Leveraging news: The Food Business News story

By Laurie Gorton

July 5, 2022

Leveraging news -
The Food Business News story

Business intelligence and market analysis address the needs of readers throughout the food processing industry.

Intelligence is among the most basic needs of a business — information about its industry, competitors, suppliers, customers, innovations and consumer trends — plus, of course, analysis of how each impacts an individual business. That’s the assignment Sosland Publishing gave to Food Business News.

“The goal of Food Business News is to keep its readers fully abreast of developments within the food industry that will determine the well-being of their businesses,” wrote the magazine’s founding editorial team, Morton Sosland, editor-in-chief; Josh Sosland, editor; and Keith Nunes, executive editor, in comments opening its first issue, March 8, 2005.

When Sosland Publishing created Food Business News, the company did something extraordinary in the business-to-business publishing world. It took its flagship grain-based news magazine, Milling & Baking News, and reduced its weekly publishing frequency by half. Then it created a new title with broad circulation across the entire food industry to slide into those alternate weeks. It extended the expertise of its editors, reporters and market specialists into broader coverage areas but kept the continuity of a weekly schedule.

“We decided to be about the business of food and beverage product development,” Mr. Nunes, now editor of Food Business News, said. “The competing magazines deal with processing methods and science, respectively, but we deal with the business — the strategies, the supply chain and the products.”

A risk that paid off

Within two years of its founding, Food Business News vied for the No. 2 spot among the six magazines that then comprised the market. Today, 17 years later, it is clearly the leader. Counting its print and digital editions, e-newsletters, page views and pass-along circulation, Sosland Publishing claims more than 2.2 million average monthly opportunities for advertisers to reach customers.

“After the first two years with Food Business News, we never looked back,” said Bruce Webster, associate publisher. “We became the leaders, certainly in competitive terms. The food trade press went from a six-horse race to maybe three titles.”

What prompted Sosland Publishing to launch Food Business News?

As its editors explained in their opening editorial, two powerful currents combined to create the new title: “One is the realization by the publishers of Milling & Baking News that its coverage of the grain-based foods industry has gradually stretched beyond the once narrow confines of wheat markets, flour milling and baking. (Its) readership has likewise expanded to include executives who were once not even considered likely subscribers.”

The company’s Purchasing Seminar, too, showed the same trends: more attendees from the food industry and more topics beyond bakery commodities.

From a revenue standpoint, suppliers to the $900 billion food processing market offered Sosland’s sales staff opportunities to court advertisers who had never been in the pages of the company’s magazines before.

Mark Sabo, then president of Sosland Publishing, had these facts in mind when he called a strategic planning session in the early 2000s.

“Mark drove this process, and Food Business News was the result,” Josh Sosland, editor of Milling & Baking News said.

Until then, Sosland Publishing had no product to attract the massive ingredient advertising segment, said Dave DePaul, associate publisher, Food Business News.

“Thus, we positioned Food Business News as an R&D, marketing and management reach that offered timely industry news, new product and new ingredient technologies to attract those ingredient advertisers,” he said. “At the time, all other ingredient-oriented magazines were monthly, and digital products were not as prevalent as they are today. There were new product books but none that presented timely content to the ingredient buying teams. Our audience gained momentum very quickly.”

Mr. DePaul, who joined Sosland Publishing at about the same time, had previously served as the associate publisher for a competitor magazine also in the food processing space.

“He gave us immediate credibility and controlled a huge portion of that business,” said Mike Gude, publisher of Food Business News, Milling & Baking News and Baking & Snack. “He helped jumpstart our foray into food ingredients.”

Managers also studied how potential readers might view such a publication, particularly its frequency.

Mr. Webster added, “When you look at how Food Business News and Milling & Baking News work internally, we are still publishing a weekly but covering two markets, one being grain, milling and baking, and the other being the food processing industry. And when we discussed the concept with important ingredient advertisers, they loved it and supported the magazine from day one.”

Mission oriented

Food Business News is described as the food and beverage industry’s source for the latest news, trends and innovations. The platform covers the entire food and beverage supply chain, from markets and product development to manufacturing, distribution and consumer trends. Food Business News’ content targets the needs of industry executives in corporate management, general management, R&D, purchasing and marketing.

“That mission has stayed the same over our 17 years,” Mr. Nunes said. “The magazine’s strength is its commitment to news and ingredients, especially as they affect new product development.”

The magazine’s focus on news and markets is now well understood by reader and advertiser alike, Mr. Gude said.

“We are unique in our coverage in that we publish twice a month and, most importantly, in that our editorial team understands the industry well and is adept in both print and digital mediums,” he said. “No other publishing title can offer those qualities.”

Mr. Nunes noted, “We are primarily a news service for the food industry — news of companies, news of ingredients, news of commodities, news of supply chain conditions.”

That information flows into Food Business News and its daily e-newsletters and weekly Strategic Insights e-newsletter; the Food Entrepreneur supplement along with its e-newsletter and Food Entrepreneur Experience interactive events; the New Food Insider new product e-newsletter; the Food Business News website; the Sosland Morning Briefing e-newsletter; and the Purchasing Seminar and Trends and Innovations Seminar.

Readers have always self-selected their preferred media channels, and this trend is reflected in how Food Business News readers interact with the magazine and its many channels.

“I measure reader engagement by web metrics,” Mr. Nunes said. “With the internet numbers, we can gauge engagement. It is much broader today than when we started up. It involves more people and more job titles throughout the food industry’s supply chain. And we’re getting significant participation from overseas, from Europe and Asia.”

Another way to describe the acceptance of the magazine’s print and digital acceptance from readers and advertisers alike is, as Mr. Webster put it, “The barrier to entry by competitors is just too high.”

Food industry trends

The Sosland Centennial marks not only 100 years in business for the company but also a century of change affecting its audience. The period witnessed huge advances in food safety and food regulation. For most Americans, fresh and processed foods are plentiful, yet food insecurity remains a problem for some populations.

Enrichment of grain-based foods, a key advancement of modern nutrition, had a controversial start in the waning days of World War II. With the addition of folic acid 20 years ago, enrichment continues to do its good work and has been so reported by the Sosland newsweeklies. Even so, attention continues to focus on food’s problematic role in obesity and related health and nutrition matters.

Food processing has always have been marked by emerging trends, with plant based being the most recent. And debate still rages over natural vs. processed and genetically modified vs. non-GMO. The revolution underway in retailing continues, especially during pandemic. And globalization, now more than ever, affects the food processing industry’s supply chain.

From a subject matter standpoint, “the pandemic has meant more eating at home and less at foodservice,” Mr. Nunes said. “Global warming is seen through reports on renewable agriculture and sustainable sourcing.”

Global commodity markets became unstable during the Great Recession of 2008–10, Mr. Nunes said.

“Now, during the past few years, commodity markets have again become less predictable with greater price swings,” he said.

“Everything happens so much more quickly today,” Mr. Webster observed. “For example, plant-based proteins are leaping off the charts right now, and a major miller is advertising carbon-neutral flour.”

The benefits of experience

From the start, Food Business News had the advantage of experienced editors and sales staff. Born of Milling & Baking News, the new biweekly could tap Morton Sosland and Josh Sosland for its top editorial positions. Mr. Nunes, then editor of Meat+Poultry, joined as executive editor.

The new publication’s approach emphasizing news, markets and news-oriented features worked well, Mr. Nunes said.

“Josh and the Milling & Baking News staff had expertise in market coverage, bakery and grain-based foods, and I was knowledgeable about dairy, meat and poultry matters,” Mr. Nunes said.

They recruited Donna Berry, a contributing editor with expertise in dairy and ingredients. From that base, the magazine was able to fill in the other industry segments — confectionery, frozen foods, produce and so forth.

For several years, Eric Schroeder, managing editor, Milling & Baking News, acted as the new magazine’s managing editor and later executive editor. Today, Monica Watrous is managing editor.

“I am not aware of any other magazines that use a shared staff quite like Food Business News and Milling & Baking News,” Mr. Schroeder said. “The adaptability of our staff really sets us apart, and I’m always impressed by our editors’ ability to seamlessly transition from milling and baking coverage to coverage of the broader food and beverage categories on a weekly basis.

“Many publications have ‘beats’ that writers are assigned to cover. That’s just not how we operate. Our editors are expected to have a broad skill set, and I think that shows up in the quality of the product.”

Food Business News was built on the Milling & Baking News model of providing its readers accurate, timely and vital information but with important differences, said Josh Sosland.

“The new publication’s approach to this mission grew almost from the outset,” he said. “The vast scope of its coverage created challenges and, at the same time, was liberating. Because attaining the intimate, granular involvement in all the segments of the food and beverage industries would be impossible to do along the lines of the Milling & Baking News model, Food Business News is able to devote greater resources to coverage of macro issues — the major trends driving the food and beverage businesses and the explosive growth of entrepreneurship in food and beverages.”

Essential market reporting

Nowhere in Food Business News does expertise matter more than in commodity market reporting. Among the most volatile costs a food processor faces are those of its ingredients. While weather factors into harvest and yield, geopolitics plays an even bigger role in availability and supply chain.

“Market reporting gives the magazine a core focus on ingredients that is directly related to product development,” Mr. Nunes said.

Josh Sosland, who started his career at the company as a market reporter, explained further.

“Market reporting helps ground the content in each week’s issue with in-depth updates about an important driver of industry profitability,” he said. “Because their profit margins historically have been wider than is the case for baking companies, large CPG (consumer packaged goods) businesses in the past were not as interested in keeping up with ingredient market trends. But over the last 10 to 15 years, they have sharpened their focus on costs because of flattening top-line growth. The attention paid to commodity prices has heightened considerably. The timing of Food Business News’ entry into the market was ideal.”

In the scope of its subject matter, Food Business News reports on the topics of trends and technology, as do its competitors.

“But we differ by covering company strategy,” Mr. Nunes said. “We report how corporate strategies affect product development and how they apply to the supply chain.”

Digital mastery

“We have built a loyal audience in the past 17 years and found that Food Business News content plays well on the internet as well as in print,” Mr. Gude said. “We deliver content in the form that our readers choose: print, digital, mobile, etc.”

At the time Food Business News was introduced, there was nothing like it in terms of timeliness and editorial position, said Mr. DePaul.

“Fast forward to today, and our content is still timely, but as all industrial food publishers have transitioned from print to digital, the timeliness position has become less of a differentiation,” he said. “All our titles are now in the webinar, e-newsletter, eblast, run of site and podcast business.”

The magazine observes no print/digital divide. Food Business News takes an omnichannel approach to its mission, employing print and digital as well as virtual and in-person events and nearly everything in-between. It was the first title launched by Sosland Publishing after the company established its presence on the internet. Because digital is still relatively new to the trade marketplace, Sosland Publishing counsels its advertising customers on how best to reach their audiences.

“It is our role to help our marketing partners be most effective in their marketing campaigns,” said Meyer Sosland, chief operating officer of Sosland Publishing.
Sosland Publishing’s digital expertise proved to be a boon to Food Business News.

“Even as we created new digital offerings, we maintained our print revenue,” Mr. DePaul said. “Early on, we benefited from the print-to-digital shift as we expanded our creation of complementary digital products. The combination of print and digital mediums reinforced the already timely and strong content of the title.”

More generally, he observed, “the percentage of print to digital has been changing drastically over the years, which lends itself to many challenges, short term and especially long term. I tell my customers that ‘content is king,’ and however our readers — their customers — want to read our timely and important content, they have many options with Food Business News and Sosland.”

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The entrepreneurial difference

A growing number of startups entered the food and beverage marketplace in the past decade, triggering profound change across the industry. Created for executives interested in new concepts and the people who develop them, Food Entrepreneur offers insights into the disruption effected by up-and-coming brands while profiling the industry’s most successful and intriguing founders.

Food Entrepreneur debuted Jan. 7, 2020, as a supplement to Food Business News. Its content is the responsibility of Monica Watrous, managing editor, Food Business News. Its reports are posted on the website foodbusinessnews.net.

“For nearly 20 years, Food Business News has offered readers comprehensive and authoritative coverage of a rapidly changing food and beverage industry,” Ms. Watrous said. “The launch of Food Entrepreneur represents a sharper focus on the most exciting and consequential force in the sector today, offering the unparalleled reporting and analysis of developments critical for food industry executives to understand.”

Josh Sosland, president of Sosland Publishing Co., observed, “Food Entrepreneur was an organic expansion from Food Business News, based on what we saw as amazing reader response to Monica’s success in tapping into the entrepreneurial community. Her writing has attracted a following within the ecosystem of those starting up food businesses, but the reason we believe it will be financially successful is that the existing CPG industry is so keenly interested in quality content about food entrepreneurship.”

Food Entrepreneur’s content targets the many startups now entering the food and beverage marketplace. Food Entrepreneur highlights the innovation emerging from early-stage brands, while offering an inside look at the fundamentals of launching and scaling a food business.

“The people involved are not only the managers downsized by larger companies and looking for new opportunities but also a growing cohort in their 20s and 30s who are taking on roles that combined the C-suite with purchasing, processing and R&D,” said Keith Nunes, editor, Food Business News. “Through Food Entrepreneur, they can engage with their peers.”

Setting the Table

By Monica Watrous

August 17, 2021

Setting the

The enduring legacies of George Hormel, W.K. Kellogg and Milton Hershey

W.K. Kellogg, Milton S. Hershey and George A. Hormel were among the visionary entrepreneurs who more than a century ago paved the way for how the world eats today.

The founding fathers of the packaged food industry demonstrated ingenuity and resilience in the face of failed businesses and factory fires, worker strikes and world wars, a global pandemic and the Great Depression.

Today, the companies that bear their names honor the founders’ legacies while elevating a new generation of food entrepreneurs to ensure the next century of success.

A cereal entrepreneur

By the late 1800s, former broom salesman William Keith Kellogg had joined his older brother, renowned physician Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, to run a health spa in Battle Creek, Mich. The younger Kellogg handled bookkeeping and other responsibilities at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, where patients ate a vegetarian diet that included an early form of unsweetened granola based on wheat and oats. (A guest there named Charles W. Post was accused of swiping the recipe that would inspire the launch of Grape Nuts cereal).

An experiment with the grain mash led to the accidental invention of flaked cereal. The discovery would lead to a bitter brother rivalry, including a legal dispute over naming rights, but more significantly, it would revolutionize the traditionally meat-based morning meal.

Soon after W.K. Kellogg founded his boxed cereal business in 1906, dozens of competitors flocked to Battle Creek, eager to capitalize on this new convenient and wholesome breakfast concept. Mr. Kellogg distinguished his offering by adding his signature to each package of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. A savvy businessman, Mr. Kellogg continually improved the product line, packaging technology and marketing strategy to meet changing consumer tastes. He later established the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to promote the health and well-being of children.
“W.K. Kellogg was an early conservationist, a leading philanthropist and the original well-being visionary,” said Kris Bahner, spokesperson for Kellogg Co. “His values live on today through our K Values — they shape our Kellogg culture and guide the way we run our business. They help to define what makes our company and our people special and how we all play a unique and critical part of the ongoing success of our business.”

Today, Kellogg Co. invests in emerging businesses with innovative product concepts through its venture fund, eighteen94 capital. Kellogg also is a founding sponsor of The Hatchery, a food business incubator in Chicago. The company supports creativity at all levels of the organization through innovation competitions, including one held recently for its interns.

“That innovative and entrepreneurial spirit that shaped an entire industry lives on today — we like to say innovation breathes fire into our vision and purpose as a company, and we continue to innovate as we head into the next 115 years,” Ms. Bahner said.

W.K. Kellogg

A chocolate empire

Prior to popularizing milk chocolate in America, Milton S. Hershey encountered a series of setbacks. His first two businesses had failed. Perfecting the formulation for his signature product followed months of trial and error. Driven by persistence and vision, Mr. Hershey developed a new process for creating chocolate, tapping local dairy farms for fresh milk, and ultimately transforming an elite treat into an everyday staple for the masses.

“We steward Mr. Hershey’s legacy of innovation and entrepreneurship by seeking to add more beloved snacking brands to our portfolio,” said Ryan O’Hara, director of strategy at The Hershey Co. “We continually scan the market for high-growth, high-potential brands like Skinny Pop, and more recently Lily’s, to extend our moments of goodness with new consumers and new occasions.

“We also invest in startup companies like Blue Stripe and Quinn that are uniquely innovating in snacking, and related capabilities like Bonumose, that are developing breakthrough technologies to meet current and future consumer needs.”

Mr. Hershey’s achievements extend beyond the company and surrounding community he built in his name. He was a celebrated philanthropist who notably coined the term “commerce with compassion,” viewing business as a force for good. In 1909, he and his wife, Catherine, founded what would become the Milton Hershey School to provide education and opportunity for orphaned boys. He later transferred the majority of his wealth to the Milton Hershey School Trust fund. In 1935, he established the M.S. Hershey Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to cultural and educational enrichment.

“Purpose-driven companies are now becoming more commonplace, but Milton Hershey started it all over 100 years ago when it wasn’t even popular or on anyone’s radar,” said Brian Lange, a Hershey plant manager.

Milton Hershey

A protein pioneer

“Originate, don’t imitate,” a key commandment of George A. Hormel’s business, guides innovation efforts today. The challenge is imprinted on a wall of the Hormel Foods Corp. headquarters in Austin, Minn.

With previous meatpacking experience, Mr. Hormel established Geo. A. Hormel & Co. in 1891, setting up pork processing operations inside an abandoned creamery. He also opened the Hormel Provision Market to sell his products. Mr. Hormel, and later his son Jay C. Hormel, are credited for pioneering numerous innovations in food production and packaging that catapulted the company’s growth in the years that followed. The younger Hormel oversaw the introduction of several products, including Dinty Moore beef stew, Hormel chili and Spam luncheon meat.

“George Hormel’s eagerness to find and incorporate new approaches to the business continues today,” said a spokesperson for Hormel Foods Corp. “The company’s innovation and corporate development teams scour the globe for game-changing developments at all levels: from research labs and startup pitch competitions to major food shows. When acquiring companies, Hormel takes great care to respect each new team’s culture and retain what made it great in the first place. Applegate, Justin’s, Columbus Meats and Planters are some prime examples of the success of this approach.”

In 1941, George and Jay Hormel established The Hormel Foundation, which ranks fourth in annual charitable giving among Minnesota’s largest community and public foundations. The following year saw the opening of the Hormel Institute, today a cancer research facility.

The actions of the father and son demonstrate a commitment to employees and veterans that remains ongoing within the enterprise. In 1938, Jay Hormel started a profit-sharing program, which last year distributed $17.9 million to eligible hourly and salaried employees. Beginning with the Spanish-American War of 1898, George Hormel vowed to re-employ all returning soldiers who worked at the company previously. Hormel Foods continues its support of military personnel through employee assistance programs and initiatives such as Operation Gratitude and Tables of Honor.

“Since the beginning, we’ve believed that social responsibility is more than giving away a percentage of our profits at the end of the year,” said James P. Snee, chief executive officer of Hormel Foods Corp. “While we are committed to many worthy causes, including cancer research and fighting childhood hunger, it is our core business — efficiently producing delicious food for the world’s growing population — of which we are most proud.”

Left: Jay C. Hormel Right: George A. Hormel

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A Century of Frozen Food Progress

By Jeff Gelski

July 20, 2021

A Century of
Frozen Food Progress

Canadian fishermen, microwaves and cauliflower move the category forward

Frozen food has appealed to changing consumer desires for more than a century, from quality and convenience to health and gluten-free concerns. Breakthrough ideas have come from unexpected sources, including fishermen in Canada, turkeys in railroad cars and children with celiac disease.

Freezing fish inspiration

The quality of frozen food was lacking before Clarence Birdseye headed north. Freezing food early in the 20th century required large blocks of ice. The slow process led to ice crystals embedded in the food, resulting in poor taste and quality, said Dan Skinner, communications manager at Chicago-based Conagra Brands, Inc., which now owns the Birds Eye brand.

Mr. Birdseye’s link to frozen food began when he was working with the US Department of Interior in Labrador, an area in northeast Canada, in the 1920s. When the Inuit fished there, Mr. Birdseye noticed how they used ice, wind and temperature to instantly freeze fish.

Upon returning to the United States, he worked on replicating this flash-freezing process. His invention consisted of two metal belts chilled to negative 45° Fahrenheit. Food, including fish, meat and vegetables, could be pressed between the two belts and frozen quickly, Mr. Skinner said.

Mr. Birdseye received a patent for his flash-freezing process in 1927 and then sold it to Goldman Sachs, where he stayed on as a consultant, Mr. Skinner said. The first Birds Eye products entered the market in 1930.

“There was a little initial skepticism, but once people realized this was a quality product, it quickly took off,” Mr. Skinner said.

General Foods, Dean Foods and Pinnacle Foods all owned the Birds Eye brand at different times throughout the years until Conagra Brands acquired Pinnacle Foods in 2019.

Clarence Birdseye received a patent for his flash-freezing process in 1927.

Too many turkeys

Decades after the debut of the Birds Eye brand, Swanson Foods encountered a problem: What to do with 260 tons of frozen turkeys sitting in railroad cars.

“In 1953 Swanson had made a bad read on the number of Thanksgiving turkeys they were going to need,” Mr. Skinner said.

The miscalculation led to Swanson creating its TV dinner. Who should receive credit for it remains the subject of debate. Some point to Gerry Thomas, a salesman who suggested Swanson combine the excess turkey with cornbread dressing and vegetables on the assembly line, creating a frozen dinner, Mr. Skinner said. Brothers Gilbert and Clarke Swanson, leaders of the company, led the TV dinner project as well. Betty Cronin, a bacteriologist working for Swanson Foods, figured out how much time would be needed to cook three different food items.

“It was much more of a team project than any one person,” Mr. Skinner said.

Thanks to the TV dinner, Americans could eat while watching “I Love Lucy.” Swanson sold 10 million turkey dinners in 1954.

The microwave marriage

The history of the Stouffer’s brand, a rival to Swanson, dates to 1922 when the Stouffer family opened a restaurant in Cleveland, according to Nestle SA, Vevey, Switzerland, which now owns the brand. The family went on to open a chain of restaurants. Freezing items allowed the company to sell them to consumers as take-home items. By 1954 Stouffer’s restaurants were serving over 14 million meals, and the company was creating frozen entrees, too.

Stouffer’s gained an edge over Swanson in one area: speed. Litton Industries, Inc., which offered brand-name products like Litton microwave ovens, acquired Stouffer Foods Corp. in 1967, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. The microwave oven became a way to heat frozen foods more quickly.

Nestle acquired the Stouffer’s brand in 1973. Lean Cuisine entrees, each containing fewer than 300 calories, were introduced in 1981.

Cauliflower crust

Earlier this century Gail Becker knew how to heat and eat frozen food, but that was about it.

“If it’s possible to know less than nothing, then that is what I knew,” she said.
Since her two sons with celiac disease could not eat gluten, she began experimenting in her kitchen, making gluten-free pizza with cauliflower crust. The trial-and-error efforts eventually led to a satisfying product, and the creation of Caulipower, a frozen pizza brand.

Early on, Ms. Becker read about the frozen food industry and spoke to as many people as she could, learning new words and what certain acronyms meant.

“And I hired a lot of people much smarter than me to teach me about the business, and I was like a sponge quite frankly,” she said. “I learned something new every day. I’m still learning something new every day.”

Once the Caulipower frozen pizza caught on, it brought new consumers into the frozen foods aisle.

“I think that’s one of the reasons why retailers are very much drawn to the brand,” Ms. Becker said.

Caulipower founder Gail Becker popularized cauliflower crust for frozen pizzas.

Recent resurgence

Ms. Becker sold the first Caulipower pizza in February 2017. That same month Packaged Facts, Rockville, Md., released a report stating overall US sales in the frozen food category were flat. Packaged Facts projected US sales would fall to $21 billion in 2021 from $22 billion in 2016 in the four frozen foods categories of frozen dinners/entrees, frozen pizzas, frozen side dishes and frozen appetizers/snacks. Product innovation, including bold flavors, varieties inspired by world cuisines and products with healthier nutritional profiles, were strengthening the market, according to the report.

Sales picked up after the report came out. Then they soared during COVID-19 as more consumers ate at home.

Packaged Facts, in a June 2020 report, revealed US frozen pizza sales registered a compound annual growth rate of 2.6% from 2014-19, rising to $5.63 billion in 2019 from $4.94 billion in 2014. Packaged Facts projected sales to hit $6.38 billion in 2020, drop to $5.97 billion in 2021 and eventually reach $6.49 billion in 2024 thanks to a forecast 2.9% CAGR from 2019-24.

US frozen food sales grew 23% in the first half of 2020 when compared to the first half of 2019, according to Acosta, Inc., Jacksonville, Fla., an integrated sales and marketing provider in the consumer packaged goods industry. In the second half of 2020, the sales growth was 18%.

“As COVID-19 set in, consumers began eating at home more out of necessity,” said Colin Stewart, executive vice president, business intelligence at Acosta. “To adapt, they searched for new ways to cook creatively, and for many, frozen foods were the answer. Total frozen sales grew 20.6% from 2019 to 2020, outpacing the growth of total store and total edibles.

“Frozen foods have come a long way, and recent innovation has driven the appeal from mere convenience at the expense of taste and quality to something for every palate and dietary concern. The category’s expanded offerings give consumers a quick and cost-friendly way to enjoy diverse dishes in the safety of their own homes.”

Innovation has come in the historic Birds Eye brand, which now offers vegetable-based pasta and zucchini-based noodles, Mr. Skinner said.

“We’ve got a rice cauliflower offering that is really popular,” he said. “We have fried cauliflower offerings that are very popular in bars and restaurants right now.”

Nestle SA in 2021 is exploring ways to expand in plant-based items. Company sales in plant-based meat analogs are over $200 million, said Ulf Mark Schneider, chief executive officer, in a Feb. 18 earnings call.

“But when you look at the wider opportunity, when you look at where we use these ingredients to then make more attractive downstream offerings like frozen pizza with plant-based toppings or frozen meals or other prepared dishes, then it’s a much bigger opportunity,” he said.

Ms. Becker has kept the frozen food innovation coming at Caulipower. Besides pizza, the company in the frozen food category has expanded into cauliflower chicken tenders, pasta and rice.

What idea will next advance the frozen food industry? Ms. Becker said it could be home delivery.

“The cost of frozen shipping to end consumers is still very high,” she said. “I think that is something that is ripe for innovation.

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A Century of Fluid Milk Innovation

By Donna Berry

July 6, 2021

A Century of
Fluid Milk Innovation

©bq-studio.ru – STOCK.ADOBE.COM

Sosland Publishing Company’s coverage of the food industry started out focusing on the grain, flour milling and baking industries for the first 50 years after its founding in 1922. During that same era, the meat-processing industry began a government-mandated transition away from being dominated by a handful of companies that developed an integrated infrastructure that made it almost impossible for outside cattle producers, feedlot operators, livestock transporters or processors to survive unless they were part of what was then, an insurmountable machine. There has always been an important link between the grain industries and commercial livestock production as feed quality and availability determines price, which is passed on to meat processors and the quality, availability and price they could demand for products on the market. A century ago, and still today, the constant has been the meat and poultry processing system’s reliance on grain-based feed to finish and sustain the herds and flocks needed to produce food for a dynamic, growing and migrating population. What has changed and continues evolving are the names in the game today versus 100 years ago.

Few if any of the pioneering companies, brands or descendants of the industry’s legendary leaders of 100 years ago are relevant or involved in today’s industry, evidence of the constant evolution and change that has made meat and poultry processing’s history a long and winding road dotted with plenty of peaks and valleys. Volatility has been a constant challenge for the meat processing industry as it has been for all segments of the food supply chain. Factors ranging from weather to labor issues to regulatory compliance to economic instability to international relations can have profound impacts on the degree of business success or failure any segment might experience.

Since Sosland’s founding, the company has expanded its portfolio of publications and websites to include a wider swath of food and beverage industries, including commercial and retail baking, global grain, meat and poultry, pet food, dairy and the supermarket perimeter. Looking closer at some of the names and companies that were prominent in the meat industry from a century ago sheds light on how the pieces complete the puzzle that is today’s industry.

Donna Berry
The author is a contributing editor for Food Business News and a principal in the firm Dairy and Food Communications, Inc. Her website address is www.berryondairy.com.

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The pressures of regulation and consumer demand have led to significant advances in food science for the baking industry.

The US fluid milk industry has been one of the most highly regulated food and beverage sectors since rules were put in place at both the state and federal levels in the mid-1930s. It is no wonder why product innovation had been almost nonexistent until the late 1990s, when the low-fat and fat-free milk standards were eliminated from the Code of Federal Regulations.

“This meant that instead of different requirements to meet the standard of identity for ‘low-fat milk,’ the product would have to meet a combination of the regulatory definition for ‘low fat’ enacted after the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 and the standard of identity for ‘milk,’” said Michelle Matto, consultant to the International Dairy Foods Association, Washington. “The compliance date was Jan. 1, 1998.”

This allowed for technologies to improve or enhance milk. It also opened the doors to functional ingredient addition.

When it comes to innovation with “the white stuff,” many of the advancements have gone unnoticed by consumers. Until the 21st century, the only visible progress had been in packaging.

“There have been many significant changes in the dairy industry in the past 100 years from the processing techniques, improvement of shelf life, manufacturing capabilities, packaging machines and containers,” said Ed Mullins, chief executive officer, Prairie Farms Dairy Inc., Edwardsville, Ill. “Distribution from home delivery to large mass retailers is the biggest retail change to note. Larger farms and consolidation of dairy processors has also occurred over the last century.”

In the early 1900s, dairy farmers were limited to what they could do by hand and with minimal equipment. They produced milk for their own immediate consumption and may have supplied neighbors and local businesses. It was delivered by cans and glass milk bottles, with the latter patented in 1878.

By this time farmers were aware of how thermal processing of milk deactivated spoilage microorganisms and enzymes. The glass bottles could be filled with pasteurized milk and sealed, an early example of extending shelf life. This allowed for daily home deliveries from the milk man.

The buzz during the Great Depression was that milk would soon be sold in paper containers, a concept consumers could not understand. As economies improved and houses were fitted with electricity, refrigerators were installed. This allowed for the storage of milk for longer periods, making larger containers attractive.

The first paper milk carton was introduced in 1933. It included a wax coating to make it waterproof. It came in varied sizes, with the paper gallon a very short-lived one, as the plastic “stapled” handle proved to be challenging to hold and pour.

“One of the biggest changes over the last 100 years is how milk gets distributed and into the homes of families,” said Rachel Kyllo, senior vice president, marketing and innovation, Dairy Farmers of America (DFA)-Dairy Brands, Kansas City, Kan. “In many ways, it’s come full circle, as the iconic milk man used to deliver right to the consumers’ doorstep. Then, we evolved into consumers picking up milk at their local grocery stores and even big box retailers. Now today, consumers are still picking up milk at the store, but we’re also back to making digital deliveries right to the consumers’ home.”

Lynne Bohan, spokesperson for HP Hood LLC, Lynnfield, Mass., said, “Some of the most significant changes in the milk category over the past century include the manufacturing and packaging technologies to improve quality and extend shelf life.”

One such example is the LightBlock Bottle Hood introduced in 1997. Research shows that when milk is exposed to light, it may cause off flavors to develop by oxidation. Hood’s LightBlock Bottle uses technology that prevents more than 97% of light from penetrating the bottle, which protects the milk from light, helping to maintain its fresh taste.

Since 1999, the company has been using ultra-filtration technology to remove 20% of the water from raw milk to produce its Simply Smart line of 1% and fat-free milks. The reduced water content improves mouthfeel by providing the perception of a higher-fat product. At the same time, this process also concentrates the protein and calcium contents.

“With Simply Smart Milk, you can taste a difference, all the taste without all the fat,” Ms. Bohan said.

Hood also produces the Lactaid brand of lactose-free milk. Lactase enzyme is added to the milk to break down the lactose, making it easier to digest. The availability and variety of lactose-free milks in the United States has been growing in the past 10 years as a way to keep lactose-sensitive and lactose-intolerant consumers drinking dairy rather than switching to non-dairy alternatives.

Prairie Farms, for example, was one of the first companies to offer lactose-free chocolate milk back in 2018. Lactose free is also a key attribute of fairlife milk, which debuted in 2014. The Chicago-based business, now owned by The Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, developed an ultrafiltration process that removes the lactose and much of the sugar in milk, while concentrating the protein and calcium. It was the first multi-serve milk product to stray from the paper carton or typical plastic jug. The shrink sleeved and capped blow-molded recyclable bottle produced needed disruption in the multi-serve milk category, which had been experiencing steady declines since the 1970s.

“While milk is still purchased by more than 90% of households, there are so many beverage choices available to consumers today,” Ms. Kyllo said. “So, as an industry, we must continue to look for opportunities to drive product and packaging innovation that appeals to the wants and needs of today’s consumers.”

With a growing number of consumers seeking more options in their beverage choices, especially when it comes to milk, Ms. Kyllo and her DFA team decided to go where no other beverage manufacturer had gone yet. In late 2019, the cooperative developed Dairy Plus Milk Blends, a refrigerated beverage combining lactose-free dairy milk with almonds or oats. There are sweetened and unsweetened options, as well as a chocolate variety.

Another shakeup in the milk case came in 1997, when Dean Foods Co. answered the question that went unanswered for too long: How do you fit a milk carton into a car’s cup holder?

The company’s Milk Chug became the standard for single-serve fluid milk products. It was portable, resealable and round. The company also used an intermediate shelf-life processing technology to extend the typical 14- to 21-day shelf life of a traditional milk product to a 30- to 40-day shelf life while maintaining fresh milk flavor. The longer shelf life enabled the Milk Chug to be distributed into new markets and distribution channels, including national retail accounts.

Fluid milk product innovation did not start accelerating until the late 1990s, when some federal standards were changed. stonyfield, fairlife, turkey hill and lactaid

Milk Chug brought overall category growth to markets where it was available, contrasting stagnant sales in markets where the product was not. The brand grew as distribution expanded, and was promising in the early years, with 1999 sales showing a 56% increase, from $64.1 million in 1998 to more than $100 million.

Unfortunately, the Milk Chug, later losing that name and going with the Dairy Pure brand, was not enough to keep the business healthy, and Dean Foods filed for bankruptcy in November 2019, dissolving by March 2020. At the time, Dean Foods was the United States’ largest milk producer. The bankruptcy served as a wakeup call to other milk processors to innovate and improve their marketing of milk.

The COVID-19 pandemic further got milk processors thinking. For the first time in nearly 40 years, retail milk sales were up, and not just by a percent or two.

“In 2020, the dairy department grew from being a $54 billion business to generating more than $61 billion, a $7 billion increase,” said Abrielle Backhaus, research coordinator, International Dairy Deli Bakery Association, Madison, Wis. “Milk and natural cheese remained the two sales powerhouses in December and all year.”

Milk added $1.4 billion in sales in 2020 versus the previous year, according to IRI, Chicago. As the country opens and eating out becomes more prevalent, retail milk sales have started to fall.

The dairy industry has started campaigning that milk may be the original superfood, as it delivers 13 nutrients, more than most beverages can claim without fortification. That may not be enough to slow the decline in sales, but it does provide a canvas for the addition of extra nutrition — think probiotics, plant sterols and prebiotic fiber — as well as creativity in flavor formulations, convenience packaging and even specialty claims, such as grass fed, organic and A2 proteins. The next 100 years likely will include many more transformations of the white stuff, with cellular cultured forms of animal-free dairy protein on the horizon.

Fluid milk added $1.4 billion in sales in 2020 over the previous year, according to IRI. ©yingyaipumi - STOCK.ADOBE.COM