Thursday, December 15, 2016

Dairy Foods Forecast 2017: Ice Cream Flavor Trends 2017

Photo source: Baskin-Robbins

This is the sixth—and finalin a series of reports predicting dairy innovation rollouts in 2017.

As the year starts to wind down, food and beverage market analysts issue forecasts for macro trends that will drive innovation. I take those trends and combine them with the knowledge gained throughout the year from attending international trade shows and talking with suppliers and dairy foods marketers. This year the entire dairy foods supply chain is pumped up about the future. And this is thanks to all the dedicated people who work in every link, from farm to table.

Last week I wrote about how the clean food movement in extending beyond ingredients to now encompass process. If you missed the blog, you can link HERE to read it.

The idea of process—from the sourcing of ingredients to the actual production of ice cream--will be an integral part of ice cream innovations in 2017. Think artisan, hand crafted and small batch. In addition, many new ice cream flavors will be lighter and brighter in appearance. There will be a return to less being more in 2017.

Graeter’s has long recognized the importance of process. This family-owned ice cream maker remains dedicated to the small-batch French pot process. Passionate artisans pour and swirl the best ingredients into each spinning, 2.5-gallon French pot freezer. The resulting ice cream is so dense and rich--due to the absence of air--it must be removed by hand with a paddle. That’s how Graeter’s has been hand-crafting ice cream since 1870. The company is right on target with what today’s consumer is looking for.

Here are eight trends driving ice cream innovation in 2017.

1. Preparation Descriptions. Cooking methods are described on all types of foods these days, as it makes the consumer feel more involved, more knowledgeable. Cooking methods also impart unique flavors that entice the taste buds. Expect to see more inclusions described this way. For example, think toasted coconut, grilled pineapple, caramelized banana and smoked apple. In addition, descriptors such as sun ripened, hand harvested and homemade will be more common. But don’t overdo it! Be discerning with how descriptive you are in order to not overwhelm the consumer. 

The 7-Eleven convenience-store chain does a nice job with its latest addition to its private-label 7-Select GO! Yum brand of ice cream. Side panels of pints of new Chocolate Covered Strawberry include this description: Naturally sweet, vine-ripened strawberries combine with fresh cream and chunks of chocolatey goodness for a premium rich indulgence. Bursting with fresh flavor, it’s pure delicious bliss.

2. Fruit and More Fruit. Candies and cookies will still be added to ice cream, but expect to see more real whole fruit being added and often in unique combinations. The challenge with fruit is to keep it soft and intact. Premium juice and sugar-infused fruits keep them malleable and prevent ice crystal formation. Tropical combinations and sweet with a touch of heat will be trending, along with berry and citrus combinations. Think of a Farmers Market series.

3. Butter, Cream and Dairy Variegates. Fat is back and tastes delicious. Think butter flakes (maybe with a touch of see salt), swirls of sweetened condensed milk and mascarpone variegate. Light in color but full of flavor, these ingredients add extra all-natural richness. Buttermilk, cheesecake and even pudding will trend, often in combination with fruit.

4. Sweet Flavors. With added sugars, in particular refined and processed sugars, being highly scrutinized for their negative impact on health, marketers of all types of foods and beverages have started flagging sweetener type in product descriptions to potentially give the product a more healthful halo. Expect to see agave, brown sugar, honey and maple syrup as part of an ice cream’s flavor description.

5. Coffee. Cold-press coffee is all the rage in the ready-to-drink beverage sector and is making its way into ice cream. Expect to see many coffee flavor pairings, such as coffee plus cream…flavored creamer…in the form of a frozen dessert.

Kemps recently introduced Yo2 Frozen Yogurt pints. One of the six flavors is Cold Brewed Coffee, which is coffee frozen yogurt, thick fudge swirl and chocolate chips. There’s also Mudslide, which is chocolate and coffee frozen yogurt swirled with cookies, fudge and chocolaty chunks. And there’s Vanilla, which is described as simply vanilla.

6. Vanilla. Clean, simple, pure, light and bright, that’s what you get with vanilla. Chocolate has long been a dominating base in ice cream innovations. In 2017, it will be vanilla, with an emphasis placed on the sourcing of the vanilla. Bean specks will be more prevalent as well, as they are suggestive of a product more in touch with nature.

7. Chocolate. Chocolate is not going away but in 2017 expect to see chocolate as more of a subtle inclusion rather than a dominating base. The chocolate may also be paired with other ingredients to create unique textures. Think chocolate-covered ancient grain clusters, chocolate-covered almonds and chocolate-covered cherries. Now think of all three of those in a pint of French vanilla ice cream. In keeping with the light and bright theme, there will be more creative uses of white chocolate.

8. Salted Caramel. This flavor continues to evolve and will increasingly be included as an inclusion or variegate rather than be the dominant flavor.

For example, this month, Ben & Jerry’s is debuting One Sweet World in select European markets. The new flavor features Fairtrade coffee and caramel ice creams, marshmallow and caramel swirls, and chunky chocolate ampersands, all lovingly churned together to tantalize the taste buds. And you know what makes this all the sweeter? Ben & Jerry’s has partnered with H.O.P.E. (Helping People Everywhere) not hate. Sales of this flavor will help fund various projects run by the organization, which contribute to more inclusive communities to make One Sweet World.

On that note, this is the last blog of 2016. Happy Holidays to you and yours! I’m praying for One Sweet World in 2017. Sincerely, Donna Berry

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