Thursday, July 19, 2018
Ice Cream Innovation: Decoding the Latest Healthy Snack Channel through Robust Value-Added Formulation
It was my pleasure to visit with so many of you during IFT18 this past week in Chicago. I hope you had a successful event and will have a chance to relax this weekend.
Thank you Ingredion for inviting me to speak at your Monday afternoon symposium on ice cream innovation. (Thanks Bob, Morgan, Peter, Steve and so many others for attending!) I kicked off the session by identifying five disruptions taking place in retailers’ freezers. The expert panel I shared the stage with provided application information to assist with the development of on-trend frozen desserts.
Here are some highlights.
Disruption #1: Nutrient Claims
High-protein, low-to-no added sugars and lower-calorie ice creams continue to be in the spotlight. I believe marketers would be smart to position them as refuel products targeted to the fitness-focused consumer who wants to increase protein content and is tired of bars and beverages.
Most recently, Target has entered the category under its Archer Farms brand. The line is debuting in six varieties. They are: Caramel Maple Bourbon Pie, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Chocolate Pecan Pie, Cookie Dough, Mini Donut and Mint Cookies and Cream. They are all dairy based, but that’s not to say that dairy-free options are not in the pipeline. After all, dairy-free frozen desserts are disruption #3.
Disruption #2: Snacking
Grab-and-go, single-serve and pints, or almost pints, dominate retailers’ ice cream freezers. In many instances, consumer preference for this pack size is to assist with portion control. Other times it’s an invitation to try a new flavor. The smaller size is less of a commitment than a half-gallon or similar carton size.
Smaller containers also allow for more stuff, both better-for-you whole food ingredients such as whole grains, fruits and nuts—ingredients many snackers are looking for in their mini meal—as well as indulgent inclusions, everything from praline caramel to cherry cheesecake cubes.
Disruption #3: Non-Dairy Products
Donna Klockeman, senior principal in food science at TIC Gums/Ingredion provided a step-by-step approach to formulating non-dairy frozen desserts and the considerations that must go into selecting the fluid base, sweetener system, stabilizer/emulsifier blend and bulk solids. She provided two prototype concepts, one a more basic non-dairy frozen dessert; the other one designed to compete in the high-protein, low-sugar segment.
For a copy of her presentation, please reach out to her HERE.
MaryAnne Drake, professor of food science at North Carolina State University, followed with a sensory analysis comparison of the prototypes. She provided insight into the sensory attributes that are almost always lacking in non-dairy frozen desserts when they are compared to their dairy counterparts.
Even though they are lacking, consumers are often willing to cut the product some slack in order to enjoy a frozen creamy treat.
What’s important to note about the trend in non-dairy is that it is being embraced by dairies.
McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams, a 70-year old, family-owned California dairy has entered the category with a line of Dairy-Free Frozen Desserts. Coming up with a product that met McConnell’s high standards was challenging, but after a process that took the better part of a year, McConnell’s co-owner and chef Eva Ein finally arrived at a product that met the criteria. The secret ingredient? Peas, or more specifically, pea protein.
“There’s nothing interesting or innovative about coconut cream, almond or cashew milk, or soy-based ‘ice creams,’” says McConnell’s co-owner and CEO, Ein’s husband, Michael Palmer, referring to the industry’s standard alternatives to dairy-based ice creams. “These are the same products that have been out there for years, and the results are rarely worth it.” According to Palmer, it’s difficult to remove the coconut or roasted nut taste from a coconut cream or nut-based product. In attempting to do this, companies typically over-flavor their products, along with pumping these products full of air and stabilizers, which results in chalky, crumbly, inconsistent texture.
McConnell’s Dairy-Free Frozen Desserts are made from a proprietary blend of 100% micronized pea protein. Pea protein is a sustainable protein derived from yellow peas, the very same plant-based protein found in many of the food industry’s cutting-edge vegetarian and dairy-free milk substitutes. The result? McConnell’s Dairy-Free Frozen Desserts line, made from a base that is both neutral in flavor and shares the mouthfeel--and many other characteristics--found in McConnell’s super smooth, 18.5% butterfat ice creams. McConnell’s dairy-free is also lower in fat and sugar, cholesterol-free and non-GMO.
“People who crave great ice cream want to taste great ice cream, whether it’s dairy-based or not. The last thing we want to have to do is apologize for giving customers a lesser experience. They shouldn’t have to settle,” says Palmer.
The line comes in five flavors that feature premium ingredients. They are: Cookies & Cream, Dark Chocolate Chip, Eureka Lemon & Marionberries, Toasted Coconut Almond Chip and Turkish Coffee.
Disruption #4: Ingredients
Indeed, ingredient selection is paramount in all frozen desserts, have it be superpremium, traditional, better-for-you or non-dairy.
The final presenter, Angela Spihlman, technical development manager, Balchem Ingredient Solutions, looked at the evolution of inclusions, caramel variegates and other flavorful ingredients. She provided examples of how suppliers have been able to modify such ingredients to meet product claims and ingredient statement targets, namely the removal of chemical-sounding ingredients to have a cleaner-label product. Even caramel, traditionally made with butter and cream, among other indulgent ingredients, can now be formulated to be vegan for that growing category of non-dairy frozen desserts.
Dairy remains the focus, however, for Velvet Ice Cream, which developed a new sweet and slightly savory flavor for the Ohio State Fair. Premium ingredient selection is sure to make new Spicy Caramel a winner at the fair. The concept is sweet caramel ice cream swirled with cayenne-infused caramel sauce, composing an exciting fusion of flavors that first cools the mouth, then warms it with the heat of cayenne pepper.
This imaginative limited-release ice cream is available only at the Ohio State Fair, which runs July 25 to August 5 in Columbus, Ohio. Crafted specifically for the fair, this year’s concoction is the brainchild of a tasting panel consisting of Velvet Ice Cream development pros and Ohio State Fair officials.
“We wanted to create a flavor that ties together classic caramel with an unexpected twist,” says Joanne Dager, vice president. “With our history of more than 104 years in Ohio's dairy industry, Velvet Ice Cream is always proud to be a major part of the Ohio State Fair. Each year we look forward to creating a special flavor just for fairgoers.”
Disruption #5: Processing Method
The last disruption is the de-industrialization of making frozen desserts. It’s the trend towards retailers making more room in their frozen dessert freezers for artisan, small-batch and hand-crafted products made from entrepreneurial or local producers, or those who have a history in the community.
In many instances, these companies are more willing to tell the story about the product’s ingredients, the manufacturing process and even sourcing. Today’s shoppers increasingly want this transparency and it impacts purchasing decisions.
It’s time to disrupt the ice cream category with some on-trend innovations.