Dairy Detective

Question:What are the opportunities for lower-fat cheeses?

Answer: Cheese lovers who scream "More cheese, please!" will find that lower-fat cheeses provide a great way to indulge in more cheese and still meet personal dietary goals. Food manufacturers and foodservice formulators can use lower-fat cheese to develop products and menu items that appeal to the calorie conscious. Schools can incorporate lower-fat cheese into entrees to meet new stricter dietary guidelines. To capitalize on these opportunities, processors must meet the challenge of producing lower-fat cheeses that taste and perform like traditional cheese.

Fortunately, new research supported by America's dairy farmers can help processors tap the opportunities. The FDA has defined three nutrient content claims for finished cheeses. They are: Fat-Free Cheese: Lowfat Cheese and Reduced-Fat Cheeses.

Each has specific fat gram levels per volume serving size, or percentage or reduction from fullfat counterparts.

Like their full-fat counterparts, lowerfat natural cheeses qualify as both a "good source" of protein and a "good source" of calcium. These cheeses also may be eligible to carry the "3-A-Day Burn More Fat, Lose Weight" logo, indicating that enjoying three servings a day of milk, cheese or yogurt as part of a reduced-calorie weight loss plan can help adults achieve better results when it comes to trimming the waistline than just cutting calories and consuming little or no dairy.

An excellent opportunity for lower-fat cheese is in school foodservice. Leprino Foods, for example offers a "lite" mozzarella cheese for schools. One ounce of Leprino's lite mozzarella, combined with other healthy pizza ingredients, will allow schools to meet the 20% calories from fat target provided by the USDA's 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Sales of reduced-fat cheese varieties grew 2.3% during the 52-week period ended June 26, 2005, according to Information Resources, Inc. (IRI).

For more information, contact the DMI Dairy Technical Support Hotline at 800/248-8829 or visit the new DMI Web site, www.innovatewithdairy.com.

This is an abbreviation of the Dairy Detective column which will appear in the November issue of Dairy Foods magazine.