If anyone has any doubts that the food and beverage industry is in the midst of a major makeover, with most new products wearing a health and wellness halo . . . then read on. This year's picks for Dairy Foods' annual Best New Products of the Year all have a good-for-you note . . . even superpremium ice cream shapes up.

If anyone has any doubts that the food and beverage industry is in the midst of a major makeover, with most new products wearing a health and wellness halo . . . then read on. This year's picks forDairy Foods' annual Best New Products of the Year all have a good-for-you note . . . even superpremium ice cream shapes up.

Indeed, it has been an interesting year for innovations in the dairy industry as manufacturers and marketers provide consumers with products to assist in the fight against obesity, heart disease and aging. Dairies are also actively rolling out formulations that make the grade for school foodservice programs. And, let's not forget all the nutrition-savvy consumers who are demanding more of everything good from their foods and beverages. Dairies are shaping up formulations in order to measure up to today's consumers' expectations.

Dairy Foodsmagazine commends all processors and marketers for their efforts. TheDairy Foodsstaff, along with various industry relations, identified seven product lines that represent some of the most promising new dairy and dairy-based formulations. All of these products have appeared during the past year inDairy Foods, but for the most part, it is still too early to say if they are winners in the marketplace. ButDairy Foodsrecognizes their innovativeness and believes that they will succeed.

Also this year,Dairy Foodsrecognizes Lifeway Foods Inc., Morton Grove, Ill., as the New Products Company of 2006. This family-based Midwestern dairy has roots in Russia and a pulse for what today's U.S. consumers want . . . and the company is rolling out new products to meet those needs, products like no others in the marketplace. Celebrating its 20 year anniversary this year, Lifeway Foods is all about innovation. And, it is this innovation that helped the company win the prestigious dairy industry title: New Products Company of the Year.

Dairy Foodsmagazine congratulates all of the 2006 winners and encourages dairy processors to continue adding value to dairy products through innovation.Dairy Foodsis here to help you innovate. We will help you measure up!

Activia Probiotic Yogurt

For just about a year, White Plains, N.Y.-based The Dannon Company, the U.S. fresh dairy unit of Groupe Danone, has been actively marketing Activia. This probiotic yogurt is clinically proven to help naturally regulate the digestive system in two weeks, when eaten daily as part of a healthy and balanced diet.

"Activia has been very well received by our retail partners," says Andreas Ostermayr, senior v.p.-marketing. "In fact, strong enthusiasm led to the fastest distribution build in the history of the yogurt category. Within two months of its launch, Activia had achieved 90% ACV." It is currently available nationally to both retail and foodservice accounts.

Activia was first introduced in 1987 in France and is one of Groupe Danone's best-selling yogurt products globally, with its greatest success in Europe and Asia. What makes Activia different from other yogurts in the U.S. marketplace are the billions of beneficial cultures, including the exclusive Bifidus regularis, that each 4-oz cup contains.

"The U.S. market is ready for innovations in yogurt beyond just basic taste," says Ostermayr. "For us, this is just the starting point.

"Two of the key performance indicators we analyze with every new product launch are frequency of purchase and the average volume of each purchase . . . and Activia is leading the way with frequency and weight of purchase," explains Ostermayr.

Dannon spent about $31 million in measured media during 2006 on Activia. This enabled the company to explain to consumers the digestive regularity benefits of the new probiotic yogurt. "This has been key to the product's success," says Ostermayr.

"The success of Activia demonstrates to us that Americans have quickly come to realize the potential benefit of clinically demonstrated strains of probiotics and other functional food concepts," concludes Ostermayr. "You can expect us to continue to bring new innovations to market that deliver demonstrated benefits to consumers who are seeking to improve their well-being."

Dairy Foodsapplauds Dannon for its commitment to probiotics.

Omega Farms Dairy Products

Hayward, Calif.-based Omega Farms has introduced a full line of dairy products enhanced with all-natural omega-3s, the fatty acids vital to good health and well-being. The line includes milk, cheese, yogurt and orange juice, with each serving providing 75mg of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid.)

"Upon discovering that dairy products were excellent foods to be enhanced with omega-3s, Omega Farms was established to bring to market a new line of healthy dairy products that contribute to healthy lifestyles," says Cindy DiFerdinand, nutritionist and v.p. of sales.

Omega Farms is owned by the Gaddis family, who also owns Pacific Cheese. Gaddis family members have played a leading role in California's dairy industry since 1945. They were early pioneers in the natural foods arena, from raw-milk cheese production in the 1970s, to organic cheeses and cheeses free of artificial hormones in the 90s.

Omega Farms uses omega-3s derived from cod fish oil from Norwegian Arctic waters. The omega-3 oil is gently extracted, purified and filtered without the use of chemical solvents, and meets the U.S. standards for use in certified organic foods. It is used exclusively by Omega Farms for key dairy products in the United States.

"Distributors and retailers are aware of the current demand for products with omega-3s, and our products have been very well received on the retail purchasing and distribution side of the business," says DiFerdinand. "In fact, retailers tell us that they are excited to offer Omega Farms products because of the health benefits they provide consumers beyond the basic nutrition found in high-quality dairy products."

Omega Farms' products are widely available in California, and select items are distributed nationally through Wild Oats.

"The dairy industry is experiencing new innovation in the growing category of specialty dairy products, and we are excited to be part of this trend," concludes DiFerdinand.

Kudos to the Gaddis family for being on target!

LightFull Satiety Smoothies

Mill Valley, Calif.-based LightFull Foods has introduced the 90-calorie, all-natural LightFull Satiety Smoothie. The product line came to fruition because cofounders Lara Jackle and Lynn Graham were concerned with the obesity epidemic.

"Until now, there has been a void in the world of convenient, nutritious, filling snacks for active women," says Jackle, CEO. "On-the-go women are constantly trying to juggle work, family and friends. Sadly, healthful eating and weight management are often lost in the struggle."

The new shelf-stable smoothies are easy to toss into a purse or tote, making healthful snacking on the go just one less thing to worry about.

"We started LightFull Foods to help all of us ‘juggle without struggle' by creating convenient, deliciously filling, low-calorie, all-natural snacks," says Graham, v.p. of marketing. "LightFull is not about dieting and deprivation but celebrating healthy, satisfying, delicious snacks that fit into our busy lives."

Available in four flavors-Strawberries & Cream, Peaches & Cream, Chocolate Fudge and Café Latte-the LightFull Satiety Smoothie is also packed with nutrients, including metabolism-boosting antioxidants, calcium and more fiber than a bowl of oatmeal.

"The smoothies have been well-received by the industry, as LightFull truly delivers on its promise of satiety-or the sensation of fullness," says Jackle.

The LightFull Satiety Smoothie was launched in a total of 70 stores in the San Francisco Bay Area and at Wegmans on the East Coast in January 2006. "As of today, LightFull can be found at more than 1,100 stores (natural and mainstream) across 25 states and is also available online," says Graham.

"Given the tremendously positive feedback we've received from consumers and retailers, we look forward to growing the LightFull brand," Jackle concludes. "We are building a strong organizational culture that truly reflects our brand. When you walk into our offices you will find a hum of excitement around the authenticity and innovation we are bringing to food and the positive impact we are making on our community. We believe that our brand is as much about the passion of our people, as providing the best quality product possible."

Congratulations on the product and the passion. Twenty-first century moms love ya!

Lifetime Immune Advantage Cheese

The first U.S. cheese to contain probiotics is now available for distribution throughout the United States thanks to one woman's aspirations, a cheesemaker's willingness and a clinically proven probiotic strain.

Jone Chappell, president of Lifeline Food Co., Seaside, Calif., is the woman. "The company's mission is to offer healthy, high-quality, cutting-edge products to our customers. We have found that an increasing number of consumers are asking the dairy industry to offer more healthful products . . . and we want to give them what they want."

Lifeline Foods works with an innovative cheesemaker who is willing to experiment with healthful formulations, many of which are sold under the Lifetime brand. The most recent development-Lifetime Immune Advantage-is a mild Cheddar cheese loaded with live and active Lactobacillus F19 cultures.

This is the final piece of this winning product. The Lactobacillus F19 strain has been studied for more than 15 years. It has been clinically shown to survive the gastrointestinal system, only to colonize in the lower gut where it exerts numerous probiotic effects, including enhancing immunity and promoting digestive health.

"Our internal tests show that by the end of the cheese's six month shelflife, there are enough viable F19 bacteria for the consumer to reap its benefits upon consumption," says Chappell.

Lifetime Immune Advantage comes as eight 1-oz shingled slices to a package. Labels state that each slice contains one billion colony form units of Lactobacillus cultures.

Chappell's commitment to Lifeline's passion has earned the company numerous "Best New Products" awards.Dairy Foodsis proud to be one of the first to praise you for your efforts. Keep it up!

GoodBody Frozen Nutrition Bars

It all started when some folks who had spent many years in the ice cream business challenged themselves to formulate a frozen dessert that was low in calories and fat, and also packed with powerful ingredients such as antioxidants, calcium, fiber and protein. Earlier this year, these folks introduced GoodBody.

"Our team recognized a clear opportunity in the frozen dessert category to provide a healthy snack alternative," says Bob Martin, v.p. technology and operations, Advanced Nutrition Concepts, San Ramon, Calif. "The final decision to market the product came when we achieved a suitable nutritional profile that provided indulgent taste to the consumer."

GoodBody frozen nutrition bars carry the tag line: The cool way to give your body what it needs. Made with a proprietary blend of whey, egg and soy proteins, a single 75g bar contains as much protein as many sports nutrition bars (5g to 8g). They contain no fat; no preservatives; no artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners; no high fructose corn syrup; no lactose; and no cholesterol.

There are two lines within the brand: GoodBody Refresh bars are fat-free, cholesterol-free vanilla bars smothered with real fruit sorbets and contain only 90 calories. The GoodBody Reward bars are rich-tasting, chocolate-based frozen bars that range from 100 to 140 calories and 0.5g to 5g fat, depending on variety. There's also a school foodservice bar that comes to only 70 calories.

"The bars have had an excellent reception, being authorized by three of the largest U.S. grocers (Albertsons LLC, Boise, Idaho; The Kroger Co., Cincinnati, Ohio; and Safeway Inc., Pleasanton, Calif.), as well as all local accounts and select chains throughout Arizona," says Martin. "Key grocers have stated that the GoodBody concept is directly on target with consumers' nutritional trends.

"Household purchasing data indicates that in the most recent 10-week period, 40% of our volume is from repeat purchases, with 26% purchasing four or more times within the period," adds Martin. "With such positive sales, we are planning on rolling out new forms, new flavors and an eight-count snack pack." Can't wait-thanks GoodBody, and congrats!

SheerBliss Superpremium Ice Cream

As mentioned in the introduction, even a new ultra superpremium ice cream line possesses a healthful halo. That's right, SheerBliss ice cream, which comes packaged in a distinctive tin can, has been making a splash in gourmet ice cream circles this year. First introduced in the Los Angeles and New York markets by a group of businessmen (Siroos Asbaghi, Gary Barron, Sean Cavandi and Ron Prupis) who are operating as SheerBliss Ice Cream LLC, Hallandale Beach, Fla., SheerBliss is now available in more than 2,500 stores from coast-to-coast, including Whole Foods Markets on the west coast, in the Midwest and in Florida.

"Whole Foods is the ideal place for SheerBliss. In addition to the beautiful packaging we offer, it is made with all-natural ingredients and is being embraced by the natural food community coast-to-coast," says Gary Barron, president and CFO.

"It looks like no other ice cream-nor does it taste like any other," says Barron. "We've found that people are really taken with our decorative tin-and then are pleasantly surprised when they taste the incredibly flavorful and creamy ice cream inside."

But it's not the flavor or the tin that makes SheerBliss one ofDairy Foods' best new products of 2006, it is the healthful ingredients that many of the varieties are based on-one being all-natural, 100% pomegranate juice from POM Wonderful LLC, Los Angeles. The pomegranate-based SheerBliss flavors are getting phenomenal reception throughout the country, according to the company, because of the unique taste combination and the quality. Some varieties also contain dark chocolate, which contributes to the product line's healthful image, as high-quality dark chocolate is associated with heart health.

Dairy Foodsis not the only expert to recognize SheerBliss. The product has been featured in the Food Section of The New York Times and showcased on NBC's The Today Show with Phil Lampert, The Supermarket Guru, as "one of his favorites and best new entries into the ice cream marketplace." The product has received numerous awards from the food industry for taste and packaging, including being named a Finalist at the 2005 NASFT International Fancy Food Show.

"There's a real WOW factor when people see the SheerBliss can-and then they WOW again when they taste the ice cream," Barron concludes. "We feel confident that ice cream lovers will continue to embrace our brand."

Dairy Foodssays WOW, too.

YoBaby Plus Fruit & Cereal with DHA

Once again, Stonyfield Farm, Londonderry, N.H., is first to market with a healthful innovation for our youngest consumers. New YoBaby Plus Fruit & Cereal with DHA is a two flavor (strawberry banana and raspberry pear) line of organic whole milk cup yogurt containing . . . as the name indicates: fruit, cereal and DHA. DHA, the acronym for docosahexaenoic acid, is an essential fatty acid associated with mental and visual development in the first years of life. Stonyfield is using anchovy and sardine oils as its source of DHA.

"YoBaby was already a very healthy food for little ones," says Pete Lewis, product manager. "The addition of a DHA item to the line represented the next step in providing wholesome, all-natural and organic yogurts designed especially for the unique nutritional needs of babies and toddlers."

With a unique puree of blended fruit and organic cereal grains like oats, flax, rice and bran on the bottom, YoBaby Plus Fruit & Cereal with DHA is an easily digestible protein source, and an ideal first dairy product for infants. Like all Stonyfield Farm products, the new product contains six live active cultures.

Sales indicate that Stonyfield is right on target with this product. "Consumers went ‘ga-ga' over the product," adds Lewis. "More than 1.2 million multi-packs have been sold to date-by far our best YoBaby new item launch. This equates to about 7.2 million cups, or one cup of yogurt for every baby born in the United States in the past 21 months. We believe that the unique health benefits of DHA have been a significant contributing factor in the item being highly incremental to overall YoBaby sales."

Dairy Foodsbelieves the addition of DHA is a big deal, and a very important one.Dairy Foodsis ga-ga about this new product, too.