Friday, October 28, 2016

Seasonal (and Tributary) Ice Cream: Make your flavor, package and story attract consumers.

It’s that time of year again for falling leaves, football games (some of us are still into baseball! Go Cubs Go!) and limited-time autumn- and winter-themed ice cream. Such seasonal products invite consumers to try something new. In fact, these products create an urgency to purchase, as limited-edition products are only in the freezer—or in the scoop shop--for a short period of time.

When it comes to autumn in the U.S., apple, cranberry and pumpkin flavors have been known to make their way into almost every type of food and beverage. These flavors carry consumers from back-to-school madness to trick-or-treating and Thanksgiving. Then the egg nog, hot cocoa and peppermint flavors surface.

Ice cream marketers have been very busy this year, with many adding unique flavorful spins to their seasonal flavors in order to get consumers’ attention in what has become a very crowded freezer. A number of ice cream marketers have redesigned their brand and their packaging to help them stand out all year long, too. Let’s explore this recent activity, but first…
       Double H Plastics will showcase its packaging solutions at booth 7828 at Pack Expo November 6 to 9 in Chicago.

In early October, the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) hosted a reception to honor Connie Tipton, IDFA president and CEO, to celebrate her 35 years of service to the association and the dairy industry. One of Connie’s successes during her tenure included getting President Ronald Reagan to designate July as National Ice Cream Month in 1984. At the same time he also designated the third Sunday of July as National Ice Cream Day.  

Connie educated the president on the fact that ice cream is a fun and nutritious food that is enjoyed by an overwhelming majority of the nation’s population. In fact, nine out of 10 U.S. households have some type of ice cream in their freezer at all times. The fact is, ice cream is one of a few “sweet treats” to actually provide nutritional value, as the milk ice cream is made from is a source of calcium, protein and other nutrients.

In recognition of Connie’s achievement and its importance to the ice cream industry, Rich and Heather Draper of The Ice Cream Club Inc., developed “Connie’s Lemme Ma-wrangle You Pie” ice cream. It combines the tart flavor of lemon with a sweet hint of meringue.

“Connie’s friend was instrumental in helping us on our quest to find the best flavor to honor Connie,” says Heather Draper. “We landed on a lemon meringue pie, as this was a very special flavor for Connie and her biggest supporter, her father, who passed away earlier this year, but who was fortunate to have witnessed her many groundbreaking achievements.”

(Heather Draper, Rich Draper and Connie Tipton, left to right)

The pint containers feature Connie and her father sporting milk mustaches. The containers tell this story:

Washington insiders will tell you resistance is futile! Acquiesce and enjoy a big helping of a decadent blend of sweet and tart lemon custard ice cream loaded with crunching meringue cookies and pie pieces. Memories of the past 35 years and the strong, unified voice forged for the Dairy Industry will have your “Milk Mustache” smiling. The flavor is sweet like the passage of the Farm Bill yet tart like the friendly banter of the opposition. The flavor replicates the intensity of Connie, who has always dreamed big and bold but has never forgotten the core values of integrity, trust and hard work!    

Thank you Connie, who will be retiring at the end of this year. And thanks to the Drapers for their product development efforts.

In regards to ice cream, did you know that slightly more than 10% of all U.S.-produced milk is used to manufacture this delicious—and nutritious—frozen dessert? Ice cream production follows a clear seasonal pattern. Summer is the unchallenged season, with production kicking up in March and April to fill retail and foodservice pipelines in the late spring and early summer. June is the highest production month of the year, but production remains strong through August to satisfy summer demand. Production declines through the end of the year. However, savvy marketers now offer seasonal products that complement the flavors of winter holidays. Here’s what’s being served this year.

Baskin-Robbins starting lifting spirits in early October in a deliciously cool way to celebrate Halloween all month long. The chain’s lineup of festive frozen treats includes the new Silly Monster Cake, which is frightfully friendly and festive. It can be customized with a guest’s favorite ice cream and cake combination. The chain also brought back its popular Pinata Pumpkin Patch Cake, which is dressed up like a jack-o-lantern and features a candy-filled center. When guests cut into the cake, a cascade of candy comes pouring out. Both cakes serves six to eight people.

October’s Flavor of the Month is Trick Oreo Treat Dark. A spooky spin on a classic favorite, the new flavor features chocolate ice cream packed with orange creme-filled Oreo cookies, Baby Ruth and Butterfinger candy pieces, and a dark fudge ribbon.

There’s also new Halloween Polar Pizza for sharing. It features a double-fudge brownie crust that
gets topped with Made With Snickers ice cream, candy corn, M&M’s Minis milk chocolate candies and is drizzled with fudge topping.

“We’re excited to offer our guests a variety of eye-catching and delicious frozen treats to make Halloween parties and gatherings extra sweet this month,” says Jeff Miller, executive chef and vice president of product innovation for Dunkin’ Brands, owners of Baskin-Robbins.

Carvel isn’t offering tricks for Halloween, just treats, with the return of its Lil’ Screamers Novelty Treats. The fall holiday lineup also includes Lil’ Gobblers and Lil’ Snowmen.

Available October 14 through Halloween, Carvel Lil’ Screamers feature freshly made vanilla soft ice cream sitting on a Flying Saucer wafer and decorated to look like ghosts. Turning to turkey time next, Lil’ Gobblers will take the cake through Thanksgiving. These are made of premium vanilla ice cream coated in a chocolate shell and topped off with a whipped frosting design to look like miniature Tom the Turkey cakes.

“Carvel’s novelty treats have made many holiday tables complete,” says Scott Colwell, president of Carvel. “We hope these offerings bring guests a lil’ something extra to their holiday season.”
Following ghosts and turkeys, Lil’ Snowmen also sit on a Flying Saucer wafer and are decorated with blue frosting scarves and ear muffs. They will be available through December 31.

Cold Stone Creamery is offering Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream, Creme Brulee Ice Cream and the Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream Pie this holiday season.

“The pumpkin flavor has become such a popular seasonal flavor nationwide, but we wanted to take it to the next level,” says Kate Unger, senior vice president of Cold Stone Creamery. “Our new Pumpkin Cheesecake flavor takes our beloved premium ice cream and gives it an extra indulgent and flavorful boost. It’s an incredible and special time of year to spend with those we love and to share in indulgent and flavorful food together. We feel confident knowing these new flavors will help ring in the season doing just that.”

In the retail packaged side of the business, Snoqualmie Ice Cream is rolling out a brand-new seasonal flavor, along with the return of two holiday favorites: Pumpkin Custard and Peppermint Stick Gelato. The new offering is Sun Liquor Fancy Egg Nog Frozen Custard. Sun Liquor has been crafting its custom famous egg nog for 10 years, and for the first time they partnered with Snoqualmie Ice Cream to create a non-alcoholic ice cream version of this wonderful seasonal classic.

“We made a really great egg nog flavor in the past,” says Barry Bettinger, owner and founder of Snoqualmie Ice Cream. “But it had too much alcohol in it, and we weren’t able to sell it at retail. Our collaboration with the wonderful team at Sun Liquor has allowed us to perfect a non-alcoholic recipe with a fantastic taste, and it’s a real treat.”

Tillamook also has two new artisan ice creams for the holidays. They are Pumpkin Cookie Butter, which is spiced pumpkin ice cream swirled with speculoos cookie pieces, and White Chocolate Peppermint Bark, which is white chocolate ice cream swirled with peppermint crackle and bark pieces.

“This is our first release of special batch flavors so we’re really looking forward to seeing how consumers respond to them,” says Stephanie Carson, ice cream category manager at Tillamook. “Many of our year-round flavors are great for celebrating the holidays but these limited-edition treats were created specifically for this time of year. Pumpkin and peppermint are especially popular and we wanted to provide our fans with options that are uniquely Tillamook, made with the highest quality mix-ins like speculoos cookie pieces and rich fudge peppermint bark.”

Wells’ Enterprises Inc., is getting in the holiday spirit and has its new Blue Bunny brand ambassador Blu spreading the cheer. Cocoa Bunny is chocolate ice cream with marshmallow swirl and chocolate-flavored marshmallow bunnies. There's also Peppermint Patty, which is peppermint-flavored ice cream with fudge swirls and peppermint-filled red and green bunnies. 

Earlier this year, the brand announced it was on a renewed mission to bring even more fun and excitement to ice cream through product enhancement, packaging innovation and the introduction of Blu, who is featured in the brand’s advertising campaigns. Blue Bunny showcases its 46-ounce and new quart-sized line of fun-stuffed packaged ice creams, including the two new seasonal treats, in see-through packaging to let consumers instantly establish at point of purchase that Blue Bunny ice creams are fun-stuffed quality through and through. The transparent containers are recyclable and BPA free, as well.

“When people think of ice cream they think of fun. That’s where Blue Bunny comes in,” says Adam Baumgartner, vice president of marketing for Blue Bunny. “We’ve re-launched the Blue Bunny brand having been inspired by ice cream fans and their desire to have more fun with their frozen treat. We asked, and then earnestly listened to ice cream enthusiasts, and we heard them say they want their ice cream to be more light hearted, more fun. And they want it to come in packaging that clearly conveys there’s good stuff waiting for them inside.”

I was fortunate to visit Wells’ Enterprises this spring and interviewed keys leaders about their very aggressive food safety program. The article was published in Food Business News online and can be accessed HERE.

Velvet Ice Cream is bringing back two seasonal favorites--Pumpkin Pie and Pure Cinnamon—and introducing Peppermint Stick ice cream. Peppermint Stick is made from peppermint ice cream infused with red peppermint candies.

Ben& Jerry’s is bringing back Pumpkin Cheesecake. And, as expected, with elections right around the corner, the brand must speak its mind.  That’s what you get with EMPOWER Mint. This is a new peppermint ice cream with fudge brownies and fudge swirls.

The flavor tells this story:

Democracy is in your hands! This fudge-filled flavor reflects our belief that voting gives everyone a taste of empowerment, and that an election should be more “by the people” and less “buy the people.” We all deserve an equal serving of democracy.

Design defines a brand.

After three generations and 85 years, Umpqua Ice Cream decided it was time for a makeover. Just last month, Umpqua Dairy debuted its new look. The retro-themed carton showcases individual ice cream flavors, while still honoring the family heritage of the iconic “red round” package. Along with the new design, the company has eliminated high fructose corn syrup from all ice cream recipes and inclusions.

And, in conclusion, as the beautiful, clean and safe city of Chicago prepares for this weekend’s World Series games, a special nod goes to Carvel for its baseball mitt-shaped ice cream cake. Go Cubs Go!
  Double H Plastics will showcase its packaging solutions at booth 7828 at Pack Expo November 6 to 9 in Chicago.

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