Beverages are taking on a milky white hue as dairy dresses up with omega oils, juices take on dairy proteins and non-milk "dairy' choices broaden their botanical horizons. But this isn't merely variety for its own sake; there's method behind the dash to dairy-based new products.
For the beverage industry, this means coming up with drinks that can multitask as creatively as the consumers they're designed to satisfy. For proof of this, we need look no further than arguably the most fundamental beverage, next to water: milk.
"An ongoing challenge for the dairy industry at large is to help Americans nine years of age and older consume three servings of nutrient-rich, low-fat and fat-free milk and milk products every day, as is recommended by the Dietary Guidelines and many other health authorities,' says Gregory Miller, executive vice president of research, regulatory and scientific affairs for Dairy Management Inc. and the National Dairy Council (www.nationaldairycouncil.org), both in Rosemont, Ill.
"According to USDA, Americans are only consuming about half — 1.7 servings — of the [three] dairy servings they should every day.'
Dairy's earlier responses focused on milk: new flavors, reclosable single-serve plastic bottles and most recently shelf-stable products, which can move through the supply chain (and in your pantry) unrefrigerated and last for months. More than 90 dairies across the U.S. have reformulated flavored milk to be lower in both sugar and calories.
According to Miller, several recent innovations are helping close this dairy gap in new ways. Specialty coffees with up to 80 percent milk are selling at fast-food restaurants such as McDonald's. The QSR giant also just announced (at the Vancouver Olympics) it will be getting into the smoothie business, including dairy-based versions. And dairy-based smoothies, such as the Vivanno line, are taking off at Starbucks.
There's a lot to raw milk besides milk. The white stuff is 87 percent water, but that other 13 percent contains fats, proteins, lactose and some minerals. The proteins – casein and whey – provide some powerful building blocks for all kinds of product developers.
With 5.8 million dairy cows and only 4.3 million citizens, New Zealand has been aggressively seeking ways to export milk, and dairy ingredients was one of the most effective. As a result, "We export 95 percent of the milk created in New Zealand,' says Martin Bates, president & COO of Fonterra U.S. (www.fonterra.com), which is the ingredient marketing arm of the New Zealand milk marketing organization. Its U.S. office is in Rosemont, Ill.
"We fractionate milk,' he says, and the result is hundreds of ingredients, from caseinates to whey protein isolates to ingredients for cheese production. The ingredients add huge doses of cost-effective protein to everything from cheeses to bars to beverages.
Beverages are a natural, especially thick, milky ones such as smoothies, pediatric products and meal replacement drinks. Clear beverages, however, presented a challenge for these usually white powdered ingredients. But Fonterra's ClearProtein whey protein isolates provide the nutritional value in clear beverages with slight acidity. (Whey proteins remain clear and soluble at pH less than 3.7. Beverages with higher pH tend to develop cloudiness during storage.)