Donna Berry

I am fresh off the floor of the National Restaurant Association, Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show (NRA Show) that ran May 21 to 24 in Chicago. Where were you?

Considering the limited number of dairy processors and suppliers of dairy ingredients exhibiting, it appears that many dairy foods marketers need to start thinking outside of the dairy case and onto foodservice menus.

What do I mean by thinking outside of the dairy case? Stonyfield Farm, Londonderry, N.H., knows no boundaries. Yes, retail is their primary market. And, yes, they owe much of their success to the natural food store segment. But guess what? Stonyfield Farm exhibited at the NRA Show. A few weeks earlier, they had one of the largest booths at the All Things Organic show, which was a show within the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) show.

On the foodservice track, here's an exciting Stonyfield initiative: Good2Go. This school-based breakfast and exercise program is designed to get kids to school early for 30 minutes of physical activity, followed by a healthy breakfast. Guess what is part of the breakfast? Yes, it is Stonyfield yogurt.

But, it's not cup yogurt. It is true foodservice yogurt. The Stonyfield yogurt buffet provides students with a choice of yogurt varieties and toppings, including fruit, nuts, and cereal.

(Think outside the dairy case!)

Here's another one, sort of a no brainer-cereal and milk-but in portable form.

Have you heard of Cereality? Cereality is a foodservice concept that is described as a cereal and milk bar. The basic Cereality offering works like this. There are three main ways of ordering: Your Cereal. Your Way™, Your Cereal. Our Way™ and Your Cereal. A Whole New Way™. There are 30-plus choices of cereal, including many best-loved brand names and 30-plus choices of toppings. There are also three types of milk, plus an assortment of alternatives such as soy beverages. All this comes in the signature Cereality bucket, which is a leak-proof 32-oz portable container, for less than $3.00.

(Think outside the dairy case!)

Here's an exciting concept I learned about at NRA. Meet the Good Cow Company Inc., Meridian, Idaho. Formed in January 2000, the Good Cow Company is owned by dairy farmers and dairy processing professionals. The company works with Select Milk Producers in the Southwest and Continental Milk in the Midwest. The company was created to bring innovative technology to the fluid milk industry-solely for the foodservice and institutional customer.

It is a fully integrated dairy processing firm. The company monitors and controls the quality of its products from the farm through to the end. What is the end? The end is concentrated milk. What the company offers foodservice is milk minus some of milk's natural water, with nothing else added or removed. The foodservice operator adds the water back, and uses Good Cow milk exactly as traditional milk.

The company offers a complete milk solution for the foodservice industry by integrating a bag-in-box fresh concentrated milk with a reconstituting milk dispenser. At FMI, the company debuted two new varieties: Lactose-free and lactose-reduced. These join the original line of seven varieties (whole, reduced-fat, low-fat, nonfat, half & half, reduced-fat chocolate and full-fat milk chocolate).

The benefits in using the Good Cow program include a 33% reduction in refrigerated space, no cartons or crates, extended shelflife, reduced handling, and more.

Another NRA exhibitor, Gehls Guernsey Farms, Germantown, Wis., rolled out a different sort of bag-in-box concept. This bag-in-box dispenses dairy-based puddings in four flavors: banana, butterscotch, chocolate and vanilla. These dispensable puddings are a sanitary way to serve pudding in cafeterias and lunch lines. Single-serve pudding cups are also new. They come in chocolate and vanilla flavors. And, lastly, Gehls Guernsey Farms debuted single-serve Nacho cheese cups in jalapeno and Cheddar varieties.

Indeed, portion control is popular in both retail and foodservice. Unilever Ice Cream, Green Bay, Wis., formerly Good Humor-Breyers, debuted its CalSmart Cups, which contain 4-oz of low-fat, no-sugar-added ice cream. And, J&J Snack Foods Corp., Pennsauken, N.J., rolled out 4-oz butterscotch frozen custard cups that are fortified with protein and intended for nursing homes and hospice centers. In addition, J&J is a large user of cheese products, as many of their pretzel products are filled with different cheeses.

The same is true for McCain Foods USA, Lisle, Ill., which offers everything from jalapeno Poppers to mozzarella sticks and macaroni & cheese breaded appetizers to portabella mushrooms encrusted in a coating of Parmesan and Gorgonzola.

There were some cheese manufacturers exhibiting at NRA, and a handful of other dairy product marketers. However, sadly, compared to dairy's presence at FMI, it was very weak at NRA. In fact, one major manufacturer who had a very large booth at FMI reduced its exhibit to a table top at NRA.

If you are going to think outside the dairy case, you need to be involved in foodservice. Mark your calendar for next year. The 87th Annual National Restaurant Association, Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show comes back to Chicago in 2006, running May 20-23.

Foodservice Stats

Restaurants' share of the food dollar:
• 1995 - 25%
• 2004 - 47%

Restaurants will provide more than 70 million meal and snack occasions in 2005.
Half of all adults agree that restaurants are an essential part of their lifestyle.
More than seven out of 10 eating- and drinking-establishments are single-unit (independent) operations.
Projected sales in 2005 (in billions):
• Eating places - $326
• Drinking places - $15
• Managed Services - $32
• Hotel/Motel Restaurants - $25
• Retail, Vending, Recreation, Mobile - $39
Source: National Restaurant Association