We are skewing smaller all the time. Dairy foods and beverages are seen in smaller, more convenient and snack-size packaging, all for the love of the consumer. From the iconic glass milk bottles hand-delivered to homes to the paper cartons in single-serve school vending machine size and in larger refrigerator size, milk has come a long way. Add to that yogurt on a stick, cheese in snack packs and packaging made from milk protein, and you have a new way to shop. With consumer lifestyles and health needs changing, “dairy” has taken on a whole new meaning. Additionally, dairy alternatives have given the market some not-so welcomed competition.

In the competitive dairy market, packaging plays a significant role as a vehicle to grow market shares. Packaging is a means to differentiate as well as optimize the value chain, or put in another way, increase sales while also reducing costs. We are now in a world of “snackification.” Stats show that snacking is a booming $87 billion business, and on the rise, with snacks accounting for 51% of all food sales. Therefore, many brands have realized they need to go small or go home.

Smaller is better

Jarlsberg® Cheese debuted the hottest new addition to its iconic cheese family yet: Jarlsberg Cheese Snacks, using the same original Norwegian recipe. Fans can now savor the delicious classic taste of Jarlsberg Cheese in this delightful, portable snack with the convenience of cheese sticks, supporting the go-to snacking option. Jarlsberg Cheese has a mild, mellow and nutty flavor. The Cheese Snacks are naturally gluten and lactose free and were created to satisfy customer demand for more convenient, wholesome and delicious snacking options.

These individually wrapped cheese snacks are ¾ ounce in stick format and will be an instant favorite go-to snack for all ages. The new Cheese Sticks will appeal to consumers for picnics, back-to-school lunches or on-the-go snacking. Every Cheese Stick is portion controlled with only 70 calories, and is an all-natural snack with 5 grams of protein.

With its proprietary recipe and unique, perfectly portioned cups, Muuna is disrupting store coolers. Delivering a melt-in-your-mouth texture, creamy taste and delicious real pieces of fruit on the bottom, Muuna has come out with a new high-protein, single-serve cottage cheese cup available in low-fat plain and five fruit-on-the-bottom flavors: strawberry, blueberry, pineapple, peach and mango. The new flavored cottage cheese comes in 5.3-ounce cups in addition to a larger 16-ounce tub. Muuna products do not contain high-fructose corn syrup or stevia and are free of artificial flavors, colors and sweeteners. The cottage cheese is also gluten free and certified kosher.

“Cottage cheese has been around forever, and mainly thought of as a diet food. The same was true for yogurt, but yogurt innovated while cottage cheese remained stuck in the past. At Muuna, we decided to reimagine cottage cheese, inside and out, down to our unique, beautiful cup,” says Gerard Meyer, CEO of Muuna.

Innovation is the key

Lotito Foods, a family owned, four-generation cheese and specialty food company has added to its iconic imported Italian and domestic cheese line with Folios™. These lightly baked sheets of cheese come in three flavors: Jarlsberg®, Cheddar and Parmesan. The all-natural artisan cheese sheets can be used as a dish topper (such as on top of soup), as a shell, wrap or melted in recipes. Folios are a first-of-its-kind cheese product made of all natural, part-skim cheese, that is carb and gluten free and high in protein. They are available for consumers in a four-count pack. For foodservice operators, they are available in 10 packs.

Both chefs and home cooks can get creative with Folios – for recipes and ideas that were never possible before. Folios can be crisped in the microwave or oven and crumbled for use on salads and soups, or eaten alone as a crunchy cheese snack. They can be molded into an edible bowl for salads or pasta or melted over omelets or soups, and they can come straight out of the package as a perfect no-carb, high-protein wrap option.

Another new product recently launched is award-winning Yollies Yogurt Lolly, a fun way to enjoy the healthy goodness of yogurt. It is a yogurt lollypop made with thickened yogurt and fruit puree designed for children’s lunchboxes. Ireland-based Kerry Foods had a world’s first dairy technology for yogurt, and chose Unifill (unifill.it) to help develop the shape and the filling solution. Kerry Foods selected Amcor (amcor.com) to supply the ideal thermoforming packaging material.

The resulting stay-fresh pod shape is distinctive, helping to build a Yollies’ brand personality as the laminate is transformed to form the Yollies’ shape. Amcor’s easy peel and release film technology allows the product to come out of the pod easily so that children can eat the yogurt on the stick with relatively no mess. Yollies was a finalist for Best Dairy Packaging Design at World Dairy Innovation Awards.

Brands know that taking their product to the next level – by adding a specific consumer-loving ingredient, making it healthier or more sustainable, for instance – may give a product new life. That’s where Nestlé came in with its high-protein flavored milk. Nestlé Nesquik introduced Protein Plus, a line of high-protein flavored milks in two flavors, chocolate and vanilla. A 14-ounce serving contains 23 grams of protein, 170 calories, 2.5 grams of fat and 22 grams of sugar. It’s available at grocery stores nationwide and at local convenience stores in 14-ounce pre-mixed, ready-to-drink bottles.

To celebrate the new product, Nesquik introduced “Fueling the Everyday MVP” – a tongue-in-cheek campaign that puts a spin on the typically serious tone of sports advertising. The campaign kicks off with a video created by digital creative agency Deep Focus. The line was designed to carve out a completely new space for protein drinks. Protein Plus is for those who are not necessarily gym rats, but still want serious protein when enjoying some of their favorite games such as Frisbee®, Wiffle ball and kickball, according to the company.

Consumers want to know what is in a food before buying it. They don’t want to deal with reading small-print labels and hunt for product information when at the store. Organic Valley’s Grassmilk yogurt answers the call. The four flavors – plain, vanilla, strawberry and wild blueberry – are made with organic milk from grass-fed cows. This is good news for families choosing organic products. The
6-ounce cups have cream on top of the non-homogenized whole milk.

The cows at Organic Valley graze on a diverse pasture and dried forages (not grain), which results in a milk with naturally occurring omega-3, omega-6, conjugated linoleic acid and calcium. The company states that the 100% grass-fed yogurt has light herbal top notes with a hint of flower petal. Taste will vary depending on the season and what cows are foraging on. The company rounds out its dairy offerings with grass-fed milk and cheeses.

Packaging with milk protein

It’s not always what’s in the package. The American Chemical Society (ACS) recently presented research on a packaging film made of milk proteins at the ACS national meeting.

“The protein-based films are powerful oxygen blockers that help prevent food spoilage. When used in packaging, they could prevent food waste during distribution along the food chain,” says research leader Peggy Tomasula, D.Sc.

To create a better packaging solution, research leader Peggy Tomasula and colleagues at the U.S. Department of Agriculture are developing an environmentally friendly film made of the milk protein casein. The films are up to 500 times better than plastics at protecting food against oxygen and they are biodegradable and more sustainable, breaking down easier than plastics. The milk-based packaging has smaller pores and can thus create a tighter network that keeps oxygen out, compared to the edible packaging made of starch currently on the market.

Milk protein films are edible and may have vitamins, probiotics and nutraceuticals added in the future. Flavors could also be added as now researchers say, the films have little flavor.

According to Research and Markets’ (www.researchandmarkets.com) Global Dairy Packaging Market report, the global dairy packaging market is estimated to reach a total market value of $25.55 billion by the end of 2020 at a compound annual growth rate of 3.52%.

These factors are expected to drive dairy packaging:

  • Single-serve packaging, which is most preferred over others
  • Light weighting to provide convenience to the consumers
  • Usage of effective packaging methods to increase shelf life

With shelf space – and cooler space – at a maximum, there are a couple ways to move forward and stand out with dairy offerings: online stores and outside of chilled dairy shelves. On-the-go and younger consumers are shopping online for groceries – think: Amazon’s “Prime Pantry” service and one-store delivery services like Whole Foods. Consider retail space and the non-chilled inside aisles, where competitors are likely not focused.