Friday, November 16, 2012

Ice Cream Trends 2013

It's that time of year...

...when you need to start planning for the upcoming summer’s ice cream season.

In mid-October I was fortunate to attend Taste Tomorrow, an invitation-only event hosted by Puratos. More than 200 key industry players in the bakery, patisserie and chocolate sectors met in Chicago for this two-day interactive program that featured in-depth insights into consumer attitudes, behaviors, choices and trends, as they relate to bakery, patisserie and chocolate. Almost all can be applied to frozen desserts.

We learned how global and local insights translate into emerging trends in the food sector. The event title—Taste Tomorrow—says it all. Innovative product developers must stay on top of the trends in order to formulate foods that meet the desires of tomorrow’s consumer.

Puratos’ Research
At the end of 2011, Puratos carried out extensive global research into consumer behavior and consumer choices in efforts to answer questions such as:

  • Are they embracing their local food heritage or are they constantly looking for new and exciting flavors?
  • Are healthy and sustainable options really changing eating patterns, or do consumers want gratification above all?

The company travelled around the globe and asked 6,400 consumers about their attitudes and preferences. The combination of qualitative and quantitative research provided the company with unique insights into today’s market and future trends, and showed that there are often conflicting or paradoxical trends. They also uncovered a number of megatrends for the future. All of these discoveries can be used to better understand your customers today and to help build your business tomorrow.

Key insights that impact all food sectors include the fact that consumers are becoming increasingly sensitive to how food is produced. Therefore, transparency and authenticity play a key role in the sourcing, development and production process of food products.

The nutritional value of food is a key aspect for the future. And when queried if they prefer naturally healthful foods or foods with health benefits added, the overwhelming response was that it does not matter.

Yet, naturalness is key. But what actually is naturalness? Puratos learned that naturalness to most consumers means “closing the gap between manufacturing and selling.” It’s the time from production to consumption...not necessarily the ingredients in the product.

Compelling stories are the future of food marketing. The manufacturer must express his passion for the product no matter how it is produced. In the case of ice cream, it should not matter if the ice cream is mass produced or hand-crafted batch-by-batch, as long as the passion and commitment to the product line is communicated on the package and in marketing materials. Discuss the origin of ingredients, the evolution of a recipe, the history of the brand, etc.

Telling a story adds value...and allows a marketer to charge a premium. Consumers want proof as to why they should pay more for a product. Storytelling provides benefits that exceed the cost of the product.

Consumers increasingly find food as a form of self expression. It’s not just what you wear; it’s what you eat. Tomorrow’s consumer will be even more highly involved with food, so connecting with them at all levels—nutrition, flavor, sourcing, etc.—is essential.

Puratos research indicated that consumers connect with city brands, no matter the city and no matter where they are. New York bagels are more popular in Milan than simply bagels. Parisian macaroons command twice the price of mere macaroons in Seattle bakeries. This can be taken to the next level with authentic state and even country favorites. This connection to a locality boosts the perception of quality and provides a guarantee of tradition.
Thank you very much Puratos for all this research. There is a great deal more, but these insights provided the groundwork for my top-five predictions for the 2013 ice cream season. These predictions also meld in observations from the numerous trade shows I have attended in the past six months that have focused on the convenience, foodservice and retail channels, including special attention to confections, snacks and better-for-you foods. And, of course, I factor in insights from ingredient suppliers at the IFT Annual Food Meeting + Food Expo, and the Chicago Section IFT Suppliers’ Night, which was last night (November 15). (It was so great to see so many of you, and congratulations to the Chicago Section for 50 years of service to the Chicago-area food industry!)
Top Five Trends for the 2013 Ice Cream Season
1) Desserts within desserts gain momentum, but the characterizing dessert needs to better connect with the consumer. Examples include: Georgian Peach Melba swirled through a Madagascar vanilla ice cream, Fair Trade Coffee-flavored ice cream loaded with Oregon Truffles, and Caramelized Illinois Apple pieces blended into Wisconsin Sweet Cream ice cream.
2) Sweet and salty have become quite common as inclusion blends in ice cream. But tomorrow’s consumer would like a little more excitement, so throw in a little heat or a touch of tang. Think peppers, hot sauce, citrus and even cheese. Even better, make it local. Vanilla ice cream swirled with pieces of locally baked apple pie and diced farmstead cheddar cheese. How about Chipotle-peppered pecans swirled through Florida Key Lime Pie-flavored ice cream?
3) Dairy within dairy…that’s right. Dairy’s wholesome and local perception resonates with consumers. Double up on the deliciousness with inclusions such as mascarpone swirl, cream cheese chunks and even sour cream-filled truffles.
4) Add some nutrition. Not everyone wants their ice cream to deliver the content of a daily multiple vitamin, but there’s definitely a consumer segment who is attracted to ice cream with some extra nutrition. Nutritionally enhanced ice creams are best in novelty form. This way the consumer knows exactly how much they are taking in and there’s less of a chance of over dosing. Think granola-coated low-fat California strawberry frozen yogurt bar that is an excellent source of fiber and provides a whole serving of fruit. 
5) And likely the biggest trend is booze. (The opening photo is courtesy of the California Table Grape Commission and features California Port Wine ice cream.)
From wine to beer to blended cocktails, the flavors from the liquor department have been making their way into ice cream for some time, and this trend is expected to gain strength. It’s taking place in foodservice and retail, and interest is growing. There are some ice cream manufacturers using actual alcohol, but that’s not what I am talking about, as such products can be challenging for dairy processors to market and distribute because of their purchase-age requirement. The trend I am talking about is margarita-flavored fro-yo and cabernet-swirled dark chocolate gelato. These are flavors that appeal to the more mature palette. It builds on the dessert-in-dessert trend, where one gets the best of two worlds for the calories of only one favorite treat.
With that said, would someone please create (sans the alcohol) a California Char-donna-y swirled Michigan Raspberry Low-Fat Probiotic Frozen Yogurt for me?
(Why not take this time to view the many innovative frozen desserts I have featured this year as a Daily Dose of Dairy? You can view them HERE.)

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