Land O'Lakes Inc. (Arden Hills, Minn.) took butter into convenient territory with Land O Lakes Spreadable Butter with Canola Oil, and Land O Lakes Soft Baking Butter with Canola Oil. In addition to the health benefits of canola oil (“only enough to keep it soft,” says the company), both also are free of trans fats. The new products--as well as several on the drawing board--are the result of “significant dollars” the company has spent on research and development.

According to Land O'Lakes research, 85% of respondents agreed the spreadable butter was easy to spread, while 81% found the baking butter easy to use because it is ready for use straight from the refrigerator.

The Land O Lakes offering does have 20mg of cholesterol, but Lactantia (Victoriaville, Quebec) went an even more healthful route with Healthy Attitude Margarine. Formerly known as Healthy Advantage, the company claims the cholesterol-free product is the first margarine to boast the Health Check symbol. Created by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, this symbol assures consumers the foundation has reviewed the product's nutrition information and determined that it meets the group's nutrient criteria.

The Greatest of Cheese

Healthful also proved key to introductions in the cheese segment, where Lifeline Food Co. (Seaside, Calif.) sought to assuage consumer concerns over cheese's high cholesterol content. The company reformulated Lifetime Low Fat Cheese to include phytosterol esters, 0.65g per 1oz. serving. Studies have proven that the daily intake of at least 1.3g of phytosterols as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol helps to lower blood cholesterol. Containing less than 1g of saturated fat and 55 calories per serving, the Lifetime Low Fat Cheese is offered in such varieties as cheddar, extra sharp cheddar, jalapeño Jack, and mozzarella.

Developers actually found an additional benefit from using the phytosterols. It made the product creamier than their regular low-fat product, as the phytosterol esters acted as a fat mimetic.

Another company that incorporated phytosterols into low-cholesterol cheese was U.K.-based Angel Technology, which makes its Heartily Wholesome Cholesterol Reducing Cheese in the same way as traditional cheeses. However, before the curdling stage, the company removes all milk fats and replaces them with specific vegetable oils naturally high in phytosterols and polyunsaturated fats. The resulting product is cholesterol-free, claims the company.

In the organic arena, K&K Cheese (Cashton, Wis.) launched a line of organic cheeses under its Pasture Pride brand. Available in Colby, muenster and juusto (a buttery bread cheese), the cheeses are made with milk containing no hormones, antibiotics or pesticides, and from cows that are hand-milked.

Milk Ilk

Perhaps the biggest news on the milk front has been continued efforts to make its products a choice for refreshment. Mac Farms (Burlington, Mass.) launched RPM--Refreshing Power Milk, a carbonated milk beverage that is lactose-free and offers the same nutrition as grade A milk.

A similar attempt at refreshment from Cadbury Schweppes (Stamford, Conn.), Raging Cow, remains in test markets. The product is shipped in a shelf-stable format and sold chilled, but only needs refrigeration after opening. Raging Cow is expected to go national in 2004 and, in the process, will become the country's first nationally sold dairy drink.

Attempting to make an already-healthful product even more healthful was the goal for National Dairy Milk Products LP (Dallas). With the launch of Borden Kid Builder 1% low-fat milk line, the company met that lofty goal. Debuting in Texas, the young-skewing milk is found in three flavors--white, chocolate and a rotating third. While most Texan consumers reach past lower-fat milk options, the company says that has not been the case with Kid Builder, which has been out-performing Borden non-fat white and chocolate milks. Initially available in plastic gallon and half-gallon cartons, Kid Builder is available now in 12oz.-plastic bottles for convenience stores and the foodservice segment.

The reduced-fat content is important, but Kid Builder has other healthful benefits. It contains 10% more of the daily value (DV) for calcium than regular low-fat milk, plus 2g of extra protein. Additionally, it has 25% of the DV for vitamin C, as well as of vitamin E.

The Kid Builder milk proved so successful that the company has expanded into fortified frozen novelties for children. Currently retailing in Dallas, Kid Builder Lite Neapolitan Ice Cream contains calcium, protein and vitamins.

The milk segment also benefited from, of all places, a fast-food chain. Wendy's International Inc. (Dublin, Ohio) dumped the notion of white milk in paper cartons, instead opting to offer a more grab-and-go variety. Consumers may choose between 2% reduced-fat white milk or 1% low-fat chocolate milk in single-serve plastic containers. These were made available at 420 of the chain's restaurants in Columbus, Ohio; Miami; Philadelphia; and Raleigh, N.C. There is no extra charge for consumers selecting milk with the Wendy's Kid's Meal, although they can be purchased a la carte for $0.89.

Packaging played a role in another milk introduction this year, as Dean Foods offered Land O Lakes milk in an “easy-pour” gallon bottle. The gallon bottle incorporates a stabilizing thumb groove and handle. Dean Foods also made a notable business maneuver this year, acquiring the 87% of Horizon Organic (Boulder, Col.) that it did not already own, giving the company access to Dean's extensive refrigerated distribution system and making Horizon's products available to a broader number of outlets.

Coca-Cola (Atlanta) entered the dairy category with Swerve, which is detailed more in the article on beverages elsewhere in this issue, but some dairy companies followed the cola giant's lead in another way--flavor. Morningstar Group's (Dallas) line of Milkshakes added the cool taste of York peppermint patty candy in the Hershey's York Milkshake, while Nestlé USA's (Glendale, Calif.) Nesquik will add a mocha variety, as well as the traditional chocolate and strawberry flavors, to its line of ready-to-drink milkshakes set to debut this year.

Country Pure Foods (Akron, Ohio) also added flavors to milk, albeit this company did so in a more unusual way. Costing more than $1 million in development, Soy Juicy blended soymilk with orange, peach, grape, strawberry, raspberry and cherry juices. Sadly, the product missed sales targets and already has been scaled back to only a handful of regions.

Soymilk did manage to get even healthier in Hain-Celestial's (Uniondale, N.Y.) Soy Slender. This sugar-free, reduced-calorie soymilk also is high in calcium and soy protein.

The first real chocolate milk in cans hit the market this year, as the Dairy Farmers of America (Kansas City, Mo.) launched National Chocolate Milk. Sporting retro graphics and available in vending machines in select markets such as hospitals and hotels, the milk is sterile, vitamin-fortified and shelf-stable.

Yo, Yo, Yogurt

The drinkable yogurt craze continued this year, now with young children as a target base. Stonyfield Farm (Londonderry, N.H.) took YoBaby the drinkable route after the initial rollout of the company's smoothie line. Available in 24oz.-bottles, the two-flavor line--banana and peach--can be found nationally in natural food channels and in select grocers in New England and the New York metro area, but a broader grocery base is expected in 2004.

Horizon Organic also went after the younger crowd with three yogurt products made especially for babies and toddlers, young children and teens. Whole Milk Baby Yogurt, Yo-Yos Cup Yogurt and Yogurt Tubes are produced without growth hormones or antibiotics.

Developing a sucralose-sweetened yogurt drink with live active cultures prompted Dannon (Allentown, Pa.) to launch a new sub-brand--Light 'n Fit Smoothie. Containing the active yogurt culture L.acidophilus, the four flavors in the line are strawberry banana, mixed berry, peach passion fruit, and tropical.

Much of the information in this article was derived from Mintel International's Global New Products Database,, 312-932-0400. A special thanks also goes to sister publication Dairy Foods magazine.

Website Resources

Dairy Foods magazine

Prepared Foods' article: “A Flavor-Inspired Renaissance for Dairy”

Dairy Management Inc.

National Dairy Council

International Dairy Foods Association

Going Global

Proving the old saying, “Where there's a will, there's a way,” Unilever Bestfoods has found yet another dairy item that needed a drop in cholesterol. Already available in margarine, oils, mayonnaise, chocolate spreads, etc., the Becel brand of low-cholesterol products has been expanded to include a long-life coffee creamer enriched with specialty fatty acids. Available in the Netherlands, the product is designed for low-cholesterol diets and supposedly has a mild and creamy taste; it is so creamy, in fact, that it also can be used as a replacement for cream in soup. The mini tubs come in a convenient multipack of 10.

Convenient yet healthful may seem a difficult double, but a pair of soymilk introductions managed to perfect the partnership. In Mexico, Liga México Panamericana Médico Educacional debuted Soyapac Soy Drink Mix, a powder packaged in a concentrated, 100g bag that makes 2L of soymilk. It retails for N24 ($2.21). A similar launch occurred in Brazil, where Olvegra debuted Soymilke Fortified Soymilk Drink Mix. Available in such flavors as banana, natural and strawberry, they retail for R7.80 ($2.78).

Flavoring milk is another trend that America has seen, though not to the extent as some countries. Müller's Müllermilch Lava in Germany is made with low-fat milk and can be found in chocolate, strawberry and chili flavors. Chili also was found in an ice cream from Purbeck Dairy Ice Cream in the U.K., but this company may gain more notoriety for its most-recent ice cream launch. Cream Breeze Alcoholic Ice Cream is available in two varieties--rum & black currant and gin & orange.

In South Africa, a flavored milk targeted females by incorporating floral and herbal ingredients. Vanilla Blush, launched by retailer Woolworths, is a low-fat milk in vanilla, chamomile and rose flavors.

Herbals and botanicals served to give milk drinks in Italy something of a supplement-like positioning. Parmalat Kyr Principia Agrumi e Ginseng is a low-fat, citrus-flavored, fermented drink with vitamins, ginseng and fiber. A similar move added fennel and Echinacea to Magic Food's Sunglo brand herbal yogurts in Malaysia.

Also fortifying yogurt and perhaps signaling the next trend for the treat, U.K. retailer Tesco fortified yogurt with vitamins and positioned Energise as, well, energizing. Produced with “energy-giving cereals and vitamins,” flavors in the line include banana and peach & apricot.