March 29, 2001

Milk Substitute Provides Nutritional Value, Novelty

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What may sound like noises on a cyber-ranch is actually the name of the newest creation by members of the Cornell Food Science Department and Mac Farms of Burlington Mass. e-Moo, a milk-based formulated, carbonated, beverage is designed to attract children to a more nutritious substitute for soft drinks and juice drinks.

“It’s a milk-based flavored and colored formulated beverage whose current format is targeted at young children with the idea that parents would prefer [their kids to have] a more nutritious beverage than a soft drink,” said Prof. Joseph Hotchkiss, food science, a researcher who worked on e-Moo.

Hitting the Shelves

After a year of developing flavor, content, nutrition and shelf-life, e-Moo is scheduled to hit Northeastern states in June, according to George Clark of Mac Farms. The beverage contains all the nutrition of milk including calcium and protein, but with a lower sodium content than other flavored milks.

“[Mac Farms] was looking for the next opportunity of growth in the dairy industry. The growth has been reasonably flat over the past couple of year. Alarmingly, this decline in the popularity of milk over soft drinks was from young kids under the age of 10, drinking things other than milk. We wanted to develop something fun and exciting for these kids to drink,” Clark said.

Response from taste tests has been extremely positive according to Clark. The drink comes in Orange Cremecicle, Bubble gum and Cookies and Creme, although Hotchkiss asserted that Bubble gum tended to be a greater favorite with the kids than with their parents.

“Bubble-gum Banana just didn’t match well together,” said Eric Hallstead, manager of the pilot plant for e-Moo. Hallstead was involved in organizing the flavors, packaging and communication between Cornell and Mac Farms. The flavors were developed in order not to compete with flavored milk but to add new alternatives to the taste of milk drinks.

“There were some pretty rough matches in the beginning, but the response now has been pretty positive,” Hallstead said. “It takes a lot of trial and error with small batches [to get the flavor right],” he added.

“People drink about a gallon of carbonation a week,” Hotchkiss said. Carbonation was not only added for the taste sensation, to match popular soft drinks, but also because it prolongs shelf-life and acts as a preservative.

“The product has about a six week shelf-life if [kept] refrigerated,” Hotchkiss said. Exact shelf-life is still being tested by undergraduate and graduate researchers.

Mac Farms examined several papers, conducted interviews and reviewed several organizations across the country, finally deciding on Cornell as the best research facility for the job.

“As we looked around the U.S., our estimation is that Cornell has the most prestigious reputation in food science [research],” Clark said.

Mac Farms is also planning to announce another version of e-Moo targeting consumers in their college years and older, as a sports drink, according to Clark.

As for the name, “kids these days are tuned into the internet. The ‘moo’ is the milk and the ‘e’ is something new,” explained Hotchkiss.

Archived article by Leonor Guariguata