Category

Beverages

Why Eating Your Coffee is Smart

For coffee drinkers, that morning Cup of Joe is a ritual that won’t soon be abandoned, but what happens if you eat your morning cup instead of drink it? For centuries, people have been brewing beans for consumption (with popularity booming since the Boston Tea Party in 1773, when America switched from tea to coffee in nearly one fell swoop) and now it’s practically a faux pas not to drink the stuff. But even before we were meeting for coffee dates and swigging Starbuck’s before a big meeting, the bean was considered somewhat of a magic fruit.

The History: Eating Whole Coffee Beans

Let’s take a little trip back in time. Coffee can trace its roots back to the ancient coffee forests on the Ethiopian plateau. Legend has it that the goat herder Kaldi first discovered the effects of coffee when he noticed that his goats became energetic after eating the berries off a certain tree. Kaldi shared this information with the abbot of the local monastery who began turning these berries into a drink that kept him alert during evening prayers. Slowly, word moved to the Arabian Peninsula, where coffee cultivation and trade began.

The Bean: What Happens if You Eat Coffee Grounds

What exactly is the coffee bean? It’s the seed of the coffee fruit (also called a cherry). During processing, the cherry, the red exterior coating, is removed and the seed inside is dried into raw green coffee beans. These green beans are then roasted at various levels and become the mocha colored beans we know and love. When you grind these beans and combine them with hot water, you’re diluting the effects of the bean. So eating the bean has an amplified effect — you’re getting all of the caffeine and antioxidants, not just what drips through the filter. The active ingredients in coffee beans are also absorbed more quickly through the mucus membranes in the mouth when you chew them whole rather than when you sip their diluted counterparts.

The Benefits of Coffee

Not only does coffee give us a much needed pep in our step that allows to tackle the day, it also reduces the risk of liver disease, skin cancer, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and lessens the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Coffee is also the number one source of antioxidants for Americans, which remove free radicals from your bloodstream, and help to prevent cancer, cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, and immune dysfunction. Eating whole coffee beans helps you absorb not only the caffeine but also the ever important antioxidants faster. Plus, caffeine is credited with boosting memory consolidation, relieving post workout muscle pain, and increasing levels of dopamine. It’s, quite simply, a magic berry! And chewing coffee beans deliver your caffeine and antioxidants more rapidly than sipping your morning cup.(We don’t however, recommend eating coffee grounds.)

Where to Get Your Fix

As the benefits of caffeine continue to be touted, more companies are putting it into more places. Sure, you could grab a handful of beans and munch away, but that might be just a bit too hard core for some. Personally, a chocolate covered coffee bean goes a long way, but energy bars are your best bet for getting portable coffee on-the-go alongside proteins and fats that help you digest the caffeine slower and steadier. Eat Your Coffee, an organic, vegan, and gluten-free bar is infused with an entire cup of real coffee. Munch on it in Mocha Latte, Coconut Mocha, and Caramel Macchiato flavors that include good-for-you ingredients like cashews, oats, coconut, chia seeds, dates, coffee, quinoa, and cacao nibs. Coffee Thins, similarly, are a sweet treat that convert 100% of the whole coffee bean into an edible ingredient that delivers on taste and caffeine.

You may not be ready to give up your morning cup of coffee just yet, but these edible options are a great way to get an extra caffeine boost on the go.

Eat Your Botox

Collagen, the protein found in the connective tissues between animal muscles, is seeping its way into the fitness and beauty industries as one of the healthy sources of protein for athletes and as supplements to reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Companies are developing and marketing pills, powders, foods, and beverages claiming to improve your skin’s appearance and help refuel muscles after a workout. More and more women over thirty, athletes and body-builders are consuming collagen products in an attempt to change their appearance. But do these products really work?

Collagen for Skin

It makes sense on first look that ingesting collagen would make a difference in your skin’s appearance. As we get older, the collagen in our skin starts to break down, causing thinner skin, fine lines, and wrinkles. Companies like BioSil and Vital Proteins are manufacturing supplements to help create younger-looking skin and minimize the signs of aging. You can even find collagen in foods like fish, meat, red, dark green and orange vegetables, berries, soy, and citrus fruits. And many skincare companies are developing collagen-rich moisturizers.

There are several studies touting the benefits of collagen for skin health. This study published in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology showed that the collagen supplement, Verisol, improved skin elasticity and reduced eye wrinkles by 20 percent after eight weeks. The thought is that, when consumed, active collagen fragments are absorbed into your body and circulate through your bloodstream to your skin. But other studies and specialists argue that collagen is a protein, so when you ingest it, your digestive system breaks it up before it gets a chance to reach your skin — much like eating a steak.

The final verdict? It’s difficult to tell how much of the collagen you eat or ingest through a supplement will actually be absorbed through your body and reach your skin. But it can’t hurt to up our natural collagen intake through diet. And applying collagen topically to the skin can (temporarily, at least) reduce the appearance of those pesky lines. Using a moisturizer with sunblock every day and eating clean may still be the best ways to help skin look younger.

A Healthy Source of Protein

It’s no secret that good health and fitness rely on the body’s building block: protein. After a tough workout, your muscles need healthy sources of protein, plus other nutrients, for recovery and rebuilding. It makes sense, then, that supplementing with collagen, a type of protein, would be beneficial to a fitness buff and could aid in enhancing physical performance.

Collagen is a vital building block for bones, joints, and connective tissues (taking collagen can also help to improve bone and joint health). When we’re building muscle, we can’t overlook the importance of connective tissue in ensuring a strong and youthful body.

Adding Collagen to your Diet

Modern food processing focuses on lean, skinless, boneless meat — the parts of the animal which does not contain much collagen — so we’re actually not consuming collagen from most of our usual sources of protein when we choose these cuts. Found in bones and connective tissue, most of us can easily consume collagen in the form of natural, unskimmed bone broth. Consuming collagen can help reduce inflammation caused by running and lifting weights, promote joint health, reduce injury (especially to the ligaments and tendons), maintain nitrogen balance, and reduce body fat. Some say it also can benefit your gut’s biome, Turns out there is logic in drinking chicken broth when you are not feeling your best – it is likely high in collagen.

While there are many powders and pills that you can find at your local health food stores to help add collagen to your regiment, Ti Tonics are an easy way to sip your collagen. Adding this hip new beverage to your diet provides a non-dairy source of protein and collagen with a little hit from white tea and no added sugars. Or reap the benefits from a daily dose of bone broth!

Kombucha: Fermented Tea Makes Probiotics Easier to Swallow

Fermented Tea

Kombucha, which is fermented tea, has been growing in popularity in the United States recently. But the practice of fermenting food dates back millennia—both as a method of food safety and food preservation. Fermented foods are a staple of many cultures. Sauerkraut is German, kimchi is Korean, natto (fermented soybean) is Japanese, Kombucha is Chinese (maybe – kombucha’s origins are unclear), and the list goes on and on. The reason for the recent popularity? Gut health.  The fermented tea includes live probiotic strains like Lactobacillus.

Kombucha Benefits

Recently, researchers and nutritionists have been shouting the health benefits of probiotics from the rooftops too (see: buzzwords like “gut health” and “good bacteria”). Certain living bacteria is good for your digestive tract, and your digestive tract is the foundation of the immune system. In fact, fermented foods seem especially promising when it comes to helping prevent many Western diseases, such as heart disease and obesity, likely caused by our broader reliance on pasteurized and processed foods.

Such diseases continue to rise. But at the same time, consumers continue to get more educated and more concerned about the effects of different foods on their health. No wonder the market for fermented foods is expected to grow at a healthy pace of about 25% per year until 2020.

Grab-and-Go Probiotics

Fermented tea may be especially popular right now for the mere fact that it’s a beverage. It’s literally easier to swallow for folks who are new to the world of fermented “foods” and it’s inherently more convenient. You can grab a bottle of kombucha and go, and you’re serving your body well with just a few swigs. Plus, if the taste doesn’t suit, it can be easily (and healthily) flavored with fruits or fresh-squeezed lemon, just like any other tea.

There are also plenty of recipes that mix kombucha with alcohol. I think it seems like an odd combination, as the health benefits of the former are arguably cancelled out by the latter. But hey, to each their own.

The fact that we’re now pouring alcohol in our kombucha, though, perhaps speaks to its popularity and marketability more than anything else. Any kombucha you buy will likely be branded as “live” or “gut-healing” or full of probiotics. The trendiness of the drink is also obvious by the fact that some—like this 24-pack  from Latta Kombucha—are also branded as organic and gluten-free. Seems like those labels should be obvious, right?

Despite the added layers, the bottom line is pretty simple: Consumers are tuning in more and more, not just to the old, shallow, health-centric focus around calories, but to a deeper health that starts in the gut. The popularity of an old, Chinese tea drink to American consumers is just the latest proof point.

One Nation, Under Starbucks

Packaged coffee drinks

The US single serve, packaged coffee drink market has been growing at double digits for the last four years. With coffee sales rising, the industry bloomed an additional 14% in 2016 to a market size of $2.54 billion. (Yes, that’s a “B.”) Ever since Starbuck’s launched Doubleshot cans and Frappuccino bottles of serving-size coffee over a decade ago, they have dominated the market, scooping up 75% of the marketplace. Dunkin’ Donuts, a late entrant to the ready-to-drink game, has expanded its line of consumer packaged goods and launched a line of iced coffee in February to compete with the King of Coffee. Starbucks is likely to notice a score of new players going after a piece of the ready-to-drink pie: cold brewed coffees. Blended with coconut milk, brewed with coconut water or made without any added natural or artificial sweetener, these players are going after a consumer who is looking for the caffeine buzz but without the dairy, sugar, and chemicals. Or maybe they are just looking for a BPA-free package.

Organic Gemini Tigernut Horchata

Horchata, the creamy drink that dates to eighth century Spain, has a dedicated following in the US particularly among Hispanic consumers who make it with milk or rice milk. Organic Gemini takes the drink back to its roots, producing a line of TigerNut Horchata. Cultivated in Spain and west Africa, tigernuts are a type of tuber, rich in prebiotic fiber and are the historical “milk” used in horchata. Certified organic and sealed in a BPA-free bottle, Coffee flavor horchata is made with fair trade Peruvian coffee beans, cold brewed with biodynamic water to which maple syrup is added. It’s creamy, it’s sweet and the cold brew process reduces the acidity of the final product. Add a pop of nutritive value and an equivalent amount of caffeine as a regular cup of coffee and you begin to understand how coffee becomes something more than energy. It’s fuel.

Wonderfuel Coconut Oil MCT Superdrink

Speaking of fuel, Wonderfuel embraces the superfood status of coconut in its Coconut Oil MCT Superdrink. Organic and non-GMO, Wonderfuel’s Coffee flavor is made with fair trade, cold brewed coffee and 7 grams of coconut oil MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides), cinnamon and no added sugar. Wonderfuel is fuel. MCTs are used in medicine to treat food absorption disorders (I see you, celiac disease) and are used by athletes to decrease body fat and increase lean muscle mass. If you have not already embraced coconut oil and coconut milk as alternatives to dairy, this version of ready-to-drink coffee may tip you into the plant-based beverage column.

Pop & Bottle Cold Brew Coffee

Made without emulsifiers (like soy lecithin or carrageenan) and with certified organic almond milk, Cold Brew Coffee from Pop & Bottle also commits to a high level of almond milk – 20% in each bottle – killing the industry standard of 2-3%. Yes, organic almonds are more expensive but all that extra “milk” comes through in the taste. It’s fresh. It’s clean. And there is a rich sweetness from Medjool dates. The West Coast company paired with San Francisco-based Ritual Coffee for its beans. Since Pop & Bottle’s brews are more perishable than others (shelf life is 2-3 weeks, according to their website), the company only ships to western states, this partnership may guarantee the same rabid following that Ritual Roasters enjoys. For a highly perishable product, that is key.

Beach Beverages Beach Coffee

Coconut is also a feature ingredient in Beach Coffee. Here, the coffee is cold brewed with coconut water. “We do this because it makes Beach Coffee/Tea slight sweet and silky smooth without any added sugar or milk,”  says Josh Horsely of Beach Beverages. And it has the nutrient benefits of coconut water – it’s rich in electrolytes like potassium and magnesium. Lighter in color and translucent, similar to a brewed tea, Beach Coffee has a smooth character, a mere 45 calories, and as much caffeine as a regular cup of joe.

 

It is unlikely that any of these companies can catch Starbucks dominance of the single serve, packaged coffee drinks market in the near term but the on-going embrace by the American consumer of coffee in portion-sized bottles is not slowing. As soy milk and almond milk now have a place next to the whole milk and Sweet-n-Low in coffee shops around the country, room for vegan, plant-based, ready-to-drink coffees will find their place in the cold case. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

 

To Eat is Human; to Eat Spicy Foods is Divine

spicy foods, sriracha

First there was chipotle. No, not the company, but a jalapeño that’s been smoked and dried. Dusted onto potato chips and sneaked into sauce, chipotle and its subtle, smoky heat nudged its way into consumer packaged foods more than a decade ago. I credit this one small slice of spice for softening the American palate for the chile wave to come. From Thai chile to harissa, gochujang to habanero, we are eating it up and the spicier and more spiced the better. Predictions of Sriracha’s imminent demise a few years ago proved to be totally overblown. In today’s packaged beverage market, companies are launching product lines to capture the customer that seeks out spicy and spiced, and are including at least one heavily spiced or spicy product in their assortment.

Indian Spices are Ancient but New Again

Chaasi

As America becomes more diverse, ethnic flavors are becoming commonplace, moving into packaged foods and beverages. Chaasi developed a line of ‘Indian-style spiced yoghurt drinks’ that riff on lassi, a spiced yogurt drink from the Indian subcontinent. Blueberry Cinnamon Rose has a mild flavor but the added sea salt, as in a traditional salted lassi, gives the dish a pleasant savoriness. Cashew Spiced Chai blends ginger and black pepper for a hit of warm heat.

Turveda

Building on the health benefits of turmeric, a rhizome ground into powder and used as a seasoning across India, Turveda developed a line of “curcumin rich beverages” (curcumin is the beneficial substance in turmeric). Built around the power of Ayurveda, an ancient Indian system of natural healing, Turveda incorporates traditional Ayurvedic spices into its turmeric sparkling beverages. Seasoned with ginger and black pepper, two other ingredients that add warm spiciness to food, these drinks offer a window into the changing perception of spice in the beverage category.

 

The Juice Movement Helped Normalize Spicy Heat

Modern Alkeme

Packaged in a black-wrapped bottle that looks fresh in the refrigerated section of the store (more on that soon), Modern Alkemes line of tea-based tonics are adapted from an ancient Japanese recipe. These drinks were designed to be used as part of a cleanse to eliminate toxins but are making their way into daily use or as “maintenance,” post-cleanse. Sure, the base is mildly sweet coconut water but the added ghost chile pepper gives the drink an “unforgettable hint of spicy.”

Sap on Tap

Ginger and lime were once considered seasonings only for Asian meals. Turns out the powerful one-two of sour lime and spicy ginger make for what’s next in water. Sap on Tap built Maple Water with Ginger and Lime flavor around its classic maple water base which softens the pungency of the other two ingredients. But the Maple Water with Ginger and Lime is punchy without being too aggressive. It makes a nice intro to the world of spiced and spicy beverages.

 

Spiced foods, those containing aromatic or pungent seasonings, and spicy foods, those seasoned with chilies, are on a roll. There are health benefits to eating these foods which may be driving their appeal but the greater exposure of most Americans to a wide range of cultures and flavors is also helping build interest in these foods and beverages. I expect to see an even greater range of well-seasoned and spiced beverages and packaged foods in the future.

 

Around the World, Coffee is the Ultimate Social Snack

coffee culture, coffee evolution

 

Coffee and  coffee culture have gone through a revolution in the US. Half a century ago, when coffee was a commodity, we drank thin, uninspired coffee out of Styrofoam cups or at a diner. Back then, the drink’s taste was not important but rather coffee’s value as a morning energizer or social connector. My Mom kept a pot going all day, as much for sipping as to have, as Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory might say, a hot beverage ready to serve guests. Coffee was morning and all-day energizer. Freshness and flavor were secondary.

Fast-forward through instant Sanka to dark roast Peet’s Coffee to today, when America finds itself in the midst of what is called coffee’s third wave. That is, a new generation of roasters and cafes that consider coffee an artisanal product. Of course, coffee culture varies from region to region across in the US. And American coffee culture is now available worldwide through the success of Starbucks and its thousands of cafes. But coffee culture varies from country to country. No matter where you go, coffee is the ultimate social snack. Here are just a few experiences of coffee culture outside the US.

Chile

From office break rooms to family get-togethers, Chileans embrace Nescafé. A product of the Swiss packaged goods conglomerate Nestlé, Nescafé IS coffee in Chile. Served in portion-size packets, the instant coffee granules are poured into a cup to which boiling water is added. Milk and sugar are served alongside. Though all restaurants will serve you a Nescafé coffee if you ask for coffee, if you request “coffee coffee,” an espresso may appear.

Turkey

The secret to Turkish coffee is in the beans, which are ground to a very fine powder before brewing. Brewed not once but as many as four times in an ibrik, a small, copper pot with a long handle for pouring, the dark liquid is fragrant and thick and, if sugar is added after the first boil, viscous. Let the coffee rest for a moment to allow the grounds to sift to the bottom of the ibrik before serving in demitasse cups. Drunk all day in cafes, coffee is also a preferred after dinner drink.

Italy

A hop and a skip across the wide Mediterranean Sea from Turkey, Italy also prefers coffee finely ground and served in small cups. Anytime except at breakfast, that is. At breakfast, an espresso is mixed with milk for a cappuccino. For the remainder of the day, through ground a bit coarser and brewed three fewer times than Turkey’s four, espresso is the preferred way to drink coffee. Cappuccinos are ordered in the morning, when there is time to sit and linger, while espresso is a “to go” drink, served at gas stations and cafes where the only option is to stand at a table to enjoy your demitasse hot drink.

Mexico

Café de la Olla, or pot coffee, has roots in 18th century Mexico. Originally made with corn masa, a finely ground corn flour, the drink known as atole is swirled with cinnamon and piloncillo, an unrefined cane sugar, before heating. Whether or not coffee is added to the brew, atole is an important drink at breakfast and at dinner. As in Chile, instant coffee is important in regions where coffee is not grown and atole is also made with Nescafé.

 

No matter where you live, coffee is a social creature. The ritual of drinking coffee brings people together to share office gossip and family news. Coffee culture is important ritual in slowing down and enjoying the scene at a market square and a part of waking up. Whether made with artisanal beans or instant powder, coffee is the ultimate social snack.

Is Juice the Best Electrolyte Drink?

nature's hydration

As consumers become more aware of their daily nutritional needs, the race is on to create and sell the best electrolyte drinks. Electrolytes, minerals that conduct electrical impulses in the body, are an important part of human health. Minerals such as magnesium, calcium, sodium bicarbonate, potassium, and sodium chloride control fluid balance in the body as well as support muscle contraction and energy generation. No wonder these micro-elements are so sought after by hard core athletes, weekend warriors and anyone interested in good health.

Electrolytes are naturally found in many foods as well as water from mineral-rich sources.  Aware of the do-good effects of drinks with electrolytes, some brands are shifting their brand identity away from natural, a word that is wildly overused to the point of becoming meaningless, to functional, a term that still resonates with consumers. And why not? Fruits are naturally rich in electrolytes. Bananas, coconuts and apricots and great sources of potassium, making juices based on these fruits a natural to enter the functional beverage category.

Cherry Juice

Cheribundi, the cherry people, urge all of us to “discover the powerful benefits of tart cherries.” Cherries, a natural source of melatonin, can help “regulate your body’s sleep cycle naturally.” Packed with anthocyanins, antioxidants that give cherries their deep red color and offer anti-inflammatory properties, cherries are destined to be included in more functional foods and beverage blends. Until then, Cheribundi built a few cherry juices targeting the wellness consumer:

Tart Cherry Rebuild

Powered with eight grams of whey protein, a dairy protein that contains a range of amino acids, Tart Cherry Rebuild is targeted at athletes. The anti-inflammatory properties and amino acids will help tired muscles recover.

Tart Cherry Relax

L-theanine, an amino acid naturally found in green tea and used to treat high blood pressure and anxiety, is added to Tart Cherry Relax. In partnership with cherry’s natural melatonin, the combo is designed to promote deep relaxation.

Coconut Water (Coconut Juice)

Though coconut water endures as a juice trend, few companies market coconut water’s natural electrolytes. ZICO Premium Coconut Water, however, embraces coconut water’s nutritional profile. “…we’re excited by the fact that ZICO® Coconut Water contains 5 electrolytes: potassium, magnesium, sodium, calcium, and phosphorus, that help keep you hydrated.” The only electrolyte missing from ZICO’s nutrition profile is sodium bicarbonate.

And, according to one 2007 study, coconut water enhanced with sodium was as good as drinking a commercial sports drink for post-exercise rehydration with better fluid tolerance.

No matter what beverage you select to hydrate and rehydrate, the best electrolyte drinks contain all of the electrolytes for muscle recovery and hydration. And, as ever, be mindful of sugar, added or otherwise. It won’t matter one bit how functional a juice is if you overindulge and risk sugar shock. Then that functional drink is little more than junk.

 

Does Alkalinity in Water Matter?

alkaline water

Much has been written about eating a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of water. One hydrogen molecule plus two oxygen molecules, water is, quite literally, life itself. Our bodies are almost 80% water. Water is so essential to life that we can live far longer without food than we can without water. Water companies have long touted their products’ free-from status – that is, free-from chemicals and other elements that stem from our grungy modern lives. More recently, water companies have begun to express a new measure of differentiation from the competition: their alkalinity level.

What is alkalinity in water? And should we give a damn?

Alkalinity generally refers to water’s ability to neutralize acid. Instead of giving a sixth grade science lesson about pH levels, let’s just say that our bodies are slightly alkaline and prefer to stay that way for optimum health. The more alkaline the water, the more effective it will be to counteract the effects of high acid foods. Our on-the-go lifestyles demand foods and beverages that help our bodies get back into balance. Water, especially water that is naturally alkaline, can help. (Tap water is usually between 7 and 8 pH). A few water companies are at the bleeding edge of water, sourcing from places as obscure as they are interesting. Here’s what’s new in this essential drink that we often take for granted.

Kona Deep

Kona Deep’s water takes an epic 1,000 year journey from the glaciers of Greenland and Iceland through the deepest parts of the world’s oceans to Hawaii’s Big Island. Along the way, it picks up an abundance of trace minerals and electrolytes, including potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium, all alkaline minerals. Reverse osmosis desalinates the water after it is pumped to the surface, giving Deep Kona a pH of 6.7, or slightly below the neutral 7 pH.

Waiakea Hawaiian Volcanic Water

After flowing down from the 14,000-foot heights of Mauna Loa volcano, Waiakea Hawaiian Volcanic Water picks up enough minerals to measure a pH of 8.8. For an upset stomach, the high level of natural bicarbonate that contributes to the higher pH can be beneficial to relieve some symptoms.

Mountain Valley Spring Water

Pulled from a natural spring in the Ouachita Mountains of western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma, Mountain Valley Spring Water has a pH of 7.8 and it rivals Waikea for its support of digestive health. Though the company does not specify mineral levels in its water, it does state that its waters are sodium free.

Aqua Carpatica Water

Sourced from the Carpathian Mountains of central Europe, rich in magnesium and calcium from the rocks that sustain those craggy peaks, Aqua Carpatica has an alkalinity pH of 8.2. That’s also above 7, the pH considered neutral. The boost comes from the high level of alkaline minerals in the water, calcium and magnesium. (Sodium and potassium are the other two alkaline minerals.)

Baikalsea Company

Water from the bottom of an ancient Mongolian lake? You bet. Trapped under the Sayan Mountains for millions of years, this water is mineral-rich, including significant sodium, an essential alkalinizing mineral. The company states its water is either neutral or slightly acidic “depending on the soil cover around the wells.”

Crystal Springs Water

Crystal Springs family of brands includes VOSS Water from Norway. VOSS still water has a 6 ph. Crystal Springs’s FIJI Water is filtered through volcanic rock and has a 7.3 ph.

Higher alkalinity equates to a smoother mouthfeel, attributed to the higher mineral content, especially silicia, of more alkaline water. And, though tap water is free and generally clean, it does not contain the mineral content of these bottled waters. Certainly not bicarbonate. But that comes in a little yellow box…

Milk Gets Real to Combat the Rise of Alternative Milks

many choices of dairy milk for consumers to choose from

Milk. We’ve all seen the ads touting the benefits of milk – lots of calcium, happy cows, happier humans – yet dairy milk sales are down while non-dairy milk sales are up. Dairy producers are not taking that detail lying down and are competing with new products targeting niche consumers. All types of milk have equivalent amounts of calcium and vitamin D. How are producers marketing dairy milk? And what products are dairy producers offering consumers to reverse that trend?

Organic Milk – In the Beginning

I would argue that the organic movement really took off because of consumer awareness that the chemicals rBST and rBGH are used to stimulate milk production in lactating female cows. Growth hormones such as rBST and rBGH have nasty impacts on humans and they are not permitted in organic milk. Ditto antibiotics and pesticides. (I don’t have to spell out the problems with growth hormones, antibiotics, or pesticides, do I?) Throw in access to organic pasture (no chemicals sprayed here) and higher levels of conjugated linoleic acids (those good fats you keep hearing about) than conventional milk and you can see why the industry grew from 6,000 cows in 1994 to 255,000 cows in 2014.

Grassmilk marketing dairy milk organic

Organic Grassmilk on the shelf at a NorCal Whole Foods

Grass-fed Milk – Next Gen Organic Milk

Only 30% of a cow’s diet must be grass to be considered organic (among other factors). To be labeled “grass-fed” or “grassmilk,” the producing cow must eat only grass. That means no GMO corn, GMO soy, or other junk that is fed to cows that are conventionally raised. The boon to the consumer that drinks grass-fed milk over conventional milk is double the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and five times more conjugated linoleic acids, a “good” omega-3 fat, than conventional milk. Will this nutritional advantage be enough to bring consumers back to cow milk dairy?

Low and Slow Milk – Old School Meets new School

Unlike other conventional milk producers, Top Line Milk Company in California’s Central Valley “does not separate, standardize or homogenize their milk.” The farm pasteurizes at their on-site creamery using the “low and slow” pasteurization method, or 30 minutes at 145°F (versus 161°F for 15 seconds for high heat pasteurization or two seconds at 280°F for ultra-pasteurized milk). The process is gentler on the milk and, like A2 milk, is said to be easier to digest. But the main draw is its old-fashioned style. The cream naturally rises to the top of this only whole milk product line and the low-heat pasteurization and swift cow-to-bottle, on-farm processing preserves the fresh flavor of the milk.

A2 Milk – Say What?

The latest entrant to the US milk scene is A2 milk. Sourced from the A2 Milk Company in New Zealand and available in the United States at some Whole Foods and Safeway markets, A2 milk speaks to consumers concerned about the type of dairy protein in milk, especially those who are unable to digest or are allergic to casein.

There are two types of milk protein: whey, which accounts for about 20% of milk’s protein, and casein, which accounts for about 80% of milk’s protein. Casein is further defined by its long amino acid chain. With A1, the beta casein histidine is at position 67 in the chain. A2 has the beta casein proline in that position.

A2 marketing dairy milk

A2 milk on the shelf at a NorCal Whole Foods

The type of casein found in a cow’s milk is passed down from generation to generation and varies with the breed. Holsteins, the predominant cattle breed raised in the United States, harbor A1 beta caseins. Other breeds, such as Guernseys, mostly harbor A2s. And A2 milk does not produce inflammatory compounds in the human digestive system.

The consequence of this small distinction in amino acid format may soon reverberate throughout the dairy industry. For anyone who has burped a baby, dealt with the digestive distress of intolerance to dairy milk or other maladies linked to inflammation, making cow’s milk more digestible would have incredible benefits to human health. Or the whole thing may be debunked and chalked up to effective dairy milk marketing. Until then, consumers can take comfort in knowing that the dairy industry is changing with the times, staying up-to-date on trends and competing for the milk consumer’s dollar.