The cream of the crop: trends in dairy innovations

1-2-Taste’s Jasper Schouten speaks with ingredients suppliers about market trends, product innovation, best practices, supplier challenges, and more.

Dairy products have been part of the human experience for thousands of years. In this industry you might think that everything that can be done, has been done. But obviously that’s not the case! I spoke with Floris Combes of neonwhale, Shari de Wit of SVZ, Steve Baxter of HE Stringer Flavour, Gerrit van Santen of Wollenhaupt Vanilla, and Pieter Schulting of JS Cocoa, about how dairy companies can use innovation to differentiate themselves in this challenging market space.

Consumers today are looking for ‘sustainability’ and ‘health’ when they make choices about what foods to buy. Luckily, these are areas where the dairy industry can shine, especially with a little bit of innovation. Plant-based alternatives such as vegan cheeses or ice creams, for example, are raising a lot of interest. And the trend for Clean Label products (using fewer ‘undesirable’ ingredients) gives you the potential to make even traditional dairy products ‘new’.

But to create, produce and launch a hit dairy product – whether milk-based or plant-based – you need the right ingredients, ideas and expertise as well as the right ingredient suppliers. For example, did you know a new black cocoa powder has been developed using less than 7% alkali? You can give your product that lovely dark chocolate colour, in a more Clean Label product. Or that nearly 100% of Bourbon vanilla is produced in Madagascar and Comoros, making supply quite vulnerable? So, ask yourself whether you want to ‘lock yourself in’ to a single source by specifying ‘Bourbon vanilla’ for your product.

This is the kind of practical insights the ingredient suppliers on 1-2-Taste can share with you, to help your product stand out. I sat down with five suppliers in our podcast, who revealed some key elements you should consider when developing a new dairy product:

  1. Listen to the consumers’ requirements
  2. Rely on your suppliers’ expertise
  3. Be fast and accurate
  4. Focus on quality and supply security, not just cost
  5. Seek out new ingredients
making ice cream

Listen to the consumers’ requirements

Dairy companies can lean into the ability to deliver ‘affordable nutrition’. And along with plant-based dairy alternatives using innovative technologies such as microbial fermentation, Floris Combes sees interesting possibilities in products that combine dairy and dairy alternatives. These could offer the taste and sensory experience of a ‘real’ dairy product, but deliver improved sustainability, for example.

Rely on your suppliers’ expertise

The earlier you get your ingredient supplier involved, the better, to find that ingredient which delivers the taste, mouthfeel, texture, colour you want. However, as Shari de Wit mentioned to me, the choice of ingredient isn’t only about the functionalities but also the price/quality ratio you’re looking for. Do you want or need the ‘Rolls Royce’ option? Be transparent about your expectations.

Be fast and accurate

When developing and launching a new dairy product, speed is key. And that means you must find suppliers who can deliver quickly. Businesses today expect the same level of fast delivery as consumers. According to Steve Baxter, web-based ordering has made it possible for ingredient manufacturers to up their game for their customers, especially when it comes to smaller volumes.

Focus on quality and supply security, not just cost

The least expensive ingredient option isn’t always the best for the long term. And ‘cheap’ is relative – something Gerrit van Santen touched upon when explaining how variations in vanilla quality mean one product may be expensive at € 100, while another is a good deal at € 250. Get samples before you choose! But make sure the supplier can guarantee consistent supply. With many products, including vanilla, cocoa, fruits, etc., that is often a question of geography, as they may be produced in limited locations.

Seek out new ingredients

You are innovating, but so are ingredients suppliers! For example, milk from cows bred to produce only A2 beta-caseins, which may deliver several health benefits. Or cocoa powder made with black alkali, which requires less of the chemical, as Pieter Schulting explains. There is always something new to discover, that might open an opportunity for you.

1-2-Taste can help you overcome your supply challenges, with a wide portfolio of ingredients; transparent, competitive pricing; an interface that makes it easy to find suppliers and order; minimal order quantities; and technical product development support.

When mapping out your ideas, start with the end in mind

– Floris Combes, neonwhale

You can’t know all ingredients. Look for suppliers that deliver not only a product but expertise.

– Shari de Wit, SVZ

People often underestimate the amount work and funding it takes to create a new product.

Steve Baxter, HE Stringer Flavours

Supplying directly from the source may offer lower prices, but does it meet European legislative requirements, for pesticides, metals, etc.?

Gerrit van Santen, Wollenhaupt Vanilla

Over 70% of cocoa production comes from two countries, so any issues there impact the entire supply chain and commercial global market.

Pieter Schulting, JS Cocoa

1-2-Taste Talks Food Ingredients Podcast Series

Dairy – Challenges and Opportunities

Coming up with healthier and plant-based alternatives is essential in the marketing of your dairy business. Right now, consumers are more and more looking for sustainable food. They want products that have less impact on nature but still meet expectations on taste, smell and mouthfeel. For dairy producers, these challenges give unique opportunities to innovate with dairy and plant-based ingredients. It’s a way to set your brand apart, creating new opportunities with yogurt, ice cream or cheese or, well, almost anything.

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