Imagine a cheese-inspired snack food that actually is made from real cheese!
Many of us love these crunchy treats that tout themselves as being “cheesy,” but they often are far from the real thing. While some snacks do contain cheese-based powders, Dairy Management Inc.’s product research team, led by Emil Nashed and done in partnership with the checkoff-funded university dairy research centers program, believed we could do better.
That is the inspiration behind discovering opportunities that can grow dairy’s presence in the booming snack food market where we see tremendous innovation in flavors, formats, and packaging.
No refrigerator needed
DMI’s product research team has played an important part in responding to consumer needs with flavorful and healthy snacks and our research partners at Cornell University have developed a promising technology called “microwave vacuum drying.” A simplified explanation is this procedure allows us to create shelf-stable cheese snacks and ingredients made from real dairy.
We may see a time when snack companies begin touting dairy’s protein benefits or overall nutrition content. Theses snacks aren’t just delicious, they’re nutritious!
Since many cheese snacks are refrigerated, this technology provides a huge growth opportunity for the e-commerce channel (think Amazon sales) and exports with refrigeration no longer a critical necessity. These products also hold the potential to open doors to new audiences, including Millennial and Gen Z consumers, who are seeking solutions to meet their health, lifestyle, and belief-driven needs. Our product research team’s work aligns perfectly with the broader checkoff strategy of having these consumers see dairy in a whole new way and delivering the benefits they are seeking.
Our efforts also align with another checkoff strategy, which is to drive sales abroad through the leadership of the checkoff-founded U.S. Dairy Export Council. Maintaining quality is a high priority in assuring a steady flow of our dairy foods into the international marketplace. While refrigeration has been an effective tool in helping to protect the quality of U.S. cheese that is exported, additional technologies can lead to more growth opportunities. This is why we supported research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to address the extended shelf-life performance of cheese.
As a result, we created a toolbox for cheesemakers to show them how to extend shelf life. Resources that are now available to them include:
• High-pressure processing (pasteurizing without heating)
• Ingredient technology
• New processing equipment
• Ways to improve cheesemaking efficiency and new approaches
• Freezing/low temperature storage
These approaches serve to maintain the quality of cheese so it functions as it should once it leaves the U.S. We want that wonderful stretch of Mozzarella to perform the same way in China as it does here in Chicago.
Our efforts, technologies, and resources done in partnership with our talented research center network are helping to secure dairy’s place here in the U.S., while working to keep us competitive globally.
It’s an exciting time to see where the research will lead us next to offer more dairy in more innovative ways that can meet the needs of an ever-changing consumer landscape.