The move toward ethnic offerings expanded with Morningstar Food’s International Delight, the first creamer to target specifically the Hispanic market.
Ever wonder if Dean Foods, now headquartered in Dallas, realized the impact its Milk Chugs line would have on the milk sector? That single-serve range managed to revamp (some would say re-invent) milk's arena, a point certainly proven by the number of imitators that made their way to market in the year since its debut. However, the milk category did find other ways to expand, one example being a rather bold flavor offering.

Not that additional flavor was confined to milk. Other dairy products benefited from an extra boost, as consumers found horseradish white cheddar cheese and equally adventurous ice cream offerings. All the while, packaging played a similarly important role in new products, as lunchbox-ready and squeezable items saved time for harried consumers.

On Ice (Cream)

The ingredients found in new ice cream flavors ranged from the sublime (note: not sub-lime) to the nigh-ridiculous, as Edy's/Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream, Oakland, Calif., and Ben & Jerry, South Burlington, Vt., seemed resolved to out-do one another. The former saw Cracker Jacks as an interesting addition—sans the popcorn—while the latter continued to impress with their titles, if not their flavors. Ben & Jerry launched Aloha Macadamia, S.N.A.F.U (Strawberries Naturally All Fudged Up), and This is Nuts!, as well as limited runs of Peanut Turtles and the Full Vermonty (described as maple ice cream with roasted peanuts in a caramel swirl). A favorite flavor title, yet to make its American debut, was Ben & Jerry's From Russia with Buzz, a coffee-flavored ice cream in Belgium with chocolate chunks and roasted coffee beans.

Indulgence has returned with a vengeance, though some ice cream varieties have attempted to add a more healthful slant. Whole Foods Market, Plano, Texas, for instance, added all-natural ice cream to its private label line. Meanwhile, Turtle Mountain, Junction City, Ore., continued efforts to establish a foothold for soy in the ice cream sector, extending its Purely Decadent Soy Delicious line of flavored desserts to include cherry nirvana, praline pecan, chunky mint madness, purely vanilla, peanut butter zigzag, chocolate obsession and cookie avalanche flavors. All were touted as organic and free of cholesterol, lactose and milk.

Soy also made its way into an organic yogurt that was most defiantly non-dairy. The product, Dairy-Free Organic Soy Yogurt, from Preferred Vegetarian, Farmingdale, N.Y., debuted in four varieties-raspberry, peach-apricot, strawberry-banana, and tropical.

Yogurt Diversifies

New yogurt offerings in 2001 continued to push the boundary, with more functional varieties, increasingly convenient forms and a crossover into the beverage category.

Stonyfield Farm, Londonderry, N.H., hit the functional nerve with the launch of YoSelf, a six-pack of low-fat organic yogurt featuring six probiotic cultures and prebiotic inulin, which is supposed to enhance calcium absorption by up to 40%. Stonyfield marketed the product to the female consumer, touting YoSelf as a “calcium absorption booster . . . a little extra health insurance for women.”

Expanding yogurt's horizons was also a frequently heard tune in 2001, as Dannon, Tarrytown, N.Y., launched a drinkable version. Frusion fruit 'n' yogurt smoothie combined real fruit, fruit juices and yogurt into a convenient, nutritional, on-the-go beverage. Flavors in the single-serving line include peach passion fruit, wild berries, and banana berry.

Targeting the more-indulgent crowd, a full-fat yogurt drew attention this year, as Straus Family Creamery, Marshall, Calif., launched Organic Plain Whole Milk Yogurt. Indulgent, yet healthful, this creamy yogurt, certified organic and made with organic milk, tastes like gourmet pudding, says the company. A less-fatty, yet still indulgent, yogurt came from Dannon, whose La Crème included a touch of cream for a mild, not tart taste, with all the nutrients of yogurt. Flavors included vanilla, strawberry, raspberry, peach and, following on another notable trend, dulce de leche.

Spread the Wealth

A number of products featured the dulce de leche flavor, in everything from ice cream and yogurts to cookies and spreads. Eagle Family Foods, Tarrytown, N.Y.; Sancor Dairy, Miami; and La Fe Foods, North Bergen, N.J. all boasted a spreadable version of the Latin favorite. Squeezable was the name of the game for a kid-focused spread. ConAgra, Omaha, Neb., featured two hues—pink and blue—in Parkay Fun Squeeze Tinted Margarine, catering to indulgence of a different sort.

Buttery spreads echoed the shift from low fat to indulgence, as Challenge Dairy Products, Dublin, Calif., followed Land O'Lakes' lead and introduced a creamier butter. Challenge Butter European Style, available in salted or unsalted varieties, is also said to have a silkier texture than standard butters.

Butters were not without healthful entries completely. GFA Brands, Cresskill, N.J., debuted Soy Garden Natural Buttery Spread, a GMO-free product without hydrogenated oils or trans fatty acids. The company also fortified its butter and launched Earth Balance Buttery Natucol, containing plant sterols and stanols that promised to help lower LDL.

Blessed are the Cheese Makers

While calcium fortification was popular in cheeses (with notable introductions from Borden Foods, Columbus, Ohio; Kraft Foods, Glenview, Ill.; and P. J. Lizac, Clackamus, Ore., with its line of Lisanatti RiceCheeze), some new items also featured probiotic ingredients. One of the more notable was a yogurt product “so thick it had to be called a cheese.” Pequea Valley Farm's, Ronks, Pa., Double Cream Yogurt Cheese was all-natural, sweetened with fructose flavor and grape juice, and boasted natural, live, active cultures.

Cheese makers also took a flavor-filled route to new products, with milder versions targeting kids and more adventurous offerings for the grown-ups. Those more assertive varieties included Cabot Creamery's, Cabot, Vt., organic white cheddar cheeses, in flavors such as sage and green olive. Meanwhile, a flavored mascarpone cheese in a tiramisu espresso flavor debuted from California Mozzarella Fresca, Benicia, Calif.

Cottage cheese saw a flavorful boost this year as well, with Suiza Foods', Dallas, launch of Cheese 'n Stuff. This single-serve line is available in three flavors: peach, pineapple and strawberry. Originally, the grab-and-go convenience was thought to be a pull to women, but Suiza found that kids appreciated the sweet flavors.

Addressing the convenience factor, Sargento Foods, Plymouth, Wisc., launched its shredded cheeses in a slide-rite zipper package. This closure provided an improved ease of opening and closing and helped consumers ensure the package is fully closed. Perhaps most beneficial to its success: the company introduced the advancement without raising prices.

Milking It

Listing the single-serve milks that debuted in the wake of Dean Foods' Milk Chugs could fill a good portion of this magazine. Suffice it to say, if all of the imitators had to pay a fee for the idea, the company would not have to worry about any financial troubles for a while.

Several companies took single-servings as an opportunity to innovate. For instance, Morningstar Group, Dallas, (okay, so it is part of Dean's new owner Suiza—chalk it up to this being a small world), took the Hershey's brand into single-serve milk but also added a milkshake version, in such flavors as creamy chocolate and cookies & cream.

Also using the single-serve container to experiment with flavors, Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, brought coffee to milk with Jakada, the result of a partnership with Morningstar Foods. This coffee-flavored milk targeted supermarkets and grab-and-go outlets.

Making single-serve milk suitable for the lunchbox, Parmalat USA, Wallington, N.J., used aseptic processing and packaging technology to provide a shelf-stable flavored milk. Available as banana, strawberry or vanilla, the line managed to lure kids with the ever-powerful licensing tie-in. The company worked with Sesame Workshop/ Columbia Tristar Television Distribution to license the use of Dragon Tales and its logo on the boxes.

Sidebar: Great Expectations

The lines will continue to blur between milk, beverages with dairy ingredients, and smoothies. Some of these, also, will be seen as meal replacements and not just refreshment beverages.

Adults will see a convenient yogurt package just for them. Perhaps a reclosable, nozzle-type opening will surface.

Ice cream will continue its super-premium focus, with more varieties in the order of the Godiva line.

Yogurt and other “dairy” products made from soy will hit store shelves, geared specifically to women.

Cheese will continue to have more flavor.

—Lynn Dornblaser, Global New Products Database,