Thursday, December 14, 2017

Dairy Foods Forecast: Ice Cream Flavor Trends 2018

Think dark, rich, ethnic, culinary…and comfort flavors.

As the year starts to wind down, food and beverage market analysts issue forecasts for macro trends that will drive innovation. I take those trends and combine them with the knowledge gained throughout the year from attending international trade shows and talking with suppliers and marketers.

In case you missed last week’s blog titled “Dairy Foods Forecast 2018: It’s All About Creating Disruption,” you can link to it HERE. I provide five macro-trends to assist with your product development and marketing efforts this coming year. I explain how it’s time to disrupt in order to differentiate.

Today’s annual blog is one of my favorites to write. It’s my forecast of what to expect in ice cream the next year or two. This forecast is fueled by the disruption taking place in the world. Good, bad or simply different, when there’s unknowns, consumers tend to seek out familiar and comforting foods.

That brings me to Flavor Forecast #1: The Basics, Premiumized. Yes, that means vanilla and chocolate, smooth. No ripples or crunchies. This is best exemplified by a recent rollout by Coolhaus. The Best of Both Worlds Vanilla is made with both Tahitian and Madagascar vanilla beans to yield a rich, sweet and sophisticated flavor with clean floral notes.

“There is nothing #basic about this elevated classic,” according to the company.

It’s time to revisit your basic flavor line--the ice creams without any inclusions--and give the flavors a makeover. Coffee might now be cold-brew. Lemon, make it with Meyer lemons.

That brings me to Flavor Forecast #2: Sophisticated Fruits. Meyer lemon is one example. Others include Sicilian blood orange, Asian pear and dragon fruit. It’s easier to add these whole fruits to the top of freshly made gelato, so for packaged retail products, it’s best to source natural flavor extracts and use them to deliver robust fruit aromas. Tell the story of the fruit. Describe it. Communicate what makes this fruit special.

Flavor Forecast #3: Deep and Dark. As much as consumers appreciate lighter, simpler comfort foods and flavors during disruptive times, they also have a darker side where they like to escape. Here’s where flavors such as brown butter, smoky almond, burned pineapple and candied bacon come into play.

Also part of Deep and Dark is boozy. Think barrel-aged flavors, whiskey, rum. Spirits with a comforting twist make Deep and Dark more inviting.

Earlier this year, Nestle Ice Cream rolled out five varieties of Haagen-Dazs Spirits to the Canadian marketplace. The new line comes in five alcohol-filled flavors. They are: Irish Cream Coffee & Biscotti (Irish cream-flavored ice cream with coffee swirl and biscotti bites), Rum Ginger Cookie (rum-infused ginger ice cream with ginger cookie pieces), Rum Vanilla Caramel Blondie (rum-infused vanilla ice cream, blondie chunks and caramel ripple), Vodka Key Lime Pie (vodka-infused key lime ice cream with graham cracker ripple) and Whiskey Chocolate Truffle (whiskey infused chocolate and white mousse ice creams with truffle pieces). With less than 1% alcohol content, the ice creams are not considered an alcohol product. 

Flavor Forecast #4: Cocktails Deconstructed. That’s a nice lead into this next trend. Youngers drinkers today have an affinity for mixed cocktails. Everything from the higher-end cosmopolitan to the tropical pina colada. Deconstructing these drinks and turning them into a non-alcoholic frozen dessert is trending in restaurants. It can happen in the packaged ice cream sector, too. 

Flavor Forecast #5: Deconstructing Desserts. For long, ice cream manufacturers offered “two-fers.” That’s when you put one dessert into another, such as brownie or cheesecake bites into ice cream. The trend of Deconstructing Desserts is more sophisticated. It’s the unique addition of individual dessert ingredients to recreate the dessert in ice cream format. An example might be blueberry cobbler, where the ice cream version has a buttery ice cream base with real blueberries and oat and graham clusters.

Flavor Forecast #6: Street Food. Food trucks, push carts and open markets, consumers love them. I challenge an ice cream marketer to roll out a line of street food-inspired ice creams. Think street cart churros. Sweet bao buns. Fruit-filled crepes.

Flavor Forecast #7: Asian Flavors. As consumers gain a better appreciation of Asian cuisine—there’s more than Chinese takeout and sushi—they want to explore the flavors of Eastern Asia. Think black sesame, matcha tea and candied ginger, as well as that Asian pear and bao buns already mentioned. Maybe it comes packed in a takeout-style cardboard box. 

Flavor Forecast #8: Honey and Butter. Honey and butter, together or separate, are trending flavors across all foods. They are appreciated as natural and delicious. In ice cream they can be used to add a premium layer of flavor. Butter did it to pecan and honey brought vanilla up notch. Work these flavors into your next creation.

Flavor Forecast #9: Coconut. The healthfulness of coconut water and coconut milk/juice has made anything and everything with coconut highly attractive to today’s consumers. Ice cream makers know that working with shredded coconut can be challenging. It’s sticky and clumps. But there’s ways around this, including having the coconut as part of an inclusion piece.

Flavor Forecast #10: Caramel with Kick. Ice cream and caramel are a match made in heaven, which was recently confirmed with the sea salt caramel flavor. The next generation of caramel variegates will have an extra layer of flavor, just not salt. Think smoky, spicy, candied, bacon, coconut, and wait for it…honey. The latest from Martha Stewart is to take caramel to new heights with a couple spoonfuls of honey. What an awesome variegate for ice cream, maybe with pieces of Asian pear.

This is the last blog of 2017. Talk soon in 2018. Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Dairy Foods Forecast 2018: It’s All About Creating Disruption

Photo source: Starbucks

‘Tis the season for commentary on what to expect this coming year. So, of course, I must chime in. I would like to preface that many of my predictions come from observing, listening and looking beyond the traditional dairy departments. I highly recommend it.

It is exhausting- and time-consuming work, but remember, scanner data only tells you what consumers purchased in the past, and only in select channels. It does not tell you why they made those purchases. It’s also not a promise of what consumers will buy tomorrow.

Survey data should be helpful, but responses often include fabrications. (That’s a fancy word for lies.) Consumers say one thing and behave differently. It’s like parallel universes. They claim to avoid meat yet the popularity of In-N-Out Burger, which is located in some of the most health-conscious regions of the U.S., is at an all-time high. (For those of you unfamiliar with the chain, it only sells beef burgers (with optional cheese), fries, milkshakes and soda. That’s it. No salads. No grilled chicken sandwiches.)

It’s amazing what you can learn from real people going about their daily life.


Just two days ago at my gym, I overheard the woman in front of me at the coffee kiosk order a latte with almond milk (what many of us prefer to call almond juice). The barista informed her they were temporarily out but have soy as an option. I almost spoke up to say there’s real milk as an option, too! I refrained and was rewarded. The woman responded that she doesn’t do soy but will take cream. She then added, with a giggle, that she prefers cream but orders almond milk because it’s healthier.

Alright my friends, digest that for a moment. There clearly is an opportunity to educate about dairy nutrition while communicating its deliciousness.

Here’s an ah hah moment. This one happened standing in an almost two-hour long line—outside the store--on Saturday at Bath & Body Works’ Annual Candle Sale. Yes, this is a thing. It was my first—and likely last—time but as long as I was there, and it was a 60F day in Chicago in December, I figured why not stand in line for normally $24.50 candles now priced at $8.99, limit 15. (I maxed my purchase.)

After about 10 minutes of self entertaining on my phone, I started conversing with my line mates. Most were alone and equally bored. I was the elder in the group, surrounded by millennial women, professionals, a few were school teachers. They started sharing online coupons, app deals, pop-up sales. I quickly learned that many Millennials, though they appreciate quality over quantity, value deals. They shop sales. They might not be clipping coupons from the Sunday paper like me, but they are downloading and scanning all types of savings. Their personal device never leaves their side.

They also crave new and different. I bought five candles of each of my three favorite scents to reach the 15 limit. Two of my new acquaintances urged me to expand my horizons and try 15 different scents, some of which the store was only offering this holiday season. They explained how exploring the unknown is an important part of who they are.

When one of them queried about my profession, her response was that she could not survive without cheese snacks. She loves them all, from Hillshire to Oscar Mayer to Sargento. Her two complaints were there’s no cheese snack app with coupons and she would like more variety. Frankly, I think there’s a great deal of options in this space, but what do I know? Sounds like limited-edition and seasonal offerings make sense for cheese snacks, too. Opportunity?

I could go on and on, but I will end with this third observation. I arrived early to Northwestern Hospital for my annual checkup a few weeks ago. Early was planned, as I love their made-to-order omelet station for breakfast. So do a lot of patients and staff. While waiting for my order, I walked around to see what else was offered. There were a lot of portion packs of fresh food, such as two hard-boiled eggs, fruit cups and, wait for it, cottage cheese bowls. Imagine yogurt and fruit parfaits, but instead, lidded plastic bowls with hand-portioned cottage cheese. Then there were sides of berries, granola and other toppings.

Of course, I had to ask about this a la carte item. I was told it sells out daily. They can’t keep it stocked during the lunch hour.

This brings me to an item I featured a few weeks ago as a Daily Dose of Dairy. This dairy parfait cup concept from DMK Group is definitely a category disruptor. The assortment consists of three products: quark-creme, classic rice pudding and skyr. The clear plastic cups carry DMK’s Milram brand and are filled half way with one of the products. The cups are sealed to maintain freshness for about three-weeks. Retailers receive the sealed cups, along with dome lids and sealing tape, so they can turn the product into fresh parfaits with fruits, nuts, granola, etc., on an as-needed basis. This decreases waste in terms of on-site scooping of product into cups as well as reduced shelf life because of opened perishability.

“Ready-to-eat snacks with fresh ingredients are totally on-trend. Consumers expect ultra-fresh products with a hand-made character in this segment,” says Matthias Rensch, chief operating officer at DMK Brand. “The new to-go concept combines ultra-fresh convenience with well-known brand quality and minimal handling.”

This type of product can also be sold alongside a self-serve topping bar. Maybe cottage cheese is one of the products.

Here are the five opportunities I’ve identified for dairy in 2018.

1. Get your products placed in foodservice channels and in supermarket departments beyond the dairy case and ice cream freezer. Do this with innovative single-serve portion packaging and creative foodservice formats.

This week, the market research experts at Packaged Facts rolled out a free e-book featuring the firm’s top food industry trends for 2018. Unlike the company’s previous predictions focusing primarily on culinary foodservice and restaurant developments, this latest e-book highlights retail food and beverage trends. It’s a must-read for brands looking to stay one step ahead of the competition as they adapt to changing consumer preferences and prepare for major market shifts in 2018 and beyond. You can download it by linking HERE.

“Grocery retail has never been more cutthroat. With razor-thin profit margins and new pricing pressure from Amazon, Lidl and ALDI, U.S. food retailers must adapt quickly in order to remain competitive and appeal to shifting consumer preferences,” says David Sprinkle, publisher for Packaged Facts and author of the e-book.

In other words, they must disrupt and change their way of doing business.

Though the report focuses on the U.S., much of the content applies to all developed countries. The fact is that the current consumer landscape prioritizes quality over quantity, but still values a good deal.

2. Focus on quality over quantity. Connect with the consumer through social media and tell them a story about the product. Offer them a deal. Ask them for feedback. Build a relationship.

It’s important to remember that these days, the term quality, in regards to food and beverage, refers to ingredient sourcing, processing method and even nutrition profile. Food and beverage entrepreneurs are disrupting the way supermarkets and foodservice channels prepare, merchandise and sell food, which means dairy processors need to shake things up.

This is no longer your granddaddy’s dairy when the family name on the side of a truck was enough to get noticed. Have your granddaddy talk about the family farm on the company app and then offer a coupon via Facebook.

3. Limited-edition and seasonal flavors must be part of every product line: butter, cheese, ice cream, milk, yogurt, etc. This includes ready-to-drink single-serve beverages. This is an important segment of food retailing and tends to be highly profitable, for manufacturers, retailers and operators. Because turnover also tends to be quick, retailers and operators are often willing to try new concepts. Single-serve beverages tend to be easier to reformulate than many foods and limited-edition and seasonal formulations and promotions are an easy way to attract shoppers.

4. Natural, organic, non-GMO…these attributes are now mainstream. The Packaged Facts e-book states that the natural and organic foods market segment is worth nearly $70 billion. From 2012 to 2016, U.S. retail sales for natural and organic foods rose at a compound annual growth rate of 7%. By 2021, growth is expected to hit double digits. Dairy processors cannot afford to not be in this space. Choose your ingredients cleanly.

5. Deliciousness, consumers want it and dairy’s got it. You know it. I know it. Even vegans know it, which is why they try so hard to duplicate dairy’s deliciousness. Sometimes the dairy industry forgets to communicate the unmatchable deliciousness of dairy. Commit to it in 2018.

It’s no longer your granddaddy’s dairy. It’s time to get disruptive to differentiate in the crowded food and beverage sector.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Formulating Fitness Foods

There’s been a lot of talk about how long the protein craze can maintain momentum. Many in the health and wellness space are preparing for the protein story to change direction, with buzz words such as refuel and weight management changing to total fitness and healthful lifestyle.

Historically the term fit has been associated with exercise and clothing size. But over the years, consumers have come to embrace a more holistic definition, one that includes both the mind and body, and with the latter not dictated by dress size or number on the bathroom scale.

The dairy industry is so vested in the refueling and weight management platforms that many have failed to notice the shift in how other foods, and food ingredients, are positioning themselves to this evolving consumer who values total fitness and healthful lifestyle. It’s about choosing the right foods to not only help one build muscle, improve endurance and speedup recovery, but also to assist with fighting inflammation, staving off fatigue, improving sleep, reducing signs of aging and more.

Protein remains part of the picture. In fact, it’s a critical part of a food’s story. It’s the approach to marketing protein content that is changing.

Here’s what I am talking about. At Anuga this past October, Elsdorfer Molkerei of Germany rolled out numerous new products under its MeinQ + Protein brand. The company refers to the line as a “powerful range” for the “fitness dimension for high-protein nutrition.”

The line includes MyQ Fitness Drink. Sold in four-packs of shot-style 100-milliliter drinks, each bottle contains 10 gram of protein. Initial flavors are strawberry and vanilla. There’s a line of refrigerated yogurt dressings in Mango-Chili, Yoghurt and Yoghurt Mustard varieties. There is also new MyQ Fitness Pudding in chocolate and vanilla flavors. The puddings are low-carb, low-fat and high in protein, with a 100-gram serving providing 10-grams of protein.

Lastly, the company debuted what it calls MyQ Fitness Base. With a consistency of yogurt, this thick, creamy, unflavored high-protein dairy product can be used in cooking, with cereal or blended with fruit and whole grains.

In the U.S., to support its growing ready-to-drink (RTD) beverage business, Arizona-based Shamrock Farms is unveiling new branding and packaging to be used across all its RTD products, which currently are distributed to more than 50,000 quick service restaurants and upwards of 40,000 grocery and c-store outlets nationwide.

“Shamrock Farms continues to elevate milk, making it relevant for today’s consumers with innovative, delicious products,” says Ann Ocana, chief marketing officer. “With this change, we are taking our brand to the next level as we continue to develop a variety of milk-based beverage offerings.”

The company tapped award-winning packaging and brand design firm Flood Creative to lead the effort. Flood is well-known for its work for entrepreneurial RTD beverages, including Fuze, Body Armor and Core Hydration. The team built the new branding based on research showing a tremendous opportunity to leverage the Shamrock Farms name to reach a mainstream audience.

An updated Shamrock Farms logo now sits in a field of vibrant green on top of all Shamrock Farms RTD products, unifying the brand while connoting the pure, fresh and healthy Shamrock Farms milk inside. The new PET bottle is slightly indented on the sides making it easy to grip and hold on-the-go for an active lifestyle. The new look is debuting with the Rockin’ Refuel protein-fortified milk line, which is renaming to Rockin’ Protein in order to bring the number-one product benefit--protein for active people--to the forefront. On the new Rockin’ Protein bottle, new graphics spotlight appetite appeal and delicious taste, while showcasing protein content and flavor variety. Meanwhile, the new Cold Brew Coffee and Milk bottle will now feature graphics to showcase the blend of pure, fresh Shamrock Farms milk and Colombian coffee inside. It’s all about energizing and fighting off fatigue.

“The new design system allows each product line to showcase their individual benefits whilst unifying them quite literally under an umbrella of freshness, purity and quality,” says Paula Grant Flood Creative founder.
In addition to the new RTD bottles for Rockin’ Protein, the brand is issuing its first-ever limited-edition bottle in support of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard team and its partner athletes. The bottles feature red, white and blue graphics along with images of snowboarding and skiing, and feature the new name Rockin’ Protein. This limited-time offering will be available December to March.

“Our promise is that we are real. Shamrock Farms products are made with real milk, with real protein and real, great taste,” says Ocana. “Now with these efforts it will be easy to spot our products on shelf and know they come from Shamrock Farms, famous for pure, fresh, high-quality milk.”

And, you may have already heard that Chobani is unveiling a major brand evolution alongside its 10th anniversary. The company is expanding its vision and mission towards “universal wellness.”

Chobani’s vision of universal wellness builds on the company’s founding mission to provide better food for more people. The company plans to invest in: nutritional wellness to provide better food for more people; social wellness to increase investment in the communities it serves and the people who craft Chobani foods; and environmental wellness to build a supply chain that ensures the planet’s health.
To bring this vision to life for consumers, Chobani is launching an evolution of the brand’s creative expression—Fighting for Happily Ever After—which is shaping everything from the brand’s packaging, website and campaigns to its cafés and more. Chobani’s in-house creative team spent more than a year developing the evolved brand look and feel. This evolution differentiates the brand at shelf and reflects the values of the company.

The new creative will be supported by a robust integrated campaign to inform and educate consumers, including online video, shopper marketing, social and public relations programs. In February, the brand is planning a major commemoration of its 10th anniversary, including activations for fans and initiatives focused on strengthening communities. This wellness positioning includes new products that will be featured soon as a Daily Dose of Dairy.

The time is now to communicate the role of dairy protein in fitness and well-being.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you Ruth MacDonald and Ruth Litchfield!

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

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

Dairy foods can play in this space, cleanly!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 10, 2017

Disrupt the Dairy Case with Flavor in 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Focus on flavor in 2018!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 3, 2017

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

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

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

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

This really got them thinking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 27, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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