A For dunking a chocolate chip cookie, there's nothing like a tall glass of milk. That clean, fresh taste is the perfect accompaniment for snacks and meals or on its own. Now flavored milks are coming into their own and being sold in creative packaging, helping to attract new consumers to the dairy aisle.
During a 10-year period, per capita sales of flavored milks have grown from 4.4% to 7.4% of all fluid milk sales, according to the 2003 edition of the International Dairy Foods Association's Dairy Facts. The future for these products looks bright. Market analyst Mintel forecasts sales of flavored milk to grow 39% from 2002 to 2007 at current prices.
The excitement for the consumer comes in the flavors. Traditionally, the most popular flavors have been chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, coffee and banana, with some manufacturers offering such options as mango, peach and even root beer.
With Dairy Facts noting that blends are on the rise, recent introductions present both wild combinations and decadent versions of traditional flavors. Hershey's® Milkshakes flavors include Creamy Chocolate and Cookies ‘N' Cream. North Palm Beach, Fla.-based Bravo! Foods offers Coffee Slam, French Vanilla and Chocolate Fudge in its Slammers® lineup of flavored milks. The flavors of dairy-based Raging Cow™ from Dr. Pepper/Seven-Up Inc., Plano, Texas, include Berry Mixed Up, a combination of raspberry, cherry and strawberry, and Chocolate Caramel Craze.
From a formulation standpoint, milk is easy to flavor because so many flavors work well in this medium. Most flavors are water soluble, so there are very few problems with the flavors staying in solution.
"Sometimes fruit flavors can be a bit more difficult, because citric acid used in these flavors can denature milk proteins. Also, the citrus flavors-lemon and orange-don't taste quite the same at the pH of milk," says Bill Igou, dir., research and development, Edgar A. Weber & Co., Wheeling, Ill.
A delicious solution is to take advantage of the citrus tang by using creamy citrus flavors in yogurt-type beverages.
Chocolate milks and dairy-based products need a stabilizer system to suspend the cocoa particles so they don't settle out over time.
"Kappa II carageenan at a level of 0.02% to 0.03% works well to stabilize the cocoa particles and suspend the fat in chocolate milk," says Mark Hines, mgr., technical services CP Kelco, Chicago. "Carageenan is used more often than any other stabilizer in flavored milks because it reacts with milk proteins to form a shear-reversible gel." Other gums such as cellulose, guar gum and xanthan are also used, especially in milkshake products where both body and foaming are desired.
Stabilizers play an important role when manufacturers want to mimic the body of full-fat milk in their low-fat or nonfat products or use a non-nutritive sweetener. Reducing sugars and carbohydrates means lowering total solids; a slightly higher level of stabilizers helps to improve mouthfeel in these products.