ULTRA DAIRY: FAT'S OUT, FLAVOR'S IN

YONKERS, N.Y. -- Body Wise 99% and 100% fat-free milks eliminate the fat but not the flavor, thanks to a high-temperature, short-time pasteurization process used by Ultra Dairy, a division of Dellwood Foods, Yonkers, N.Y. Body Wise is pasteurized at a much higher than normal temperature for a much shorter time. In the pasteurization chamber, falling milk droplets are heated by a burst of steam to

YONKERS, N.Y. -- Body Wise 99% and 100% fat-free milks eliminate the fat but not the flavor, thanks to a high-temperature, short-time pasteurization process used by Ultra Dairy, a division of Dellwood Foods, Yonkers, N.Y. Body Wise is pasteurized at a much higher than normal temperature for a much shorter time. In the pasteurization chamber, falling milk droplets are heated by a burst of steam to 285 degrees Fahrenheit for 4 seconds and then superchilled to room temperature before entering an evaporator to remove excess moisture. Quick heating and cooling allow the milk to be pasteurized without imparting a scalded taste.

In whole milk, by contrast, the fats generally mask the off taste that usually results from pasteurization.

The flavor and body of the four Body Wise milks -- 100% fat-free, 100% fat-free chocolate, 100% fat-free lactose-reduced and 99% fat-free -- also are improved by the addition of fat-free milk solids. In the past, there has been an inverse relationship between taste and nutrition, said Jim Neidhardt, director of marketing and sales at Dellwood. As a result, many people would rather give up milk than drink fat-free or 1% fat products they view as inferior in flavor, body and appearance. According to Dellwood's market research, that's one reason overall milk sales have been declining as much as 1% per year for almost 20 years. Whole milk sales are down even more: 7% last year.

Compared to whole milk, Body Wise 100% Fat Free has 33% fewer calories, 20% more protein and 15% more calcium. In addition, the process almost quadruples shelf life to 45 days, said Neidhardt. To ensure the longer shelf life, Dellwood selected a high-barrier paperboard from International Paper, Purchase, N.Y., for its traditionally shaped gabletop cartons. The board not only resists bowing, a common problem with fat-free/low-fat milk, but also offers a premium surface for the lithographic printing used to help project the product's added-value image. "We felt it necessary to communicate the quality of the product, its premium nature and the fact that it is different and better," Neidhardt explained. Lithography is capable of reproducing much finer detail and more colors than the flexographic printing used on conventional milk cartons. The Body Wise cartons are printed in as many as seven colors. Graphics were designed by a major firm Neidhardt prefers not to identify. He provided detailed product and design briefs to help develop priorities in communications objectives. Available in the New York metropolitan area and New England, Body Wise quarts retail for $1.19 for 100% fat-free and 99% fat-free, $1.29 for fat-free lactose-reduced and $1.49 for 100% fat-free chocolate, an upcharge of 10% to 30% compared with competing products. Quart cartons were chosen to appeal to the target audience: single-member households and older consumers. Once launched, the company discovered a demand for pints, as well. Value-added products like Body Wise could change the way milk is marketed, said Neidhardt. Its longer shelf life and higher margins could make it practical for dairies to expand distribution beyond the relatively small regional areas they currently serve. Primary channels are supermarkets and club stores followed by smaller retail outlets such as convenience stores and delis.