Friday, July 21, 2017

Chocolate Milk: Here’s How to Keep it on the Menu—in Schools, in Restaurants and the Kitchen Table

Among many disheartening news items this week, there was a story out of San Francisco announcing that The Golden City’s middle and elementary schools, effective this August, will have their flavored milk privileges revoked. In the spring, high schoolers will also no longer be able to enjoy the nourishment and rehydration of nonfat chocolate milk, the only type of flavored milk that had been served the past few years. The reason cited: sugar content.

The Los Angeles school district tried a similar ban in 2011, but after watching students dispose of either unopened or barely consumed white milk cartons, the school brought either nonfat chocolate or strawberry milk back this past school year. It’s been reported that school officials found waste was reduced by 23%.

San Francisco officials say they tested the new policy in some schools this past year and the waste was very minimal. The dairy industry knows better. Study after study has shown most school-aged milk drinkers prefer flavored—usually chocolate—milk.

Here’s something else the dairy industry knows. Low-fat milk, even as low as 1% milkfat, tastes better than nonfat milk. This is true for white and for flavored. And guess what? Delicious and healthful milkfat, as it contains many essential fatty acids, typically makes it easier to lower added sugar.

Here’s the good news. In case you missed the big announcement, on May 1, 2017, the USDA’s new secretary--Sonny Perdue—said the agency will provide greater flexibility in nutrition requirements for school meal programs in order to make food choices both healthful and appealing to students. This includes getting 1% low-fat flavored milk back on the menu.

“This announcement is the result of years of feedback from students, schools and foodservice experts about the challenges they are facing in meeting the final regulations for school meals,” Perdue said. “If kids aren’t eating the food, and it’s ending up in the trash, they aren’t getting any nutrition--thus undermining the intent of the program.”

The most important “flexibility,” as Perdue refers to this deregulation, for dairy processors is the ability to serve 1% low-fat flavored milk through the school meals programs. USDA is phasing this into the school milk policy.

Another flexibility worth noting for dairy processors, namely cheese marketers, is with sodium. For school years 2017 to 2018 through 2020, schools will not be required to meet “Sodium Target 2,” which was part of the current school nutrition policy. Instead, schools that meet Sodium Target 1 will be considered compliant.

Lastly, there’s now flexibility in meeting whole grain requirements. This is for schools experiencing challenges in finding the full range of products they need and that their students enjoy in whole grain-rich form.

Sounds great, right? Flexibility is one thing, school boards are another! There are a lot of parents who prefer to not believe the consumption studies and the nutrition facts and simply want to make sugar—and fat—the enemy.

Fluid milk processors need to invest in product development to produce a great-tasting, reduced-sugar 1% low-fat chocolate—and maybe other flavored—milks for school. There are technologies available to do this.

At the recent IFT held in Las Vegas, Kerry sampled a sugar-reduced chocolate milk solution that allows for up to a 30% reduction, while still delivering a rich, creamy taste. This solution works for flavored milk sold through all channels.

Source: IRI, provided to Dairy Management Inc., and courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Association

Flavored milk is one of the bright spots in the retail fluid milk case. Retail sales data from IRI provided to Dairy Management Inc., and courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Association, for the first quarter of 2017, show that flavored milk sales were up 3.5%. Whole-fat milk sales were also up (3.3%), as was lactose free (12%). These three formulations present a growth opportunity in the fluid milk category.

What the data from the first quarter also showed was that the retail decline for overall fluid milk was a bit more pronounced than we have seen in the past two years, with sales down 3.3%. Volume leader, white gallon milk, is driving overall fluid milk declines.

Other IRI data show that the volume of flavored milk sold through retail grew 15.8% between 2014 and 2016 and growth is continuing in to 2017. Flavored milk currently accounts for 10.5% of milk through all channels and 5.6% at retail. Four in 10 households purchase flavored milk during the course of a year. Flavor innovations, value-added formulations, and yes, lower sugar contents, may entice more households to give flavored milk a try.

It’s important to note the life stage that is indexing as high volume users. It’s households with families, both young families and those raising teens. In fact, usage of flavored milk by households with 12 to 17 year olds is 77% higher than the national norm. This data suggests there’s a huge opportunity to formulate for such households.

Something else to also consider when marketing flavored milk, as well as all food and beverage, is touting the product’s clean-label attributes. “All-natural,” “non-GMO” and “no additives or preservatives” are the most common product attributes consumers associate with clean label, according to new research from Kerry. These are also attributes of most flavored milks.

“Clean label has been a purchase driver for more than five years, yet confusion still abounds among consumers as well as manufacturers and brands looking to meet consumers’ needs,” says Renetta Cooper, business development director at Kerry. “Building on our legacy of market insights, we’re working to pinpoint consumers’ specific drivers as they relate to clean label and understand the commercial opportunities related to those drivers.”

While more than half of consumers surveyed reported being familiar with the term “clean label,” just 38% indicated a strong understanding of its definition. Respondents connected product attributes ranging from “farm grown” to “sustainably produced” to “minimally processed” and “made with real ingredients” to “clean label,” demonstrating what a truly multidimensional opportunity it is for food manufacturers and brands.

Keep inherently clean and simple farm-fresh flavored milk on the menu—in schools, in foodservice and the kitchen table.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Protein Ice Cream: It’s Officially A Thing…and some cool ice cream flavors to celebrate National Ice Cream Day

National Ice Cream Day is this Sunday, July 16. This U.S. celebration is observed annually on the third Sunday in July and is a part of National Ice Cream Month.

Legend has it that ice cream was introduced to the U.S. by Quaker colonists who brought their recipes with them when they traveled across the Atlantic to the New World. Their ice cream was sold at shops in New York and other cities during the colonial era.

Here are some noteworthy ice cream dates:

  • 1813–First Lady Dolley Madison served ice cream at the Inaugural Ball.
  • 1832–Confectioner Augustus Jackson created multiple ice cream recipes as well as a superior technique to manufacture ice cream.
  • 1843–Nancy Johnson of Philadelphia received the first U.S. patent for a small-scale hand-cranked ice cream freezer.
  • 1920–Harry Burt puts the first ice cream trucks on the streets.
  • 2017–Protein-packed ice cream became a new segment in the crowded freezer case.

That’s right! For the past five years or so, I have reported on protein-enriched ice cream innovations, some going by the descriptor frozen dairy dessert because of standards of identity. These innovations are available around the world, with the U.S. and U.K. leading the trend.

In the past six months I’ve noticed an uptick in their popularity, as well as recognition in the press. Most recently, CNBC wrote about the success of Halo Top (a frozen dairy dessert) from Eden Creamery LLC. You can read the article HERE.

The article explains how Halo Top’s success grew in 2016 after a GQ journalist wrote about eating nothing but Halo Top ice cream for 10 days. He lost weight and body fat, not muscle.

The low-calorie, low-fat, low-sugar brand promises shoppers the indulgence of ice cream without the guilt or empty calories. And consumers are eating it up. In 2016, Halo Top sold 28.8 million pints, which generated $132.4 million in sales, according to data from IRI.

Pints of Halo Top, which contain four half-cup servings, provide 220 to 360 calories, 20 to 24 grams of protein, and 20 to 28 grams of sugar, depending on variety, of which there are 17. Most pints also contain 12 grams of fiber. Between the protein and the fiber, this dessert is designed to satisfy the sweet tooth and curb hunger pangs.

The base mix for Halo Top consists of milk, cream, eggs, erythritol, prebiotic fiber, milk protein concentrate, organic cane sugar, vegetable glycerin, organic carob gum, organic guar gum and organic stevia.

To read more about Halo Top, link HERE.

I have long advocated that marketers need to do a better job of promoting ice cream—all ice cream—as a healthful dessert. After all, it inherently contains calcium and protein, and depending on the flavor, can function as a delivery vehicle for healthful foods such as nuts and fruit.

Some recent protein-packed ice cream innovations include other nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, and even probiotics. 

Such better-for-you ice cream is not for everyone, but it’s definitely alluring to the growing health- and wellness- seeking consumer. This is why some of the larger players have taken note and are entering the category.

As stated in the CNBC article, “There’s no turning back here. This is not a fad,” said Jack Ringquist, principal and global consumer products leader, Deloitte Consulting. “This is truly an evolution that’s occurring and (big companies) need to truly adjust to become positive players as opposed to resistors.”

After all, Nielsen data shows that retail ice cream sales reached $6.6 billion in 2016, up 3.4% from 2015. Conventional products are not the driver of this growth. It’s the better-for-you segment. CNBC reported that sales of products that fit within the FDA’s definition of “healthy” grew 85% in 2016.

The biggest name to enter the category, and just in time for National Ice Cream Month, is Unilever with its new Breyers delights, which contains 260 to 330 calories and 20 grams of protein per pint. Available in four flavors, Breyers delights is promoted as being made with high-quality ingredients, naturally sourced flavors and all American dairy. Flavors are: Creamy Chocolate, Cookies & Cream, Mint Chip and Vanilla Bean.
Supermarket giant Kroger wants part of the action and is rolling out private-label Simple Truth Low Cow Lite Ice Cream. It contains 75% less fat and 55% fewer calories than regular ice cream and is described as non-GMO, gluten free, and made with absolutely no artificial ingredients or preservatives.

One pint contains 240 to 280 calories, depending on variety, and 24 grams of protein. Flavors are: Birthday Cake, Chocolate, Lemon Cake, Mint Chocolate Chip, Sea Salt Caramel and Vanilla Bean.

At this year’s Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and exposition, held in Las Vegas June 25-28, the U.S. Dairy Export Council showcased a frozen matcha dairy sandwich. It featured a milk protein isolate-enhanced Greek yogurt filling flavored with matcha green tea wedged between crispy oat wafers. A single serving contains 15 grams of protein and is ideal as a frozen breakfast food or a high-protein snack.

Also at IFT, Agropur Ingredients sampled Fro’duce, a scoopable fruit and vegetable probiotic sherbet with half the sugar of traditional sherbet. The lactose-free sherbet is made with whey protein isolate and milk protein isolate, with one pint providing about 10 grams of protein.

Never Forget: Ice Cream Should Be Fun

To kicking off National Ice Cream Month, Carvel is growing its retail line of ice cream cakes with Carvel Ice Cream Cookie Cake. The new, original treat is a first at grocery and combines two classic American desserts–vanilla ice cream and chocolate chip cookie cakes–to create the ultimate, sharable indulgence. Complete with Carvel’s famous crunchies around the outside, the new cake resembles a giant cookie ice cream sandwich. Similar to the ease of sharing a pizza pie, the ice cream cookie cake can be sliced, served and enjoyed without needing utensils.

During National Ice Cream Month, Ben & Jerry’s fellow neighbors from Vermont, Phish, are gearing up to kick off a historic 13-night run of shows—dubbed the Baker’s Dozen--at Madison Square Garden in New York City. To celebrate the 20-year partnership with Phish, Ben & Jerry’s is honoring the band with a new very limited-batch donut-themed ice cream flavor: Freezer Reprise. The flavor is a sweet cream ice cream with a vanilla glaze, chocolate donut swirl, chocolate donut pieces and fudge fish. It will be available during the opening night of the run, July 21st, and on select days at special events surrounding the concerts.

Tillamook is playing up its special-batch Monster Cookie for National Ice Cream Month. This fun favorite is cookie dough ice cream swirled with peanut butter and chock full of crispy oats, chocolate flakes and crunchy candies.

This week, Blue Bell rolled out a new flavor to satisfy sweet, salty and crunchy cravings. Aptly named Sweet ‘n Salty Crunch, this new flavor is vanilla ice cream loaded with chocolate-coated pretzel bites, chopped roasted almonds and milk chocolate chunks. Sweet ‘n Salty Crunch is available in half gallons and pints for a limited time.

“Our new flavor was inspired by the popular snack mixes that combine sweet and salty foods,” says Wayne Hugo, vice president of sales and marketing for Blue Bell. “When developing Sweet ‘n Salty Crunch we tried many different recipes, and combinations of ingredients. But in the end, the mixture of chocolate, pretzels and almonds in a vanilla ice cream received rave reviews from our taste panels.”

Earlier this week, General Mills made a big splash at its Annual Investor Day at the New York Stock Exchange with the launch of a global refresh of its Häagen-Dazs brand. The makeover encompasses everything from packaging to advertising to the shop experience and reflects the brand’s status as a leader in super-premium ice cream and more broadly, an international lifestyle icon, according to the company.

The Häagen-Dazs mission is to make every day extraordinary. The refresh is all about staying relevant with consumers, especially today’s millennial consumers who are looking for brands that share their values and that have a deep, relatable story. Colorful, worldly and fun, the Häagen-Dazs brand refresh includes updated packaging designed by more than a dozen up-and-coming artists.

To read and see more, link HERE.

Need Ice Cream Innovating Assistance?

The Frozen Dessert Center, housed within the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Food Science, will hold its first Frozen Dessert Center Conference October 23 to 24 on the UW-Madison campus. Speakers, including myself, will address the scientific, manufacturing and technical aspects involved in the production of ice cream and other frozen desserts. This includes packaging, dairy and non-dairy ingredients, food safety and other trends.

The event’s keynote speaker is Doug Goff, a professor of food science at the University of Guelph. Goff’s talk will cover trends in ice cream ingredients and manufacturing, and the future of frozen desserts.

Participants will be led through an ice cream sensory evaluation and taken on a guided tour of the UW-Madison’s Babcock Hall Dairy Plant and the Frozen Dessert Center’s pilot plant and lab space.

The conference is designed for manufacturers, product developers, researchers, distributors and sales personnel involved in the field of ice cream and frozen desserts. Attendees will gain relevant and up-to-date information on production, ingredients, equipment and distribution.

For more information, link HERE.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Protein Beverages: Dairy leads the jostling herd of competitors. Think beverages for different dayparts.

Photo source: USDEC

Many editors attended IFT two weeks ago in Las Vegas. We returned to our computers with slightly different views of highlights from the annual exposition, and now that our July 4th celebrations are over, are writing about them. (Hope you had a lovely and restful holiday!)

The consensus appears to be that clean-label formulating is a trend with longevity. Unlike in past years when exhibiting suppliers emphasized managing specific nutrients or eliminating individual additives, this year at IFT, that managing and eliminating melded into the bigger agenda of clean-label formulating.

After clean label, editors have different takes on the expo. In my eyes, protein was a leading theme, with animal protein—from cows, eggs and even chickens—in the spotlight. Yes, plant proteins had a very, very strong presence, but when it comes to beverage applications, animal proteins stole the show.

Dairy proteins, followed by fiber, will continue to be key drivers of innovation, specifically in the beverage sector, as convenience grab-and-go lifestyle are only speeding up. It’s time to add protein beverages to your product line up.

According to Euromonitor, the protein beverage market grew by 5.6% from 2015 to 2016 and is expected to grow by 6.1% from 2017 to 2020. The growth is attributed to protein beverages targeted to sports nutrition, adult nutrition and meal replacement.

“The trends show that new introductions are focused on less sugar, clean label, higher protein levels, personalized nutrition, flavor innovation, weight management and more plant-based products,” says K.J. Burrington, dairy ingredient applications program coordinator for the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research. “Protein beverages using a dairy source of protein are the most predominant. Dairy proteins continue to outperform plant proteins on flavor and functionality but that doesn’t mean that dairy proteins are without their own challenges.”

At IFT, attendees learned that protein beverages can be much more than sports nutrition and meal replacement solutions. This was apparent at the U.S. Dairy Export Council exhibit, where USDEC’s team, which includes Ms. Burrington, sampled a Milk & Honey Bedtime Beverage.

The concept addressed consumers’ desire to relax after a long, busy day.

“People are drawn to beverages that reduce stress and promote better sleep,” explained Shannon Koski, account manager with USDEC. “The proteins derived from U.S. milk provide unmatched nutrition, which may help consumers wake-up refreshed and energized.”

The milk and honey bedtime beverage prototype contains 20 grams of protein and provides half of the U.S. daily value for calcium. The chai and honey-infused beverage is made with reduced-fat milk, milk protein isolate (MPI) and micellar casein concentrate (MCC). This creamy and nutritious drink can be served warm or cold for a delicious way to wind down after a busy day or intense workout. The taste and nutrition of dairy makes it the complete package for a product that promotes rejuvenation.

Ms. Koski explained that there are two main trends creating the need for beverages made for nighttime consumption.

“The desire to reduce everyday stress, mentally and physically, is influencing more evening-focused innovations formulated for relaxation,” she said. “Creating a product to meet these needs starts with finding a high-quality protein source. The consumption of slow digesting protein stimulates the rebuilding of muscle tissue while at rest and keep consumers’ metabolisms working for extended hours at a time, including while they sleep. Pairing U.S. dairy proteins with spices can achieve a sense of calm and relaxation before bedtime.”

Photo source: USDEC

The other trend is the at-home café experience, which extends beyond the evening relaxation daypart. This presents an opportunity for café-style dairy protein beverage innovation. After all, consumers rely on café style drinks to get them through the day. Why not make this experience available when the café is closed for the night?

Globally, 53% of consumers believe hot drinks can offer health benefits, unlocking new opportunities for hot drinks that claim to improve health and general well-being. Additionally, 71% of consumers consider re-creating café-style hot drinks achievable or very achievable, increasing the popularity of premium hot drinks for at-home consumption.

“Unlike most protein sources, high-quality dairy proteins such as reduced-fat milk, MPI and MCC contain the essential and nonessential amino acids, releasing them slowly to meet the body’s needs until breakfast,” said Susan Larson, associate researcher, Center for Dairy Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a member of the USDEC team. “Among many things, MPI provides a clean dairy flavor without adding significant levels of lactose, while MCC is an excellent fit for shelf-stable, protein-fortified beverages because of its heat stability. In this beverage, all nutrients and viscosity come from these ingredients so no separate vitamins, minerals or stabilizers are needed.”

Ms. Burrington is an authority on dairy protein beverage formulating. She explained in a recent article published for the American Dairy Products Institute that it is important to understand some basic tips for working with dairy proteins to optimize their performance in a ready-to-drink beverage.
“The first tip is to understand the differences in functionality between whey protein ingredients and milk proteins,” she explained. “The pH of the drink is one of the main determining factors in your choice of protein.”

To read an article I recently wrote on protein beverage formulating for Food Business News, link HERE.

Functional considerations include protein hydration, solubility, stability, and of course, flavor. The latter is where dairy shines in the protein ingredient toolbox. If you are interested in learning more, you can attend the Dairy Protein Beverages Short Course at the Center for Dairy Research on October 19. For more information, link HERE.

Remember, the dairy industry must stay strong and showcase its inherent powers in the crowded protein beverage marketplace. Get creative. Milk can be so much more than simply milk.

Global beverage market analysis indicates that milk is diversifying. The market for mixed milk drinks is growing rapidly, especially outside Europe, according to the organizers of drinktec, which will be held in Munich from September 11 to 15, 2017. Mixed milk drinks and dairy protein beverages will be a dominant theme at the exposition. More than half of all exhibitors at drinktec 2017 announced during the run-up to the trade fair that they would present solutions for the milk industry.

The last drinktec was held in 2013 and was attended by more than 12,000 visitors from the areas of milk and liquid milk products. This represented an increase of 58% compared with the previous event. During drinktec 2017, exhibitors will present the entire range of treatment of milk, whey and liquid food. This will extend from cooling and storage by means of thermal preservation, and separators and equipment for skimming, standardization and homogenization through to complete systems for milk and liquid milk products. The soft drinks segment will also be providing milk producers with new possibilities, as carbonized drinks containing milk and fruit juice, coffee or tea are gaining traction in Europe and elsewhere.

The drinktec expo is my next trip. Hope to see you there!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Co-Packer Considerations

It was wonderful to visit with so many Daily Dose of Dairy subscribers this week at either the Fancy Food Show in New York City or IFT in Las Vegas. And welcome to the new subscribers who I met at these events. If you attended either or both shows (like crazy and exhausted me), you observed that food and beverage innovation is on full speed.

Specifically, the dairy foods industry is overflowing with entrepreneurs, which is a beautiful thing. Innovative product development and healthy competition keeps the dairy case exciting and consumers interested in all things dairy.

I was asked numerous times at the Fancy Food Show about co-packers, and it seems in the past month, calls and emails on this topic were significantly up. It seems like a good time to discuss the variables to consider when shopping for a co-packer.

Early in the process of innovation, startups must decide whether they want to invest in processing, packaging and warehousing (to have control over the operation as well as secure any proprietary technology) or to partner with a contract manufacturer, a.k.a. a co-packer.

More times than not, entrepreneurs and smaller manufacturers choose to partner with an expert to manufacture their products. There are many reasons why this is the smarter option.

The most obvious reason is that this option reduces capital investment and assists with cash flow, freeing up dollars for marketing efforts to build brand awareness. Co-packers are also experts at what they do. This frees up man power and brain time, reducing energy spent on learning the process and troubleshooting common production issues.

Before you begin interviewing potential co-packer partners, it is paramount that you identify those criteria that are non-negotiable and those where there’s flexibility. Keep in mind, co-packers vary in capabilities. Decide if you want to source ingredients and packaging, or if you prefer the co-packer do this for possible bulk pricing benefits.

Speaking of pricing, determine your cost structure. Discuss potential hidden expenses.

Set quality standards. Identify product and package specifications, including shelf life requirements, as well as certifications such as allergen-free lines, kosher, organic, etc.

Safety, quality and record keeping are not negotiable in this day and age. Do your homework. Evaluate the co-packer’s safety and sanitation procedures. Do they have a HACCP plan? Are they compliant with the Food Safety Modernization Act? Is the manufacturing facility regularly audited by an accredited firm? Is the co-packer prepared to properly handle a recall?

Ask for referrals. Find out how reliable the co-packer is for scheduling production. How far in advance do you need to confirm schedules? 

Then there’s that gut feel we all have when doing business. Do you feel that the co-packer will work with you when issues arise? Troubleshoot with you? Communicate in a timely manner? In general, the more transparent a co-packer is willing to be, the more trustworthy the partnership will be. This is even more important when proximity is an issue.

Remember, if you are prepared and do your homework, it will be easier to identify the best co-packer for your innovation. Your chance of success increases.

Link HERE to a list of co-packers that specialize in milk and dairy foods manufacturing.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

From Fancy Food to IFT: Dairy foods will be in the spotlight this coming week

The Big Apple on Saturday and Sunday, then Vegas Monday through Thursday, that’s my schedule for the next week. I hope to see many Daily Dose of Dairy subscribers at either the Summer Fancy Food Show or IFT, or both, if you are adventurous, a.k.a, insane, like me.

Like with any exposition, in the weeks leading up to the event, editors get inundated with press releases announcing new products. This is true for both finished products at Fancy Food and ingredients at IFT. Having the two shows overlap has been helpful with confirming some real opportunities for dairy foods companies. 

Here are five themes that will dominate the Fancy Food show. IFT exhibitors will be demonstrating ingredient technologies to assist with your on-trend innovation efforts to complement these themes.

1. Provide a sensory experience. This is in terms of both flavor adventure and texture.
I just finished writing an article on managing the texture of dairy foods for Food Business News. Every ingredient supplier interviewed said the same thing: texture targets must be identified early in the product development process and formulations designed to meet those targets. That’s because in many dairy products, texture can change over shelf life. These changes are usually not viewed favorably by consumers.

Today’s consumers want to explore texture and they want to know upfront what to expect in a product. New products—not just dairy, but everything from chips to beverages—are making texture a selling point. Ingredient technology assists with developing unique textures and maintaining them until consumption.

2. Highlight clean and simple. These descriptors are being used to describe finished products, the ingredients that go into the products and even the process used to make them. In a growing number of instances, even packaging gets addressed.

IFT exhibitors will be showcasing their ingredient technology solutions for clean and simple formulating. Find out more, such as if the sourcing of the ingredient has an interesting story. Communicate this sourcing to consumers via packaging and social media. Explore ingredients that serve multiple functions, which in turn enabler simpler ingredient statements.

3. Talk about the sweetener. A growing number of products are using language such as “slightly sweetened with cane sugar” or “naturally sweetened by stevia.” Products are also starting to declare added sugars.

Just because the FDA extended its compliance date for the revised Nutrition Facts label does not mean that you need to wait if you can comply sooner. Label-reading consumers are looking for this information and it’s a way to differentiate and stand out in the marketplace.
IFT exhibitors will be showcasing their tool box of sweetening solutions. Many offer technologies that are clean, and simply allow for a reduction in added sugars.

4. Premiumize the product. Fancy foods, as the name suggests are fanciful, or special. Such specialty foods are becoming a larger, more integral part of the American diet, according to “Today’s Specialty Food Consumer,” an annual report from the Specialty Food Association. Dollar sales hit $127 billion this year, a 15% jump in total sales between 2014 and 2016. By comparison, all food sales at retail grew by only 2.3%.

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.

Specialty foods are outpacing their non-specialty counterparts in almost every category, 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.
According to the research, mainstream retail channels are heating up. Millennials, a convenience-oriented consumer group, buy specialty foods wherever they shop. This trend has helped drive sales in multi-unit grocery and mass merchants, where growth outpaced that of natural or specialty chains for the first time.

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%.

Exhibiting suppliers at IFT will have an array of ingredient systems to assist with premiumizing dairy foods. This includes everything from flavors to inclusions.

5. Market lifestyle, lifestage or daypart. Health and nutrition are on top of mind, even with consumers who don’t necessarily follow what they know is best. It’s a growing trend to promote components of finished foods for how they contribute to a healthful lifestyle, assist with nutritional needs during a specific lifestage or fuel the body at different times of day.

Ingredient suppliers will be showcasing macro and micro nutrients at IFT that can be promoted in product formulations. Be open to learning about functional nutrients with proven benefits.

Hope to see you this week!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Flavored Milk Trends: It’s the golden age of beverage innovation. It’s time to premiumize milk.

This is a golden age of beverage innovation in America, according to market research firm Packaged Facts. This is thanks to a desire for more healthful products with cleaner labels; the emergence of new ingredients, production processes and technologies; and the coming of age of millennials as the dominant consumer demographic, a group that is adventurous when it comes to trying new things.

After decades of being a rather staid business dominated by only a few major, national brands that were slow to innovate, this confluence of modern trends has unplugged the innovation pipeline for the beverage industry. This includes fluid milk processors, especially those with a strong local consumer base.

“Ideas are flowing like perhaps they haven’t in decades, if not a century. Indeed, until recently the beverage industry had remained untouched by radical transformation. That is not the case any longer,” says David Sprinkle, research director at Packaged Facts. “Innovation is touching every aspect of the beverage industry today, and there is a lot more on the horizon.”
Visit SensoryEffects at IFT, booth #2050.

Now’s the time to get creative with milk, in terms of both flavor and package.

Retail sales data from IRI provided to Dairy Management Inc., and courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Association, for the first quarter of 2017, show that flavored milk sales were up 3.5%. Whole-fat milk sales were also up (3.3%), as was lactose free (12%). These three formulations continue to be bright spots in the fluid milk category, as are more niche value-added segments, including refuel milk (up 21.9%).

Source: IRI provided to Dairy Management Inc., and courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Association

What the data from the first quarter also showed was that the retail decline for overall fluid milk was a bit more pronounced than we have seen in the past two years, with sales down 3.3%. Volume leader, white gallon milk, is driving overall fluid milk declines.

Other IRI data show that the volume of flavored milk sold through retail grew 15.8% between 2014 and 2016 and growth is continuing in to 2017. Flavored milk currently accounts for 10.5% of milk through all channels and 5.6% at retail. Four in 10 households purchase flavored milk during the course of a year. Flavor innovations and value-added formulations may entice more households to give flavored milk a try.

Source: IRI provided to Dairy Management Inc., and courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Association

It’s important to note the life stage that is indexing as high volume users. It’s households with families, both young families and those raising teens. In fact, usage of flavored milk by households with 12 to 17 year olds is 77% higher than the national norm. This data suggests there’s a huge opportunity to formulate for such households. 

Now, don’t assume that it’s just the kids drinking the milk. It’s very likely that product is being purchased because of the kids at home, yet, the entire household is enjoying the product. Varied flavors, package sizes and package types appeal different households. Do some research about your target demographic and get busy.

Here’s a great example. Shaken Udder was born in 2003, serving thousands of fresh milkshakes (flavored milk) to festival goers across the U.K. As the fan base grew, customers started to demand their milkshake fix year-round, so founders Howie and Jodie took a look at retail shelves. They were thoroughly disappointed with what they found, marvelous milk was being ruined by ingredients artificial ingredients. The pair decided milk deserved better and set about creating Britain’s best milkshake.

The company’s new breed of milkshakes first hit shelves of Harvey Nichols in 2008 and are now sold in major retailers plus thousands of individual outlets. The milkshakes are all gluten free, suitable for vegetarians and contain no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. They are made with British milk and premium ingredients.

Chocolush contains two types of Belgian chocolate. Vanillalicious uses real vanilla beans. Top Banana contains 5% real banana puree. Salted Caramel combines the sweet brown taste of caramel with Maldon Sea salt.

The company recently collaborated with Rodda’s Creamery to welcome a new flavor: Strawberries & Rodda’s Clotted Cream. Like the other milk shakes, it starts with a base of semi-skimmed British milk, to which real strawberries and Rodda’s Cornish clotted cream is added.

This innovation placed the company as a finalist in the World Dairy Innovation Awards 2017.

The winners and finalists in the World Dairy Innovation Awards 2017 were announced on June 7th at a gala dinner at the Global Dairy Congress in Dublin, Ireland. The judging panel, which included myself, considered entries from more than 20 countries in 19 categories.

A full list of this year’s winners and finalists in all 19 categories can be viewed HERE.

In the U.S., Rosa Brothers is introducing single-serve flavored milk. All of the dairy’s milk products come from sustainably raised Holstein cows on the company’s family farm. They are packaged in environmentally friendly and better-taste-transferring glass bottles, according to the company. Unlike the quart and half-gallon bottles, which require a return deposit at point of purchase, the new 12-ounce glass bottles are intended to be disposed of in a recycle bin. The new single-serve bottles come in four whole milk varieties. They are: banana, chocolate, strawberry and white.

The Farmer’s Cow is on board with premium flavored milks with its new seasonal, limited-edition approach. Earlier this year, the New England dairy introduced Maple Milk. This flavor literally “taps” into the seasonal flavor of maple sugaring. Rich, sweet Vermont maple syrup is carefully blended with fresh whole milk. Each 32-ounce bottle contains approximately one-quarter cup of real maple syrup, no artificial flavor and no high fructose corn syrup or added sugar other than the maple syrup. More recently the dairy rolled out its second seasonal flavor: Raspberry White Chocolate Milk. This unique milk blends the flavors of the rich sweetness of white chocolate and natural raspberry with fresh whole milk. It, too, comes in a similar 32-ounce collectible glass bottle designed to stand out in the dairy case.
                                                                                                                Shatto Milk Company in the Kansas City area does a fabulous job with its flavored milk program. In addition to banana, chocolate and strawberry, the local dairy offers fun flavors like cookies n’ cream, cotton candy and root beer. They’ve had limited-edition offerings such as apple pie and chocolate cherry. The flavored whole-fat milks come in glass bottles, and in three sizes: pint, quart and half gallon.                                                              There are many local dairies around the country, in fact, around the world, doing great things with flavored milk. It’s a golden opportunity. Get on board!
Visit SensoryEffects at IFT, booth #2050.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Dairy is Back (for now). It’s up to the industry (us) to keep it relevant.

This year’s International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association annual expo took place this week in Anaheim. As always, cheese dominated the show, but as you should have been able to tell from the innovations featured this week as a Daily Dose of Dairy, all dairy foods were prominently on display, everything from Mexican-seasoned squeeze sour cream to artisan butter to premium single-serve flavored milk. It’s a good time to be dairy. But it’s up to the industry to invest and to innovate to keep dairy relevant to today’s consumers.

Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke to expo attendees on the opening day. He shared his three tips for success: have a vision, don’t mind the naysayers and work your butt off. In between those three tips he emphasized the need to educate, to nourish and to volunteer. These are all things that dairy farmers—and those who process and market milk and dairy foods—do on a regular basis.
After an inspirational presentation about hard work, Arnold bid adieu to attendees with “I’ll be back.”

The dairy industry does not want to ever say those words. We are thriving. Let’s stay there by staying relevant.

To stay relevant, it’s important to invest in your education. And it’s that time of year—IFT—when knowledge and science are just a session or supplier exhibit away. IFT kicks off in Las Vegas in little more than a week. Here are some must-attend sessions to assist with product innovation.

Monday, June 26, 10:30am-12:00pm, Session 13, “A Toolbox Approach to Developing High-Protein Dairy Foods”
In formulating protein-fortified foods, a developer often has to factor in physicochemical outcomes of higher protein-protein interactions, e.g., taste, texture and stability. Successful fortification with proteins is often accompanied with well-considered choices of formulation and processing adjustments to deliver a great-tasting food that meets consumer expectations. Dairy proteins provide numerous functional and nutritional advantages in this regard and are the benchmark for other proteins. Beyond nutrition, dairy proteins are considered good emulsifiers, texture builders, whipping agents (in some applications), fat substitutes, etc. Speakers in this symposium will provide insight on the macro- and molecular-level behavior of dairy proteins both in the ingredient state as well as in the context of high-protein food systems.

The session kicks off with Dr. Hasmukh Patel, a former faculty member of the Dairy Science Department at South Dakota State University and currently employed in the industry. The main focus of his research is to help understand the basic mechanisms and provide new knowledge to enable the design of new dairy and food ingredients and new products and processing technologies. He will address “The Landscape of Opportunities and Challenges in Formulating High Dairy-Protein Food.”

Next there’s Dr. Allen Foegeding, a William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor of Food Science at North Carolina State University. His research has provided insight into how food biopolymers function in foods with a focus on whey proteins in forming sols, foams and gels. He will speak on “Shelf Life Issues with High Dairy-Protein Foods.”

Additional speakers will address issues surrounding the dispersibility and solubility of milk protein concentrates, which offer unique advantages for protein-fortified foods and beverages. Participants will also learn about astringency challenges with high-dairy-protein foods.

Monday, June 26, 3:30pm-5:00pm, Session 26, “Innovations in Spray-Dried, Fortified Dairy Products and Emulsions: Recent Advances and Product Applications”

Spray drying is still the most common technique used to produce dairy powders with prolonged shelf life. The demand for fortified dairy products and emulsions continues to increase. The infant formula market in Australia alone (including export) grows at more than 45% per annum. Other rapidly emerging markets include specialized dairy ingredients for sports nutrition, an aging population and improving gut health. The production of any spray-dried powders that fail to meet the consumer’s specifications represents significant monetary and resource losses and increases environmental footprint. This is still a practical challenge faced by the dairy and food industry, as there are specific requirements to meet the demand of increasingly specialized dairy ingredients for application in a range of products including high-protein beverages, emulsion-based products, bars, and other such products.

The audience will have an opportunity to learn about the latest research and technology that can be applied to solve the challenges associated with functional, fortified dairy food and beverage products, including sports nutrition, medical nutrition and meal replacement products. Speakers include Dr. Patel, Dr. Cordelia Selomulya, an a biotechnology and food engineer research in Australia and Dr. Romain Jeantet, a food engineering professor in the joint research unit Agrocampus Ouest-INRA in Rennes, France.

Why is it so important to invest in dairy education and innovation? Because at the same these sessions are taking place, there are similar presentations being made on the growing opportunities with plant proteins.

I do believe the two can exist in harmony. But to do so, I will say it again, dairy must stay relevant to today’s consumers. We don’t want to have to say in a few years that we will be back. Let’s stay there!

Part of staying relevant is narrative. At its essence, narrative is about creating meaning. It’s the tool for making sense of the vastness of our world and the infinite data points, factoids and opinions. The dairy industry has one of the most amazing stories to tell. Share it. (Scroll down for a peak at my fun IDDBA story.)