CHICAGO — The dairy case in the United States is underdeveloped, said Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights, Arnhem, The Netherlands.
|Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights|
“I just think the European dairy case is a lot more interesting,” Ms. Williams told Food Business News. “If you go to France or Chile, even if you go to Mexico, the dairy case is as big as the meat case is in the U.S.”
She added: “People here still have a piece of cake for dessert. French people have yogurt.”
From soft cheese desserts to layered yogurts, opportunities abound for indulgent innovation in the $60 billion U.S. dairy category, Ms. Williams said. She discussed the topic during a presentation at the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition held July 16-19 in Chicago.
“We think indulgence is going to be a major driver of new product development in the category,” Ms. Williams said. “There’s also going to be a lot of pressure from dairy alternatives as well. For a product to stand out, it’s going to take a lot more effort than it did in the past. Doing something that creates a different type of experience for the consumer, whether that’s a texture or flavor, is going to be really important.”
More than 16% of dairy products launched in North America last year featured an indulgent or premium claim, up from almost 13% in 2012, according to Innova Market Insights.
“We asked consumers what is the most important thing when it comes to purchasing dairy drinks and yogurt, and 20% said the indulgent claim is really important,” Ms. Williams said. “And that includes things like textures, flavors, fillings and so on.”
Flavor is the most important factor for 40% of consumers when buying a dairy alternative drink or yogurt, Innova Market Insights said.
“We’re seeing a lot of variation in flavors and a lot of sophisticated flavors,” Ms. Williams said. “Coffee is a great example… In the U.S. in terms of overall food and beverage new product launches, we saw a 28% increase in one year in coffee flavors. And salted caramel tripled in the U.S. since 2012. It’s one of those flavors that’s here to stay. We’re also seeing a lot of novel flavors beyond sweet flavors.”
As examples, she cited Chobani Flip Chipotle Pineapple yogurt and Fage Crossovers Carrot Ginger with Pistachios yogurt.
Textures are trending, too. Global dairy launches with a “crunchy” or “thick” claim grew 50% and 26%, respectively, last year.
“Texture goes from claim to name; you see a lot more textures being used in the brand names of products,” Ms. Williams said, citing as examples Yoplait Whips! and Dannon Light & Fit Greek Mousse yogurts. “Products with the most indulgent textures claim the highest premium because they are positioned as that extra bit special.”
Limited edition varieties also are on the rise in global dairy launches, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 13% between 2013 and 2015.
An emerging platform for indulgent dairy products in the United States is soft cheese desserts, such as quark and cottage cheese, which are more popular in other markets, Ms. Williams said. In Canada, for example, Gay Lea Foods offers Nordica Smooth Cottage Cheese in such varieties as vanilla bean, lemon and salted caramel.
Layered yogurts also offer an indulgent experience. Stonyfield Oh My Yog! organic yogurts feature fruit or vanilla on the bottom, honey-infused whole milk yogurt in the middle and a layer of thick cream on top. Varieties include gingered pear, New England maple, wild Quebec blueberry and Pacific Coast strawberry. The product offers an element of personalization; consumers may choose to eat one layer at a time, stir it all up, or capture a bit of each layer in every spoonful, Ms. Williams said.
Future opportunities for growth in the dairy category may include alternative fats and spreads, cream cheese as desserts, and products that combine elements of health and indulgence, such as the inclusion of ancient grains.“Greek yogurt is not going to cut it anymore,” Ms. Williams said. “You have to do something a bit different.”