Victory for Blue and Gouda

blue-cheeseA Kapiti-made blue cheese and a Mercer Gouda have been crowned the top New Zealand cheeses of 2011.

At the 2011 Cuisine NZ Champions of Cheese Awards in Auckland on Tuesday night, blue cheese Kapiti Kikorangi, produced by Fonterra Brands NZ, won the Yealands Estate Champion of Champions Award for large cheesemakers.

Mercer 50/50 Gouda, from Mercer Cheese, won the Cuisine Champion Artisan Award for smaller producers.

Both awards have equal status as the most prestigious awards for cheese excellence in New Zealand.

Australian judge Russell Smith said these awards reaffirmed how good New Zealand was at producing blue and Dutch-style cheeses.

“For me, the Dutch and blue cheeses produced in New Zealand are always the most outstanding and that makes them a real challenge to judge.”

In its eighth year, the 2011 Cuisine NZ Champions of Cheese Awards judged 450 entries in 20 different categories.

The winners were announced at an industry dinner in Auckland.

Almond milk shakes up dairy-free market

ecommil-mandoral-almond-milkSoya milk continues to dominate the growing dairy-free market in most countries of the world. However, there are signs that newer alternatives are emerging into the mainstream grocery sector, based on ingredients such as rice, oats and, more recently, almonds.

Launches of dairy alternative drinks recorded on the Innova Database reached over 600 in 2010, with almond milks and milk blends accounting for over 8 per cent.

While the number of dairy alternative drinks launched was at a similar level to that in 2009, the share of almond lines was up from 6 per cent, which in itself was double the 3 per cent penetration of almond products five years previously in 2005.

Non-dairy milk alternatives are still a relatively smallmarket overall outside Asia.

Elsewhere, purchase levels are rising with growing awareness of allergy and intolerance issues and the low-fat, low-calorie and cholesterol-free positioning of many of the products.

Within that, soya is facing problems in some developed markets, particularly the US, with regard to health scares. The result in some instances has been a move to non-soya milk alternatives, including those made with ingredients such as rice, hemp, oats and coconut, as well as almonds and other nuts.

The fact is that almond milks have been available in health food stores for many years. However it is their emergence into the mainstream market that has been most notable of late.

The US has led this trend, with nearly one-fifth of the 2010 dairy alternative drink launches recorded on Innova being almond milk or almond milk blends. Sales of almond milk in the US saw double-digit growth in 2010, while sales of soya milk fell by a similar percentage.

Lu Ann Williams, head of research at Innova Market Insights, reports, “Competition in the non-dairy milk sector has been ramped up as two mainstream brands have introduced chilled versions of almond-based products into grocery outlets alongside the original ambient products, previously found primarily in more specialist stores”.

She adds, “The fight for dominance between the two players, both part of major companies, has not only grown their sales but also promoted overall awareness of the product, further encouraging development of smaller brands and retailer own-labels”.ecommil-mandoral-almond-milk-large

Dean Foods’ White Wave subsidiary launched PureAlmond, sold under its Silk branding, which is more usually associated with soya milk. The California nut co-operative, Blue Diamond Growers, has its AlmondBreeze range, made using its own almonds. Both brands now have a number of flavour variants, particularly vanilla, as well as original and unsweetened options. Hain Celestial’s Almond Dream drink was relaunched in early 2010 in Original and Unsweetened variants. Natural foods specialist, Pacific Foods, which includes nut and grain milks within its varied product range, also relaunched its organic Almond drinks range and now also includes reduced-sugar options.

The growing development of the market in the USA was further illustrated by the arrival of WholeFoods Market’s own-brand almond milk in the summer of 2010.

Meanwhile in Europe, almond milk is still mainly confined to specialist health food stores, although launches recorded on the Innova Database indicate that interest in the mainstream market does appear to be rising.

Over 10% of dairy alternative drinks launched in the region in 2010 were either almond or rice & almond blends.

Multinational brand EcoMil from Nutriops is now available in 15 countries in both powdered and ready-to-drink form.

The market is extending further with almond and rice blends, such as Vitariz Organic Rice Drink with Almond from Alinor in the Netherlands; organic options, such as Isola Bio Delice Riso Mandorla in Italy; retailer own-brand launches, such as Carrefour’s organic almond and rice milk in France; light products, such as Condorelli’s Latte di Mandorla Light in Italy, sweetened with acesulfam-K and sucralose; and fortified products with calcium from EcoMil in a number of countries, including some targeted specifically at the breakfast market. All of these were launched in 2010.

New vegemite for toddlers

vegemite-for-toddlersKraft Foods Australia/New Zealand is launching ‘my first vegemite’ – a specially formulated vegemite spread designed to suit a younger palette, with extra vitamins, added iron and half the sodium.

my first vegemite has the added benefits of increased iron, B12 and B6 vitamins and 50 per cent less sodium than original vegemite, designed to be more conducive for growing bodies. The new addition to the family has the same vegemite flavour but just a touch milder.

Kraft Foods Australia/New Zealand head of vegemite, Ben Wicks, said: “My first vegemite is a result of a growing consumer need for products with added nutritional benefits. Mothers told us that they want children’s products that are age appropriate, lower in sugar and sodium, and an additional source of iron. My first vegemite delivers on all of these properties, whilst maintaining the vegemit flavour that Aussies love.”

“What our research and development team has innovated, locally here in Australia, is a product that manages to deliver on the features that make vegemite an Australian household favourite, however with added benefits – a 50 per cent reduction in sodium is a significant achievement for this product.

“With the new fortification benefits, we believe my first vegemite will ensure that this Australian icon continues to be a part of every growing child’s life, just as it has been a part of the Aussie breakfast ritual for more than 85 years,” said Wicks.

A whole grained cereal and fresh fruit still seems like a better start to the day to this journalist, but nutritionist and health expert, Kara Landau, has given my first vegemite her full endorsement:

“With increased levels of iron and B vitamins and 50 per cent less sodium, my first vegemite allows parents to introduce their children to Australia’s favourite spread, with confidence that they are supporting healthy growth, development and wellbeing.”vegemite-for-toddlers-large

Mother and dietitian, Dr. Joanna McMillan, also commends Kraft Foods newest product, stating:

“As a parent and nutritionist, my first vegemite is an exciting innovation, providing children with the great taste of vegemite that they know and love – albeit a touch milder – and with added fortification and essential nutrients to support healthy growing bodies, which will delight parents.”

The recommended serving size of my first vegemite is 2.5g, giving children a boost to their daily iron dietary requirements and plenty of B vitamins to help them grow stronger every day.

“Can I get this apple freeze dried?”

SuperSprout-powdersSoaring fruit and vegetable prices and concerns about quality are prompting shoppers to look for alternative ways to get their daily fruit and veggie intake.

Australian food company Super Sprout, which produces 100 per cent pure freeze dried fruit and vegetable powders, has recorded a spike in enquiries following price hikes in the wake of rain, floods and Cyclone Yasi.

Consumers are also calling the company concerned about further price rises under the federal government’s looming carbon tax, Super Sprout director Melinda Richards said.

“Recent natural disasters have exacerbated the price of fresh fruit and veggies and many people now won’t buy fresh produce,” Melinda said. “And with talk of prices set to rise further under the carbon tax, people are becoming even more concerned about food affordability.

“Shoppers are also telling us they are worried about quality because it can be months before fruit and vegetables reach their kitchens after they have been picked, transported, stored and displayed.

“Consumers are increasingly looking for an alternative to counter rising prices and poor quality and are embracing freeze dried fruit and vegetable powders as a revolutionary new way to eat.”

Super Sprout offers 10 freeze dried powders which have the same benefits as fresh produce, with only water and moisture removed from fruit and veggies during the production process.

The powders include new “super foods” broccoli sprouts and barley grass sprouts which can be used in recipes including casseroles, soups, sauces, cakes, salads, juices and smoothies. A teaspoon of powder is equivalent to 10 teaspoons of fresh produce.

“Because the powders are concentrated, a daily apple can be replaced with a couple of teaspoons of apple powder as a juice in the morning,” Melinda said.

“Strawberry powder can be added to milk or sprinkled over ice cream and yoghurt while carrot, beetroot and broccoli sprout powder can be used in pasta sauces and soups, which is particularly good for kids who are fussy eaters.

“The powders are just as fresh as the real thing, can be easily stored in the cupboard for up to two years and cheaper in the long run.”

Super Sprout powders come in broccoli sprout, wheatgrass sprout, barley grass sprout, beetroot, apple, lemon, strawberry, carrot, ginger and blueberry. A 150g tub is priced from $24.95.

“With research showing that more than six in 10 Australian adults and about a quarter of children are either overweight or obese, it’s more important than ever to make healthier choices about our food.”