BROOKLYN, New York – RifRaf is an unusual name for a brand – especially a food brand. But for David Eisenman the name conveys a sense of risk-taking and adventure.

“We’re ‘outsiders’ to the dairy case,” said Eisenman, CEO of Madwell, an advertising and marketing agency based in Brooklyn.

His company has entered the food business with a line of ricotta-cheese cups for snacking.

Such a new dairy-food category appealed to the Dairy Farmers of America, said Monica Massey, the organization’s executive vice-president and chief of staff. Dairy Farmers of America three years ago launched the DFA Accelerator, which helps to mentor entrepreneurs with new ideas for improving consumer demand for dairy products as well as for improving dairy-producer profitability.

“For years we rested on our laurels with milk,” Massey said. “While we still believe milk is a superior product, consumers now have many more choices so innovation is key.”

Snacking is a big food trend, she said. In an article featuring the top-10 food trends for 2019, “Forbes” included snacking on the list. Market research has shown 10 percent annual growth in the past five years for food and beverage launches with a “snacking claim.” The article also featured Whole Foods’ observations on increased consumer demand for excellent-quality snacks such as artisanal cheese and charcuterie.

Eisenman happened upon the idea for ricotta cups when making lasagna. As he prepared the layers he would frequently dip his spoon into a container of ricotta.

“This tastes pretty good,” he recalled. “I wonder how it would taste with honey drizzled over it.”

Eisenman and his business partner, Chris Sojka, worked with Chef Will Hickox to develop the ricotta-cup line. The ricotta, with 12 percent protein, is made of milk from 100-percent-grassfed cows. The team is working with a manufacturer in Pennsylvania to produce the ricotta cups.

The product, which Massey likens to a cross between yogurt and cottage cheese, is paired with unique flavors.

  • strawberry balsamic
  • Meyer lemon
  • wildflower honey
  • serrano-pepper honey
  • sundried tomato

“Millennials like new tastes and exotic flavors,” she said.

Rifraf’s ricotta cups are currently sold in select Whole Foods Market stores on the East Coast. But Eisenman said there are plans to expand availability nationwide.

He said that he appreciates having been selected to participate in the DFA Accelerator. It provides a “360 approach” to sales and marketing for a company just starting in the dairy business.

The “360 approach” refers to marketing activities that take into consideration brand identity and an inclusive approach so a brand is presented at all points of consumer contact, according to the “Business Dictionary.”

RifRaf is learning about various elements of dairy-food production such as shelf life by working with Kemp, which is owned by Dairy Farmers of America. The company provides valuable assistance in that area, Massey said.

Within the accelerator Dairy Farmers of America, CoBank, and other investment and business-development companies mentor entrepreneurs like Eisenman and his colleagues. The accelerator provides business-building programs with a focus on product, brand, marketing and entrepreneurship. Visit www.dfamilk.com and www.rifraf.com for more information.

Lynn Grooms writes about the diversity of agriculture, including the industry’s newest ideas, research and technologies as a staff reporter for Agri-View based in Wisconsin. Email lgrooms@madison.com to contact her.