Lipton's Country Crock Plus Calcium added the nigh-ubiquitous calcium; however, others were more adventurous in their fortification. GFA Brands’ Smart Balance Plus included natural phytosterols, free plant sterols and stanols and no hydrogenated oil or trans fatty acid.
  • New flavors added to milk, yogurt and spreads.
  • Functional offerings continue to fortify.
  • Milk alternatives provide a refreshing (ahem) alternative.
  • Convenience quickens the pace.
The milk category has suffered from a shift away from cooking/baking in the home, from the abundance of convenient breakfast items and from the demand for juices and carbonated drinks. Nonetheless, some hope remains for milk introductions, particularly healthier and fortified items, plus the more-mainstream appeal of organic varieties. Lactose-free milks have been popular as well, as consumers become more aware of food allergies, and flavored milks have shown real promise for growing the market by competing with carbonated drinks and juices.

Coca-Cola, Atlanta, ventured into the milk-based beverage sector with its Choglit collaboration with Nestle Beverage, Glendale, Calif. Containing skim milk, the chocolate drink has 10% of the recommended allowance of calcium and vitamins A and D. Using its Minute Maid brand, Coca-Cola also brought Fruitopia Smooth, a fruit- and milk-fused beverage in three flavors—strawberry vision, citrus consciousness and cherry versatility.

Similarly, Snapple Beverages, White Plains, N.Y., made a couple of dairy-based debuts. Purple Reign and Tropical Haze added to the company's Mistic line, while its Elements dairy-based juice drink label added a Turbulence Shredded Lemon variety. This blend of juices from concentrate was infused with herbal extracts and natural flavors.

Dean Foods, Dallas, followed up on its successful line of Hershey's flavored milks and milkshakes by adding several new flavors. Dean Foods also received some positive news in the form of U.S. regulatory approval for its ultra-sterile processing and bottling system that allows milk-based beverages to last six months without refrigerated storage. The company plans to use the system to bottle the Hershey's brand milk and shake line and its Folger's Jakada coffee drinks for targeting new markets such as vending machines or clubs.

While the most popular milk flavors are chocolate and strawberry, links with the confectionery sector brought more-inspired offerings, including Oberweis', North Aurora, Ill., orange crème variety of reduced fat milk. On the healthy side, fat and sugar content concerns have played a role in flavored milks, i.e., a light egg nog milk from Oakhurst Dairy, Portland, Maine, which promises 68% less fat.

Refreshing

Enriched milks also have found their way to market, with the lower-fat focus of the past replaced with a desire to boost the amount of vitamins and minerals in milk. Refreshing Power Milk (RPM), Mac Farms', Burlington, Maine, follow-up to e-Moo, boasted “calcium supplement, magnesium supplement, potassium supplement...vitamin A (and) vitamin D. In addition, while Borden, Columbus, Ohio, Plus Enhanced Milks featured 25% more protein, vitamins B12, B6, C and E, plus calcium, a number of introductions have gone for a more-functional approach. Among these was Upstate Farms Cooperative's, LeRoy, N.Y., Intense Mocha Java Caffeine Kick milk, claimed to be the first milk-based, single-serve “energy drink” to contain espresso coffee, chocolate, protein and other essential vitamins to sustain energy.

In the U.S., organic milk is a small segment, and most launches are milk alternatives, which also address consumer health concerns. Mainly based on soy, oat and rice, milk alternatives have two strong selling points—being lactose-free, and featuring no- or low-cholesterol. Organic soy drinks in the U.S. often are fortified with calcium and/or vitamins. One such example was from Odwalla, Half Moon Bay, Calif., whose Future Shake Soymilk Shakes included more than 20 vitamins and minerals in two flavors—vanilla al'mondo and dutch chocolate.

Spreading the Wealth

New product activity in butter has shifted from low fat content to taste, convenience and cholesterol reduction. While growth fell in 2002, yellow fat product development saw important developments in buttery-tasting spreads and butters.

A number of new spreads incorporated olive oil, including Smart Balance Plus from GFA Brands, Cresskill, N.J. This reformulation of a buttery spread included natural phytosterols, free plant sterols and stanols, and no hydrogenated oil or trans fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids were used by a number of companies. GFA Brands' Buttery Canola Spread boasted 630mg of omega-3 fatty acids per serving. However, other fortifications made their way to shelves. Unilever's, Greenwich, Conn., Lipton brand developed a cholesterol-reducing spread, Pro-Activ, sold in the U.S. as Lipton Take Control. The Lipton brand also debuted a calcium-fortified spread under the Shedd's name. Country Crock Plus Calcium claims to provide 10% of the recommended daily allowance of calcium in one serving.

On the organic side, Horizon Organic Dairy, Boulder, Col., launched a pair of organic stick butters, a sweet cream butter and a European style claiming to be more creamy. While the trend has focused more on butter, organic margarines have arrived on U.S. shelves. Spectrum Naturals, Petaluma, Calif., and HempNut, a product of Hempfields, Santa Rosa, Calif., have organic margarines available in health food stores.

Organic also played a role in new cheese introductions in 2002. However, according to Mintel's Global New Products Database, Chicago, there was a slight decline after the first three quarters of the year. Nonetheless, introductions in the cheese subcategory were up by more than 50%.

Notable organic cheeses introduced during the year included nine varieties from Dan Carter, Mayville, Wisc. These products featured milk from cows fed 100% organically grown vegetation and allowed to graze freely; flavors included colby, mild cheddar, sharp cheddar, tomato & basil cheddar, garlic cheddar, Monterey jack, pepper jack, dill Monterey jack and muenster.

The Slice of Life

Following the convenience trend, a variety of sliced cheeses can be found. Sargento Foods, Plymouth, Wisc., has a wide line of shingle-pack cheese and a line of shredded cheeses specifically for making pizzas, tacos or other recipes. Cream cheese also has gone the convenient route with Kraft Foods', Glenview, Ill., Philadelphia To Go! Cream Cheese in light and regular varieties in cartons of six 1-oz. pouches.

To address the needs of Hispanics, the company debuted Manchego Singles. These individually wrapped slices are described as a creamy-flavored cheese ideal for melting in foods such as quesadillas, sandwiches or as a snack. The slices are available in select markets (Los Angeles, Chicago and San Antonio/Houston) and feature bilingual packaging.

Targeting children, Kraft launched Color-Ums in a promotion with the feature film Monsters Inc. This string cheese had blue and green swirled cheese sticks featuring renderings of characters from the movie. Also with children in mind, Saputo Group, St. Leonard, Quebec, ventured into fun territory with Swirls String Cheese under the Frigo Cheese Heads banner. With mozzarella and cheddar cheeses intertwined on one stick, these snacks are all-natural and high in calcium.

While milder varieties entice children, more adventurous flavors have found their way into adult cheese products. Cabot Creamery, Cabot, Vt., introduced consumers to robust-tasting, organic white cheddar cheeses with names such as Aged Cheddar Cheese with Horseradish, and sage. While not organic, a flavored mascarpone cheese from California Mozzarella Fresca, Benicia, Calif., boasts a Tiramisu Expresso flavor.

Further moves into the organic market prompted a number of yogurt introductions, as Stonyfield Farms, Londonderry, N.H., expanded its organic drinkable yogurt line. Meanwhile, Marigold Foods' Kemp's Yo-J line added a strawberry-banana fat-free yogurt and juice blend. Generally, yogurt makers went for smoother, lighter, less tart products, i.e., Dannon's, Allentown, Pa., Light 'n Fit and Whips from Yoplait, General Mills, Minneapolis.

Much of the information in this article was derived from Mintel International's Global New Products Database, www.gnpd.com, 312-932-0400.

Website Resources

www.cabotcheese.com — Cabot Creamery
www.deanfoods.com — Dean Foods
www.generalmills.com — General Mills
www.horizonorganic.com — Horizon Organic Dairy
www.kemps.com — Marigold Foods
www.kraft.com — Kraft Foods
www.oberweisdairy.com — Oberweis
www.saputo.com — Saputo Group
www.sargentocheese.com — Sargento Foods
www.stonyfield.com — Stonyfield Farm
www.yvesveggie.com — Yves Veggie Cuisine

Sidebar: Going Global

Functional/fortified products are seen in a variety of products around the globe. In Germany, Pro LA5 sliced cheese from Herz Konig is a probiotic cheese which claims to benefit the immune system. In Inner-Balance cheese from Australia's Mainland Dairies, Lactobacillus cultures aid the digestive tract. In the Philippines, vitamins A, B1, B2 and D3 fortify Cheezee Spread, a cheddar cheese spread from Magnolia.

One trend has begun to invade the U.S. from Europe. Making yogurt into a beverage, Yoplait launched Nouriche, a nonfat yogurt smoothie that claims to contain all the nutrients found in a meal.

The lowered-fat trend also extends internationally, as Leerdammer launched Lightlife, a lighter variety of Leerdammer cheese, throughout a number of European countries. Lightlife is claimed to have 50% less fat than cheddar and 40% less fat than the regular variety of Leerdammer.

Aimed at adult consumers, Moch 'A' Latte from Café Met is a coffee-and-chocolate-flavored milk drink, while Korea's Lotte Ham & Milk debuted a melon-flavored milk drink. However, expanded flavor varieties extend beyond milk. Under the Wei Wei brand, Xu Zhou Zheng He Food & Drink has launched a yellow peach flavored yogurt in a tube in China, and in Israel, the Danone brand from Strauss Dairies Danone has a passionfruit banana yogurt, which targets not only the trend into newer flavors. It is described as a bio yogurt and claims to have just 3% fat.