Innovative cultured dairy products make it challenging for retailers to stock anything else but dairy foods in their refrigerated dairy cases. It’s an exciting time for the cultured dairy products category;for yogurt, cottage cheese, cream cheese, dips and sour cream, as formulators have is covered that these dairy foods are ideal carriers for many of the better-for-ingredients that consumers are seeking. This, of course, is on top of the fact that cultured dairy products are inherently a great source of nutrients-high-quality protein, calcium and more.

Retailers across America are finding that there is no longer room for bagels, cookie dough or eggs in their refrigerated dairy cases. That’s because cultured dairy products, specifically yogurt and fermented milk beverages, are taking control of the space.

It’s an exciting time for the cultured dairy products category, which also includes cottage cheese, cream cheese, dips and sour cream, as formulators have discovered that these dairy foods are ideal carriers for many of the better-for-ingredients that consumers are seeking. This, of course, is on top of the fact that cultured dairy products are inherently a great source of nutrients-high-quality protein, calcium and more.

The Dannon Co., White Plains, N.Y., just launched a nutrient-dense, reduced-calorie, nonfat yogurt called Light & Fit 0% Plus. Described as a healthful option that helps women be smart about weight management, each 4-oz cup contains only 60 calories, 10% of the Daily Value for calcium and vitamins D and B2, and 6% of the Daily Value for protein and vitamin A. Plus, a 4-oz serving has 50% more fruit than regular Light & Fit 6-oz nonfat yogurt. (See page 78 for additional information.)

“Weight management is very important to women, and with Light & Fit 0% Plus we are providing a healthy snack option that is a great-tasting light nonfat yogurt,” says Katherine Brooking, corporate nutritionist at Dannon. “With this new product, we will continue to be women’s partner in weight management, and we will continue to bring out new, delicious foods as we have since 1942 when Dannon was first introduced.”

Below the waistline

Dannon yogurts are experiencing phenomenal growth thanks to Americans finally embracing life below the neckline. That’s right. Americans have started acknowledging and addressing their gastrointestinal health.  

“Digestive problems are important and surprisingly common but we don’t discuss them. Whereas we routinely talk about other uncomfortable topics, such as erectile dysfunction, digestive health is not being addressed-and it’s time to change that,” says award-winning actress and passionate self-esteem advocate Jamie Lee Curtis, who recently signed on as a spokesperson for Dannon’s probiotic Activia yogurt. “I am not afraid to talk about bowel issues-there I said it-and I’m very committed to help people find solutions, like a balanced diet and Activia. It is rewarding to be the ice breaker who speaks openly about digestive health and irregularity, and make it easier for people to find a solution.”

In Dannon’s 2008 advertising campaign for Activia, Curtis draws attention to the importance of digestive health. She sheds light on this all-too-frequent, silent health problem, which on occasion affects more than 87% of Americans, according to a 2007 national insight survey commissioned by Dannon. Further, 70% of women say their digestive health issues have a negative impact on their daily lives, according to a 2007 study by Harris Interactive, which was commissioned by Dannon.

Still, many people are silent about this important subject. Curtis, who is best known for taking on Michael Myers on Halloween night many moons ago, is taking on her gastrointestinal tract and helping others do so, too, by making them aware of the digestive benefits of consuming Activia on a regular basis.

Her endorsement comes at a time when Dannon finds itself faced with a class action lawsuit filed in a California court. The class action accuses Dannon of employing “massive and comprehensive” unsubstantiated gut- and digestive-health statements to lure consumers into purchases, and justify price premiums of up to 30% more than regular yogurts.

As the leader in probiotic dairy foods in the United States, Dannon’s response is to “vigorously challenge this lawsuit.” This comes as no surprise, as Dannon has been reported as expecting its probiotic products to account for 40% of its U.S. yogurt sales in 2008. Further, Dannon has played a leading role in developing the U.S. probiotic yogurt business, which was virtually nothing in 2005 and exceeded $400 million at the end of 2007.

No doubt many Dairy Foods readers will be following the case. Indeed, there are general concerns that the legal action and extensive media coverage could damage the probiotic yogurt category, which is still in its infancy in the States. This class action also serves as a reminder to other marketers that the term probiotic must be used responsibility. (See page 63)

The underlying question when the suit goes to court will be if the claims are substantiated by science. The class-action can be viewed at:

Many others promote probiotics

By no means is Dannon alone in promoting the benefits of probiotics. It is just the largest U.S. marketer, and this would not be America if someone did not challenge its brave leaders in a legal battle.

Other new roll outs this year include Breyers Light Boosts Immunity with Natural Probiotics. Each 6-oz cup is formulated to contain 50% fewer calories and 70% less sugar than the leading low-fat, sugar-sweetened yogurt. The new light line is fat free and sweetened with aspartame and acesulfame potassium.

Labels read: Breyers Light is enhanced with a special natural probiotic clinically proven to help strengthen your body’s immune system. Every cup of Breyers Light provides billions of active cultures to fortify your defenses each day. Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidus are identified as the two probiotics.

Lifeway Foods Inc., Morton Grove, Ill., recently named Fortune Small Business’ 97th Fastest Growing Small Business, and one of only four companies to ever be named to the list four years in a row, is America’s leading supplier of the cultured dairy product known as kefir. This past year it also became America’s only supplier of Organic Kefir. Both forms contain Lifeway’s exclusive 10 live and active probiotic cultures.

Recently the company put its probiotics into a snack bar. New Kefir Wellness bars come in three flavors: Chocolate, Pomegranate, and Sweet and Salty.

“We are very excited to introduce our new probiotic Kefir Wellness bars at a time when the awareness of all of our traditional kefir beverages is at an all-time high,” says Julie Smolyansky, Lifeway’s CEO. “As the country’s leading supplier of kefir, we found it necessary to introduce an alternative way for people to get the benefits of our original kefir, but in a convenient, on-the-go package. Since refrigeration of our bars is recommended, but not required, they can be sold and shipped all over the world, and are especially great for people traveling, or do not otherwise have access to the refrigeration necessary for our traditional kefir beverages.”

Consumers can also obtain their daily dose of probiotics in new non-dairy GoodBelly probiotic and vitamin 30% juice shots. Each 2.7-fl-oz bottle contains 50 calories and 20 billion active cultures. Manufactured in Sweden for and distributed by NextFoods LLC, Boulder, Colo., GoodBelly package labels identify the probiotics as being these two clinically tested stains: Lp299v and Bifidobacterium lactis. Packages include a logo indicating that the probiotics are from Probi AB, Lund, Sweden, a leader in probiotics research.

Probi patented the Lp299v stain in the early 90’s, and has exclusive licensing agreements with Groupe Danone and Skånemejerier, a leading Swedish dairy. The latter is likely the manufacturer of GoodBelly, as Skånemejerier markets similar products in the Netherlands. 

Another non-dairy probiotic product comes from Turtle Mountain LLC, Eugene, Ore. New So Delicious Dairy Free Yogurt is made with organic soy milk and is described as containing pre- and probiotics for enhanced intestinal health. It is formulated for maximum calcium absorption and is an excellent source of vitamin B12, a vital nutrient often lacking in vegan and vegetarian diets.

Even pooches can now get their daily dose of probiotics in new Yöghund. The concept of Yöghund originated at the doggie daycare The Barking Dog Ltd., Exeter, N.H., as a fun, innovative and nutritional treat for the four-legged guests that they cared for each day. Unlike other frozen dog treats that are based on soy, Yöghund is all about organic yogurt. The product is made with organic low-fat milk and is described as containing live and active cultures: Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus and others. The company says that Yöghund contains probiotics to aid the digestive and immune systems, and aid in nutrient absorption for a healthier, happier dog.

The line is debuting to retail markets, primarily pet stores, where the company provides small merchandising freezers. The original flavor is Organic Banana & Peanut Butter. Very soon, man’s best friend will have another variety from which to choose: Organic Blueberry & Vanilla Bean.

A new category of yogurt

“It’s not just a new yogurt. It’s a new category.” This is how AgroFarma Inc., South Edmeston, N.Y., positions Chobani, a Greek-style yogurt that contains more than two times the amount of protein (28% to 34% of the Daily Value, depending on the variety) than traditional American yogurts. All-natural Chobani is made using traditional European straining methods to deliver a rich, smooth, creamy texture and full-bodied taste. Chobani also contains five live and active cultures, including three described as probiotics.

“As consumers continue to seek out healthier ways of eating, many are adopting the Mediterranean diet, and the rewards couldn’t be greater,” says Hamdi Ulukaya, president of AgroFarma. “People in the Mediterranean region eat an abundance of food from plant sources, and consume yogurt and cheeses that contain lean sources of protein. Their diet, along with plenty of physical activity, contributes to the vibrant spirit we associate with a Mediterranean lifestyle.”

Greek-style yogurt has become one of the fastest-growing categories in the cultured dairy foods segment, with numerous yogurt marketers introducing their version of this high-protein treat. For example, another new player is 3 Greek Gods LLC, Seattle, which says, “It’s chic to eat Greek.” The Greek Gods Greek Yogurt comes in traditional Greek flavors such as Fig, Honey and Pomegranate, with its most recent addition being Reduced Fat Vanilla with Cinnamon and Orange.

Greece is not the only word in yogurt. Skyr is an Icelandic cultured dairy product that resembles Greek yogurt. It is said to have originally come from Norway, brought to Iceland by the Norwegian Vikings. Today it is available in U.S. natural foods stores thanks to The Icelandic Milk and Skyr Corp., New York, which recreated the authentic process used in Iceland. Varieties include Blueberry, Orange & Ginger, Pear & Mint and Pomegranate & Passionfruit.

There’s also yogurt from Down Under. Wallaby Yogurt Co., a Napa Valley, Calif., is a manufacturer specializing in creamy, Australian-style organic yogurt. Made from organic milk produced by small Northern California family farms and using only premium organic fruit, Wallaby Organic is made in small batches, using a long, gentle culturing process. The company says their yogurt takes twice as long to make as conventional yogurts and achieves a creamier taste without using any gelatins. 

Interesting flavors is what really sets Wallaby apart from other organic yogurts in the marketplace. The company’s most recent introductions are Bartlett Pear, Dulce de Leche, Key Lime, Pineapple Coconut and Strawberry Guava. 

According to Michelle Kuzma, marketing manager at Wallaby, “The new flavors might seem at first blush to push the envelope, because they’re so different, but we see a growing trend. I think people will be delighted by the rich, creamy caramel flavor of our new Dulce de Leche and they’ll fall in love with the Key Lime. Its fresh, tart lime flavor is delicately balanced by the creamy mouthfeel-like an outstanding key lime pie.”

Closer to home, Kalona Organics based in Kalona, Iowa, is all about the community. Its mission is “providing good food created by good people.” All of the products the company brings to market are minimally processed and come straight from family farms, many of which are Amish and Mennonite and in the Midwest. By bringing local products to a larger market, Kalona Organics allows farmers to do what they love: focus on their craft.

Founded in January 2005, Kalona Organics continues to innovate and introduce new dairy foods to America. On the cultured side, the company markets Cultural Revolution Yogurt, which contains one-third the sugar of most yogurts in the marketplace, as well as no stabilizers or additives. The company says the yogurt is made from grass-fed cows from small family farms.

The company is debuting Farmers’ All Natural Creamery Organic Cottage Cheese. The name cottage cheese originates from how it was first made-in country cottages with simple ingredients found on hand at the farm. Following that tradition, Kalona Organics makes its cottage cheese without gums or other additives found in most other cottage cheeses.

Can't forget fro-yo

No discussion on cultured dairy products trends is complete without reference to fro yo, which is short for frozen yogurt. Indeed, frozen yogurt, which is a federally non-standardized product, is a booming business in both foodservice and retail.

The charge of a new, tart style of frozen yogurt is being led by Pinkberry, a Los Angeles-based chain that debuted in 2004 with just two flavors-plain and green tea. It can be topped with an array of fruit, cereal, nuts and candy. This year, to celebrate its third anniversary, Pinkberry added coffee frozen yogurt to its line up. The new coffee frozen yogurt is accompanied by a new topping option: chestnuts.

Pinkberry’s greatest competition is Red Mango Inc., Culver City, Calif. Underscoring its reputation as natural and authentic, Red Mango was approved by the National Yogurt Association (NYA) in August 2007 to use the Live and Active Culture Seal. In order to place the NYA Seal on its products, Red Mango frozen yogurt was identified as containing a significant number of live and active cultures.

Cultured dairy products-in the fridge and the freezer-are on a hot streak thanks to healthful innovations. The future is an exciting one for this category.

Sidebar: The Daisy Way

Since the mid 1970’s, Daisy Brand, Dallas, has sold one dairy product: sour cream. Today, it sells two. Daisy Brand introduces cottage cheese in regular 4% milkfat and Low Fat 2% milkfat varieties. Like its sour cream, Daisy cottage cheese is made the “pure and natural” way-the Daisy way-preservative free and with 100% natural ingredients. Ingredient legends are very simple: cultured skim milk, cream, salt and vitamin A palmitate. Products are stabilized the old-fashioned way: a slow process that let’s the cultures do their trick. The end result is what the company claims is a smoother, creamier and fresher-tasting sour cream and cottage cheese.

Sidebar: Lesson to be Learned: Don't Misuse the Term Probiotics

The probiotics industry received a blow on February 14 when a study published online in The Lancet reported higher mortality among subjects with acute pancreatitis who were treated with a combination of six strains of live Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium (Ecologic 641). This study raised issues in the medical community regarding the general safety of probiotics.

The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP), an association of academic and industrial scientists involved in research on fundamental and applied aspects of probiotics and prebiotics, responded by stating that several issues should be considered before probiotics are accused of causing mortality.

For starters, was the product used a probiotic? By definition, a probiotic is a “live microorganism which when administered in adequate amounts confers a health benefit on the host.” Guidelines for applying this definition were issued in 2002 by a working group convened by the FAO/WHO. The guidelines stipulate that after proper definition of the strain or strains being used and assessment of safety for the target host, at least one (and preferably a confirmatory) appropriately designed study must be conducted to determine if the strain or product is efficacious. Only microbes meeting these criteria should be called probiotic.

In the case of Ecologic 641, human safety and efficacy data, especially for use in this acutely ill study population, are not published. Therefore it is not apparent that this product meets minimum criteria to properly be called a probiotic. In addition, the study does not define the blend of microbes-no strain designations are provided-so it is impossible to know the true composition of the product.

Mary Ellen Sanders, executive director of ISAPP points out that misuse of the term probiotic is rampant commercially; it is incumbent upon the research community to adhere to the scientific definition of this term. She cautions U.S. yogurt marketers that if they are going to flag probiotic addition or make any claims, they better be sure that a clinically proven probiotic-at a level through the end of shelflife that is efficacious-is in fact what is being added to the product.

ISAPP points out that over-generalized conclusions were made in the study and several related press releases. Further, the study’s subjects were acutely ill with a condition that has been associated with a 10% to 30% mortality rate. An apparent imbalance in the intervention and placebo groups with regard to severity of disease on the first day of the study could have accounted for the higher mortality in the intervention group. The primary study aim was to determine if this product could reduce the number of infectious complications during hospital stays. The result failed to show any effect on this outcome. Furthermore, the product was administered via a nasojejunal tube twice daily delivering 10 billion live bacteria per day. This is a higher dose to the normal intestine than what would be delivered in most probiotic foods. The intended use of the lactobacilli and bifidobacteria in this study was as a drug, not as a food. The results of this study should not be construed to imply that foods containing probiotics are unsafe for consumption by the generally healthy population.

“It’s very important that consumers and healthcare professionals don’t misinterpret these results,” concludes Sanders. “Generally healthy people eating a yogurt containing Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium strains are a very different situation than acutely ill people being tube-fed experimental treatments.”

For more information on the study and ISAPP’s response, visit

Sidebar: New Uses for Cream Cheese

The global leader in cream cheese-Philadelphia-introduces consumers to new uses for this cultured dairy product.

In New Zealand, Philadelphia Premium Pourovers is a cottage cheese and cream cheese blend that is flavored with garlic and herbs. It comes packaged with a sweet, caramelized, onion and balsamic sauce. By pairing cultured cheese spread with a gourmet sauce, this dairy product is transformed into a gourmet party treat.

Back in the States, Kraft Foods, Northfield, Ill., transforms its famous cream cheese into a cracker spread through the addition of savory ingredients. New Philadelphia Cracker Spreads come in a variety of savory blends including Parmesan with Garlic & Herbs, Pepperjack with Jalapeño and White Cheddar with Roasted Red Pepper. They are sold in individual 6.5-oz tubs as well as club store duo-party packs containing two 12.5-oz tubs.

Kraft takes breakfast to a new level of taste and convenience with Bagel-fuls, the first-ever “all-in-one” bagel filled with Philadelphia cream cheese. Bagel-fuls has a fresh-baked taste that will please even the most discriminating bagel-lovers.

They are available frozen and can be stored in the refrigerator. Bagel-fuls can be enjoyed straight out of the refrigerator, or heated in the toaster or microwave. Easy prep and a convenient shape mean a wholesome, warm breakfast can be ready in less than two minutes-with no plates, mess or effort.

Bagel-fuls come in five varieties: Original (plain bagel with plain cream cheese), Cinnamon (cinnamon and brown sugar bagel with cinnamon cream cheese), Whole Grain (whole grain bagel with plain cream cheese), Strawberry (plain bagel with strawberry cream cheese) and Chive (plain bagel with chive cream cheese).

Each variety of Bagel-fuls is a good source of calcium and seven other vitamins and minerals. All varieties meet Kraft’s Sensible Solution criteria. The Sensible Solution green flag on the package is an easy way to know that Bagel-fuls is a better-for-you choice, with 200 calories (or less), 6g fat (or less), 220mg sodium (or less) and no trans fat.