Thursday, December 14, 2017

Dairy Foods Forecast: Ice Cream Flavor Trends 2018

Think dark, rich, ethnic, culinary…and comfort flavors.

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 marketers.

In case you missed last week’s blog titled “Dairy Foods Forecast 2018: It’s All About Creating Disruption,” you can link to it HERE. I provide five macro-trends to assist with your product development and marketing efforts this coming year. I explain how it’s time to disrupt in order to differentiate.

Today’s annual blog is one of my favorites to write. It’s my forecast of what to expect in ice cream the next year or two. This forecast is fueled by the disruption taking place in the world. Good, bad or simply different, when there’s unknowns, consumers tend to seek out familiar and comforting foods.

That brings me to Flavor Forecast #1: The Basics, Premiumized. Yes, that means vanilla and chocolate, smooth. No ripples or crunchies. This is best exemplified by a recent rollout by Coolhaus. The Best of Both Worlds Vanilla is made with both Tahitian and Madagascar vanilla beans to yield a rich, sweet and sophisticated flavor with clean floral notes.

“There is nothing #basic about this elevated classic,” according to the company.

It’s time to revisit your basic flavor line--the ice creams without any inclusions--and give the flavors a makeover. Coffee might now be cold-brew. Lemon, make it with Meyer lemons.

That brings me to Flavor Forecast #2: Sophisticated Fruits. Meyer lemon is one example. Others include Sicilian blood orange, Asian pear and dragon fruit. It’s easier to add these whole fruits to the top of freshly made gelato, so for packaged retail products, it’s best to source natural flavor extracts and use them to deliver robust fruit aromas. Tell the story of the fruit. Describe it. Communicate what makes this fruit special.

Flavor Forecast #3: Deep and Dark. As much as consumers appreciate lighter, simpler comfort foods and flavors during disruptive times, they also have a darker side where they like to escape. Here’s where flavors such as brown butter, smoky almond, burned pineapple and candied bacon come into play.

Also part of Deep and Dark is boozy. Think barrel-aged flavors, whiskey, rum. Spirits with a comforting twist make Deep and Dark more inviting.

Earlier this year, Nestle Ice Cream rolled out five varieties of Haagen-Dazs Spirits to the Canadian marketplace. The new line comes in five alcohol-filled flavors. They are: Irish Cream Coffee & Biscotti (Irish cream-flavored ice cream with coffee swirl and biscotti bites), Rum Ginger Cookie (rum-infused ginger ice cream with ginger cookie pieces), Rum Vanilla Caramel Blondie (rum-infused vanilla ice cream, blondie chunks and caramel ripple), Vodka Key Lime Pie (vodka-infused key lime ice cream with graham cracker ripple) and Whiskey Chocolate Truffle (whiskey infused chocolate and white mousse ice creams with truffle pieces). With less than 1% alcohol content, the ice creams are not considered an alcohol product. 

Flavor Forecast #4: Cocktails Deconstructed. That’s a nice lead into this next trend. Youngers drinkers today have an affinity for mixed cocktails. Everything from the higher-end cosmopolitan to the tropical pina colada. Deconstructing these drinks and turning them into a non-alcoholic frozen dessert is trending in restaurants. It can happen in the packaged ice cream sector, too. 

Flavor Forecast #5: Deconstructing Desserts. For long, ice cream manufacturers offered “two-fers.” That’s when you put one dessert into another, such as brownie or cheesecake bites into ice cream. The trend of Deconstructing Desserts is more sophisticated. It’s the unique addition of individual dessert ingredients to recreate the dessert in ice cream format. An example might be blueberry cobbler, where the ice cream version has a buttery ice cream base with real blueberries and oat and graham clusters.

Flavor Forecast #6: Street Food. Food trucks, push carts and open markets, consumers love them. I challenge an ice cream marketer to roll out a line of street food-inspired ice creams. Think street cart churros. Sweet bao buns. Fruit-filled crepes.

Flavor Forecast #7: Asian Flavors. As consumers gain a better appreciation of Asian cuisine—there’s more than Chinese takeout and sushi—they want to explore the flavors of Eastern Asia. Think black sesame, matcha tea and candied ginger, as well as that Asian pear and bao buns already mentioned. Maybe it comes packed in a takeout-style cardboard box. 

Flavor Forecast #8: Honey and Butter. Honey and butter, together or separate, are trending flavors across all foods. They are appreciated as natural and delicious. In ice cream they can be used to add a premium layer of flavor. Butter did it to pecan and honey brought vanilla up notch. Work these flavors into your next creation.

Flavor Forecast #9: Coconut. The healthfulness of coconut water and coconut milk/juice has made anything and everything with coconut highly attractive to today’s consumers. Ice cream makers know that working with shredded coconut can be challenging. It’s sticky and clumps. But there’s ways around this, including having the coconut as part of an inclusion piece.

Flavor Forecast #10: Caramel with Kick. Ice cream and caramel are a match made in heaven, which was recently confirmed with the sea salt caramel flavor. The next generation of caramel variegates will have an extra layer of flavor, just not salt. Think smoky, spicy, candied, bacon, coconut, and wait for it…honey. The latest from Martha Stewart is to take caramel to new heights with a couple spoonfuls of honey. What an awesome variegate for ice cream, maybe with pieces of Asian pear.

This is the last blog of 2017. Talk soon in 2018. Happy holidays!

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