Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ice Cream Innovations: The Big Chill

Upon landing in Chicago after three days in Orlando for the Dairy Forum, I was greeted with a significant drop in temperature and snow flurries. But instead of a hot cup of tea, ice cream was on my mind. Why? Because this is the time of year many ice cream manufacturers start producing, and gradually rolling out, their new products for the upcoming summer. I’ve already started seeing some product announcements, and know that many more are on the horizon. Most will be featured as a Daily Dose of Dairy…so stay tuned. (And remember, you can always search the Archived Innovations tab at for a review of recently introduced frozen desserts. Check them out HERE.)

From the Forum
On the topic of innovation, here are some comments made by Connie Tipton, president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), during her keynote speech at Dairy Forum:

“…we as an industry also understand what the former editor of the Harvard Business Review Theodore Levitt meant when he observed, ‘Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.’

That’s what our great industry is all about . . . doing new things . . . matching creativity to innovation . . . and innovation to the tastes and needs of an ever-changing world . . . questioning long-held views . . . getting in front of change . . . setting the pace . . . maintaining our global competitiveness through innovation while the hesitant fall behind.”

Specifically on trends in ice cream innovations, she said:

“Concerns about sugar intake, especially added sugars, will also likely continue through 2013. Processors have already done a lot of work to lower levels of added sugar in flavored milk and to use non-caloric sweeteners in products like yogurt and ice cream. Some producers even use ultra-filtration to remove the natural sugars in milk. So, dairy foods with lower levels of sugar may become increasingly popular.”

(Check out Clemmy’s Sugar Free Ice Cream HERE.)

“When it comes to ice cream, there’s an explosion of flavors to match every taste bud across the globe. Check out some of these flavors that run the gamut from bakery-inspired nostalgia to the exotic, such as Carrot Cake Ice Cream and one I can’t wait to try: Pistachio Brittle-Bourbon Caramel Ice Cream.”

(These two flavors were winning concepts at IDFA’s Ice Cream Technology Conference in 2012. Read below about this year’s must-attend conference in March.)

“The New York Times also recently reported that one restaurant in San Francisco (Pizzeria Picco) is offering sophisticated toppings for the Straus Family Creamery’s soft-serve ice cream that include . . . get this . . . extra-virgin olive oil on vanilla. Even after all the years I’ve worked in the industry, I’m still surprised by dairy’s versatility. It’s a canvas on which you can create practically anything.”

 Source: Pizzeria Picco

“People will always love ice cream. But they’re also concerned about weight gain. So how do you achieve a proper balance? One solution is taking a page out of the weight-loss playbook--portion control. Wells Industries developed a snack-sized cone for its Champ! Brand. The smaller chocolate-coated sugar cone is filled with chocolate or vanilla ice cream topped with peanuts and contains 150 calories or fewer per serving.”

Packaging InnovationsSome innovations come in the form of packaging. For example, Ruggles Premium Ice Cream from Smith Dairy Products Co., can now be found in eye-catching new cartons that were designed to satisfy consumer preference. The company’s consumer research indicated that an easily identifiable flavor name makes the purchase decision easier. Consumers also want to see a description of what is in the carton.

Shape and size are important, too. Consumers said they liked a carton that would fit easily in freezer doors and could stack for convenient storage. They also asked for a lid that stayed tightly closed to keep the ice cream fresh. In the new design, Ruggles gives ice cream buyers what they want.

“We chose a design that is different from anything found in the ice cream freezers,” says Penny Baker, director of marketing for Ruggles. “Ice cream is a fun food, so our approach was to make the package design fun as well. Each package features a unique pattern and bright color scheme that ties in with the name of flavors printed in bold type on the front of the carton.”

Flavor descriptions and a photo of the actual ice cream appear on every package. Consumers can scan a Quick Response (QR) code on the back panel of the carton to find entertaining and fictional stories about each flavor, and can upload their own Ruggles ice cream stories, photos or videos about their favorite flavors to win prizes in the “What’s your Ruggles Story?” section of the website.

The new look carries through all Ruggles ice cream, frozen yogurt and non-sugar-added ice cream products, which are available in 1.5-quart containers with a suggested retail price of $5.59 to $5.99. New carton transition for all flavors will be finished this spring.

Foodservice Freezer-tainment
Talk about innovation, Sub Zero Ice Cream & Yogurt is an ice cream shop company that has reinvented the ice cream experience with customized, flash-frozen ice cream that doesn’t require freezers. Sub Zero creates a new customer experience with its unique flash-freezing cryogenic process. Customers choose from one of eight bases, 40 flavors and 35 different mix-ins and then watch as their creation is flash-frozen in a cloud of nitrogen at -321 degrees F. All customers, even those with dietary restrictions or preferences, are able to design their own personalized ice cream from the base up.

Through Sub Zero’s cryogenic process, the milk molecules stay small and the water molecules don’t have time to become ice crystals, ultimately creating a smooth, creamy ice cream for the customer. Because Sub Zero stores don’t use freezers, they save 25% on costs, allowing them to focus their resources on making the customer experience even better.

Founder Jerry Hancock says, “We wanted to create a new kind of ice cream that combines science and deliciousness. It took more than two years of research to develop our unique freezing process, but all that hard work brought us the fulfillment that we believe redefines the way people look at America’s most popular dessert.”

The company was recently featured on ABC’s  Shark Tank--episode 414, which aired on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013. You can view the episode HERE.

Get Innovative
Looking for some creative ideas for your next big ice cream hit? Plan to attend IDFA’s popular Ice Cream Technology Conference, March 12 to 13 in St. Petersburg, Fla. 

I will actually kick off the two-day meeting with my presentation entitled: The Next Scoop: An Analysis of Consumer and Marketplace Trends for Tomorrow’s Big Hit. (You can get a sneak peak at some of the ice cream trends I will address by reading my Nov. 16, 2012 blog HERE.)

IDFA has added several new sessions to this year’s meeting, including the two-part “Chocolate Academy” and the “Mystery Basket” challenge. In the two-part Chocolate Academy, attendees will learn the fundamentals of chocolate and chocolate compounds with a focus on formulation and applications that inspire best practices and troubleshooting for ice cream and novelties. These sessions include a tasting of top food trends as they come to life in ice cream.

The Ice Cream Flavor Mystery Basket session will borrow a concept from the popular Food Network cooking show “Chopped.” Attendees will work in teams using the mystery baskets’ secret ingredients that represent the latest culinary trends identified by three flavor supplier creators: Kerry Ingredients, Star Kay White and Sensient Flavors.

“The ice cream technologists who attend this conference are some of the most creative, innovative people in the food industry, so we work hard to keep the conference program fresh and cutting edge,” says Cary Frye, IDFA vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs and host of the Ice Cream Technology Conference.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cottage Cheese: The Comeback Kid

Better late than never: Happy New Year! (Sorry for the extra-long holiday break due to technical difficulties and family illnesses.)

The Daily Dose of Dairy is back…and promises to be better than ever in 2013.

You will continue to receive the latest information on new dairy foods, ingredients and technologies, and consumer trends...all delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday, in an easy-to-read format that invites you—with a simple click—to get more details. The slightly tweaked format delivers a cleaner read, and provides room for sponsorships, trade show promotions, and links to informative articles—all designed to help dairy industry members promote the fabulous products that we are passionate about.

With that said, let’s talk about cottage cheese. If you’ve been a subscriber of the Daily Dose of Dairy since it commenced in the spring of 2012, you likely read a number of my blogs talking about the rapidly increasing popularity of dairy proteins, and the opportunities this presents to revitalize the category of cottage cheese. (If you missed the articles, I encourage you to click HERE to see some recent innovations in cottage cheese, as well as scroll through blog topics HERE.)

During the Daily Dose of Dairy’s month hiatus, I managed to catch up on a lot of journal reading—mostly business. But I do believe it is equally important to be in touch with what consumers are reading. And gosh, they’ve been reading some powerful messages about cottage cheese.

On my return flight from the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, the January/February 2013 issue of Health was in my reading stack. (By the way, I have lots of great innovations to share with you from the show!) On page 34, the author cites Low-Fat Cottage Cheese 1% Milkfat as the number-one flashback food for the year.

She writes, “millennials—who were born in the 1980s and ‘90s and thus were not even alive when these [retro] foods dominated the diet world in the ‘60s and ‘70s—are driving this movement back to the basics. “They yearn for authenticity and are distrustful of gimmicks,” says Phil Lempert, food trend expert. So retro foods—which are often minimally processed, easy to eat, and so low in calories and fat they’re almost guaranteed to work—appeal to them, Lempert adds.

And cottage cheese is number-one! I predicted cottage cheese’s comeback in this blog spot.
(You can read the Health article HERE.)

Here’s another reason why I believe in cottage cheese’s comeback. After four days of nursing my 10-year old back to health (104F fever, strep throat, etc.), I kissed him goodbye at the school drop off and pulled away before his door was fully closed. I treated myself out to breakfast. In the adjoining booth at Wishbone on Lincoln—a fabulous breakfast place in Chicago—two women were discussing their healthy eating habits. Yes, I was eavesdropping. (Honestly, I was craving adult conversation after having been holed up with my sick son for so many days, but I refrained from joining in their coffee talk, as I did not want to bias their opinions.)

Protein was the focal point, with one woman saying how she is growing tired of Greek yogurt and is now eating more…yes, you guessed right…cottage cheese! (This was music to my ears and justification for expensing this breakfast as a business meal.)

Her curious friend asked how she was eating all this cottage cheese. I was very impressed by her examples, which included plain, topped with fruit and nuts, sometimes in a bowl other times atop a cracker or flat bread, mixed with diced veggies and used as a sandwich spread, and even a scoop over a bowl of pasta.

Here’s another reason why I believe cottage cheese is making a comeback. The December 2012 issue of Today’s Dietitian included a full-page ad from Daisy brand cottage cheese, along with a full-page advertorial encouraging dietitians to tell their patients and clients about the high-protein content found in cottage cheese. Recipes were provided.
I was curious to know if there has been any upturn in cottage cheese sales, so I contacted SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago-based market research firm. According to their total U.S. multi-outlet data (supermarkets, drugstores, mass market retailers, military commissaries and select club and dollar retail chains), cottage cheese sales reached almost $1.1 billion in 2012, but were down 1.6% from 2011.

Let’s turn this around for 2013! Promote the protein in your cottage cheese. Provide consumers recipes and serving suggestions. Make your cottage cheese more convenient with single-serve containers. Make it more flavorful with toppings, and more versatile with varied toppings--ranging from sweet fruits to savory seasonings to salty nuts. How about including some upgraded packaging such as glass jars and clear plastic parfaits? Heck, maybe go metallic.

And when you roll out your innovation, please be sure to let me know about it. 

Hope to see many of you at Dairy Forum starting on Sunday. Watch what you say at breakfast, it might show up in my blog next week!