Building on Nature
By JENNIFER ZEGLER
New dairy drinks and alternatives enhance a healthy base
Milk, it does a body good. As the old slogan implies, milk has inherent health properties, but dairy drinks and alternatives are not resting on their natural benefits. Companies are innovating to make the beverages more available, functional and cutting edge.
“Dairy is the original functional food, offering nine essential nutrients, including calcium and protein,” says Gail Barnes, vice president, business development of fluid innovation for Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), Rosemont, Ill. “Of course, dairy is now also emerging as an ideal vehicle for probiotics and fortification with added nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and plant sterols.”
Consumers have been expanding their comprehension of the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics and plant sterols. Dairy producers have rolled out new lines of products that better explain the benefits and — possibly most important — offer them in a drinkable, flavorful format.
“Manufacturers are responding to consumers’ changing needs with new offerings that give consumers the products they want, when and how they want them,” Barnes says.
Dairy drinks and alternatives offer quick, on-the-go options for consumers looking to stay healthy in the midst of their hectic lives. From baby boomers to soccer moms to soccer-playing kids, the newest category offerings are ready for quick transportation and refueling on the go.
Though shelf-stable milk is prevalent in the international market, American consumers are getting used to the notion that dairy can be safe in aseptic packaging. Currently, foodservice has embraced the options as they allow for more space in what can be crowded refrigerators. The products can then be put on ice or chilled before serving.
Dairy drinks are ultra pasteurized before being packaged to ensure no bacteria is present. The multi-layer aseptic packages shield the product from light and oxygen that would speed product spoilage. Aseptic packaging allows products to remain on shelves, without refrigeration, for up to six months.
In April, Glendale, Calif.-based Nestlé began shipping an 8-ounce aseptic package of its Nesquik brand. Schools and other foodservice locations were a prime target for the package, Nesquik Brand Manager Cathy Dean told Beverage Industry in June. The company also saw the package as a grab-and-go item in convenience stores, grocery stores and the club channel.
Organic Valley, Le Farge, Wis., also expanded its presence in the shelf-stable segment. This fall, the dairy cooperative introduced Vanilla and Strawberry 8-ounce shelf stable packages. The flavors will be sold, along with previously launched milk and Chocolate milk, in multi-pack options. Each package is suited to a particular channel, says Emily Strickler, fluid category manager for Organic Valley.
“We have four-pack units that are ideal for retail grocery shelves, single-item units for grab-and-go refrigerators and 24-unit cases with full-color graphics, perfect to merchandise in end-cap displays,” Strickler says.
|Top 10 “milkshake” drinks|
|CATEGORY||DOLLAR SALES (IN MILLIONS)||% CHANGE VS. YEAR AGO||MARKET SHARE||% CHANGE VS. YEAR AGO|
|ODWALLA SUPER PROTEIN||$7.2||57.7%||10.4||3.8%|
|KERNS AGUAS FRESCAS||$4.2||35.7%||6.1||1.6%|
|BEN & JERRY'S MILKSHAKES||$2.5||156.4%||3.7||2.3%|
|Source: Information Resources Inc., Chicago, sales from total U.S. food, drug and mass merchandise outlets (excluding Wal-Mart) for the 52 weeks ending Sept. 9, 2007.|
The company reports organic shelf-stable milk is growing at 64 percent in the mainstream grocery channel, excluding Wal-Mart, and club stores for the 52 weeks ending Aug. 11. In step with the growth, Organic Valley will launch shelf stable liters of Organic 2 percent Chocolate and additional options in February.
Shelf stability extends past the packaging, DMI’s Barnes says. “Today’s health-oriented consumer wants the human equivalent of extended shelf-life — namely to live better longer,” she says. “To millions of consumers, food has become a key part of a ‘prevention rather than cure’ approach to health and wellness.”
The industry is innovating with the consumer in mind and that means products specifically formulated for various demographics and health needs, Barnes says. She says the functional products span from kids to older adults.
Functional dairy drink consumption has increased 12 percent to 999 million liters in Western Europe, the United States and Japan in 2006, according to the United Kingdom’s Zenith International. While the international market is more mature, the United States is experiencing year-on-year growth of around 50 percent, the “2007 Functional Dairy Drinks Report” says. In Japan, a daily-dose probiotic yogurt shot called Yakult is popular and helped usher in the trend.
The ‘shot’ format is beginning to gain traction in the United States. Consumption in the United States of functional ‘daily dose’ dairy beverages is expected to increase 250 percent in the next five years from volume sales of 180 million units in 2006, to 850 units by 2011, according to Zenith International. Early adopter, The Dannon Co., White Plains, N.Y., launched 3-ounce DanActive probiotic drinks late last year.
“From the perspective of the beverage industry, small can be beautiful,” says Michael Neuwirth, spokesperson for Dannon.
The small package size offers easy dosing. Seventy percent of the immune system is located in the digestive tract, according to the company’s press materials. DanActive contains Dannon’s proprietary L. Casei Immunitas probiotic culture.
“What’s remarkable is it that a probiotic dairy drink is scientifically proven to strengthen the body’s defense system, which can be affected by stress,” Neuwirth says. “Probiotics help to correct this.”
DanActive is supported by a national marketing campaign that stresses the benefits rather than offer scientific explanation, Neuwirth says.
“Our communication focus has been on the scientifically proven benefits of probiotics vs. the cultures themselves,” he explains. “With cultures there is less interest in how it works vs. the substantiation that it does work.”
Earlier this year, Dannon reformulated its Danimals line of yogurt drinks for children. In addition to removing high fructose corn syrup, Danimals beverages now feature Lactobacillus GG (LGG) probiotic culture.
“We reformulated Danimals drinks in 2007 and removed the high fructose corn syrup, reduced the sugar and artificial ingredients,” Neuwirth says. “We also added the most well-known beneficial probiotic LGG culture that has 250 clinical studies behind it. The culture has been proven to keep kids healthy in both oral and intestinal health.”
The drinkable yogurt line is available in 3.1-ounce servings of regular flavors as well as new Xtreme flavors, such as Banana Guava Cliffhanger, Berry Avalanche, Cherry Dragonfruit Rush and Smashin’ Passionfuit. The exotic flavors might be a part of the brand’s popularity with Hispanic Americans, which are a group that favors dairy drinks, Neuwirth says. For older children, Danimals XL are on shelves in 5.75-ounce servings.
Also offering small format dairy drinks, Promise Activ Supershots were launched this fall. The line of drinks features a blend of fruit and yogurt that includes natural plant sterols to help reduce cholesterol. Promise, which produces a variety of heart-healthy and cholesterol-lowering products, recommends consuming the drink daily with meals to help reduce LDL cholesterol levels.
Instead of targeted benefits, one recent launch from Nesquik boasts a more general morning boost. In April, Nesquik began test marketing its new breakfast drink Quik Start in the Northwest. Quik Start is 100 percent milk that is flavored and fortified with 14 vitamins and minerals. Targeted to teens and women, the product is being tested in Chocolate, Cappuccino and Peach varieties.
For winding down at the end of the day, a new dairy-based beverage, Dreamerz, offers sleep benefits. Marketed as a dietary supplement, Dreamerz has a low dose of melatonin to help promote sleep, and Lactium, a hydrolyzed milk casein, that reduces stress and promotes relaxation. Servings of any of the three flavors, Chocolate S’Nores, Vanilla Van Winkle, and Crème de la REM, contain 100 calories.
“We see Dreamerz as an antidote to the caffeine-crazed energy drinks,” says Amanda Steele, co-founder and chief executive officer of Dreamerz Foods, San Francisco. “Instead of pumping yourself up with caffeine, why not help yourself sleep better?”
Dreamerz is currently in distribution on the West Coast and will soon be offered in stores in the Northeast. The product is available in 8-ounce single-serving packages and 32-ounce four-packs. Steele says the company hopes to expand distribution and go national next year.
“We are aiming for adults over the age of 18 who have occasional insomnia issues,” Steele says. “It’s a delicious and indulgent beverage so that lends itself a little more to women and especially women 35 and above who don’t want to take an over-the-counter or pharmaceutical drug due to the possible after-effects.”
On the horizon for 2008, DMI’s Barnes says, we can expect to see cosmetically fortified dairy beverages. She cites Europe’s Groupe Danone’s Essensis, which is a dose-sized drinkable yogurt containing borage oil, vitamin E and green tea antioxidants. The product carries claims it will improve skin if consumed for at least a month, Barnes says.
Though milk boasts inherent benefits, its alternatives are not without their own healthy bases. Soymilk features natural protein in addition to being a good carrier for flavors and fortification. A new entry, hempmilk, also recently joined soymilk and rice milk on dairy alternative shelves.
WhiteWave Foods Co., Broomfield, Colo., launched the Silk Plus line. The line features Silk Plus Fiber and the re-branded Silk Plus Omega-3 DHA. Additionally, in September, the brand introduced Silk Plus for Bone Health, which is enhanced with NutraFlora and calcium. NutraFlora is a prebiotic fiber that helps the body absorb calcium more effectively, according to the company. Silk Plus for Bone Health is aimed at women older than 40 who may be at risk for osteoporosis, according to the company.
Odwalla Super Protein occupies the No. 4 spot on IRI’s top selling milkshake drinks list. The Coca-Cola-owned brand expanded this year with new functional soy drinks. The Soy Smart line features Chai, Vanilla and Chocolate flavors that all have 32 mg. of omega-3 DHA.
Joining the dairy alternative category, Manitoba Harvest offers Hemp Bliss Organic Hempmilk. The non-dairy beverage is made from hemp seed, which has a nutty flavor according to the Canadian company, and features 1,200-mg. of omega-3 acids. Hemp Bliss was awarded the Best New Food Product Award at September’s Natural Products Expo East show. The hempmilk is available in Original, Vanilla and Chocolate varieties.