* Growth in low-/no-fat claims.
* All-natural and hormone-free are winners.
* Allergen concerns, pre-/probiotics and vitamin/mineral fortification key to new launches.

Following a 2009 which saw a drop in the number of introductions in every major segment of the dairy category, 2010 provided something of a rebound for dairy manufacturers, at least based purely on the level of introductions. Nevertheless, only butter, margarine/other blends and cream matched or surpassed 2008 totals, per statistics generated from Mintel Global New Products Database. Indeed, dairy-based, frozen products and hard/semi-hard cheese fell significantly short of their totals of two years ago. For the former, however, this is continuing a trend seen over the past five years.

Some 533 dairy-based, frozen products entered the market in 2006, a number which fell to 311 in 2010. Though it may be a challenge to regard ice cream as healthy, a number of 2010's introductions in the segment at least sought to appear healthier. Most notable of such efforts was the reduction or elimination of negatives; Haagen-Dazs expanded its Five line to include Lemon Ice Cream. Made with only five ingredients (in this case, milk, cream, sugar, eggs and lemon), the entire range attempts to capitalize on the natural trend that continues to prove to be among the nation's strongest. However, also among its selling points was its fat reduction. The Five product had 10g of fat, compared with the 16g found in Haagen-Dazs' Super Premium Ice Cream.

Fat was also lessened in the Canadian introduction of Chapman's Mac Nut Frozen Yogurt. Made with "100% Canadian milk" and comprising praline Macadamia nuts and shortbread in dulce de leche yogurt, the product promised 20% less fat than regular ice cream. The David Chapman product was also available in Rocky Road, Nanaimo Bar and Caramel Pecan Crunch, the latter promising to be 96% fat-free and a source of calcium.

Manufacturers targeted more than fat, however, as a number of introductions had calories firmly in their sights. Mars added 3 Musketeers Minis Ice Cream Bars, featuring chocolate ice cream surrounded with a chocolate coating and promising "90 calories or less" per piece. For its part, DolceZZa's launch of Dulce de Leche Gelato targeted both fat and calories, boasting half the fat and half the calories of ice cream. "Hand-crafted every morning from fresh seasonal herbs, fruit and cheese," other varieties in the range included dark chocolate, espresso Toscano and heirloom apple cider.

Similarly, Dreyer's Slow Churned Rich & Creamy Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Flavored Light Ice Cream promised half the fat and a third fewer calories than regular ice cream. This was a hot cocoa-flavored, light ice cream swirled with marshmallows and all-natural flavors. Nestlé, meanwhile, introduced The Skinny Cow Chocolate Cookie Dough Sundae Cups in Canada, a 99% fat-free dessert with 130 calories per 118ml cup. The range included Cookies & Cream Sandwiches, Vanilla Sandwiches, Caramel and Vanilla Cones, and Chocolate and Vanilla Cones. Also reducing fat content in an ice cream launch in Mexico, Blue Bell's Helado de Crema Sabor a Vainilla y a Chocolate was a vanilla-and-chocolate-flavored ice cream with no added sugar. Sugar and fat were completely absent from PhillySwirl's Sweet 16 Ice Cream Bars, which also boasted no gluten and 16 calories per bar, with flavors including raspberry and vanilla, cherry and vanilla, and orange and vanilla.

From HP Hood came a low-fat frozen yogurt under its Hood Frozen Tangy brand. Available in strawberry, blueberry, mixed berry and raspberry vanilla varieties, the product launched in Canada was not only low in fat, but also promised to be kosher-certified. The latter claim was also applied to Bliss Unlimited's release of Luna & Larry's Coconut Bliss Vanilla Island Frozen Dessert in Canada. This non-dairy, agave-sweetened product was free of soy and gluten, certified organic and suitable for vegans. Back in the U.S., Baskin Robbins Raspberry Fudge Truffle ‡ la Mode from DB Master Finance was an ice cream dessert described as mini raspberry-filled chocolate cups and white chocolate cookie pieces over chocolate fudge ice cream, a layer of raspberry topping and a crunchy base of crushed chocolate cookies. Also kosher-certified, the range included a Brownie ‡ la Mode variety.

Premium Surprise
With a troubled economy impacting consumer purchasing patterns, it might come as a surprise to see spending on premium desserts; however, the argument could be made that consumers are looking to treat themselves with affordable pleasures in the midst of a recession. Certainly, ice cream manufacturers managed to introduce a number of premium options for these consumers.

Well's Dairy added Premium Bunny Tracks Ice Cream, with vanilla-flavored ice cream mixed with thick fudge and peanut butter caramel ribbons, chocolate-covered peanuts and chocolate bunnies filled with peanut butter. A similar product was available from Mt. Hood, whose Chocolate Avalanche Ice Cream featured dark chocolate chunks and a swirling ribbon of chocolate fudge. Organic Ville promised premium organic milk and cream in its Organic Vanilla Ice Cream, while Pilgrim Joe's assured it utilized milk from cows not treated with rBST hormone in its super-premium, kosher-certified Pumpkin Ice Cream. For its premium range of Ice Cream Miniatures, Aldi's Grandessa brand featured vanilla ice cream covered in either milk or dark chocolate.

While the global market for ice cream grew 3.5% in 2008, to reach $44.9 billion, Research and Markets' "Ice Cream: Global Industry Guide" predicts sales of the cool treats will increase 20.3% to $54 billion by 2013, with take-home ice cream sales accounting for 40.4% of the market revenue, and supermarkets and hypermarkets responsible for 39.2%.

In terms of yogurt, Greek forms of the frozen treat have gained in popularity in recent years, to the point that the segment accounts for more than 10% of all yogurt sales, according to SymphonyIRI research. As Kraft Foods notes, sales of Greek yogurt have more than doubled each of the last five years, and The NPD Group found the number of consumers eating yogurt grew by 60% over the past decade. Kraft launched its first Greek yogurt in 2010, bringing its Athenos brand to California and the Midwest.

Marzetti presented a Greek yogurt in a slightly new format with Otria Greek Yogurt Veggie Dip. Formulated with an array of herbs and spices, the five-item range included garden herb ranch, salsa cilantro, chipotle cheese, cucumber dill feta and spinach artichoke. Each flavor boasted omega-3, as well--adding to the healthful perception Greek yogurt already has, by being associated with the Mediterranean diet.

Whole-fat dairy products actually received some positive health news of their own this year, when the December 21, 2010, Annals of Internal Medicine reported research suggesting whole-fat dairy products contain a fatty acid that may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. Consumers with the highest levels of the fatty acid trans-palmitoleic acid reduce their odds of diabetes by 62%, compared to those with the lowest levels of it, the research found. Furthermore, "people who had higher levels of this fatty acid had better cholesterol and triglyceride levels, lower insulin resistance and lower levels of inflammatory markers," said study author Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, co-director of the program in cardiovascular epidemiology at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard School of Public Health.

Drinking Dairy
According to Datamonitor, the global milk market grew by 0.4% in 2009, hitting a value of $105.5 billion, and the analyst group's "Milk: Global Industry Guide" forecasts the segment's value will hit $127.9 billion in 2014, a 21.2% increase over 2009. While the high levels of vitamins, minerals (in particular, calcium) and protein afford dairy drinks something of a healthy halo, consumers have expressed concerns about the sugar and fat content of the beverages, prompting a number of "low-in" launches of late, as well as some fortification to provide certain products with an even healthier image.

In an example of the fortification trend in Canada, I-nov Concept introduced Grand PrÈ ChokÈo Chocolate Milk, a source of vitamins A and D, calcium, fiber and prebiotics. Probiotics, on the other hand, were found in Genesis Today's U.S. launch of Kiwi Cleanse Yogurt, a juice blend of kiwi, strawberry and other fruit from concentrate, and non-fat yogurt. In addition to the probiotic cultures, the beverage boasted calcium, vitamin C and fiber, along with a high amount of B-vitamins.

In an effort to "improve digestion, immunity and cholesterol levels," Dahlicious introduced U.S. consumers to Wild Man Blueberry Lassi, which the company says boasts 15 billion "naturally occurring probiotic cultures."  Low in fat, the drink was high in protein, calcium and fiber, while being low in calories and carbohydrates. Available in Oregon Strawberry, Ecuador Banana and Alphonso Mango options, the gluten-free drink was also free of added flavorings, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial colorings and preservatives, and rBGH hormone.

Less fat was also a key selling point of GFA Brands' Smart Balance Fat-Free Milk with Antioxidant Vitamins C & E in the U.S., promising 25% more calcium and protein than whole milk. Furthermore, the ultra-pasteurized product was fortified with vitamins A and D, though the company also added Lactose-Free Fat Free Milk with Omega-3s & Vitamin E, promising 20% more calcium and protein than whole milk, plus the benefits of omega-3s and vitamin E.

A pair of launches in Mexico touted their protein content: H-E-B introduced MooTopia Reduced Fat Milk, with 50% more protein and 45% less sugar than regular whole milk, the company promised, while Grupo Industrial Vida's Fresa Intensa Bebida de Leche con Cereal de Avena (Strawberry Milk Drink with Oats) claimed its oat content provided a good source of protein and fiber. The MooTopia product was among a number of launches claiming to have reduced fat content. Country Delite added fat-free buttermilk to its Country Delite Farms brand, also available in a chocolate variety. And, Parmalat introduced Lactantia P?r Filtre Organic Partly Skimmed Milk with 2% fat in Canada, where Saputo Bakery targeted sugar in its introduction of Milk 2 Go Reduced Sugar Chillin' Chocolate Milk. Made with partly skimmed milk, the Saputo Bakery drink promised to be an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D.

More with Less
Calcium content was also a hallmark of healthier cheese introductions in 2010, as the U.S. saw Tnuva introduce Tnuva Emek Light Edam Cheese slices, promising to be rich in calcium and to contain 68% less fat than regular cheese. Lucerine Foods noted its Light String Cheese was an "excellent source of calcium," but with 50% less fat than regular, low-moisture, part-skim mozzarella cheese. Also bearing the "excellent source of calcium" promise, Raley's Fresh Dairy Reduced Fat Four Cheese Mexican Style Blend combined reduced-fat versions of Cheddar, Monterey jack, asadero and queso quesadilla, to create a product with 33% less fat than its regular Four Cheese Mexican Style Blend.

Cheese also saw some experimentation with flavors in 2010. The September 12, 2010, Fresno Bee noted some California dairies had been producing more specialty cheeses in an effort to diversify their operations. Among the 250 varieties of cheese from the state was Barbara Martin's Fromage Blanc, a soft, spreadable cheese including such flavors as Mexican herbs and jalapenos, roasted red peppers, parsley and dill.

Goat cheese also made headway onto U.S. shelves, with World Import Distributors' launch of Silver Goat Herb & Garlic Goat Cheese, (herb, and tomato and basil varieties also were available). A similar launch could be found in Mexico, where Pic-Nic Delicatessen added Mikonos Deli Queso de Cabra con JalapeÒo (Goat's Cheese with Jalapeno Pepper), a product that could also be found in onion, green olives and trout varieties.

Partially a testament to the increased popularity of kefir, Karoun Dairies introduced Arz Labne Kefir Cheese. Made with live probiotic cultures, the product was free of rBST hormone and could also be used as sour cream, the company noted. Speaking of free-from statements, Daiya Foods' Dairy-Free Mozzarella Style Shreds was notable for what it lacked: eggs, nuts, dairy, lactose, casein, gluten, soy, trans fat, cholesterol and preservatives. Claimed to melt as a dairy mozzarella and suitable for vegans, the product's ingredient legend included water, tapioca flour, arrowroot flour, canola, safflower oil, coconut oil, pea protein, salt, natural flavors, yeast, vegetable glycerin, xanthan gum and flavoring.

Dairy Around the Globe
In cheese introductions outside the U.S., a number of manufacturers focused upon allergen reduction, though perhaps not to the degree of the Daiya launch. La Serenisima Danbo Light Queso Feteado (Sliced Cheese) from Mastellone San Luis was free of gluten and T.A.C.C. Released in Argentina, every 60g of the product promised 24% of the daily protein requirements and 42% of the daily calcium intake. Gluten, lactose and casein were absent from the Spain launch of Cheezly Edam Cheese. The Surya Enterprise product claimed to be "ideal for melting" and suitable for vegetarians and vegans, as it contained no milk, preservatives, cholesterol, hydrogenated fats, genetically modified ingredients or artificial colors. Also interesting about the product was a boast on its label: it featured the Good Shopping Guide logo, reflecting the company "treats humans, animals and the environment with respect."

Free from preservatives and colorings, Danone's China launch of Huo Li Le Milk Drink did promise more than 2.3% of milk protein, as well as the same amount of vitamins as a yogurt drink. 

Mei Li Jian Milk took the concept of health a step further with Yi Yi Milk Mei Li Jian Gu Shan Fang Grain Flavored Milk in China. Ultra-high temperature (UHT)-treated, it was made with milk, red beans, jujubes and goji berries, and it featured different types of grain and fiber, promising to nourish blood, aid in beauty, improve general health and to be nutritious. In the same country, Shandong Deyi Dairy released Active Lactobacillus Yogurt Drink, bolstered with active lactobacillus and freshly squeezed fruit juice (to help the digestive system).

There was little shortage of dairy drinks promoting digestive benefits in 2010. China also saw Shanghai Yuejia Foods Co. introduce AE90 Probiotic Cultured Milk Drink, promising to "multiply the friendly bacteria inside the stomach by 20% and to be good for intestinal health;" its ingredient legend included Streptococcus thermophilus, L. acidophilus and L. bulgaricus. Meanwhile, Austrian shoppers could try K‰rntnermilch's Raspberry Flavored Acidophilus Milk, a probiotic drink said to support the digestive system and featuring immune-strengthening L. acidophilus. Italian shoppers were the target for Trentinalatte's Ogni Giorno Fragola (strawberry drinking yogurt), a probiotic drink containing live active cultures and ginseng. The latter purportedly helped regulate intestinal and digestive function, when consumed daily. pf

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