The re-birth of full fat dairy – and the long slow death of low-fat

Posted on:
April 15, 2017
Julian Mellentin

It would have been unimaginable 10 years ago: Unilever wants to get out of the polyunsaturated spreads business and sell-off brands worth $3 billion (€2.8 billion) in retail sales. The reason? Sales are falling – down 8% a year in the US and more in other markets – and there’s nothing Unilever can do to pull them back.

It’s a perfect case study of how powerless companies are in the face of a big trend – and the trends in this case are the rehabilitation of dairy fat and people’s preference for foods that are as natural as possible over foods that are like a chemistry set.

Regardless of any scientific arguments still raging about dairy fat – and there are many health professionals who cannot bring themselves to accept that the science has moved on – what’s more important is that consumers are making up their own minds.

Starting with the most health-aware consumers, the most-educated and the young, people are losing their fear of fat.

Armed with their phones, people are able to access more information about nutrition than ever before – and they are learning to be more discerning in the data sources they go to. And the result?

In 2016 in the US:

  • sales of whole milk grew 4.6%
  • sales of skim milk fell 12.6% (an acceleration of the 3% decline of 2015)
  • Sales of butter increased by 8%.
  • Noosa Australian-style yoghurt – a range launched in 2010 which offers only full-fat yoghurt – reached over $100 million (€94 million) in retail sales. Other “whole milk” yoghurt brands are proliferating and they are one of the few growth-spots in a US yoghurt market where growth has stalled.

In Australia:

  • Full-fat milk sales grew by 9% in 2016 while low-fat milk sales slipped.
  • demand for dairy fat has resulted in prices increasing from $3,000 a tonne in mid-2016 to up to $S5,000 a tonne now.

In Sweden statistics from The Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare show that Swedish butter consumption grew by almost 200% between 2005 and 2012 – while the incidence of heart attacks continued to fall. Swedes’ cardiovascular health improved despite eating more and more butter.

The old claim that increased butter consumption would increase the incidence of heart disease is defeated by reality.

The rehabilitation of fat represents the end of what Dr. David Ludwig of Harvard Medical School has called “the largest public health experiment in history”.

Low-fat dairy is not going to go away – people over 50 might be reluctant to give up the “low-fat-is-best beliefs” that they grew up with – but low-fat dairy’s share of the market – and particularly the premium market – will continue to decline as people rediscover the naturalness, pleasure and culinary usefulness of full-fat dairy.

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What’s popping? The indulgent guilt-free snack

Posted on:
April 10, 2017
Julian Mellentin

In the snacks section of the recent International Food Event (IFE) 2017 in London, there was plenty of evidence of the efforts entrepreneurs are making to breathe new life into old snack types, reinventing them as new, convenient, healthy and fun. And nowhere was this more obvious than in the case of popcorn.

The eight popcorn brands exhibiting at IFE show how bagged, ready-to-eat popcorn – until not long ago a boring old-fashioned snack – has been reinvented with a massive burst of new and interesting flavours, contemporary packaging and branding and a clear free-from and natural appeal to the millennial generation.

The eight brands between them offer a total of 104 flavours. Many are the same (toffee, strawberry, cheese) but that still leaves an impressive 45 unique flavour combinations, the most interesting from the Joe & Seph’s brand: mince pie popcorn, chia & coconut popcorn, marmite popcorn and goats cheese & black pepper popcorn.

Brands are also hitting the health messages that give popcorn lovers permission to indulge: gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan-friendly, low calorie, “guilt free” and made with all natural ingredients.

Propercorn promotes its popcorns as ”delicious and guilt-free”. Metcalfe’s Skinny Popcorn is marketed as a skinny low-calorie option, despite coming in sweet flavours such as chocolate and cinnamon.

The popcorn makers’ strategy appears to be working, with the UK popcorn market up 13.6% in 2016, to a retail value of £120.1 million ($149 million/€140 million), according to IRI data.

Health-conscious consumers are lured by “low calorie”, “guilt-free” and “all natural” claims, while pleasure-seekers are attracted by the seemingly endless list of unique flavour combinations.

Popcorn’s rebirth is unlikely to stop there. Mecalfe’s Skinny Popcorn already sells popcorn chips as well as popcorn thins – discs of corn topped with chocolate, and described as “ a convenient, guilt-free alternative to chocolate bars, cakes, brownies and biscuits”.

Often, companies try to create something completely new. But popcorn shows that reinventing an existing category can be a jumping-off point for innovation.

Who knows what healthy indulgent snack reinventions will pop up next.

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Companies taking a different approach to success

Posted on:
March 23, 2017
Julian Mellentin

The UK’s biggest and most important food & drink trade show – International Food & Drink Event – was this year all about vegan, 100% natural, free-from and low in sugar. In the middle of this environment-friendly, sustainability and free-from craze, there were a few companies that stood out.

Oumph! Founded in 2015 in Sweden, Oumph already has sales of about $6 million (€5.5 million). When asked what makes this company different, Djani Skrgo “Master of Key Relations” says, “Even though we produce vegan products, we are not a vegan company. We’re not trying to target vegans. Nobody’s perfect – in fact, almost nobody of our employees is vegan. We’re only trying to decrease our meat consumption and encourage that in others. We’re trying to create a new food logic and make people think about our planet.”

Oumph is retailed in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland. “We’re currently active 50% in food service and 50% in retail and we’re here at IFE to find the right partner to expand in the UK. We believe that we have a unique product thanks to the long fibers which makes the texture and taste very similar to animal protein”, Skrgo said.

And he wasn’t lying – the small bites they were offering at the show truly did taste like meat.

What A Melon. Even though there were plenty of fun products and stands, it didn’t compare to the What A Melon stand. If it was an Instagram picture, this would be the caption: When you’re trying to run a business but also wanna have fun.

The entire stand was very simple and fun: one disco ball, bright colours, great music, employees on roller skates, and no messages whatsoever on any posters.

They were not attracting visitors with the now popular free-from claims, but with simplicity and an escape from their everyday activities. Visitors were asked to hula hoop and dance with them – everyone was taking pictures and What A Melon was not having trouble with getting attention and promotion.

“There are so many coconut waters around, but a lot of people have a problem with the taste. Watermelon is an alternative. It has all the electrolytes as coconut water which makes it a great hydrator. It also has lycopene which is great for the heart. Last March, we were the first to launch a tetra pack watermelon water in the world and we’re hoping to launch a 1L size bottle soon,” Will Rhys said.

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