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Functional ingredients, international flare and higher fat content headline dairy product trends for 2018


By Treena Hein

Of you ask yourself what category of food products provides it all — nutritious indulgence, lots of protein, convenience, new flavours and eating experiences — the answer is easily dairy. Canadian dairy companies have been releasing innovative and healthy products for years, and that shows no sign of stopping.

In a September 2017 dairy trends update for Canada, Euromonitor reports that “clean label” is a must in all food product sectors, including dairy. Andrea Genereaux, Public Affairs manager for the Dairy Processors Association of Canada (DPAC), agrees, noting that as a minimally processed food, dairy is faring “quite well” with the clean label trend.

Laiterie Chalifoux, a premium yogurt and fresh cheese company based in Varennes, Que., has risen with the clean label tide

and now offers seven flavours of non-fat Greek yogurt with 40-per-cent less sugar, and without artificial sweeteners or flavours. Brand manager Kathleen Hébert explains that “given the success of our Greek yogurt…we are revising recipes among our other current products to try to reduce sugar content. People are becoming more and more mindful about the added sugars they consume on a daily basis.”

Beyond clean label, Genereaux notes increased consumer interest in functional dairy foods, and that a number of processors have recently expanded lactose-free product lines. One dairy product now available in Canada which combines both these trends is Fairlife Core Power high-protein milkshake. Fairlife was started in 1994 by a group of U.S. dairy farmers thatentered into a distribution partnership with Coca-Cola in 2012. The company’s flagship product, Fairlife filtered lactose-free milk, has 50 per cent more protein, 30 per cent more calcium and half the sugars typicallyfound in conventional milk. It comes in one- and two-per-cent milk fat and chocolate flavours, as well as three varieties with DHA. Fairlife “Smart MilkShakes” have added antioxidants and pre-biotic fibre in three flavours, and Core Power high-protein milkshakes are available in six flavours. “We continue to experience growth,” says spokesperson Anders Porter.

Agropur also offers lactose-free products in its Natrel line, as well as other products which reflect current “key functional trends,” according to Sophie Deschamps, Marketing director of Innovation, Insights and Operations. These include complete protein (for example, i?go yogurt, Allegro cheese and Olympic Greek yogurt), and added calcium (Natrel offers 35 per cent more calcium milk with added vitamin A and D3).

More fat, more flavour

Although some consumers don’t consider higher-fat products to be healthy, many in Canada view dairy fat to be natural and nutritious. While low-fat items like sour cream and yogurt are still in demand, Genereaux notes that “the thinking around fat has changed significantly in the past few years in light of new scientific evidence.” At the industry level, Deschamps believes fuller-fat dairy products are more popular nowadays because “saturated fats are not perceived as bad as previously thought.”

According to DPAC, production of milk in Canada between 2015 and 2017 increased by 15 per cent thanks to the increase in demand for milk butterfat. Ashlee Smith, assistant director of Communications at Dairy Farmers of Canada, adds that “demand for butterfat from the farm level was 7.2 per cent more in 2017 over 2016, and in 2016, 3.7 per cent over the previous year, to fill the increased demand for 3.25-per-cent milk, fuller-fat yogurt, cheese and butter.” Agropur’s newest fuller-fat product is its rich and thick KREMA line of Balkan-style yogurt. Gay Lea began offering a sour cream with 18-per-cent fat called GOLD a couple of years ago, along with Stirling Churn 84 Butter, which has a higher fat content than other major butters in the market.

Fuller-fat products are about indulgence and flavour, but companies like Laiterie Chalifoux are managing to provide dessert-like indulgence with French-style fresh cheese products (such as its Riviera Parfait Collection) that contain only 2.8-per-cent fat. Dessert-style dairy treats, such as lemon mousse or apple pie flavour yogurt, have been expanding beyond ice cream for some time. In its Parfait Collection, Laiterie Chalifoux integratesvanilla or flavoured fresh cheese with caramel, chocolate or semi-candied fruit coulis, such as mango/passion fruit or strawberry/Chantilly cream.

Hot & spicy

Added spice is another trend making an impact in the dairy sector, especially in cheese. Now, almost every cheese company in Canada, big and small, makes a spicy product. Two of these countless examples are Ontario-based Bright Brand’s Havarti with Hot Pepper, and BC-based Natural Pastures’ Pacific Pepper Verdelait. DPAC isn’t sure if spicy dairy products represent a true long-term trend, but Genereaux is certain “that dairy processors are continuously looking for new and innovative products to meet changing customer demands.”

At the same time, alternatives to milk, cheese, butter,ice cream and more are growing in popularity. For example, according to Euromonitor, 2017 ended with an eight-per-cent retail volume growth in milk alternatives in Canada, with total sales of $398 million last year. “However, products included within the category present opposing trends,” the firm reports. “On the one hand…soy milk accounted for a 37-per-cent value share of milk alternatives in 2017, compared to 42 per cent in 2016. On the other hand, other milk alternatives continued to grow at a rapid pace…Almond and cashew milk, for example, are increasingly popular.”

Dairy innovation

One last exciting new dairy category is ethnic products. Nanak Foods of Surrey BC, which calls itself “the largest and most innovative Indian dairy in North America,” sells paneer fresh cheese and more at Costco, Loblaws and many other retail outlets across Canada, as well as exporting its products to more than 20 countries, including Australia, Singapore and Germany. Nanak’s paneer comes in fresh form, in frozen fried cubes and in several frozen appetizer products, including Pakora (fried paneer chunks in a chickpea flour batter) and Paneer Poppers (breaded paneer that was marinated in a spicy mint sauce). It also sells Dahi, Indian-style yogurt; Khoa, a concentrated milk; and Badam, flavoured milk with almonds. Its newest offering, a yogurt drink called Lassi, was recently launched in sweet, salty, mango, blueberry and pineapple flavours.

As the dairy industry evolves to meet changing consumer demands, new strategies to ensure innovation continues are emerging. Agropur is perhaps the best example. In 2016, it abandoned the traditional model of coming up with new products internally. Instead, its annual Inno Challenge invites potential partners in any country to submit innovative ideas for technologies, ingredients or finished products (within or outside dairy), and winners receive support to bring their concepts to market under the Agropur umbrella. “Open innovation has now become a proven, well-established method of shortening development times,” states Agropur, “by outsourcing the development of disruptive ideas and solutions to creative thinkers from around the world.” With strategies like this in place, dairy products are sure to maintain a starring role in the Canadian diet.

This article appeared in the print issue:April 2018 edition, The Dairy Report section

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