Episode 9 – Dairy Innovation: Who is doing it and how does it work?

In this episode of Your Dairy Checkoff Podcast, California dairy farmer Tyler Riberio and New York dairy farmer Emma Andrew-Swarthout chat with Michelle McBride, founder and CEO of GoodSport Nutrition, and Bill Graves, SVP of Product Research at Dairy Management, Inc. about dairy product innovation.

Did you know that your Dairy Checkoff supports six Dairy Foods Research Centers and dairy applications labs across the country to help bring new dairy products to market? 

Dairy product innovation through the University Dairy Research Centers can impact sales and trust in dairy as these experts work with the dairy industry to develop new products that go beyond consumer expectations in emerging domestic and international markets. 

Learn more as a local entrepreneur shares her experience working with the dairy farmer-funded Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research to create an all-natural sports drink made from the goodness of milk. 

Our experts will discuss how the University Research Centers work and the impact they have on new dairy product innovation
To learn more about the national dairy checkoff and your local dairy checkoffs, please visit www.usdairy.com.

Dairy Farmer Hosts:

Farmer Host – Tyler Riberio (California)

Farmer Host – Emma Andrew-Swarthout (New York)

Industry Experts:

Michelle McBride – CEO of GoodSport Nutrition

Bill Graves – Senior Vice President of Product Research at Dairy Management Inc.

Transcript (machine generated – please ignore typos):

Michelle McBride 0:00
So the other thing I was going to say about dairy centers and the importance of them there is just so much competition right now from the plant base in the alternative meat and beverage industry that if dairy is not going to invest in dairy, what do we think is going to we have huge millions and millions of dollars really being invested in these alternative products and so we need to stay here and focus on innovation and dairy. Continue to promote the benefits of dairy because they are they really are superior.

Tyler Riberio 0:44
Hello, hello everyone and welcome to another episode of your Dairy Checkoff podcast. I am one of your co hosts Tyler Ribeiro. I am a dairy farmer here in Tulare, California Farm alongside my brother, my dad and I got a few little munchkins that are running around getting to learn the tricks of the trade and I want to make sure I introduce my co host, Emma, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Emma Andrew-Swarthout 1:07
Thanks, Tyler. I’m Andrew Swarthout. I work full time for the American Dairy Association northeast and I’m also involved on my home farm LMI farms in upstate New York. Also as a weekend warrior triathlete in my not spare time, I’m pretty excited to learn about some of the products coming out of the university dairy research centers. Hinton’s one we’re going to talk about is one of my favorite as an athlete. I’m really excited to dive in today.

Tyler Riberio 1:35
As we get into today’s discussions on the checkoff funded university dairy research centers, so we’ll be discussing what they are, how they work, what is the impact that they have on the dairy industry on bringing new dairy products to the market? First, we’re gonna be talking to Bill graves. He’s the senior vice president of product research for dairy Management, Inc, and National Dairy Council now and we’ll also be talking to Michelle McBride, CEO for good sport. However, before we get into that, Bill, why don’t we tell everybody who you are, and what your position isn’t

Bill Graves 2:11
nice to meet to Tyler and Emma. I’m Senior Vice President of Product research at Dairy management. I work on behalf of dairy farmers to create global opportunities for dairy products and ingredients through scientific research, technology development and education. We accomplish this through our product science team to dairy management, by working across the dairy center network to grow sales and expand during markets.

Tyler Riberio 2:43
Now that is exactly why we’re talking to you today. Because that plays such a huge role into the next guest on our show today. Michelle, tell us a little bit about yourself about your product.

Michelle McBride 2:58
Thank you for having me, guys. I’m really excited to be here, we created first of its kind natural sports drink. That’s been scientifically shown to provide rapid and long lasting hydration by harnessing the electrolytes and carbs from the goodness of milk, I have no background in food, or beverage, or dairy. And I had this idea because I wanted a source of hydration that would really work from a natural source to provide to my son because I wasn’t happy with the options that were available. And to get that done. I worked very closely with the Center for dairy research at the University of Wisconsin. So with that bill,

Emma Andrew-Swarthout 3:38
Michelle mentioned working with the University dairy research centers, how many are there? Where are those? And can you kind of explain those a little bit?

Bill Graves 3:46
Sure. So there are six dairy centers. They’re located regionally as part of a network of universities across the United States. Again, Michelle mentioned the Center for dairy research. There’s a northeast center, a Southeast Center, and Midwest Center, a Western Center in the northwest and the California dairy Innovation Center. When you think about how they actually work. They’re really a hub for dairy and innovation on behalf of dairy farmers. And you ask yourself, well, how do they do that? They They do that by develop leading edge science and technology through research and they provide access to that know how, just like Michelle just described, it might be a product formulation, or to that entrepreneur who’s got a great idea on how to process something for better taste, texture, and safety. Again, there’s entrepreneurs that come in with ideas, but that’s really where it starts and it really serves to speak Innovation, but they apply the know how they have the guy all these experts through these application labs and have pilot facilities, equipment and capabilities to turn someone’s ideas into prototypes. Ultimately, in a product like Michelle is going to be talking about, they also, importantly, educate the next generation dairy scientists, and provide training and education on all sorts of topics can be a five day course on how to make cheese for someone, just like Michelle, who wants to go into the business, all the way up to a Wisconsin master cheese maker program for those who want to go to the highest level in their craft to make award winning cheeses, both here in the United States and on a global stage.

Tyler Riberio 5:53
Build that that’s exciting to me to hear how the Center’s work and how they’re educating people, but also how they’re bringing new products to market. Because, Michelle, I didn’t realize you didn’t have any background in dairy. I didn’t realize you didn’t have any background in sports drinks. Well, how in the world did you go from zero to 100? Here, creating a drink that honestly I’m excited about I haven’t seen before. I mean, this is definitely a rival in the sports and drinks world. How do you go from zero to 157, for

Michelle McBride 6:34
dairy research and a team of other scientists to so you know, I just had this idea. And attorney I was a nonprofit executive at the time. And I didn’t want my son drinking the sports drinks that were available to him and being offered to him. So we would bring him chocolate milk as a healthier alternative for after sports. But that wasn’t providing hydration, the refreshment the thirst, punching, that he needed, stay properly hydrated to stay safe and perform better. But for some reason that chocolate milk was the inspiration to look at milk as a source of natural hydration. And I did a bit of research and I learned that milk is packed with electrolytes, and the right balance of carbs to deliver hydration and that scientific studies have shown milk is more hydrating than traditional sports drinks, I thought to myself, well then there’s got to be a way to turn milk into a sports drink. And you know, that expression, ignorance is bliss. I had no idea how difficult it was going to be. But I was determined to do it. And I was informed about the Center for dairy research at the University of Wisconsin. My I first started with another scientist, Dr. Bob Murray, who was the founder and director of the Gatorade Sports Science Institute. And he’s really important to the story because he’s an internationally renowned expert on hydration and confirmed for me that the studies I was reading are accurate. So then it was a matter of figuring out how to go about doing it from the application side of things. And I literally I googled the Center for Research. And I called and I said, Hi, I have an idea for a new dairy product. Could you help me, and that was often a took. And then I set up a meeting and KJ Burrington, who was the lead scientist there that worked with me and said, You know, I’ve been waiting 15 years for somebody to want to do this. And so after coming in with some milky prototypes, we now have this clear drink. That’s a sports drink. It’s not milk. It’s a sports drink, but we’re harnessing all the goodness from milk to make it happen.

Emma Andrew-Swarthout 8:42
So with that bill for our pharma listeners, I think this is so interesting learning about the positive impact of these research centers. So how do they actually work and how are they funded?

Bill Graves 8:55
I think Michelle really hit the nail on the head as an example of how you have these resources and experts that when Michelle made that phone call, there was somebody that had the expertise to know Hey, this is how you could make that terrific sports drink that she was trying to make. If you don’t have those resources. You’re not going to get a great tasting product. Like she’s got and there’ll be questions about the safety of it. She went to the right group of people to accomplish her mission. The dairy centers are funded by dairy farmers the through the Dairy Checkoff Program, along with processors and manufacturers as well as support from university partners. It’s really a three way partnership to further dairy farmer priorities. And that’s really how it works.

Michelle McBride 9:56
When we worked with the lab, there’s some fees involved if I had to Go to a private lab we could have never afforded to get this work done, that we needed, absolutely needed to be done to create the drain, it was absolutely an invaluable resource.

Tyler Riberio 10:13
That was going to be my next question. We as farmers, we see this dollar gets pulled out of our check. And you always question, how’s it being spent, everybody looks at each dollar. But to hear someone, like you come in from nowhere, make a phone call. And you’re gonna have to tell me how long this whole process took. But you went from concept to on the shelf. And what’s probably a shorter time period than you could have done on your own

Michelle McBride 10:46
to get to where we are took over four years. But I did start some of the work without the cdr. And there’s a lot to it. And the senator didn’t just help me figure out how to create the drink, but how to source it, where to find co manufacturers that would bottle it gave me information regarding some of the regulatory information I would need to know about to take this to market, there was just so much to it. And so many resources and so many experts that were made available to me these some of these were issues, I didn’t even know they existed until they were brought to my attention by these group of experts. And so it was it was really important. One of the things that I think is, is important about this product. And the value of it coming out of a farmer funded research center is that we’ve created not just another dairy product, which is always wonderful and you must continue to innovate to stay relevant, especially with you know, younger consumers, Gen Z and millennials but we’ve created a whole new usage occasion for dairy, thirst and hydration, we no longer have to wait and use it for recovery or or enjoy dairy as a snack or an ingredient, it’s a huge opportunity for beverage is a huge opportunity for dairy. And the other thing about our drink is that the way we go about it is we ultrafilter the milk to remove the protein because the proteins aren’t necessary for hydration. And they actually can be a stumbling block before and during exercise. If you think about it, you don’t want to eat a big sandwich before you go try to run a triathlon right, you want the easily digestible macronutrients like the carbs that are in the milk. And so we removed the protein and ultra but with ultra filtration, and then we’re left with this clear part of the milk, which is called Milk permeate. We call it our main ingredient ultrafilter to produce milk, I could go buy tankers full of milk and ultrafilter that and waste all that protein. But instead, because of the relationships at the Center for dairy research, I was introduced to dairy processors who already ultrafilter the milk to retain the protein right to standardize cheeses and to make protein powders, but then have no use for the milk permeate. And so we rescue and upcycle, that very nutritious part of the milk, creating more value for milk and the dairy industry and also contributing to the sustainability efforts of dairy. Oh, that because of coming to the Center for dairy research, really,

Emma Andrew-Swarthout 13:26
I just find that so interesting the amount of resources that go into these centers to make these products successful. Feel from your knowledge, is there any other resource out there like this that can help people get a product off the ground and provide them everything from like, where you can actually source the right product for you all the way to here are some marketing regulatory things that you need to consider is, is this the only one out there really,

Bill Graves 13:55
what I’d say is that there are labs product development labs that do this sort of work. That said, going to the Center for dairy research or one of the other dairy centers is where you’re going to find the experts that have dairy expertise. And so that’s what dairy farmers are funding their funding that know how expertise and capabilities that are going to help people like Michelle, the center’s will accelerate innovation. I’d also say one of the things that Michelle brought up about, you know, the tech like ultra filtration and that sort of thing. That’s part of the real value over time of the dairy centers. That’s where the research on what underpins a lot of the innovation is this filtration or separation technology that was started over 30 years ago to solve way as a byproduct. In cheesemaking, it created a whole new industry. So when you ask the question about, you know, research and the value of the funding, the outcome goes in so many different directions, whether it’s cheese making or making high protein milk, or in Michelle’s case, it’s taking a product of the electrolytes and separating them out. And through ultra filtration, and making a great product. So you never know what direction it’s all going to go. And

Michelle McBride 15:35
in addition to helping people like me that know nothing about dairy, though, I want to also clarify that, I know that a lot of very large established dairy companies also avail themselves of the expertise of the centers, I was meeting with a co manufacturer, and I had said to KJ Burrington, from the center, I can’t believe that they’re going to meet with me, you know, I’m just like a little entrepreneur. And when I got in there, I, I learned that the reason was because KJ had helped them solve so many problems, for larger clients in regard to proteins and different applications, she came in there and literally saved the day for some very large companies. And you know, if you don’t have that expertise, you’re not going to have the innovation on the larger scale either. So the centers are available for large industry and individuals,

Bill Graves 16:28
I’d love to, you know, emphasize and underscore what she just said, it’s having those relationships was really what she’s saying, it’s the relationships were there already to help her advance her or product development process. So important in launching anything. You got to know the right people.

Emma Andrew-Swarthout 16:52
I was gonna ask, you know, are learning about good sport, which is so exciting. And maybe you’re not allowed to tell us bill, but is there anything else exciting that the innovation centers are working on or maybe other products that have come out, but you know, it would be interesting for dairy farmers to learn about,

Bill Graves 17:09
there’s there’s so much that I’m excited about, you know, when it comes to cost to the dairy centers that really are the behind the scene, heroes in so many different ways. And in helping develop and develop products. The last couple years, I wrote an article on cheese renaissance in the United States. And I’m just very excited about, you know, how there continues to be just a growth of cheese, specialty cheese products and winning on the world stage. And I that’s the consequence of a lot of the efforts at these dairy centers. And it’s it can take the form of cheese, it can take the form of bet protein, high protein beverages, high protein, ice creams, I have to tell you a halo top, from the California Center, about four or five years ago made Time Magazine’s Top 25 innovations of the decade. So that’s an example from five years ago, it transformed and tire category where everybody went after that kind of product, but products like high protein milks like a Fairlight type products. Those are all there’s tremendous innovations going on in our industry right now. And in ingredients, I have to do a shout out for ingredients because they go into these products. There’s just a tremendous number of products where whey is utilized or milk, milk proteins are utilized in a lot of different ways.

Tyler Riberio 18:59
You know, Bill, one of the things that you mentioned was the different technologies that’s come about through these new innovation centers, something that we don’t talk about enough is how we can have milk products that don’t need to be in the refrigerator anymore. I mean, I think I’m the only one that thinks that’s amazing. I’ve got cases of to go milks for the kids that sit on a shelf in the pantry now. And now I’ve got a sports drink sitting here, you know, that we’re talking about, that’s darn near clear, that doesn’t need to go in the refrigerator. That is that is one of the most exciting things to me how far Milk has come in the last 10 years even where we’re seeing this or seeing this ultra pasteurization and these shelf stable products and it gives way for people to reimagine what dairy products are and what They can be used for and the different applications. You know, I’ve been fortunate, fortunate enough to work with California milk advisory board, and their snack rater, and accelerator program this year. And I got to personally test a bunch of brand new products and learn about them. And it was amazing to me to see the brainpower that goes into some of these new products. I mean, granted, a lot of what I had was ice creams, which I am not complaining, but it was, it was sleep ice cream, or ice cream that promotes sleep was ice cream that’s good for your tummy, you know, packed full of probiotics, and it’s all, it’s all innovative. It’s not just ice cream anymore. And that’s what I think is so awesome to see this breakout that that Michelle and good sport is doing. It’s it’s a completely different arena that we’re used to seeing. One of the other exciting things is and you kind of touched on it a little bit was when you started talking with the dairy research centers, you probably realize you kind of adopted a whole new family, and a whole group of supporters, you know, that are rooting you on, you know, all of us for from the dairy community. We are all watching intently as to what these new products are doing. If you had the stage right now to talk to dairy farmers from across the United States. What is something that you would want them to know? What’s the main takeaway of this new product? And what do you want the dairy families to know about it?

Michelle McBride 21:37
I touched on it before but really, that this provides a what could be a really big opportunity for dairy. And I think it’s very exciting. That’s where it gives us a reason to talk about dairy in a whole new way. Like I said, for thirst and refreshment. It also lets us talk about some of the benefits of dairy that we don’t usually talk about, like electrolytes and hydration. You know, there’s a lot of focus on protein and calcium, and we do have a good source of calcium and if that sport, thanks to milk. Um, but you know, it’s a new way to look at Dairy. And I think it creates, you know, new things to talk about and new reasons to be discussing dairy in the press and media. And you know, we’ve just had a lot of excitement about it, people, people trust in dairy people trust that it can deliver, it just really creates excitement around it, and we’re excited for it.

Emma Andrew-Swarthout 22:37
Awesome, and then a little different for you, Bill. But if there was a farmer that had an idea for a new product, where would they go

Bill Graves 22:44
shall work with the Center for dairy research, there are six other wonderful centers that have unique capabilities. And depending on what they want to do, they can reach out to their regional research center. And I’ll also offer up that the the product research team at DMI we often get emails through us dairy.com, that if a farmer wanted to come in with a product idea, we could guide them to the right resource. So that’s another option. And right now I have to say there’s a lot of investment going on through USDA and dairy business initiatives at some of the centers. And so that’s a unique opportunity going on, where there are grants to help with rural economic development. So if a farmer has a really great idea of the Midwest, the Wisconsin Center, and California centers have opportunities that they might be interested in.

Emma Andrew-Swarthout 23:56
So going back to funding a little bit, because, you know, the farmer and me always wants to know, dollars and cents, right? In addition to the funding you receive from dairy farmers, does any funding come back to the Research Center, from the products they’re producing or helping to produce and innovate? I mean, it’s

Bill Graves 24:17
possible, but that the way if there was intellectual property that was created through in the process, like a patent or something like that, then it’s it’s possible but typically, the way the system works is that we’re trying to spur innovation and grow through markets and products.

Emma Andrew-Swarthout 24:38
I can certainly just appreciate that innovation piece. A rising tide will raise all ships, right. So the more we can innovate and the more we can do with dairy, the better it is for industry to be diversified and reach our different consumers.

Tyler Riberio 24:53
I absolutely agree with that. Because these are all building blocks, right? We weren’t able to get to the point where Mr. Shell could build her product before we had to make 1020 steps before that, in order to build those technologies. And somebody had to start with reimagining how things are being done. And everything has led up to a certain point to where we are now. And now Michelle has created this new jumping off point, as opened up a brand new sector, which is exciting to see, Bill. We talked about innovation in the creation of the products. But do these centers help at all with product placement, helping to get the word out there so they can get shelf space? Do you guys play in the field of exports at all? Are you guys specially specializing specifically in the creation of the product?

Bill Graves 25:49
You know, we don’t deal with product placement per se, we are very much engaged in in the export market. I’ll give you an example in the case of cheese, or the dairy centers have been involved in is if they’re trying to create cheeses for export markets, they brought in experts from overseas trained folks here in the United States on how to make it and then they’re able to make cheeses for both the domestic market as well as those markets. And then we have also gone to those foreign export markets to understand what are the barriers and opportunities or putting pizza cheese in China, which is different as it works out versus pizza cheese that is desirable here in the United States. So we are very much involved in and the dairy centers are very much involved in doing research in that area.

Emma Andrew-Swarthout 26:55
So before you know we wrap up and say goodbye to our listeners today, is there anything final thoughts, words that either of you’d like to add?

Michelle McBride 27:04
I’ll just say thank you to the dairy farmers to the dairy industry for having these centers of innovation Bill alluded to it earlier. But you know, I learned about ultrafiltration because I knew about fairlife Because I was supported with from technology in the dairy industry. So it all builds on each other. And so I am very appreciative.

Bill Graves 27:23
Similarly, I just am very appreciative for dairy farmers and their support for this really important work. They’ve been supporting it for over 30 years. And I think the shell is an example of the wonderful outcome of their investment. So thank you.

Emma Andrew-Swarthout 27:46
And thank you both to joining us for this wonderful conversation today. It’s just been so interesting to learn how these university dairy research centers are impacting sales and trust in dairy and creating these amazing products as Tyler said that I just would have never thought dairy could be a part of which is so exciting. Thanks for joining us today. If you want to hear more about various issues affecting the dairy community. Subscribe to this podcast on your favorite podcast platforms including Stitcher, Spotify or iTunes. Or you can check out our website Dairy Checkoff. podcast.com for more future episodes. Until next time, have a great day.

2 comments on “Episode 9 – Dairy Innovation: Who is doing it and how does it work?
  1. Cynthia Ad says:

    Love this idea & product. Now just need to create the powdered version, so folks can mix in bulk- for the entire team

    1. Don Schindler says:

      I will pass this feedback on to Michelle. Thank you!

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