By Melissa Dunson
Cassie McDaniels is the kind of student the Carl Junction School District had in mind when its officials began reviewing their vending-machine offerings.
“I’m pretty much addicted to pop,” said McDaniels, a freshman at the high school.
She said she understands the importance of cutting down on drinking soft drinks, but sodas remain her preference — as long as she can get them.
Increasingly, soft drinks are going the way of typewriters and slide rules as school districts such as Carl Junction begin to implement new nutritional standards to combat obesity and other health problems in children.
Made in Joplin
That’s where a Joplin company comes in.
Jasper Products was one of the first companies to produce shelf-stable milk and one of only three in the United States approved by the federal government to make what is known as an aseptic product.
Slammers, a flavored-milk product made by Jasper Products, was created by Roy Warren’s company, Bravo! Brands Inc., and is distributed by Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc.
While chocolate- and strawberry-flavored milk have been staples of school cafeterias for years, Warren said this milk can be made to taste like popular candies such as 3 Musketeers, Milky Way and Starburst.
Warren hopes to make the world a healthier place by offering Slammers as an alternative to sugary soft drinks.
Milk, a traditionally healthy drink acclaimed as a source of calcium and vitamin D, also has traditionally been on the short list of foods that many children like to avoid. Warren said Slammers are 100 percent low-fat, and they don’t have to be refrigerated before they are opened.
Jasper Products creates the aseptic, shelf-stable product by killing all the bacteria in the milk. The product is packaged in an air-tight, carbon-lined plastic bottle specifically designed by Jasper Products and Bravo! for soft-drink vending machines.
Ken Haubein, president of Jasper Products, said the company has been working with Bravo! on the drinks since 2001. With the new shelf-stable variety, he thinks there will be more opportunities for milk to emerge as a popular beverage now that it’s no longer bound to the realm of refrigerators.
In May 2005, Bravo! started marketing Slammers to school lunchrooms as a healthy, but sweet, alternative to soft drinks.
Bravo! reduced Slammers from 2 percent to 1 percent milk and reduced the sugar content from 30 to 15 grams for several of the flavors, drawing the attention and support of the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation.
The Milk Processor Education Program, an industry group, reports that children who drink flavored milk are more likely to meet their daily calcium requirements compared with their peers who choose other drinks, and that children and teens who drink flavored milk consume more milk overall. Like white milk, flavored milk is a source of calcium, vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin D, phosphorus, riboflavin, potassium and niacin. Each 8-ounce serving of milk provides about one-third of the daily calcium requirement for children.
Carl Junction High School recently started offering Slammers in a cafeteria vending machine.
Freshman Kaitlin Wilson said she likes the drink, particularly the Starburst flavor. Lacy Cary, also a freshman, said she tried the Starburst Slammer and hated it.
Freshman Desiree Felker has yet to try Slammers, but she drinks milk on a daily basis instead of soft drinks because it’s healthier. She said flavored milk could become a popular alternative for students.
“I drink a lot of milk: in my cereal for breakfast, more before I leave for school and two with my lunch,” Felker said. “I really don’t drink it (soft drinks) that often, because I think milk’s better for you.”
Another Carl Junction freshman, Brittany Brault, is a hard sell. She said no amount of vitamins or flavoring will persuade her to try milk, even if there aren’t any other options.
“I just don’t like it (milk). I only eat it with my cereal,” Brault said. “I’d rather have water any day of the week than have to drink milk.”
Melissa Dunson is the business writer for The Joplin Globe.
Bravo! Brands has contracted with Jasper Products to make and package Slammers through September 2010. Last summer, Jasper Products ramped up production of the milk product from 2.5 million bottles a month to 7.5 million. Jasper Products has about 450 employees.
Bravo! also uses HP Hood LLC in Virginia to manufacture 5.8 million Slammers a month.
Sources: Bravo! Brands and Jasper Products
By Melissa Dunson
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