Leftovers: Land O’Lakes cuts corners on butter; Saputo spreads into plant-based cheese

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Leftovers is our look at a few of the product ideas popping up everywhere. Some are intriguing, some sound amazing and some are the kinds of ideas we would never dream of. We can’t write about everything that we get pitched, so here are some leftovers pulled from our inboxes.​​​​​​

Land O’Lakes has a ball with butter

Consumers have grown accustomed to buying butter in traditional rectangular blocks, but Land O’Lakes is looking to cut corners with its latest offering.

The agribusiness and food company is debuting butter balls in pre-portioned sizes designed to make cooking easier. The half-tablespoon-sized balls come packaged in a resealable half-pound bag and will be sold at retailers in the Midwest.

Land O’Lakes, with $16 billion in sales last year, said its innovation team has been looking for solutions for the millions of Americans who spent more time cooking at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The member-owned cooperative observed that with nearly 75% of U.S. consumers wanting to continue making meals, many people were eager for a simpler way of doing things.

“We see this product as the answer to the convenience consumers crave while staying true to the great product they rely on — sweet cream butter,” Heather Anfang, the U.S. vice president of Land O’Lakes Dairy Foods, said in a statement. “While the pandemic created unprecedented challenges across all industries, … we chose to lean in and are excited to bring this unique product to consumers this summer.”

Once out of favor with consumers because of its unhealthy reputation, butter was growing in popularity before the pandemic. People making everything from cakes and cookies to rolls and crusts were attracted to its simple ingredient list and clean label association.

Demand is only expected to accelerate. The global butter market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate from $37 billion last year to just over $49 billion by 2028, according to data from Fortune Business Insights.

Similar to other foods, butter prices have surged during the last year, rising nearly 16%, according to the U.S. government. Milk has been hit particularly hard amid an increase in demand and higher costs of buying cattle, animal feed and farm labor.

— Christopher Doering

Courtesy of Saputo

Saputo spreads into plant-based cheese

As dairy prices climb, global dairy producer and processor Saputo is not having a cow. In fact, its new Vitalite plant-based cheese line has no dairy at all.

Vitalite — which comes in mozzarella and cheddar slices and shreds, grated parmesan and spreadable cream cheese varieties — was designed to deliver a taste and melt similar to its dairy counterparts.

“As demand for vegan cheese continues to grow, many consumers have been vocal about how difficult it has been to find a plant-based cheese that lives up to their expectations,” David Cherrie, Saputo Dairy USA vice president for marketing and innovation, said in a press release. “As a dairy company, we are experts at making cheese people love and crave. Where other plant-based cheeses fall short, we saw an opportunity to use our expertise in the cheese category to create a delicious plant-based alternative.”  

Canada-based Saputo, which is one of the world’s largest dairy companies, definitely has traditional cheesemaking expertise. Its brand portfolio includes Frigo, Treasure Cave, Stella, Montchevre and Black Creek, making popular cheddar, mozzarella, Italian, chevre and specialty cheeses.

Saputo has been laying the groundwork for this launch for a while. Last year, it acquired Bute Island Foods, a U.K.-based plant-based cheese company that makes the British Sheese brand. In the release announcing the deal, Saputo CEO and Board Chair Lino Saputo said that the Bute Island deal helps the dairy company in “putting innovation at the forefront of our priorities.”

While the plant-based cheese sector has been around for years, Saputo is only the second big cheese company to enter it. The other big traditional and plant-based cheese player is Bel Group. In 2019, the French company committed to produce a plant-based version of each of its popular cheese brands — all of which are headed to the U.S. market — and launched plant-based brand Nurishh last year.

The vast majority of players in the plant-based cheese space are startups or companies that have only been in the plant-based sector. Global dairy player Danone is also breaking into the space, launching cheese under its So Delicious brand and buying plant-based cheese leader Follow Your Heart last year.

Vitalite, which has coconut oil and potato and grain starches as its main ingredients, benefits not only from Saputo’s cheesemaking expertise, but also its wide reach. More traditional cheese players getting into the space not only means those cheeses are more likely to be like their dairy counterparts, but also that there will be more plant-based options on grocery shelves. 

And considering that Saputo has seen its dairy business costs soar due to inflationary and supply chain pressures, a plant-based line may help the company’s bottom line — and be attractive to value-seeking consumers.

Megan Poinski

Courtesy of Unstuck

Brands aim to help refugees get Unstuck

Consumers can now buy their favorite food items while also helping to provide a job to refugee workers who source the ingredients.

Unstuck, a new initiative by the Tent Partnership founded by Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya, announced its first co-branded products in partnership with several food brands. It is the first consumer-facing initiative for the organization, which is dedicated to creating job opportunities for refugees across the globe.

These products include Chobani Vanilla Greek Yogurt with Tropical Fruit on the Bottom, La Colombe Monaco Medium Roast Coffee, GoodPop Mango Chile popsicles, Petit Pot Dark Chocolate Organic French Dessert, Pitaya Foods Natural Passion Fruit and Organic Avocado smoothie mixes and That’s It Mango Probiotic Fruit Bars.

The organization said its overall goal is to find safe, legal and fair jobs for refugees at food sourcing facilities in countries, including Colombia. Unstuck says of the more than 36 million refugees worldwide, many of whom escaped countries devastated by war, most will be displaced long-term. The organization said in its press release it is currently exploring more brand partnerships in the future.

Nick O’Flaherty, director of Unstuck at the Tent Partnership, said they eschew the typical relationship between charitable organizations and CPGs by focusing on securing work for a marginalized group.

“Rather than asking brands to donate a portion of their profits, we connect them with world-class suppliers committed to hiring refugees and help them restart their lives,” said O’Flaherty. “Unstuck’s first-of-its-kind model means that brands’ support for refugees is sustainable and long-term – and means we can grow our impact at scale as more brands and consumers join the Unstuck movement.”

Chobani’s founder is himself an immigrant from Turkey, a country Unstuck is looking to work in. Ulukaya founded the Tent Partnership in 2016 to connect refugees seeking jobs to CPG companies. He has committed most of his wealth to helping the refugee crisis, according to a 2016 article in Nonprofit Quarterly.

— Chris Casey

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About the Author

Jervie David Montejar
A food lover who wants to try every delicious dishes around him and spread the news to everyone to try it as well. Finding the latest trends about food and restaurants around Cebu and the rest of the world :) "Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first." -Ernestine Ulmer
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