Innovation at Work
by Pamela Accetta Smith
Dairy’s future relies on continued development of new ideas.
(Editor’s note — Processors we contacted for this article declined to participate due to proprietary concerns. Our thanks to DMI for providing a broad view of current dairy innovation work.)
To drive innovation among processors and food and beverage manufacturers, Rosemont, Ill.-based Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) is partnering with industry leaders and innovators to identify opportunities for dairy and dairy-based products that answer unmet consumer demand — the gap between current sales and potential sales.
That gap, according to DMI, is about 8 billion pounds of unmet demand for dairy products that are currently not available to consumers.
Through proprietary consumer and market research and third-party analysis, DMI offers insights for product development. “This research helps quantify the opportunities for milk and dairy-based products, and we share those insights with industry,” says Dr. Greg Miller, executive vice president of science and innovation for DMI/National Dairy Council. “One example is an in-depth consumer segmentation study recently completed that showed consumers are open to value-added milk — milk with new flavors, extra nutrients, in on-the-go packages or with new purposes, such as indulgence, that address people’s lifestyle. This research showed that 62 percent of the time people want a beverage.”
The research supports the considerable processor activity in value-added milk, says Miller. “A good example of this is Calorie Countdown from HP Hood, which is a DMI partner,” he says. “This product line offers a rich and creamy dairy beverage that provides the nutrition of milk, but with fewer calories and carbohydrates.
Others include Mootopia, a microfiltered product that’s lactose free and has a higher concentration of milk protein, and Y.U.M., Your Ultimate Milk, a fat-free milk with plant sterols aimed at reducing cholesterol. The Slammers® line from Bravo! Foods is bringing more flavors to the table and targeting different products at different ages of kids and teens. Yoplait® Nouriche® is a complete meal replacement in a beverage.”
Innovation today is also being driven, in large part, by obesity concerns, Miller says. “The obesity epidemic has created a market environment focused on health and wellness. In response, processors today are launching new health and wellness products to respond to consumer needs,” he says. “The 3-A-Day of Dairy program, which promotes consumption of three servings of milk, cheese or yogurt a day, are health positions that can increase sales of these products in the marketplace.”
Miller says dairy manufacturers need to take advantage of the natural rich set of nutrients that milk-based foods deliver, and to actively market and leverage their health benefits. “We direct nutrition research to guide product positioning, and we fund product and ingredient research to provide new product science and technologies,” he says. “We also have a calcium crisis among children today. Many youngsters lack the calcium they need in their diets, and dairy processors are responding by adding more calcium to milk to ensure that kids are consuming the recommended daily value.”
Some are fortifying products with milk solids to increase protein and calcium, such as Skim Deluxe from Crowley and Special Request Skim Plus® from Farmland Dairies. Others are fortifying with added calcium and vitamin D. For instance, Shamrock Farms has a fat-free product called “mmmilk” with 66 percent more calcium than whole milk.
Omega-3 fatty acids are showing up in dairy foods as well. “For instance, milk products from Omega Farms supply 75 milligrams of omega-3s in one serving. These beverages come in different varieties including a chocolate reduced-fat version,” Miller says.
Yogurt is a great success story for the dairy industry, Miller says. “Yogurt makers have taken a consumer-driven approach to delivering the flavors and packaging innovation consumers want, while also promoting the health benefits that dairy provides,” he says. “Products are aimed at all demographics — from the yogurt in tubes for children to daily dose-type products and indulgent yogurts for adults. Some examples include Dannon Activia®, which is promoted as aiding regularity and is doing very well in the marketplace. And the ‘ProBugs’ line by Lifeway Foods offers drinkable yogurts for kids with 10 live and active probiotic cultures.”
Cheesemakers also are creating different products that respond to consumer needs, such as Hispanic and flavored cheeses. “If we think back several years, shredded cheese was a major product innovation that has proven extremely successful in the marketplace,” Miller says.
Today, companies such as Sargento have extended this innovation by offering flavored shredded cheeses such as Bistro Blends and Mozzarella with Sun Dried Tomato & Basil.” Yet another example is Kraft Natural Cheese Crumbles, often tossed in salad, and Kraft Cheese Cubes, bite-sized for snacking.
“The industry has already come a long way in creating reduced-fat and fat-free cheeses, and this will continue to be an area of emphasis for DMI research,” he says.
Innovation is all about delivering the right benefit in the right package at the right time. “That’s why DMI is partnering with industry leaders to help them get the information and expertise they need to deliver exactly what consumers want,” Miller says, “when and where they want it.”
A Combined Effort
Miller says DMI is evolving from a generic promotions organization to a strategic partnership organization that helps promote and protect dairy through product and ingredient innovation to meet unmet demand. “We are transforming ourselves to drive innovation through partnerships with leading dairy, food and beverage manufacturers,” he says. “Our knowledge of consumers and our expertise in such areas as nutrition claims, product research and dairy applications let us collaborate at all levels to bring new products to market.”
DMI is actively working with industry partners on innovation to meet consumer needs, while also providing the solid nutrition science and research that reinforces dairy’s role in the human diet. “We know that developing dairy and dairy-based products that meet consumer demand and that are good tasting with good functionality will, in the end, mean more products introduced to market,” Miller says. “Our National Dairy Foods Research Center program, a coordinated unified research program, works through six research centers and three applications labs to provide the fundamental science for innovation as well as the applied research to address product challenges and bring new product ideas to fruition.”
One of DMI’s priorities, Miller says, is delivering new label-claim opportunities for whey protein, which has been shown to be effective in muscle building and muscle maintenance. “A structure-function claim could help a manufacturer better position its whey protein-based nutrition bar or sports recovery beverage, thus leading to greater sales and increased dairy consumption,” he says. “On the product research side, we are looking at ways to process whey protein to get a more consistent product, with good color and functionality, for use as an ingredient. Another is developing a lowfat cheese that meets regulatory requirements, tastes good and is functional.”
Another key issue is nutrition profiling. “Unfortunately, there is a trend toward labeling foods as either ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ often based on nutrient profiling systems developed by many different groups or industries,” Miller says. “This is leading to consumer confusion and misinformation. As part of the Nutrient Rich Foods Coalition, we are supporting research to develop a nutrient profiling system that takes a more balanced approach through mathematical modeling, and that resonates with the public.
“We know that proper nutrition is balanced nutrition — an individual’s diet should be about including positive nutrients, not just avoiding negative nutrients. Under some emerging profiling systems, diet sodas end up with a ‘good’ image because they have zero calories. The truth of the matter is that they provide no nutritional value at all.”
Nutrient-rich dairy, on the other hand, is a very important part of a healthy diet, Miller notes — a fact supported by the recommendation in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans that people consume three servings a day of lowfat or fat-free milk and milk products for good health. “Dairy foods are an excellent source of nine nutrients and supply nearly 75 percent of the calcium in the nation’s food supply while accounting for less than 15 percent of the nation’s supply of dietary fats,” he says. “Helping the food industry take advantage of dairy foods’ nutrient package and ability to enhance health is critical to the industry.”
Innovation is paramount to increasing sales of dairy foods or ingredients, both in the United States and globally, Miller says. “We believe there’s not enough supply to meet all the unmet demand worldwide — and we are confident the U.S. dairy farmer will be able to fill the gap between demand and supply,” he says. “By increasing sales and consumption, we will improve the nutritional quality of people’s diets, help manufacturers sell more products and increase milk sales for dairy producers. Everybody wins.”
In the future, says Miller, the dairy industry is going to look a lot more like the consumer packaged goods industry, and innovation will play a key role in this transformation. “We are focused on helping the industry innovate to meet the estimated 8 billion pounds of unmet demand for U.S. dairy products by providing consumers what they want, where and when they want it,” he says. “Dairy is naturally nutrient rich, and in this nutrition- and health-focused environment in the midst of an obesity crisis, dairy plays a vital role in a healthy, well-balanced diet.”
Clever dairy products are on the rise — DF takes a look at more of what’s out there.
Londonderry, N.H.-based Stonyfield Farm has entered the energy drink market with an alternative to the caffeine-fueled energy drinks now crowding store shelves. Dairy-based Shift provides a sustainable energy source with a combination of protein, vitamins, acai, and ginseng, and doesn’t contain caffeine or guarana. That means Shift drinkers have none of the negative side effects — among them rapid heart rate, anxiety and gastrointestinal problems — associated with traditional energy drinks, the company says. The cultured dairy drink is certified organic — made with milk and other ingredients from organic farms that pledge not to use antibiotics, hormones or toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers; and is 100 percent natural, with no starches, gelatin, preservatives, or artificial flavors or colors.
Nutri-Kids Nutrition-2-Go, from Life Science Nutritionals Inc., Stoney Creek, Ontario, Canada., is a ready-to-drink milk product fortified with healthy DHA omega-3 and fiber. Nutrition-2-go is low in sugar, low in fat, fortified with Vitamins A, D and C, and is a great source of calcium and protein. With 60 percent less sugar than other milk drinks, Nutrition-2-go is fortified with life’s DHA from Martek Biosciences. Varieties include Chocolate Chug and S-Berry Blast.$OMN_arttitle="Innovation at Work";?> $OMN_artauthor="Pamela Accetta Smith";?>