Dairy Dialog podcast 18: SFA, Rumiano Cheese and Yofix

By Jim Cornall and Beth Newhart

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: vegan, Cheese, Milk, Dairy

This week’s Dairy Dialog podcast features two interviews from the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, with the Specialty Foods Association, and Rumiano Cheese.

There is also an interview with Yofix Probiotics.

And we have our weekly look at the global dairy markets with Liam Fenton, from INTL FCStone.

SFA’s education mission

The bi-annual Fancy Food Show (WFFS) winter 2019 edition took place in San Francisco this month. Hosted by the Specialty Foods Association (SFA), DairyReporter sat down with SFA president Phil Kafarakis to discuss show updates and specialty food trends to come.

WFFS is the largest West Coast marketplace devoted exclusively to specialty food and beverage producers and buyers, showcasing more than 90,000 specialty food products from 1,400 exhibitors. Kafarakis sees obstacles in retail disruption for the category.

“The channels have blurred so much--restaurants are in retail stores and retail stores are in restaurants. You can’t go anywhere without having a food option,”​ he said.

“As young brands come forward, the advice I give them is to really be focused on who ​[they] are first. What is the ethos of the company? Get as close to that community that shares that same ethos.”

He advises companies that staying tight to their audience, building a community and then going deep within that community is the best way for the supply chain to play itself out.

SFA also debuted a revamped education program at WFFS 2019, hoping to portray a more business-to-business focus to show attendees. Kafarakis shared that SFA’s research following past shows led them to see a “tremendous need and interest in people understanding what is happening in product categories and trends.”

The new education sessions like ‘The Plant-Based Food Revolution in Retail’, How Women are Reshaping the Future of Food’ and How Technology Impacts Our Food System’ all enjoyed a more contemporary and entertaining production experience thanks to new building additions at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco.

SFA plans to expand the education offerings at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City, upcoming June 23-25, 2019. There are limitations to the space available in NYC, but Kafarakis emphasized the importance of providing more sessions and panels at the show.

“The education side of what we do is really important. And as an association, we have got to do a better job at communicating that value proposition,”​ he said.

Adapting a 100-year-old cheese brand

California-based Rumiano Cheese Company celebrates its 100th year of operation in 2019, and CEO Joe Baird spoke with DairyReporter about company highs and lows and what’s ahead for the specialty cheese market.

After getting its start in Sacramento in 1919, Rumiano grew to be the largest cheese company in the US during World War II. Today it has outposts along the west coast and works with 24 independent farmers in the California milk shed that average more than 300 days per year on pasture.

Rumiano 2

According to Baird, the environment is well-suited for the high-end quality of cheese Rumiano produces, and believes they were “pioneers in the organic space because it’s relatively easy to have super high-quality organic in a place that always has grass.”

The tenuous dairy market in the US has been a point of concern for the company, with Baird calling it incredibly difficult and challenging to weather the stress from high tariffs, trade wars and the ongoing government shutdown.

“We get out of bed every day trying to figure out how we keep 24 farms viable,” ​he said.

But he stays optimistic, and believes that new categories of better-for-you cheese is on the horizon. Beyond conventional and organic, there are now considerations for non-GMO and pasture-raised, among others.

New for Rumiano Cheese this year is a look into out-of-the-box flavors and functional ingredients, including superfoods like elderberry and black currants. They have also started quantitative testing with high-intensity, grass-fed milk and DNA testing for soil health.

Yofix starts full production of plant-based yogurt alternatives using zero-waste process

Yofix Probiotics Ltd., the winner of PepsiCo’s European Nutrition Greenhouse Program 2018, has launched its first dairy-free, soy-free yogurt alternative line with three fruit flavors.

The products are based on a clean-label formula made from just a few natural ingredients. It is traditionally fermented and contains live probiotic cultures plus the prebiotic fibers that feed them.

The new product line has a low carbon footprint since there is no use of cow milk and, unlike almond or cashew, does not require a great amount of water. The production process is designed to ensure zero waste. All raw materials utilized in production remain in the final product.

Yofix said it offers a new-generation yogurt alternative that hits all the marks for flavor, texture, nutrition, and eco-friendliness. It has no added sugars, flavors, colors, or preservatives.

ONLY Plant-Based Yogurt Alternative 2

Behind Yofix is Ronen Lavee, an agricultural mechanical engineer with lactose intolerance. Lavee returned to Israel after eight years in Asia, and could not find a dairy-free yogurt alternative with good flavor and texture. He experimented with more than 100 fermented formulas based on natural ingredients until he found the “Bio 5 formula.” It uses no added sugars, preservatives, or colors.

Typically, gums and thickeners are added to dairy-free yogurts to stabilize them, but the Bio 5 formula, together with Yofix’s advanced technology, created similar texture and stability of yogurt, without additives. Moreover, since dairy-free yogurts often lack key vitamins and minerals, fortification is required to match dairy yogurt’s nutritional value.

“I did not want to compromise on taste or nutrition in the product, nor compromise on the natural aspect​,” Lavee, CEO and founder of Yofix, said.

“The ingredients used in our products are simply grains, seeds, fruit and live cultures.”

 Steve Grun, CEO of Yofix, said the product will be launched globally.

“And, we will be developing new plant-based dairy substitutes for milk, yogurt drinks, cream cheese, coffee creamers and even ice cream. Our proprietary manufacturing technology and formulations are highly flexible and require minimum investment for versatility,”​ Grun said.

The company launched the plant-based yogurt alternative line with Strauss Dairies in Israel last month under the ONLY brand in three flavors to target demand for vegan, flexitarian, and lactose-intolerance populations. The start-up was the first company to join The Kitchen, the leading food-tech incubator and seed investor in Israel, and part of the Strauss Group Ltd., the main investor in Yofix.

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