Dairy is one of the most frequently shopped grocery departments, with 36 trips per year, finds the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association’s (IDDBA) “What’s in Store 2014” report. The same report also notes new dairy product introductions are robust, at approximately 12,000-13,000 products annually. Nevertheless, those introductions are finding a host of competitors from other segments and a variety of factors influencing dairy consumers, including declining U.S. middle-income households; a diversity of shoppers by age and ethnic group; and access to smart technologies (encouraging unprecedented levels of transparency).

One of the trademark segments of the dairy category is facing a dilemma similar to a major segment of the beverage category. Carbonated sodas have faced years of declining consumption trends, and the same has held true for fluid milk consumption. Milk processors, in response, have turned to efforts to make milk a more convenient option, with extended shelflife packaging and on-the-go convenience.

A launch from Shamrock Farms provided one such example. Each 150-calorie Rockin’ Refuel Lean Builder is a protein milk made with real milk and promises to be an excellent source of natural protein, providing 20g of “high-quality protein,” as well as 8g of carbohydrates and 6g of sugar. Free of lactose, Lean Builder contains the essential nutrients naturally found in milk, including calcium, potassium and vitamin D.

Horizon Organic launched Horizon Organic Milk with 32mg DHA Omega-3 Single Serve Milk Boxes. The milk boxes promise to provide all of the same nutritious benefits of organic DHA omega-3 milk, just in a single-serving milk box that is shelf-stable. The company notes it is the first on-the-go milk product enhanced with 32mg DHA omega-3 to come to market.

DHA omega-3 is a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid that has been studied for its role in supporting healthy brain development. The company notes, “Most children currently don’t get the suggested intake of DHA omega-3.” The beverage also promises all the expected benefits of milk, “including 8g of protein, vitamins A and D, and calcium, with the added benefit of DHA omega-3 to support healthy brain development,” says Mike Ferry, Horizon Organic president. The line is available in six varieties, including chocolate 1% in six-count, 12-count and 18-count packages; and vanilla 1% in six-count, 12-count and 18-count packages. The line is made with a sustainable, plant-based and vegetarian source of DHA omega-3, free from ocean-borne contaminants and lauded as a better option for those following a vegetarian diet. Additionally, the DHA omega-3 in Horizon Organic products neither contains nor is made with GMOs or hexane.

Recognizing that lactose allergies may be influencing some consumers away from milk, Prairie Farms Dairy added Lactose Free Vanilla Almond Milk to its line of dairy products. Many lactose-intolerant consumers have stopped drinking real milk, the company notes, and instead are consuming non-dairy alternative beverages—including almond and soy; Prairie Farms Lactose Free Almond Milk is real milk, just without the lactose. The product is fat free, ultra-pasteurized and comes from cows not treated with artificial growth hormones. And, it contains the same nine essential nutrients as regular milk, while adding a hint of vanilla and almond flavors and 80 calories per one-cup serving. Other milk products in the half-gallon, lactose-free lineup include: Whole Milk, 2% Reduced Fat Milk, Fat Free Milk and Fat Free Milk with Calcium.

The Got Milk? campaign has helped stem some of the rush away from drinking milk, and the campaign will be leveraged even further in coming years. The plan is to capitalize on the brand’s 90% awareness level and extend the trademark into food and non-food products, all with a goal of increasing fluid milk consumption and to “ensure that drinking milk is top-of-mind for consumers in the non-dairy aisles of retail. Got Milk? has also expanded to Got Chocolate Milk, an effort to promote the beverage as “nature’s sports drink,” which builds off of several studies finding low-fat, chocolate milk aids in recovery between workouts and the development of lean muscle over time. In fact, the researchers contend chocolate milk’s high protein levels help rebuild muscles more effectively than carbohydrate-based sports drinks.


Getting Creamed

Capitalizing on the continued, indeed increasing, popularity of coffee, NuZee Co. Ltd. introduced Coffee Blenders, described as the first energy-boost creamer that adds both energy and flavor to coffee. The creamer is formulated with a proprietary blend that provides 2,000mg of energy derived from vitamin B3 (niacin), B6, B12 and naturally occurring caffeine, taurine, ginseng and guarana. Furthermore, it promises sustained energy without the “crash” normally associated with energy drink products. Each serving adds the caffeine equivalent of four espresso shots, for about 47 calories, roughly half the calories of traditional creamers by volume, the company claims, and no trans fats or cholesterol. Each 2.5oz Coffee Blender also promises more energy than a 16oz energy drink in one of four flavors: French Vanilla, Hazelnut, Irish Crème and Vanilla Caramel.

“Coffee Blenders is not only for the coffee generation, but for everyone who needs an extra boost to start their day,” explains Craig Hagopian, president and CEO, NuZee. “We developed Coffee Blenders from the ground up to satisfy the demands of the 180 million U.S. consumers who prefer coffee as their morning beverage. It is also an alternative for individuals who dislike the taste of mainstream energy shots or don’t like consuming large energy drinks with many fluid ounces.”


Culture Club

While yogurt may not have faced the same declines in sales and consumption as milk has endured, yogurt processors have been just as innovative when it comes to packaging, flavors and marketing strategies. IDDBA regards yogurt as the “star of the dairy industry” around the globe, accounting for 20% of new dairy product introductions. (Hard and semi-hard cheeses accounted for 11.7% of the world’s dairy product launches, followed closely by drinkable yogurts, at 10%.)

In terms of sales, Packaged Facts finds Greek yogurt is the giant of the yogurt segment, with 35% of the segment’s $6.5 billion in total sales in 2012, according to AllianceBernstein: a staggering amount, when considering Greek yogurt accounted for 1% of 2007’s yogurt sales. The NPD Group notes 18-34-year-old Americans are among the most enthusiastic yogurt consumers; couple this with the fact that more young Americans than ever are eating breakfast regularly, and NPD Group contends there are an additional 200 million extra servings of yogurt being sold per year.

The Dairy Council of California finds yogurt consumption has increased 113% since 2001, citing yogurt drinks with probiotics particularly as a rapid growth area, notably among children. The benefits of yogurts are fueling this growth, with research citing not only its traditional digestive and immune-system benefits, but also its contribution to decreasing obesity, reducing blood pressure, increasing satiety, enhancing brain function, lessening the risk of breast cancer and even minimizing anxiety and depression.

Dannon added Greek yogurt under its Activia line, blending the benefits of Greek yogurt with the digestive health benefits of Activia. The Greek non-fat yogurt has 0% fat and twice the protein of regular low-fat yogurt, while promising 14% more of the daily recommended value of protein and also claiming to be the only Greek non-fat yogurt with Activia’s exclusive probiotic bifidus regularis. The five flavors in the line include Vanilla and four, fruit-on-the-bottom varieties: Garden Blueberry, Strawberry Patch, Orchard Peach and Tropical Fruit.

Greek yogurt also found its way into smoothies over the course of 2013, with one notable launch from organic baby food maker Sprout Baby. Its Smash Smoothies are aimed at elementary school-aged children and combine fruit, Greek yogurt, vegetables, coconut milk and quinoa. Sold in BPA-free squeezable pouches, each contains 20% organic Greek yogurt and no added sugar, in such flavors as Acai & Berry Greek Yogurt, Blueberry & Blackcurrant Greek Yogurt, and Strawberry & Cherry Greek Yogurt. Each 4oz pouch contains 0g of fat, 3g of protein and 12g of sugar. The line also features six non-dairy flavors, including Carrot & Orange Veggie & Fruit, Cherry & Apple Coconut Milk, and Peach & Banana Coconut Milk.

Homemade Brand, the premium line of ice cream from United Dairy Farmers (UDF), introduced emma’s, a gluten-free addition to the frozen yogurt phenomenon. Available in five flavors (Original, Lemon Spritz, Red Raspberry, Mango and Pomegranate) emma’s is a tangy, gluten-free treat bursting with fresh fruit flavor and a lighter taste than typical frozen yogurt products. As Tamara Krueger, UDF’s corporate marketing director, explains, emma’s is “an effort to capture the tangy frozen yogurt taste found in frozen yogurt shops across the country.”

A healthy probiotic, kefir also capitalized on the Greek phenomenon, with Evolve Kefir’s launch of Evolve Greek Kefir, described as the first spoonable Greek kefir. The low-fat product is made from 1% low-fat cultured milk “that is naturally high in probiotics,” the company explains. Its four flavors (Strawberry, Peach, Blueberry and Plain) are made with 12 premium cultures and promise double the protein of regular yogurt and more good-for-you bacteria per 5.3oz serving, as well as 40% of the daily value of calcium and 2% of the day’s protein needs. The company also claims each serving of Evolve Greek Kefir contains more than 100 billion healthy probiotic cultures to boost immunity and digestive health.

Yogurt manufacturers might consider taking a cue from an addition to the menu at Menchie’s, a self-serve frozen yogurt franchise, which turned popcorn into a sweet frozen yogurt flavor. Pop-arazzi Popcorn joined Menchie’s proprietary line of classic flavors with a culinary twist. Pop-arazzi Popcorn balances sweet and salty, with a lightly buttery taste.

Looking ahead, through 2017, the IDDBA predicts yogurt will enjoy a 17% growth, to reach an estimated $9.1 billion. The IDDBA believes dairy processors will bolster their protein content and treatment of health issues, while also delivering a strong message about dairy’s nutrients beyond calcium and weight management. Products with longer shelflives, as well as occasion-specific usage and complete convenience (potentially including serving utensils) also are among the trends to watch in the dairy category.


Spread Not-so-thin

The year may not have been among Paula Deen’s best in terms of public relations, but the television personality did add to the nation’s grocery aisles by launching her own line of food products. Paula Deen Foods include all-natural tortilla chips and a line of compound “finishing” butters that promise to “let cooks bring a wonderful, fresh butter taste to various dishes while just adding butter to the end of the cooking process.” The varieties include Lemon Dill Butter, Garden Herb Butter, Sweet Citrus Zest Butter, Southern Grilling Butter and European Style Butter.

In terms of frozen treats, Boulder Homemade Inc. introduced Figo! Organic Gelato, which is made using a traditional, slow, batch-churn style. Available in grocery stores in the Rocky Mountain region, the slow, batch-churned gelato is USDA-certified organic and free of gluten, eggs and GMOs. The seven flavors in the line include Vanilla Trio, Salted Caramel Café, Coconut Almond Chip, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Cool Limone, Pure Pistachio and Chocolate Duet. The company notes the gelato is slow, batch-churched in authentic, Italian-made machines utilizing a proprietary process in a zero-waste facility.

Magnum Ice Cream added Magnum Gold?!, described as the world’s first golden ice cream bar and a uniquely indulgent treat. Magnum Gold?!  features silky, vanilla-bean ice cream swirled with sea salt caramel and dipped in a golden coating made with Belgian milk chocolate. The product joined an increasingly sizable Magnum portfolio in the U.S., which saw its first Magnum products in 2011 and has now expanded to nine flavors. Magnum Ice Cream bars are available in three-count multipacks for a suggested retail price of $3.99. Magnum Mini Ice Cream bars are available in six-count multipacks for a suggested retail price of $5.49. These premium delights are also available as individually wrapped, on-the-go bars.

Blue Bell combined a popular cake with its ice cream to create Italian Cream Cake Ice Cream. Italian Cream Cake is a creamy vanilla ice cream with pieces of Italian cream cake, shredded coconut, roasted pecans and a smooth, cream cheese icing swirl.

“We’ve created a flavor that not only has all the ingredients of an Italian cream cake in each bite, but there are actual cake pieces in the ice cream too,” says Wayne Hugo, general sales manager for Blue Bell. Italian cream cake, a popular cake served at Southern weddings, is also known as an Italian wedding cake in parts of the country.

While the indulgence of ice creams and other frozen treats is notable, the IDDBA does observe, “Well-being is an overarching trend shaping product offerings in the dairy case. Many refrigerated dairy case products boast natural nutritional properties, protein and vitamin content, satiety characteristics and the ability to provide energy, in addition to functional additives. Some of these new products readily meet lifestyle claims, too.” It is in the merging of lifestyle claims and indulgence where dairy’s true potential rests.