Umpqua Dairy Products Co. does not let demographics or geography decide its fate. Sure, it’s located in a rural area far from large population centers. But this third-generation family-owned dairy processor of Grade A products and ice cream is doing well in its niche. It wins national awards for product quality and for its processing. Read “That’s how you sell milk."

Quality is a word bandied about in the dairy industry. What does quality mean? Tedd Wittenbrink of Randolph Associates takes a stab at defining the word. In "Today's definition of quality in dairy plants" he writes: “Quality in finished dairy products means consistency. Unlike fine wines, one batch of a dairy product should not be deemed a superior vintage. The goal is that every bottle of milk, every cup of yogurt and every pint of ice cream should be the same every time.” There is also quality in ingredients, processing, transportation and food safety.

Speaking of food safety, how are you doing on traceability? If the answer is “what’s that?” or “not so well,” then seek help from the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy ("Best practices in traceability"). The organization developed tools to help you get started or to compare your program with industry best practices. The Innovation Center is asking all processors to adopt the “U.S. Dairy Traceability Commitment.” Its goal is to have commitments covering at least 80% of the U.S. milk supply by September 2014.

It’s no secret that America is a land of coffee drinkers. We drink the beverage regardless of its temperature, or the temperature outdoors. Overall, 20% of U.S. consumers drink iced coffee, according to the market research firm Mintel.  Among those ages 18 to 24 (the so-called Millennials), the figure jumps to 38%. For their parents (ages 55 to 64), the number is 11%. See which brands are doing the best in this category in “Some like it cold?”.

2 next big things

Protein is going to be “the next big thing” for the dairy industry. Meatless Mondays have raised awareness of alternative sources of protein. But Americans are not consuming the recommended quantity (25 to 30 grams at each meal). Many Americans are aware of the health benefits of protein but few are aware that dairy has an exceptional protein profile. “It is time to tout dairy’s protein power,” writes Health and Wellness Editor Karen Giles-Smith in "Time to tout protein in dairy foods." One supplier tells her: “It’s possible to increase the protein levels in many dairy foods to contain twice as much protein. It’s been done with yogurt, dairy-based drinks, frozen desserts and dips. It could be done with puddings, soft spreads and many foods beyond dairy.”

Another “big thing” in dairy processing is going to be water, including access to it, affordability of it and disposal of it. Glanbia Foods had a two-year goal to reduce water consumption by 9.8%. It more than doubled the goal across its four facilities in the United States. Read about the sustainability practices of four other dairy companies in "Sustainable practices save money".

The snacks market is not to be ignored. Already valued at $96 billion, the U.S. snack market is expected to grow by an additional 18% through 2020, writes our “Dairy Detective” Sharon Gerdes in "Opportunities rise fo on-the-go dairy snacks." She describes the potential of using whey protein ingredients in foods and beverages.

Tastes and preferences

For many reasons, the American palate is changing and showing a preference for more sophisticated foods. Starbucks, for example, has changed our expectations from a cup of coffee. Think bolder, richer and darker. We (especially adults) are expecting the same from chocolate. A  preference for dark chocolate is on the rise, and that affects formulas for milk and ice cream. In “A darker shade of dairy," we look at cocoa and chocolate trends, and how they intersect with dairy foods.

In the United States, we know cheese well. Not so in other parts of the world. “Cheese Doctor” John Lucey of the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research writes “most Chinese consumers have probably never tasted natural cheese other than mozzarella,” (In exports, one size (or cheese) does not fit all). Lucey describes how the CDR has partnered with the U.S. Dairy Export Council to assist in exports by providing technical assistance on cheese properties as well as education to overseas buyers.

Dutch Farms of Chicago knows a few things about exporting cheese and educating consumers. “We are developing a program to help foreign consumers identify ‘how’ one might eat cheese. For example, we need to first educate our Chinese consumers on what a taco is, before selling them shredded cheese,” said the company’s marketing director (Dutch Farms expors its way to success).

 I’ve run out of space, but there are more great nuggets in this issue. Go find them. 

In exports, one size (or cheese)
does not fit all