Dairy Dialog podcast 91: Norseland, EcoTensil, Re:THINK Ice Cream, General Mills

By Jim Cornall contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: General mills, A2 milk, Collagen, Ice cream, Sustainability, Yoghurt, Yogurt, Tine, Cheese, plant based

This week we have another long Dairy Dialog podcast, with four guests: Lisa Harrison, senior brand manager at Norseland in the UK; and three interviews from the US, EcoTensil creator and CEO, Peggy Cross; George Haymaker III, founder of Re:THINK Ice Cream; and Jay Watson, sourcing engagement manager for global sustainability at General Mills.

We also have our weekly look at the global dairy markets with Liam Fenton from StoneX.

General Mills launches regenerative dairy pilot in Michigan

General Mills, the maker of Yoplait, Liberté and Mountain High yogurt products, has announced the start of a three-year regenerative dairy pilot in western Michigan, a key sourcing region for its fluid milk supply.

General Mills has partnered with consultants Understanding Ag and dairy cooperative Foremost Farms to pilot regenerative practices and provide support to participating dairy farmers. Implementing regenerative practices on dairy farms requires a holistic approach to managing land, cows and manure.

This is the third regenerative agriculture pilot that the company has launched – and the first for its dairy ingredient supply – since making a commitment in 2019 to advance regenerative agriculture practices on 1m acres of farmland by 2030.

“In order for regenerative agriculture to be successful, it must first be economically viable for farmers as a lever to help build operational and financial resilience,”​ said Mary Jane Melendez, chief sustainability and social impact officer at General Mills.

“With this pilot, General Mills is committed to ensuring that the transition to regenerative practices will be beneficial to our dairy partners and enhance the overall health of their farms. We’re excited to be working closely with our supplier Foremost Farms and consultants at Understanding Ag to help us get this work under way and measure the impact.” 

The three dairy farms in the pilot, which collectively manage more than 14,000 acres, were chosen for their proximity to General Mills’ dairy manufacturing facility in Reed City, Michigan, which produces a variety of Yoplait products.

As the pilot begins, Understanding Ag consultants will meet with each dairy farmer to co-develop and implement custom regenerative management plans for a portion of their operation. Throughout the pilot, partners will monitor data and measure impacts to soil, biodiversity, water, animal well-being and farm profitability.

“As an industry, dairy farms have been especially hard hit in recent months and their resiliency is being tested. We believe regenerative agriculture builds and strengthens farmer resilience so they can better withstand pressures, be it societal, financial or environmental,”​ said Doug Martin, president of the General Mills U.S. yogurt business.

“Consumers increasingly want to support brands and companies they trust are acting as environmental stewards. This pilot with Yoplait is a great example of the role our brands can play in unleashing the scale of our supply chain – supporting farmers, promoting animal welfare, and improving the health of the planet, all while delivering a great-tasting product.”

Regenerative agriculture is a holistic, principles-based approach to farming and ranching that seeks to strengthen ecosystem and community resilience. These practices pull carbon from the air and store it in the soil and can help the land be more resilient to extreme weather events. Additionally, regenerative agriculture practices help increase water infiltration, improve nutrient cycling, and reduce soil erosion, which have been shown to positively impact the quality of nearby lakes, rivers and streams.

These benefits can translate to farmers by ensuring more nutrients stay in the field to be absorbed by plants rather than lost to wind or water erosion. Regenerative practices on dairy farms can look slightly different than row crop farms, specifically incorporating adaptive grazing on pastures and cropland. 

"In the midst of very challenging times for dairy farmers, the Michigan pilot is designed to substantially build soil health, mitigate harmful runoff and erosion, restore natural ecosystem function, and revitalize farm and rural economies,”​ said Dr Allen Williams, sixth generation farmer and rancher and founding partner at Understanding Ag.

“These practices will lead to a cleaner environment, healthy climate, and improved quality of life for the farmers themselves."

Greg Schlafer, president and CEO, Foremost Farms USA, said, “Our goal around sustainability is to measure stewardship and member-owner success so we continually explore partnerships with industry experts and customers.

“The Regenerative Dairy Pilot Program in Michigan gives our farmers the chance to reduce water and wind erosion all while providing top quality feed to their animals. A highly nutritious diet helps ensure healthy, productive cows, which in turn contributes to a stronger bottom line on the farm.”  

Additionally, General Mills is supporting a team of leading researchers from Cornell University and the University of Wisconsin to model holistic impacts from change in farm management practices. This team is developing data-driven tools to help dairies build resiliency in their businesses and the dairy ecosystem. Models will be adapted and used to inform actions in the three-year Michigan pilot.

The announcement builds upon the company’s commitment to advance regenerative agriculture on 1m acres of farmland by 2030.

In March 2019, General Mills launched a regenerative oat pilot with 45 farmers across North Dakota, Saskatchewan and Manitoba implementing practices on more than 50,000 acres of farmland. And in January 2020, the company launched its second pilot consisting of 24 farmers growing wheat across a collective 17,000 acres in central Kansas. These pilots will also measure the environmental and economic outcomes over the duration of their respective three-year programs. 

General Mills is listed on the 2019 Dow Jones Sustainability Index, and the 2019 CDP A List Awards for Climate and Water.

Norseland launches vegan version of Mexicana

UK speciality cheese company, Norseland, which created Applewood Vegan, has added to its range of vegan cheese alternatives with the launch of Mexicana Vegan.

Mexicana Vegan contains the same fiery spice mix and bell and jalapeño peppers as its dairy cousin, the UK's number 1 best-selling spicy cheese, Mexicana.

mexicana main

Applewood was the UK's first major cheese brand to launch a vegan cheese alternative, and it proved so successful - 40% of the Asda stores stocking it sold out in the first three days - that Norseland decided to launch a vegan version of the popular Mexicana brand.

Lisa Harrison, senior brand manager at Norseland, said, "The popularity of Applewood Vegan proved to us that there is a real demand for vegan alternatives to cheese, not just from vegans, but from flexitarians too.

"And what was key in its popularity was how well it melts like its dairy cheese counterparts.

"We applied the same logic to the creation of Mexicana Vegan and our taste panel of spicy cheese enthusiasts are already hooked on it, because it's super-stringy when it melts and has all of the flavour of Mexicana, including a nice spicy kick."

This latest dairy-free creation was made in an allergen-free factory, has been fortified with vitamin B12 and calcium and is Vegan Society approved.

The quick-melting vegan cheese, which is free from lactose, milk, eggs, soya, nuts and gluten, will be available exclusively from July 20, 2020 in approximately 300 ASDA stores nationwide and will RRP at £2.30 ($2.90) for a 200g block.

Asda's free from cheese buyer, Laura Sparkes, said, "We are really excited to announce the exclusive launch of Mexicana Vegan Cheese in Asda stores and on Asda.com from July this year.

"Vegan cheese continues to grow in popularity with our customers so we are thrilled to be able to expand our range and add this new line to our Free From offering.

"We love the spicy flavour and know our customers will agree. It is hard to believe this is a dairy alternative!"

Vegan festive product added

It may be sunny outside and the longest day of the year is only two days away in the northern hemisphere, but UK speciality cheese company Norseland, the makers of a cheese advent calendar, has announced the launch of a vegan Christmas product.

Norseland, which developed the Applewood Vegan cheese alternative, and which launched the Ilchester Cheese Advent Calendar, is launching the Ilchester Vegan Festive Selection, which the company said is in response to the increase in the number of people becoming vegans and flexitarians over the past 18 months.

vegan festive

The Ilchester Vegan Festive Selection features three new vegan cheeses alongside its Applewood Vegan. The new cheeses are the Ilchester Melting Mature Cheddar Vegan; the Ilchester Blue Vegan Cheese Alternative (with blue spirulina vein); and the Mexicana Vegan Spicy Cheese alternative that launches into ASDA stores in July.

Lisa Harrison, senior brand manager for the Ilchester Vegan Festive Selection, said, "We are very proud of our fantastic tasting vegan cheeses: they taste, and melt, like traditional cheese. So, as the number of vegans in the UK are soaring - the Vegan Society says the number of vegans in the UK has quadrupled between 2006 and 2018 - we know that there is a huge demand for vegan cheese.

"But it isn't just for vegans.  Christmas is a time when people overindulge and huge amounts of saturated fat are eaten: in meat, cheese, cream - not to mention sugar!  Swapping a traditional cheeseboard with a vegan cheese-board means that people can still have the taste of cheese in the festive period, but without raising their blood pressure, cholesterol, and salt levels still further. 

"Our vegan cheeses are becoming increasingly popular with flexitarians as well as vegans - and we take this as the highest compliment."

The Ilchester Vegan Festive Selection is made in an allergen-free factory, negating the risk of cross contamination from dairy products, and all of the cheeses are coconut based and are fortified with vitamin B12 and calcium.

EcoTensil launches plastic-free paperboard utensils in Europe

EcoTensil, producer of sustainable paperboard utensils, has launched its plastic-free single-use cutlery for food packaging across Europe.

The range of folding multi-functional paper utensils was developed to replace small plastic spoons and sporks found in pot lids, trays, and other grab-and-go packaging, with a more environmentally friendly option.

It functions effectively as a spoon, spork and spreader for most foods that are scoopable or easy to cut, such as yogurt, cake, desserts, deli salads, and more. For gelato and other frozen desserts, EcoTensil offers a stronger product, iScoop, which was designed specifically for ice-cream type products.

iScoop image
iScoop

Addressing the upcoming EU ban on single-use plastics, California-based EcoTensil brings its sustainable paperboard solutions to Europe through its European-based sales team, and its warehouse distribution centre in Rotterdam.

Founded 10 years ago, EcoTensil has provided hundreds of millions of the alternatives to plastic cutlery to companies in the forefront of sustainability, including Emmi, Costco, and General Mills. 

The company said its utensils have a more pleasing “mouth-feel” than wooden spoons and forks. The EcoSpoon is formed with one “bend to touch dots” fold. EcoTensil designed its current product line specifically for single-serve packaging, foodservice and sampling applications. EcoTensil said its utensils are formatted ready to be fitted into customers’ existing packaging, or can be customized as needed. 

The GreenDot line is made from a similar material to a coffee cup, but fully compostable, recyclable and contains no plastic. There is no taste, after taste, dissolving of the coating in one's mouth, or falling apart after a few bites.

All EcoTensil products are made from materials from FSC-certified forests and use 50-80% less material than plastic, bio-plastic or wood cutlery.

“Using less resources is the best way to reduce waste going to landfill,”​ said EcoTensil creator and CEO, Peggy Cross.

There is an EcoTensil utensil to fit just about any size package and application process. The pre-folded TabLock EcoSpoon4 (49mm folded length, 89mm unfolded) is locked shut and comes packed stacked in rows for placement on the assembly line.  

EcoTensil offers an unfolded, 82mm utensil and a 95mm size, both of which may be ordered hygienically flow- wrapped or loose pack. The 95mm also can be ordered folded to a 48mm length and wrapped for small spaces.

Re:THINK Ice Cream launches lactose-free ice cream with A2 dairy and collagen

In honor of US company Re:THINK’s second anniversary, and to celebrate July’s National Ice Cream Month, the Napa Valley-based brand has unveiled its newest packaging rebrand and reformulation rolling out on shelves this summer.

The new reformulation adds both collagen and lactose-free A2 to the ingredient list.

Founded in late 2018 by George Haymaker III, Re:THINK Ice Cream’s newly reformulated ice cream is made with lactose-free A2/A2 Dairy, which the company said makes it the first and only dairy ice cream completely lactose and A1 protein-free, both of which are needed to avoid digestive discomfort in millions of consumers who respond adversely to dairy.

rethink

The ice cream will also be the first-ever brand to infuse its flavors with collagen, which has health benefits including improved skin elasticity, stronger hair, nails, and boosted metabolism. Comparable to the original recipe, Re:THINK Ice Cream will continue to be diabetic and keto-friendly, gluten-free, and only feature all-natural ingredients and no sugar alcohols on the ingredient label.

In addition to the reformulation, Re:THINK Ice Cream will also be revealing a packaging rebrand with new front panel attributes. Callouts include key points like, ‘A2/A2 Dairy, lactose-free, happy tummy,’ ‘low sugar, low carb, low-glycemic,’ and ‘with collagen’.

The packaging will also include the brand’s tagline ‘The Healthier Ice Cream that Actually Tastes Good,’ redesigned flavor patterns that show the all-natural ingredients in their natural state, plus newly added flavor descriptions.

Re:THINK Ice Cream’s 12 flavors are Almond with Chocolate Flakes, Black Cherry Vanilla, Cardamom Pistachio, Chocolate Orange with Almond Butter, Chocolate Majesty, Coconut Matcha, Coffee Hazelnut, Lemon with Poppy Seed, Mint with Chocolate Flakes, Strawberry with Chia Seed, Turmeric Ginger and Vanilla Supreme.  The 14 fl. oz cartons retail for $6.99.

“When we researched how many people were averse to dairy, it was staggering​,” Haymaker said.

“We realized there is a full-size market out there of people who still want the traditional dairy ice cream experience but have had to go without because until now there hasn’t been an option for them. By using lactose-free A2/A2 Dairy, we can promise our consumers a fully tummy-friendly ice cream.”

Re:THINK’s newly reformulated ice cream is available nationally on www.rethinkicecream.us and will also begin rolling out to all stores for National Ice Cream Month. Re:THINK Ice Cream can be found at more than 500 supermarkets in California, Utah, Idaho, Montana and Oregon, including Whole Foods, Nugget Markets, Raley’s and Gelson’s.

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