Jerry Dryer

These four words have sold a lot of beer. And I'm convinced that they can sell help sell a lot of milk and a lot of dairy foods.

I'm in the thick of it right now. It is diet time. After giving up cigarettes, I have developed an appetite even greater than before. I've been investigating all kinds of ways to trim off some pounds. There's Atkins; there's South Beach, there's Jenny Craig; the list of diet gurus has about a 48- inch waistline. Reading and digesting all of these diet plans wasn't enough for this innately curious journalist.

I started digging through consumer research. What are folks saying about what they eat? What are they saying about what they plan to eat? How are they planning to live a long and healthful life at their optimum weight?

By the way, people lie. Never trust a survey where consumers are asked to tell you what they are eating on a daily basis. They invariably check off the answers that conform to the dictates of the latest fad diet recommendations. They complete the survey while they are eating a deep-fried Twinkie.

To succeed in today's market, foods and beverages need to strive for both - Great Taste! and Less Filling! But we need to be careful. Each term covers a great deal of territory. Great Taste is not just about flavor; Less Filling is not just about fewer calories. Great Taste also encompasses mouth feel and texture, even layers of texture (crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside) and aroma.

Taste also relates to how you feel - energized or mellow - when you eat or drink. Less Filling means less fat, less trans fat, fewer refined carbohydrates and fewer (or no) ‘contaminates' like antibiotic and pesticide residues or maybe artificial flavors or colors. Less Filling may also be conveyed as a feeling; it is not too sweet, thus it is intellectualized as ‘healthy.' Great Taste and Less Filling means a smaller serving size (or at least fewer calories) will still sate the appetite.

Consumer attitudes have gone through a big shift during the past decade or so. People are getting fed up with new research that contradicts previous long-standing ‘science.' In fact, it sounds like at least some of them might have answered this questionnaire from HealthFocus International.

  • In 2004, 43% of the respondents said, "I rarely/never give up good taste for health benefits." In 1990, only 33% would admit to such behavior.

  • Comparing 1990 to 2004, last year fewer persons thought "healthy foods tasted better" and fewer persons said they "enjoy eating healthy foods."

So, what can dairy do?

Remember: Great Taste! Less Filling! The best example that pops to mind: Reduced fat cheeses that are fortified with seasonings. We all know that fat is most of the flavor, but by replacing one flavor with another flavor or two, the cheeses have become Holy Grails.

More and more of the lowfat, flavored milks being introduced are ringing the Great Taste-Less Filling bell. Now, we just need more exciting and natural flavors.

To grow dairy's share of stomach, we need an endless parade of more dairy beverages and dairy foods that Taste Great! and are Less Filling!

A version of this article appears in the October issue of Dairy Foods.