Thursday, January 7, 2016

Ice Cream Trends 2016: Five Flavor Platforms to Consider in Product Development

Happy New Year! And to all U.S. subscribers, I hope you agree that the 2015-2020 edition of the Dietary Guidelines published on Thursday (Jan. 7, 2016) are a great way to start the year. (A summary of how dairy is addressed in the guidelines can be found at the end of this blog.)

“The 2015 Dietary Guidelines give Americans an easy New Year’s resolution to improve their health for 2016: Consume more dairy foods. These guidelines reinforce that dairy is the answer to a healthier diet.”
Jim Mulhern, president and CEO, National Milk Producers Federation

 When it comes to ice cream, the industry needs to be strategic on this delicious dessert’s marketplace positioning. After all, for the first time, the Dietary Guidelines directly address sugar intake through the recommendation of limiting added sugars to 10% or less of calories. The emphasis is on added sugars, not inherent sugar, such as the lactose found in milk. However, when it comes to ice cream, added sugars tend to be on the high side…but do they need to be? This past year I reported on numerous better-for-you frozen desserts. You can read more HERE and by scrolling through the new frozen dessert page by linking HERE.

I believe the time is right for single-serve ice cream treats that are designed to be lower in fat and sugar. The dairy component provides nine essential nutrients, giving permission to consumers to healthfully indulge in a treat. (More on better-for-you formulating in a future blog.)

This blog is not about value-added formulations or packaging. It’s all about flavor trends, and is always one of the most well-read blogs of the year. So here goes…let’s just jump into what I believe will be the top-five flavor platforms during the next year or two. (Spoiler alert: all five sort of meld together.)

1. Caramel Continues to Mutate
Sea salt caramel is not going away, but expect to see caramel with new partners and in new formats. Think caramel swirl with coffee, cinnamon, honey or vanilla. Think chocolate-covered caramel, a.k.a. truffles. Caramel is also the ideal sweet carrier for a little bit of heat. Think chipotle, jalapeno or sriracha.  To read more about the sweet with heat trend, link HERE.

In the U.S., Unilever is expanding its Breyers Blasts! line with Mini Caramel Hershey’s Kisses. In the Philippines, the company is rolling out a sea salt caramel Kisses version under its Selecta brand. 

The beauty of caramel is that it can be used in better-for-you formulations, as a little goes a long way. Just check out limited-holiday edition Enlightened Cinnamon Caramel Swirl, which is a stick novelty of cinnamon spice ice cream with a caramel swirl.

Also for the holiday’s, Canada’s Chapman’s offered a Holiday Moments Shortbread, which contained shortbread pieces and a salty caramel swirl. It’s dessert density. Being two desserts in one, it saves calories. (Yeah, right! Who am I kidding? But it was super yummy!)

2.    Coffee is hot in the freezer
Coffee-flavored ice creams have come and gone over the years. Starbucks once had its own branded line, which was produced by Dreyer’s. Even Eight O’Clock Coffee had its name in the freezer. Back in 2006, Kemps and Caribou Coffee teamed up to offer four varieties all made with real brewed Caribou-branded coffee. (One contained a caramel swirl!)

Coffee is back in the freezer and showing up in flavors with names containing terms such as cappuccino, java and mocha. But more importantly, the coffee is being qualified by being Cold Brewed, Fair Trade or Organic. To read more about the cold-brewed coffee phenomenon, link HERE.

Coffee flavors not only partner well with caramel and chocolate, the right coffee can carry notes of smoke or spice. And almost all nuts complement coffee.

Here’s an interesting twist on coffee and caffeine. For the first time in the history of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, the 2015-2020 edition makes coffee and caffeine a noteworthy point of discussion, and in a positive framework. In the 2010 edition, there were no recommendations on coffee consumption, with coffee mentioned only three times and caffeine never addressed. By contrast, the recently published edition mentions coffee 209 times and caffeine 205 times. The new guidelines state “moderate coffee consumption (three to five 8-ounce cups/day or providing up to 400 mg/day of caffeine) can be incorporated into healthy eating patterns.” Though non-consumers are not encouraged to start becoming users, the statement reflects current science that suggests coffee consumption may be a positive factor in overall well-being. Coffee consumption has been shown to reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as possibly play a protective role against Parkinson’s disease. These healthful benefits are quite contradictory to what many in the medical community preached not that long ago. Today, coffee has become a functional food and can add a healthful halo to ice cream, which is one of the few desserts to contain nine essential nutrients.

3.    Mixology Movement
From Daiquiri Ice to Rum Raisin, over the years, numerous adult beverage flavors have made their way into frozen desserts, usually without containing real alcohol…but not always.

Back in the 90s, when Haagen-Dazs was still part of Pillsbury, the brand teamed up with Diageo to produce a non-alcoholic version of Bailey’s flavored ice cream. (I remember. I actually visited their New York offices and interviewed the R&D team on the development of the product.)

Most recently, Bulla Dairy in Australia developed what it calls an adults-only product line featuring real Bailey’s Irish Cream in three flavor profiles: Burnt Toffee, Chocolate and Original. Because the ice creams contain less than 0.5% alcohol, Food Standards Australia and New Zealand does not require the packaging to declare the alcohol content; however, Bulla and Baileys decided to still include the alcohol content on the labeling. Better safe than sorry!

Expect to see more personalized adult beverage flavors in frozen desserts. Regional ice cream makers have started teaming up with local mixologists to transform their namesake cocktails into frozen desserts. Think unique spins on cosmopolitans, whiskey sours and martinis. Also, craft beers are finding their way into the freezer.

Most recently, Ben & Jerry’s showed us a new way to enjoy New Belgium Brewing Ale with the introduction of limited-batch Salted Caramel Brown-ie Ale ice cream. This is a brown ale-flavored ice cream with swirls of salted caramel and chunks of fudge brownies. (Caramel goes great with beer and brownies!)

On a regional level, third-generation family-owned and operated Clover Stornetta Farms has introduced a line of craft ice creams including Hoppy Hour, which is made with Bear Republic Brewing’s distinctive artisan Racer 5 IPA. The company also has offers French Press, which is made with hand-brewed dark roast coffee, and leading into the next flavor trend platform, they also offer Tempt Me Toffee, which is made with crunchy, buttery English toffee from Charles Chocolates in San Francisco.

To read more about how the flavors of beer, spirits and wine are finding their way into foods, link HERE.

4.    Artisan, Crafted and Local
The mixology movement rides the waves of artisan, crafted and local.
For the record, Jeni’s is back in business and selling pints at retail for $9.99. This is at mainstream retail. At Whole Foods Market, I believe it’s a dollar or two more.  Of course, caramel is an integral ingredient in many of her artisan creations.
Häagen-Dazs showed us last year that even a national brand can get crafty and personal with its Artisan Collection ice cream line. The line consists of six gourmet flavors made with inclusions developed in conjunction with small, but well-known confectioners around the U.S. For example, Applewood Smoked Caramel Almond uses pralines from Praline Patisserie in San Diego and Tres Leches Brigadeiro includes confections from New York’s My Sweet Brigadeiro.

View a video of the brand and the efforts that went into its development HERE. It’s very inspirational.

The brand is at it again this season. Looks like they have plans to roll out what’s called the Destination Series. So far I am aware of two offerings: Mayan Chocolate and Toasted Sesame Brittle. The flavors are all about escaping to another country. That brings me to flavor trend platform #5.

5.    Global Inspiration
Escaping to a foreign land through ice cream is becoming increasingly popular, with companies such as Chapman’s offering the Flavors of the World Gelato line. The line includes Sticky Rice & Mango Gelato, which is based on a traditional Thai treat that combines sticky rice and coconut milk with mango. Sour Cherry Tango Gelato is a Latin American Fiesta designed to make the taste buds tango through the combination of tart cherry with a sour cherry ripple. Amaretto Biscotti Gelato is an Italian inspiration that combines amaretto, pistachio and chocolate flavors.

Last year, the Movenpick brand, which is sold in select European countries and other select global markets, introduced what was called the Limited Edition Africa series. The four flavors were: Bourbon Vanilla & Exotic Fruits, Madagascar Island Cocoa, Moroccan Orange Blossom & Date, and South African Rooibos Tea & Raspberry.

Under this global flavor trend comes speculoos and tiramisu, desserts from the Netherlands and Italy, respectively, that are increasingly showing up in frozen desserts flavors. Expect to see more speculoos this season, as its flavor builds on the caramel platform. It’s a shortcrust cookie with a sweet butter flavor and contains a spice blend consisting of cardamom, cinnamon, clove, ginger and nutmeg. The speculoos flavor works great in ice cream and also makes a flavorful inclusion, possibly coated with caramel or chocolate. Ginger, which is an important flavor in speculoos, is driving all types of flavor innovation because it provides two types of heat, one that’s refreshing and another that’s spicy. There’s also a healthful halo surrounding ginger, and it has strong ethnic associations.

And though this product is unique to the Japanese market, it definitely is worth noting as an up-and-coming ice cream concept. Häagen-Dazs is growing its Japonais line with a chestnut and azuki red bean offering, which goes by the name Waguri Azuki. This is the fifth product in three years to be released in the popular Japonais series, which pays homage to some of Japan’s best flavor combinations…many of which will soon be embraced in other countries.

This is a four-layered frozen dessert, designed as a single portion, with a chestnut ice cream base topped with whole azuki beans, followed by smooth vanilla ice cream and a final layer of soft chopped chestnuts on top.

2015 Dietary Guidelines: Dairy Foods Are a Key Component of Healthy Eating for Well-Being

The final version of the 2015 federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) affirms the vital, unrivaled contribution made by dairy foods, and reminds Americans that they will continue to benefit from three daily servings of low-fat and fat-free dairy. In fact, the DGA notes that current intakes of dairy foods for most Americans “are far below recommendations of the Healthy U.S.-Style Pattern,” and they call for a shift to consume more dairy products. Milk, cheese and yogurt are important answers to the question of how Americans should change their diets for the better.

As America strives to create a culture of wellness, the 2015 DGA embraces flexibility to help people build and enjoy healthy eating patterns that will nourish them physically, while also nourishing cultural and personal connections. Regardless of one’s path to a healthy diet, three daily servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy foods like milk, cheese or yogurt can play an important role in healthy eating and well-being, from childhood through adulthood.

While people eat foods, not nutrients, the nutrients in food do matter. Low-fat or fat-free dairy foods are fundamental to all of the patterns recommended by the DGA: Healthy U.S.-style Pattern, Healthy Vegetarian-Style Pattern and Healthy Mediterranean-style Pattern. That’s because low-fat and fat-free dairy foods offer a unique set of nine essential nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D and potassium, which most people do not get enough of in their diets.

In fact, because of dairy foods’ nutrient-rich package, it can be challenging for most Americans, mainly those aged nine and older, to meet nutrient recommendations without eating three servings of dairy a day. When foods from the dairy group are removed from daily eating patterns, or replaced with sugar-sweetened beverages, calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin A and riboflavin dropped below 100% of goals. What’s more, levels of vitamin D and potassium, as well as choline, dropped substantially.

The new Guidelines note “strong evidence shows that healthy eating patterns are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Moderate evidence indicates that healthy eating patterns also are associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer… overweight, and obesity.” In addition, “research also has linked dairy intake to improved bone health, especially in children and adolescents.”

The good news for people across the country is that dairy foods taste great, are accessible almost anywhere, contain essential nutrients and come in a variety of options from lactose-free to low-fat, fat-free or lower sodium, all at a reasonable cost. In fact, you can get three servings of milk for less than $1 a day (with each serving at about 25 cents). And with 8 grams of protein in every 8 ounces, milk is a natural source of high-quality protein, meaning it provides the full mix of essential amino acids our body needs. The dairy community is committed to doing its part to ensure healthy products are available to enhance the health of people and communities, now and for future generations.

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