from specialty polyols and dextrose to high-potency sweeteners, including highly purified stevia extract, as well prebiotic oligosaccharides, alternative sweeteners and more.
Texture will be addressed in a number of educational sessions at this year’s IFT, which is in less than seven weeks in Las Vegas.

On Monday, June 26, plan to attend session #23 “Understanding Food Texture” from 3:30 to 5:30pm.

One of the speakers, LuAnn Williams, direct of innovation at Innova Market Research, explains, “Consumer expectations around the eating quality of food have required textural adaptation of traditional formulas to deliver equivalent satisfaction with sugar- and fat-reduced products. Balancing the contradictory wants and needs of consumers has been a struggle for the food industry. The requirements have both sensory and mechanical textural implications and present a major communications challenge.”

On Wednesday, June 28, from 10:30am to noon, scientists will address the role of sweeteners, texturizers and emulsifiers on the mouthfeel of beverages and foods during session #87, “The Critical Role of Beverage Mouthfeel: Unique Insights for a Product Developer.”

The speakers will address how texture and mouthfeel are key drivers of consumer acceptance and therefore of vital importance for food and beverage manufacturers. This is a must-attend session for players entering the booming yogurt beverage category. You will learn how the physical properties of foods and beverages, e.g., temperature, pH, carbonation, viscosity, etc., impact texture and mouthfeel, as well as the impact of chemical stimuli, including tastes and odors.

The countdown to Vegas begins. See you soon!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Stealth Health: Reduce Added Sugars to Keep Dairy’s Momentum

I attended a food industry conference yesterday sponsored by ACG Chicago. This “FoodBites” event included local foodservice leaders who provided inspirational stories of corporate growth and leadership. The term “stealth health” was mentioned as an approach to staying relevant in the crowded and confusing food and beverage marketplace.

I’ve not heard that term in a while but it’s a concept all formulators should be incorporating into their product development endeavors. The term was coined around the turn-of-the-century when a book of the same name was published. Originally the concept was all about sneaking nutrition into foods. You know, blending a carrot into a chocolate shake for your picky toddler.

Today the term has evolved into the act of reducing some of the undesirables in food. It’s been going on with sodium for some time, namely in prepared foods. But it’s also happening with sugar, as manufacturers prepare for the labeling declaration of added sugar. 

Stealth is not about calling the reduction out. However, a number of dairy processors are so confident in the taste of their sugar-reduced products that they are making a big deal about it. I commend them. Their goal is to keep dairy’s momentum going among today’s health- and wellness-seeking consumers.

There are ample ingredient technologies to make sugar reduction an easy, and tasty fix. Now’s the time to take action. 

Danone has been reducing sugar across its brands since last year. Many of those products have started appearing in the global marketplace.

In February, Stonyfield announced it would be doing the same. The company announced a comprehensive plan to reduce added sugar across its portfolio.

“The commitment to reducing sugar across the product portfolio was born from Stonyfield’s mission to continually provide healthier food both for our consumers and the planet,” says Nichole Cirillo, the company’s mission director. “We are achieving a lower amount of added sugar in all Stonyfield yogurt without compromising taste or organic standards and are working towards purchasing 25% less sugar as a company this year.”

Linda Lee, chief marketing officer at Stonyfield adds, “Consumers want to limit the amount of added sugar in their diets, without sacrificing taste and the great benefits of yogurt like calcium, protein and added vitamin D. We’re accomplishing reductions across the portfolio through a committed team who’s finding a better way to deliver all of the nutrition and taste benefits of Stonyfield yogurts with less sugar. Stonyfield remains steadfast in our commitment to providing the very best yogurts, using sustainable practices, that consumers can feel good about feeding their entire family.”

Less added sugar is one component of a “healthy” food, according to the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). Earlier this month, IFT submitted written comments to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expressing concern that labeling an individual food as healthy can be misleading for consumers.

“It’s important to be cautious in thinking of any food as healthy when what really matters is the overall quality of your diet,” says IFT President John Coupland.

Since IFT is committed to advancing the science of food and its application across the global food system, it recommended that if food and beverage products bear the term healthy, it should be used in the context of overall diet to help promote healthy eating patterns. Diets should be comprised of diverse foods and beverages across various food categories, as noted in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Further, consumers should be mindful of the amount and frequency of each of the foods and beverages they consume, in context of the overall diet. 

These comments, which were based on insights from IFT members, were in response to questions posed by FDA on “how the term ‘healthy’ should be defined when labeling food and beverage products.” IFT members work to develop food products for the retail and foodservice industry, to support consumer’s efforts to achieve a balanced diet by following the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. IFT recommended the following:

  • A hybrid approach to defining the term healthy. IFT suggested a food-based definition of the word healthy, which combines nutrient limits and a statement describing how the food helps achieve dietary recommendations.
  • The definition for healthy food should align with the three eating patterns recommended by the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  • Foods that exceed the recommended limits for sodium, added sugars and saturated fat should be excluded from labeling as healthy.
  • Foods fortified with essential nutrients should not be excluded from healthy labeling if the fortification is consistent with the FDA’s fortification policies and the food contributes to an overall healthy eating pattern.
Commit to keeping dairy healthy!

University of Tennessee Claims Team Win at Collegiate Dairy Contest

The University of Tennessee took the All Products honors at the 95th Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest (CDPEC) held April 12th in conjunction with the Wisconsin Cheese Industry Conference hosted by the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association. University of Tennessee student Michael Luethke was the All Products winner while Katie Magee (University of Tennessee) claimed the Graduate Student All Products category.

Fourteen colleges and universities from the U.S. and France participated in this year’s contest. In addition to the University of Tennessee, U.S. schools that competed were: Clemson University, Iowa State University, Michigan State University, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Missouri, the University of Minnesota, the University of Wisconsin, California Polytechnic State University, South Dakota State University, Washington State University/University of Idaho, Cornell University, and Aims Community College in Colorado. France was represented by the Institut Polytechnique LaSalle Beauvais.

Clemson University placed second in the All Products category, while South Dakota State took third. The University of Tennessee team (pictured), is coached by Dr. Charles White. Also, pictured far right, is All Products Judge and CDPEC Board of Director Chairperson Kevin R. O’Rell.

Established in 1916 by several universities, the CDPEC initially was designed to identify quality defects in dairy products throughout the country so defects could be corrected. It expanded over the years to recognize those students and dairy product judging teams that had mastered the ability to identify high-quality dairy products. The contest gives students the opportunity to showcase their evaluation skills and prepare for careers in the dairy industry.

Students test their sensory abilities against professional judges in six different dairy products: fluid milk, butter, yogurt, cheddar cheese, ice cream and cottage cheese. Dairy industry judges from around the U.S. review eight representative samples of the six different dairy product categories and score each sample based on sensory attributes and the severity of their departure from the ideal. The students are challenged to present scorecards with answers that come as close as possible to the judgments of the experts.

All Products Winners
In the All Products individual undergraduate category, Michael Luethke of the University of Tennessee won first place, Shanna Pearce of Clemson University earned the second place award, and Krista Johnson of South Dakota State University won third place.

In the All Products individual graduate student category, Katie Magee of the University of Tennessee won first place and Kelsey Choquette of Iowa State University earned the second place award. 

Product Category Winners
First-, second- and third-place winners (and Team Category winner) were named in each of the six product categories. The undergraduate winners are: 

First place: Shanna Pearce, Clemson University
Second place: Michael Luethke, University of Tennessee
Third place: Thomas Reis, Cornell University
Team Winner: Clemson University

First place: Rachel Miller, University of Missouri
Second place: Ashley Burgess, Clemson University
Third place: Xiaoqing Tan, Pennsylvania State University
Team Winner: University of Missouri

First place: Krista Johnson, South Dakota State University
Second place: Yue Huang, Pennsylvania State University
Third place: Xiaoqing Tan, Pennsylvania State University
Team Winner: Pennsylvania State University

Cheddar Cheese
First place: Katelyn Johnson, South Dakota State University
Second place: Billy Kalil, University of Minnesota
Third place: Randall Clap, University of Tennessee
Team Winner: South Dakota State

Ice Cream
First place: Shanna Pearce, Clemson University
Second place: Zenia Adiwijaya, Iowa State University
Third place: Chris Eckerman, University of Wisconsin
Team Winner: University of Tennessee

Cottage Cheese
First place: Michael Luethke, University of Tennessee
Second place: Xiaoqing Tan, Pennsylvania State University
Third place: Shanna Pearce, Clemson University
Team Winner: University of Tennessee

The graduate student winners are:
Milk-first place: Kelsey Choquette, Iowa State University
Butter-first place: Akash Mazumder, University of Missouri
Yogurt-first place: Kelsey Choquette, Iowa State University
Cheddar Cheese-first place: Alexandra Kuechel, University of Minnesota
Ice Cream-first place: Katie Magee, University of Tennessee
Cottage Cheese-first place: Steve Beckman, South Dakota State University

To learn more about this unique competition, link HERE.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Developing Innovative Yogurt Concepts: Five (make that six) considerations for successful product rollouts.

I was shocked this past week to visit not one but two retail brands in Chicago and one in Miami to find a major yogurt brand selling its product at 10 for $3.00. I don’t want to name brands, but shame! This devalues yogurt. Another brand was selling its normally $1.59 Greek yogurt at 89 cents. Again, shame! Again, this devalues yogurt.

Karma stinks. Even at these low prices, it appeared that product was not moving, or at least not moving at the speed the brands were hoping. Shelves and coffin cases were full. .

Yes, I did stand around in the dairy departments for about 30 minutes in each of the three locations. Repeatedly I saw consumers reach for the premium or specialty brands.

Moving forward, if you want to compete in the retail refrigerated yogurt category, here are five considerations. For starters: please do not devalue this superfood by over discounting.

The future is all about premiumizing your product.

  • Add value in terms of craftsmanship. Talk about the recipe, the artisan makers, the batch process. 
  • Focus on the cows and their milk, including sourcing, grazing habits, family farm, nutrient composition, heat process, etc.
  • Differentiate with functional ingredients, namely probiotic cultures. Fiber, omega-3s and even vitamins/minerals make sense, too.
  • Talk about the sweetener, have it be honey, stevia or cane sugar. Tell a story about where it came from and why it’s used. It’s OK to sweeten yogurt. Don’t apologize for it or even flag that it’s been reduced. This suggests inferiority.
  • Use high-quality, whole food ingredients for inclusions and mix-ins. Talk about them. Have it be Washington State strawberries picked at the peak of ripeness or praline pecans candied following a New Orleans traditional recipe, talk about the ingredients.

Here’s why premiumization is paramount for the future of yogurt, at least in the U.S. retail market.

For starters, U.S. yogurt sales were down in 2016. U.S. production of yogurt closed 2016 down 1.2% vs 2015, which was driven by a decline in retail yogurt sales. The 2016 retail loss was at -1.5% and followed a 2015 gain of 2.2%, according to data from IRI provided to Dairy Management Inc., and courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Association.

Retail volume loss was seen across geographical regions, retail channels and for most demographic groups. There was growth, however, among millennials, a well-developed yogurt demographic that grew 4% in terms of average annual household volume.

There are indications that the market for Greek yogurt is maturing. Greek yogurt maintained positive growth of almost +1% for the year overall, but contributed to the overall retail yogurt decline in the second half of 2016. This more recent period of decline for Greek yogurt follows several years of strong growth.

The IRI data show that whole-milk yogurt and yogurt multi-serve tubs experienced growth and contributed positive volume in 2016. In addition, very strong growth was seen for Australian and Islandic style yogurts in 2016, although these “specialty” products are still niche in nature. 

Though U.S. yogurt sales overall may have been down in 2016, what was up is sales of “specialty” yogurt products.

Overall, sales continue to grow as Americans embrace specialty food and beverages. The industry is taking its place as an integral player with traditional and non-traditional specialty food retailers, foodservice operators and distributors. 

Specialty foods are outpacing their non-specialty counterparts in almost every category—including yogurt--as consumers continue to become more aware of quality in their food choices. Categories aligned with better-for you options, health and wellness, and freshness are growing fastest.

Specialty foods are defined as foods or beverages of the highest grade, style and/or quality in their respective categories. Their specialty nature derives from a combination of some or all of the following qualities: uniqueness, origin, processing method, design, limited supply, unusual application or use, extraordinary packaging or channel of distribution/sales.

Not surprisingly, millennials are the ones driving this growth. The purchasing patterns of millennials cover the widest range of categories and the most diverse retail channels.

“Discovering specialty food has become a core part of the younger consumers’ daily shopping routine,” says Phil Kafarakis, president of the Specialty Food Association (SFA). “They are moving away from the staples that they grew up with and embracing the new tastes and flavors of specialty food.”

Dollar sales of specialty foods hit $127 billion in 2016, a 15% jump between 2014 and 2016, according to the “State of the Specialty Food Industry,” an annual report published by SFA and Mintel. By comparison, all food sales at retail grew by a mere 2.3%. Total unit sales for specialty foods were up 13.1%.
Growth is being driven by product innovations and wider availability of specialty foods through mass-market outlets. Sales through foodservice increased 13.7% to $27.7 billion as U.S. consumers make specialty food a regular part of their away-from-home meal purchases.

“Consumer preferences for specialty food products are growing at double digits, outpacing mainstream food staples,” says Kafarakis. “The products our members create appeal to consumers looking for authentic tastes and foods with fewer and cleaner ingredients.

“Consumers are also making purchases wherever they happen to be, changing the retail food environment,” he says. “The eagerness of all retailers including mass market, e-commerce and foodservice to capitalize on these consumer trends is transforming the marketplace.”

A key takeaway for yogurt manufacturers from this year’s SFA report is consumers’ increased interest in sustainability. Dairies can do this, and can do it well. So many players are!

According to the overall SFA survey, almost 40% of manufacturers produced sustainable products, up 22% from 2015. Among retailers, sustainable products accounted for 16% of product sales. Along with non-GMO, the supply chain predicts sustainable will be the claim most interesting to consumers in the next three years.

Consumers are especially focused on specialty foods in the refrigerated sections. Categories with the biggest sales growth in this area include refrigerated juices and functional beverages up 30.7%, refrigerated lunch and dinner entrees up 33.0%, and yogurt and kefir up 27.2%. Again, sales of specialty yogurt and kefir were up 27.2% in 2016.

Traderspoint Creamery does a fabulous job of premiumizing its yogurt. Starting with being handcrafted from 100% grass-fed organic cows’ milk to being packaged in glass jars, the brand has a very strong following in the Midwest. The 5-ounce petit pots of raspberry, its most popular whole fruit variety flavor, is now available in four packs. If a single jar commands $2.00 to $3.00, depending on the market and retailer, imagine what the four pack costs. Guess what, it sells.

It’s not just new brands, or even simply new products that are getting premiumized. Last year, Danone invested in a new design and visual identity for its digestive health brand Activia, which it hopes will position the yogurt range in a more premium light and strengthen its health proposition.

The core of the redesign is a new logo, which is made of two interlocking shapes representing efficacy and inner-balance. A bespoke logotype has also been introduced as well as a new photographic style to communicate expertise in the digestive health field. The goal is to premiumize the brand by clearly defining the role and specificity of each product in the range.

“We adopted a design vernacular that feels precise, controlled and refined – a language more commonly found in premium skincare than the dairy aisle. The overall effect? A top-to-bottom premiumization that will ensure the brand occupies a more expert and credible place for consumers both today and tomorrow,” says Marie-Thérèse Cassidy, consumer executive creative director at FutureBrand, who created the new look.

Activia and FutureBrand successfully tested the new visual system amongst 15,000 consumers in seven key markets (U.S., U.K., France, Spain, Germany, Brazil and Russia). The global relaunch started phasing into distribution this past September, with slight modifications by market.

Tip #6: Do not ignore the package and design. There’s are a lot of antiquated poorly printed graphics on white plastic cups in the market. Really? (I know the truth hurts, but the change might help your sales…at full price!)

P.S. The 10 for $3.00 brand recently updated graphics. But what’s missing, my five first recommendations.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Coloring Food Is a Science We Should All Defend—Color Dairy Foods Wisely

The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation, along with more than 170 other organizations, partnered with the March for Science movement, which is designed to defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies and governments. The March for Science, which was held on April 22, 2017, was the first step in this global movement. It is a broad, nonpartisan and diverse coalition of organizations and individuals who stand up for science, advocating for a variety of science-based topics including science education, accessible science, and yes, food science.

I marched at the Chicago installment, along with 45,000 other people, from infants (in strollers or carriers) to the elderly (in wheel chairs). It truly was an amazing—and educational--experience.

The IFIC did a fabulous job of raising awareness of food science and provided many inspirational marching “thank you” sign ideas that can be viewed HERE.

IFIC defended everything from the need for pest management and GMOs, to supporting advancements in fortification, low-calorie sweeteners and coloring technologies. That’s right, food colors.

The IFIC call out states:

Dear Food Science, 
Thank you for both artificial and natural colors so I can eat with my eyes and my stomach.

IFIC explains that “we eat with our eyes” and that food coloring has been in existence for more than 2,000 years, starting in 300 BCE when artificial colors were used to color wine.
View this “Colorful History of Food Colors” infographic from IFIC.

Food colors, both natural and artificial, help to correct for color loss due to exposure to light, air, temperature extremes, moisture and storage conditions. They also assist with correcting natural variations in color and can enhance colors that occur naturally in foods. Lastly, they provide color to colorless foods, rendering them more “eye appealing.”

Artificial colors, those based on petroleum and in the U.S., known as certified colors, have historically been very cost effective and stable in most food and beverage systems. But, they actually might be too “colorful,” suggesting to consumers that the application is overly processed, even “fake.”

I found the following research fascinating and promising for the future of all things dairy. It suggests the importance of keeping inherently nutritious, clean, simple dairy foods as close to natural as possible.

The Research

Last year, Lycored set out to explore the strength of consumer demand for natural colors within the specific context of the dairy industry, and with particular focus on strawberry flavored milks. The quantitative and qualitative study queried U.S. mothers on the visual appearance of flavored milks colored red naturally versus artificially.

The company tested the stability of two of its natural tomato-based colors versus the artificial colorant Red #3 during and after ultra-high temperature (UHT) processing in a flavored milk drink matrix. Accelerated shelf life tests were carried out to evaluate the stability of the colors when exposed to light, dark and ambient conditions, simulating real-life storage, transportation and retail environments.

When consumers were asked to rate the naturalness of the appearance of the three samples, both of the tomato-based color colored milks outscored the artificial sample.
Then they were asked if they would be willing to pay more for a product with natural flavorings and colors. Almost nine in 10 survey respondents (88%) said they would.

They were then told that the average flavored milk beverage costs $1.50 and asked how much they would be willing to spend on a product if it was made with natural colors and flavors. On average, moms said they would pay up to $2.20, which is 47% more.

In focus groups, moms were asked about the three colored strawberry milks.

Comments on the milks with tomato-based color included: “Looks the most natural to a blended strawberry, therefore potentially most healthy for my children,” “Reminds me of a drink from my childhood…and more likely to appear in nature” and “more attractive to the mom in me. I believe it looks like it has less artificial ingredients in it.”
The focus groups suggested that there’s a “feel-good factor” from buying their children a product that looks more homemade. Other feedback indicated that consumers are turning away from non-natural colors that are too vibrant.

The key takeaway here is that, yes, we eat with our eyes, and yes, foods and beverages must be visually appealing. But, visually appealing is not the same as too colorful or vibrant. Color dairy foods wisely. Thank you food science.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Say Cheese! Make Dairy Foods the Star of the Supermarket

Photo source: Midwest Dairy Association

Clean-label qualities--natural, no artificial ingredients, no preservatives and no artificial colors--are showing the greatest growth among package claims, according to the 2017 NMI Health & Wellness Trends in America study. It’s the 18th edition of this annual report by the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI).

With careful formulation, it’s not too difficult to deliver on all these attributes when creating new dairy foods. Ingredient suppliers offer many varied solutions to keep dairy products simple, fresh and safe. The challenge often lies with the “extras” added to dairy products. This includes the confections that go into ice cream, the crunchies in yogurt and the bits, pieces and accompaniments paired with cheese in the growing snack category.

Keep products as simple and clean as possible, then work with retailers—all sizes, from big box to convenience stores--to communicate these benefits.

Looking for ideas to increase shopper engagement in the dairy aisle?

“Research tells us that consumers want a closer relationship with farmers and they want to know more about the products they buy,” says Cindy Sorensen, senior vice president-business development at the Midwest Dairy Association. “Dairy has a great story to tell and providing this type of information will meet consumer demands and contribute to a more memorable shopping experience. With a more engaging and inspirational dairy department, shoppers will slow down and ultimately add more items to the basket.”

The Midwest Dairy Association just released a new industry resource: Dairy Reimagined–A Resource Guide Book. It provides actionable, sales-driving ideas that can be implemented in store.

“We’ve organized the book into three sections ranging from ideas that are simple and easy to implement, to more complex projects that require planning,” says Sorensen.

It’s all about inspiring and informing. Talk about the wholesome, the delicious, the nutritious.
“In-store images and messaging are important components of the overall shopping experience,” she says. “The information that is shared with the customer is as important as the ‘look and feel’ of the sign itself.”

You can download the research guide HERE.

There are many opportunities to better promote cheese snack offerings. And…if you are involved in the cheese sector, or are thinking about it, now is the time to get on board with snack products.

In case you were unaware, the U.S. cheese market finished 2016 ahead of the previous year, with USDA reporting a volume increase of a whopping 3.4%. This builds on the 3% growth experienced in 2015. Though foodservice continues to be a driver of sales, the snacking trend is fueling retail cheese sales. New forms, bold flavors and convenience packaging encourages consumers to purchase more cheese through retail outlets for snack time, which for some consumers translates to all-day grazing.

Innovation is at an all-time high in the cheese snacking sector. There are products designed for specific dayparts and demographics. Look at these many variations of next-generation cheese snacks.

A recent introduction in the U.K. comes from Kerry Foods with its new GoGo’s line. Intended for adults, the line comes in three flavor combinations.

Full of Beans is roasted edamame beans and chili and lime peas, reduced-fat cheese bites and dark chocolate-covered coffee beans and pretzel sticks.

Oat-Tastic is spicy roasted corn and roasted edamame beans, reduced-fat cheese bites and fruity and seeded flapjacks.

Protein Power is soy broad beans and roasted edamame beans, reduced-fat cheese bites and chorizo bites.

Kerry Foods senior brand manager Amanda Ryan says, “With research showing that 27% of consumers are willing to pay more for snacks that have positive nutritional benefits, we wanted to ensure our products are tasty and exciting but also deliver nutritional value.

“We know that many adults are looking for tasty snacks that make them feel good about what they are eating and that’s what we reflected in our GoGo’s innovation.

“Finding a gap in the market, GoGo’s will disrupt snacking and revolutionize the dairy aisle with a range of products that allow shoppers the chance to experience interesting flavor combinations,” she says. “We are excited about launching this product and have a number of listings secured across the grocery and convenience channels.”

GoGo’s Full of Beans and Oat-Tastic come in 55-gram packs and Protein Power is available in a 70-gram pack.

Then there’s Cow Candy cheese snacks for younger taste buds. Cow Candy combines the whimsy of the candy aisle with the nutritious goodness of real cheese. The new fruit-flavored Monterey Jack cheese is packed with 15% of the Daily Value of calcium, 4 grams of protein and just 1 to 2 grams of sugar per serving. It contains no artificial ingredients.

“As a parent, it can be difficult to find a healthy, easy-to-serve snack that competes with candy,” says Cow Candy founder Danyel O’Connor. “This struggle led to the creation of Cow Candy, a high-quality cheese bursting with fruit flavor to tempt kids’ taste buds and establish healthy snacking habits.

“While the playful colors and flavor combinations may be surprising to adult palettes, we’ve seen firsthand how quickly even the pickiest little eaters gobble up this sweet/savory snack,” she says.

Cow Candy comes in Fruit Punch, Grape, Honey, Orange and Strawberry flavors.

Pine River now offers its popular cheese spreads in a clean-label formulation. The 9-ounce containers come in Garlic & Herb, Hot Habanero, Port Wine and Sharp Cheddar varieties. The formulations contain no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives and have a 270-day refrigerated shelflife.

Cheesewich, the unique hand-held combo of cheese and salami that debuted in three years ago, is now entering the individually wrapped string cheese category.

To read more about the original fast grab-and-go snack of salami sandwiched between two slices of cheese provides, link HERE.

The new string cheeses come in display boxes for easy merchandising. Varieties are Mozzarella and Smoked Mozzarella.

Chef’s Cut Real Jerky now offers jerky and cheese snack packs. The two varieties of 1.5-ounce protein packs are: Smoked Beef Original Recipe and Cheddar Cheese and Smoked Turkey Teriyaki with Pepper Jack Cheese. The cheese is dehydrated, enabling the snack packs to be shelf stable. Gluten free and with no nitrites, the snack packs provide 16 or 17 grams of protein, respectively.


Milk Truck Cheese is growing its Cherky line with cracker-sized blocks. Cherky is a unique shelf-stable blend of flavorful aged cheddar and pieces of real hickory smoked bacon. The pasteurized process cheese snack comes in two flavors: Jalapeño Bacon & Cheddar and Smokey Bacon & Cheddar. The gluten-free, high-protein snack made its debut last year in single-serve 1.5-ounce sticks and is now available in 7-ounce blocks of 12 cracker-sized slices. The product has a year-long unopened ambient shelf life.

Président brand cheese launches 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.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Sweet and Simple: Five Tips for Dairy Foods Innovation

On the heels of speaking multiple times at ProFood Tech last week and at the 106th annual Oregon Dairy Industries meeting this week, I am consolidating the innovation suggestions I shared into five sweet and simple tips.

1. Snackify your dairy products.
With consumers snacking multiple times a day, many forgoing traditional meals all together, it is paramount that snacks be formulated for different day parts. Yogurt does a decent job of positioning itself as a snack food by being available in single-serve cups, sometimes with enrichment for satiation and nutrition. Cheese is on board with snack size forms and single-serve packs. There are many opportunities to make milk and ice cream snack foods.

A new study by Amplify Snack Brands and the Center for Generational Kinetics suggests that Millennials are the driving force behind the growth of the better-for-you snack category. The research revealed that healthier snacks have become widely available across the country, break the income barrier and are being held to the same standards of universal taste appeal as their conventional products. The result, says Amplify, is that healthy is the new normal.

According to the report, which is available for download HERE, for decades, snacking meant choosing taste over health as nutritional packaged snacks were rare and ones that tasted appealing were even rarer. But that has changed in recent years as consumer demand for more snacking options has grown and Millennials have led the charge to take healthy snacking mainstream. Now, better-for-you packaged snacks are here—and here to stay--because they provide the perfect intersection of taste, nutrition and convenience. This is the perfect time for retailers to capitalize on this trend by offering the better-for-you snacking selection that consumers have come to expect.

According to the research, Millennials expect great taste: 78% describe better-for-you snacks as tasting the same or better than traditional packaged snacks.

Less is more: 64% of Millennials, more than any other generation, believe that fewer ingredients mean a snack is healthier. In addition, 79% said that understanding all the ingredients increases their level of trust in a packaged snack.

Social media is the messenger: More than any other generation, Millennials will try a better-for-you snack based solely on an online rating, review or social media post.

Motivated by the kids: Most (69%) of Millennial moms say their kids understand that some snacks are healthier than others and 55% say their kids are more likely to choose a better-for-you snack over another packaged snack.

“This study is such a fantastic example of how powerful the millennial generation can be for businesses,” says Jason Dorsey, millennial researcher. “Their passion for healthy eating helped to turn a niche snacking category into a thriving industry, and it’s only just the beginning. Millennial parents are instilling these values into their kids and setting the stage for the next generation of better-for-you snackers. For those seeking to attract and retain this influential customer segment, our national research sheds valuable insight into their behavior and how to make an impact.”

2. More is less, especially when it comes to added sugars and artificial sweeteners.

Amplify’s research shows that there are certain ingredients Millennials absolutely feel should not be included in a snack in order for it to be considered better for you. The national study found that trans fats, added sugar and artificial sweeteners are considered the least tolerated better-for-you snack ingredients by Millennials.

The 2017 NMI (National Marketing Institute) Health & Wellness Trends Database shows that consumers are increasingly watching the sugar content of their diet. When asked if one typically watches their sugar content in the diet, in 2005, 49% of respondents completely or somewhat agreed. In 2016, that figure jumped to 57%.

The NMI research also showed that consumers are increasingly concerned about artificial sweeteners. An impressive 59% of respondents said they prefer products with real/cane sugar rather than artificial sweeteners.

The challenge here is to keep added sweeteners low while still delivering desirable sweet taste. Ingredient technology may assist.

In the February 13, 2017, issue of, Stonyfield discussed its efforts to bolster yogurt’s healthy image by reducing added sugars, targeting a goal to purchase 25% less of the ingredient as a company this year. The company is employing various technologies. To read more, link HERE.

3. Talk about the farm, the farmers and the cows.

That’s right. Please highlight the natural, simple, minimal process of milking a cow. Feel free to compare to milking a cashew or an almond.

Promised Land does a fabulous job of talking up its milk that comes exclusively from jersey cows.

4. Focus on the use of whole ingredients.

Just think about how much more powerful the statement “Yogurt with Blueberries” is than “Blueberry-flavored Yogurt.”

5. Celebrate dairy. 
That brings us to World Milk Day.

World Milk Day is June 1 

The United Nations declared in 2001 World Milk Day to take place every June 1. World Milk Day focuses on raising public awareness about the importance of milk as part of a healthy and balanced diet and as an agricultural product. It also aims to highlight the significance of the milk sector and milk producers, in particular, the one billion people around the world who derive their livelihoods from the dairy sector.

In 2016, World Milk Day was celebrated by more than 40 countries. Activities included holding marathons and family runs, milking demonstrations and farm visits, school-based activities, concerts, conferences and seminars, competitions and a range of events focusing on promoting the value of milk and illustrating the important role played by the dairy industry in the national economy.

The fact that many countries choose to do this on the same day lends additional importance to individual national celebrations and shows that milk is a global food and that it is part of all diets and cultures.

Whether milk is a breakfast drink that goes with your cereals or tea in the morning, or whether milk is paired with the children’s cookies, this year all of those involved with the dairy industry are invited to raise a glass to celebrate the benefits of milk for our lives.

This year’s campaign--Raise a Glass--aims to raise awareness on the multiple benefits of consuming milk. This universal gesture of celebration lies at the heart of all communities. As we raise a glass to milk, we connect with others and invite them to join the celebration that the goodness represents. It allows us to share the stories about all the goodness of milk and all the people who produce it. It offers a simple, natural way to recognize the people who matter most to us--in our communities, schools, and homes.

This year, the Global Dairy Platform (GDP) will be coordinating global celebrations on June 1, 2017. The GDP hopes all involved in the dairy industry will organize their own World Milk Day event, such events might include:

  • A meal featuring only dairy products
  • A school kid trip to visit a dairy farm
  • A photo contest to select the most photogenic dairy cow
  • Donation of dairy products to a food bank
  • A project with nutritionists to share the important nutritional facts about milk and dairy products
  • A video with dairy farmers working on a development project
  • A physical fitness event fueled by dairy
World Milk Day aims to celebrate the important contributions of the dairy sector to sustainability, economic development, livelihoods and nutrition.

For more information and to register your event, link HERE.

World Dairy Innovation Awards
Many dairy processors have introduced great new products this past year and I encourage you to enter the World Dairy Innovation Awards 2017. U.K.-based FoodBev Media has organized and presented this award for the past 11 years, and this year will be selecting winners in 19 different categories ranging from products, brands and catering to marketing, packaging and sustainability. All are designed to celebrate excellence and innovation across every category of the global dairy industry.

Every year, some of the biggest, most world-renowned brands and groundbreaking new start-ups enter the awards, highlighting their newest innovations on this global platform. The finalists and winners of the 2017 awards will be announced at a special gala dinner during the 11th Global Dairy Congress on the evening of June 7, 2016, in Dublin, Ireland.

In 2016, the World Dairy Innovation Awards attracted more than 220 entries from 27 countries.

This year, the closing date for entries is April 28, 2017. For more information and to enter, link HERE.

I am honored, once again, to be a judge. There are nine of us this year. To read about what we will be looking for when selecting winners, link HERE.