Innovative dairy foods manufacturers recognize the opportunity in developing foods and beverages formulated for the needs of baby boomers.

Dairy foods, and foods formulated with dairy ingredients, play an important role in the diet of aging boomers.
Innovative dairy foods manufacturers recognize the opportunity in developing foods and beverages formulated for the needs of baby boomers. These creative companies are tapping into this "booming" segment, and assisting consumers in their efforts to delay the relentless march of time.

A few players have rolled out products in recent years, including most recently, Lifeline Food Co., Seaside, Calif., which has reformulated its pasteurized process low-fat cheese line to contain phytosterols. Phytosterols are natural compounds derived from plants and are recognized for reducing blood cholesterol. A 1-oz serving of the cheese contains 55 calories, 2.5g fat and 0.65g phytosterols. Based on data from various studies, daily intake of at least 1.3g phytosterols as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol helps lower blood cholesterol, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.

"For the past 20 years, we have been offering our customers a choice in innovative specialty cheeses . . . first with the 50% reduced-cholesterol, fat and sodium natural line . . . then on to the fat-free cheeses . . . and also lactose-free dairy cheeses," says Jone Chappell, pres. "It just seemed a natural for Lifeline to develop cheeses with phytosterols."

When developing the cheeses, "In order to make the ‘reducing cholesterol' claim, there could be no more than 1g of saturated fat in the cheese. The low-fat product fit the bill, and after several trials, we decided to add the phytosterols to our low-fat pasteurized product," she says.

"As far as taste, the cheeses with phytosterols actually taste creamier than the regular low-fat product because the phytosterol esters act as a fat mimetic," Chappell adds. "Baby boomers will be particularly interested in this product because of the great taste and performance, and the fact that just two servings a day can help reduce cholesterol."

A company in the United Kingdom, with help from Cambridge University, has produced a similar cheese product; however, the approach to making it is a bit different.

The process to make Heartily Wholesome starts out like conventional cheesemaking, but before the curding stage, the milkfat is removed and replaced with wheat germ oil, which is naturally high in phytosterols and polyunsaturated fatty acids. This cheese-like product assists with lowering cholesterol in two ways: being cholesterol free and through the addition of the phytosterols.

Londonderry, N.H.-based Stonyfield Farm, manufactures Organic YoSelf ™, a low-fat yogurt with live active cultures that promotes good digestive health and contains inulin. Inulin is a prebiotic, which means it increases the activity of the beneficial bacteria and helps prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in the digestive tract. Inulin has also been proven to be a good source of soluble dietary fiber and is well suited for diabetics because it does not increase the glucose level or insulin level in the blood. And, recent research shows that inulin significantly increases the absorption of calcium, which is particularly important for women, the consumer segment YoSelf targets with indulgent dessert flavors such as Crème Caramel.

On the forefront

Silver Research Inc., Philadelphia, recently created a "buttery" tasting spread that appeals to today's label-conscious consumer. With technical support from Dairy Management Inc., Silver Research was able to patent a process to combine fresh co-precipitated milk, sweet cream butter and whey protein to create Silver Spread, which contains 70% less fat and 60% less calories than regular margarine.

Silver Spread is 100% free of chemicals, emulsifiers and preservatives. In addition, the lactose free spread does not contain hydrogenated oils or trans fatty acids, and is suitable for baking and cooking.

At Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa., food scientists have shown that adding heart-healthy flavonoids during processing can produce tastier food products. Increased consumption of flavonoids, which occur naturally in plant foods, has been associated with reduced risk for cardiovascular disease.

"Our research shows that in food and beverage products heated for safety or preservation, flavonoids can limit the generation of off-flavors, such as the scalded or cooked taste of ultrapasteurized milk," says Devin Peterson, assistant professor. "We've also found that it may be possible to enhance some good flavor pathways while limiting others, including less desirable smells, by the addition of flavonoids."

Peterson and his research group added three different levels of epicatechin, a flavonoid typically found in fresh fruits, vegetables, tea and chocolate, to whole milk and then ultrapasteurized it. Tests with a trained panel of tasters found that all samples containing the flavonoid were significantly lower in cooked flavor. One was indistinguishable from regular pasteurized milk, which has no cooked flavor at all.

Sidebar: Baby Boomer-Only Beverages

The Pulse "water + nutrients supplement" drink line from Baxter International Inc., Deerfield, Ill., provides baby boomers with a convenient way to receive ingredients specifically targeted for areas of health and wellness. The Pulse supplements address key nutritional needs of baby boomers, and come in three formulations. All varieties are sweetened with sucralose, keeping the calorie count very low.

The Women's Health Formula includes soy isoflavones, calcium, magnesium, folic acid, and vitamins D, B6 and B12. The Men's Health Formula includes lycopene, selenium, green tea catechins, vitamins C and E. The Heart Health Formula contains 25% of the recommended daily value of dietary fiber, as well as selenium and vitamin C.

"The nutrients and nutrient-related ingredients were specifically selected to provide the amounts necessary to achieve targeted health benefits," says Arline McDonald, senior project mgr. "These nutrients cannot be consumed in adequate amounts by eating food without substantially increasing calories."

For more informationon technologies mentioned in this story

Silver Research Inc.

Pennsylvania State University Dept. of Food Science