"Bread and butter" -- it’s a phrase meant for something routine, something simple but stable. When it comes to our dairy business, you might say that butter is our “bread and butter.” But we actually have an entire team of researchers and product developers dedicated to ensuring we are pushing the boundaries of traditional dairy products.
Recently they debuted a new product, based on insights gleaned from America’s butter lovers: LAND O LAKES® Butter Spread with Seeds. The new butter spread is made with creamy butter, canola oil and a blend of trendy chia, flax and hemp seeds. But why seeds and why now? The answer lies at the intersection of food trends, flavor and our signature strategy for innovation.
The new Butter Spread with Seeds came to life as a result of the team’s brainstorming, innovating and a series of consumer tests.
Senior research and development manager at Land O’Lakes, Julie Springman, had the initial idea to put seeds in the butter spread. She thought it would add something exciting. Especially when people are eating less bread because of diet trends like keto.
Diana Budde, senior food scientist and product developer at Land O’Lakes, takes the ideas that spark among Land O’Lakes innovators and analysts and brings them to life. “I put seeds like flax on my oatmeal, so to me the idea was a natural.”
But Diana doesn’t do it alone. Anytime Land O’Lakes brings a new product into market, it requires a multi-faceted team, including members from research and development, quality, operations, marketing, sales, logistics and more. This is the same team ingenuity that led to other products offering choice and variety, like half-sticks, butter with olive oil and a new plant-based spread.
“Today, consumers are really seeking out things that are different and exciting, and while some are gravitating toward the plant-based trend, there are ‘flexitarians’ these days who enjoy dairy and don’t want to give it up, and they want to incorporate more plant-based sources of nutrients,” said Land O’Lakes’ Katy Morlok.
As an associate marketing manager at Land O’Lakes, Morlok oversees project management for dairy product innovation, starting with development in the Land O’Lakes research and development lab all the way to the homes of consumers. According to her, “Butter spread with seeds is a great way to bridge that connection and bring the benefits of butter and of seeds, while being flavorful and delicious.”
Of course, even great ideas can fall flat. Budde described the process that led to a successful end product: “We were all in the lab one day, basically having a jam session to come up with ideas for an innovation showcase. It ended with me going to the store and grabbing everything from the health food aisle that looked exciting.”
The innovation showcase was one of many of these types of events Land O’Lakes hosts internally. The purpose of these events is to spark inspiration and to have an outlet for our research and development function to shop around ideas to business leaders throughout the organization.
The team started with more than 50 concepts for products to showcase. In preparation for the event, they narrowed the ideas down to 18. For Butter Spread with Seeds, they would need to continuously test and learn from a variety of seeds and other ingredients that would be relevant to today’s health-conscious consumers. Land O’Lakes sensory, culinary and market research teams helped evaluate a wide variety of possible seed candidates.
“Amaranth seeds were teeny and really hard. It just didn’t feel pleasant to eat,” Budde said. “Quinoa was exciting and high in protein, but the flavor wasn’t great.”
Following the innovation showcase, the developers incorporated more feedback into a prototype that they distributed at an internal “Farmer’s Market” of sorts. This Farmer’s Market, the first of its kind for Land O’Lakes, served as an opportunity to gather input and gauge excitement from the Land O’Lakes sales team about the idea. (After all, they’re the ones who are going to have to make sure it gets on supermarket shelves!)
Finally, the team was ready to let consumers test the product. Individuals picked up the product and recorded their preferences, experiences and thoughts about it at home. Then, they submitted electronic ballots or picked up the phone to talk to Land O’Lakes about what they liked and what they wanted to see changed. Land O’Lakes used their feedback to determine the perfect ratio of seeds to butter spread.
Finally, the butter spread isn’t the only thing that’s new: the product comes with refreshed packaging, too. This is the first spreadable Land O Lakes® product to come in a clear tub, letting butter-spread-buyers see the goodness of the seeds inside for themselves.
Heather Anfang, Land O’Lakes U.S. Dairy senior vice president, has made a point of taking innovation seriously, saying, “When it comes to innovation, success isn’t exclusively about people buying our butter, it’s about solving a need that’s out there.”
This new product, among others, is all part of strategic direction for Land O’Lakes: providing variety and choice while adding value for customers, so that new products aren’t different just to be different but are truly meeting a need for what consumers crave.
The team behind Land O Lakes® Butter Spread with Seeds is confident their product solves a need, and that it can marry the powerful profile of seeds with the convenience of a butter spread that people already love.
Just take it from food scientist Budde, who says, “Tasting is believing!”