Thursday, October 3, 2013

Flavor Trends for Frozen and Refrigerated Dairy Desserts

In less than five weeks, many of us will be indulging on innovative dairy dessert prototypes as we walk the floor of the International Dairy Show (IDS) in Chicago. For more information on The Daily Dose of Dairy Live presentations at IDS, visit HERE.

Ingredient suppliers will showcase their flavorful creations, mostly in ice cream but also the growing category of refrigerated dairy desserts, which includes mousse and pudding. I don’t want to ruin the surprise, as I know for many, these treats are the motivation to get you to the Expo, and so I am only providing an overview of the flavor trends you can expect to sample. Photo Source: Synergy

Natural Is In

For starters, natural is the name of the game when it comes to dairy foods product development. One of the reasons dairy products are so popular these days is because of its pure, clean and simple positioning. These attributes are very important to consumers.

To view a larger version of this infographic from The Hartman Group, click HERE.

Brown Flavors Are Increasingly Popular in Sweet Treats: Caramel, Honey, Maple and Vanilla
In the world of refrigerated and frozen dairy desserts, brown flavors encompass caramel, honey, maple and vanilla. The first three are typically added directly to formulations as a whole food ingredient, often times in the form of variegate. Finished product-targeted composition and texture can limit their use. Thus, in order to effectively deliver the promised characterizing flavor, formulators often enhance recipes with natural flavor extracts, which deliver all the punch without calories or viscosity.

Vanilla, on the other hand, is the only brown flavor that must be delivered in the form of an extract. Vanilla bean specks can be included in recipes, but these add virtually no flavor. Bean specks are all about enhancing visual appearance.

Vanilla is an interesting flavor ingredient. It is the only extract to have a standard of identity in the Code of Federal Regulations. Read the definition HERE. Photo source: Synergy

It is also the only flavor that can be specifically identified on ingredient legends as “pure vanilla extract,” “natural vanilla flavor” or similar. All other natural flavors are simply designated as “natural flavor.”
And unlike other natural vs. artificial flavors, with natural vanilla extract vs. artificial vanillin extract, there really is a difference in flavor, especially when used in a delicate carrier such as milk, and products made from milk.

Natural vs. Artificial Flavors 101

According to the Code of Federal Regulations, a natural flavor is the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional. Artificial flavors are those that are made from components that do not meet this definition.

You can access the definition HERE.

If something is labeled as “natural flavor,” it must fit this definition.

According to Gary Reineccius, professor and department head of the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Minnesota, and co-director of the Flavor Research and Education Center, there is little substantive difference in the chemical compositions of natural and artificial flavorings. They are both made in a laboratory by a trained professional, a “flavorist,” who blends appropriate chemicals together in the right proportions. The flavorist uses “natural” chemicals to make natural flavorings and “synthetic” chemicals to make artificial flavorings. The flavorist creating an artificial flavoring must use the same chemicals in his formulation as would be used to make a natural flavoring. Otherwise, the flavoring will not have the desired flavor. The distinction in flavorings--natural vs. artificial--comes from the source of these identical chemicals. For example, an artificial strawberry flavor may contain the same individual substances as a natural one, but the ingredients come from a source other than a strawberry. (Scientific American, July 29, 2002.)

With vanilla, the story is a little different, because pure, all-natural vanilla flavor is the direct extract from properly cured and dried fruit pods of the vanilla orchid, primarily Vanilla planifolia.
However, if you have not heard, vanilla prices are going up. Vanilla has experienced periodic price swings through the years. After peaking in the early- to mid-2000s, its cost settled back to near historic lows during the past five years. This is changing…and quickly.

Over the past few years, in response to lower prices, farmers in Madagascar, the largest producer of vanilla beans, have been giving less attention to vanilla cultivation. Many also switched acreage to other plants, mainly palm. The impact of this is now being seen in a smaller 2013 crop. Further, vanilla from all other producing countries is predicted to be less than half of what it was in 2009. In other words, total production in 2013 is not expected to meet worldwide demand for natural vanilla, which continues to grow annually in efforts to meet consumer desire for pure, clean and natural.

What’s a dairy processor to do? Talk to your supplier to learn about options with keeping natural vanilla in the recipe. You want to keep these valuable words--pure vanilla extract or natural vanilla flavor--on your ingredient legend.

 Partnering vanilla with another flavor is also a growing trend. This allows for a reduction in vanilla use, which will help keep costs down.

For example, retail giant Safeway recently introduced a line of single-serve (4.05-ounce) Greek Mousse low-fat whipped dairy dessert cups under its private-label Lucerne brand. One of the varieties is Raspberry Vanilla.

As mentioned, brown flavors are hot in refrigerated and frozen dairy desserts. This includes caramel, honey and maple.

In honor of its 95th year in business, Perry’s Ice Cream is celebrating with the release of a limited-edition anniversary flavor fitting of its hometown in Western New York, Sponge Candy. Sponge Candy is caramel sugar-flavored ice cream with caramelized sugar swirls and sponge candy pieces. Similar to the chicken wing, sponge candy has a cult-like following among Buffalonians.

“This summer we introduced Sponge Candy at our ice cream stands and the consumer response has been tremendous,” says Bob Denning, president and chief executive officer.

Rita’s Italian Ice, the nation’s largest Italian Ice concept with more than 600 outlets in 21 states, is debuting its newest Cream Ice flavor, Dulce de Leche. It is named after the popular South American dessert prepared by slowly heating sweetened milk to create a product that derives its taste from the caramelization of the product, changing flavor and color. Literally translated, it means “candy of milk” and has a rich, decadent, delicious flavor.

Complementing Dulce de Leche Cream Ice is another caramel delight, the Caramel Milkshake, which is Rita’s Milkshake of the Month for October.

All of the brown flavors can carry an extra layer of flavor when salt is added to the recipe. Here’s Graeter’s Salted Caramel, which is one of the company’s original parlor flavors, but now comes packaged in a pint and has been renamed to reflect the salty bite.
The Skinny Cow brand combines America’s two popular indulgences--candy and ice cream--together in one delightfully delicious ice cream candy bar. One of the varieties is Salted Caramel Pretzel, which is vanilla low-fat ice cream topped with a layer of salty caramel and small pieces of pretzels all covered in a chocolatey coating.

Two other recent limited-edition offerings under the Skinny Cow brand are Caramel Mochaccino Low-Fat Ice Cream Cups and Snickerdoodle Low-Fat Ice Cream Sandwich. The latter complements the booming cinnamon flavor trend, while the former complements the coffee trend.

Cinnamon Provides a Kick of Comfort

Cinnamon is a comforting flavor that possesses a healthful, healing halo. It also delivers some kick, not quite as much as one gets in a stick of Big Red gum, but still some kick. This is particularly appealing to consumers who appreciate Hispanic flavors.

That’s exactly what Three Twins Ice Cream has in mind with its new Sergio Romo’s Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream, which is chocolate ice cream with cinnamon. This flavor was conceived in partnership with the renowned San Francisco-based baseball pitcher to heighten the immigration debate. Pints of the new flavor include the tagline: “It Only Tastes Illegal.”

Maple flavor is growing in yogurt and is making its way into refrigerated and frozen dairy desserts. It will definitely be a star within the year. Why maple? It’s a natural progression from honey being using as a sweetener and as a characterizing flavor in Greek yogurt. It’s also bolder than caramel, and thus appeals to consumers’ adventurous taste buds.

Alone or with another layer of flavor, either sweet or salty, maple possesses both tastes, which makes it very complementary. If you missed the Daily Dose of Dairy focus on private-label Good & DeLish Maple Macadamia Mash-Up, check it out HERE.

Speaking of honey, Roba Dolce recently debuted Ocean Spray Honey Fig Cream Gelato, which blends the smooth and mellow sweetness of honey gelato with the subtle taste of fig. Read about it HERE.

Cherries and Chocolate

Roba Dolce also now offers Ocean Spray Dark Chocolate with Cherry Craisins Gelato, which is rich, dark chocolate gelato showered with the sweetness of cherry Craisins dried cranberries. Read about it HERE.

And Graeter’s has a new Black Cherry Chocolate Chip ice cream.
Without a doubt, cherry, in its many varietals, is quickly becoming the hottest fruit and characterizing flavor in foods and beverages. The beauty of this superfruit is its familiarity and universal appeal. Cherries have many recognized health benefits and this is resonating with consumers. 

Also, chocolate bits, chips, flakes and pieces, are the trendy inclusion in all types of foods. If the chocolate is dark, it gives consumers permission to indulge, as they accept the fact that dark chocolate is a concentrated source of heart-healthy antioxidants.

If you missed my blog on innovative chocolate ice creams, you can view it HERE.

Coffee and Tea

The healthful halo of tea and the natural perk of coffee make them both attractive characterizing flavors for refrigerated and frozen dairy desserts. This trend shows no signs of abating, only getting “stronger” through the use of premium, quality coffee and tea ingredients.

 Tea-Rrific! Ice Cream, an artisanal ice cream company, now offers four tea-infused ice creams. For about a year, the company has been selling its uniquely flavored ice creams in restaurants, cafes and tea shops near its base of Norwalk, CT. Early this year, four varieties made their debut in pint cartons for the retail market. The company’s recipe is simple. Starting with cream and eggs from local New England farms, and either organic evaporated cane juice or locally sourced honey, the ice cream is then infused with specialty blends of loose leaf and herbal teas.

The flavors are: Chunky London Mist (malty and citrusy notes of Earl Grey tea with a hint of vanilla, rich semi-sweet Belgian chocolate flakes and buttery roasted pecan chunks), Ginger Matcha (a sweet bite of fresh ginger perfectly balanced with delicate grassy notes of premium matcha green tea), London Mist (malty and citrusy notes of Earl Grey tea enhanced with a hint of vanilla) and Masala Chai (a warm blend of Assam black and rooibos teas with sweet aromatic and peppery spices.) Notice how many on-trend flavors are included in these formulations!

Mikawaya USA launches Mikawaya Exottics, a line of frozen desserts inspired by authentic Asian cuisine and fruits. The line includes Green Tea Matcha, Green Tea Original and Kona Coffee, as well as more exotic flavors such as Black Sesame, Ginger, Lychee, Plum Wine, Red Bean and Taro. Read more about this product line HERE.

Expect the Unexpected
In wrapping up, ice cream has become a canvas for artisanal manufacturers to layer on flavors…often times ones that are unexpected. Check these out.

For example, cheese marketer Champignon North America recently offered a recipe for Pepper Ice Cream and Sea Salt Cone to its foodservice customers. The recipe includes zesty Champignon Pepper cheese, which is a double-cream soft-ripened cheese flecked with tender green Madagascar peppercorns. The latter provides a chew reminiscent of chocolate chips, with the grown-up flavor of savory pepper. A sea-salted sugar cone brightens the sweet cream and complements its typical pepper partner.

In September, Portland’s famous Salt & Straw, an artisanal ice cream manufacturer, released a number of chef-inspired creations.

The Chefs Series includes:

Loaded Baked Potato    
Michael Voltaggio has blown up the LA food scene with his restaurants, ink. and ink.sack, both opening in 2011 to much critical acclaim; earlier this year he was recently honored by being named one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs. His cooking has been described as “Modern LA cuisine” using Southern Cali ingredients in shocking ways that explore the outer limits of food. On a playful note, where savory collides with sweet, Salt & Straw teamed up with Voltaggio to create a baked potato sour cream ice cream that is “loaded” with candies: bacon chocolate crumbs, onion juice caramel and white cheddar cookie dough.

Sweet Corn, Waffle Cones, and Caramel
April Bloomfield is the esteemed, Michelin-starred chef of four restaurants in New York City: The Spotted Pig, The Breslin Bar & Dining Room, The John Dory Oyster Bar and Salvation Taco. April is inspired by seasonal flavors and the beauty and simplicity of food. She cooks with a delicacy that allows the inherent characteristics of an ingredient to shine. Working with chef Bloomfield on this collaboration, Salt & Straw wanted to use summertime as a thematic starting point. They decided on sweet corn as the foundation to which they added other accents of the season by folding in chocolate covered waffle cones, freckles of salted brown butter and ribbons of rich vanilla caramel.

Mint Leaves with Sea Urchin Meringues      Jenn Louis has slowly built one of the most prestigious food empires in Portland. At her two restaurants, Lincoln and Sunshine Tavern, she creates menus that celebrate the local bounty in ways that show incredible restraint while working with distinct and bountiful Willamette Valley flavors. For this collaboration with Louis, Salt & Straw used West coast-harvested sea urchin and a fruity French Basque piment d’ espelette to make little meringues that burst with umami. These delicate bites are gently folded into an herbaceous ice cream that is steeped in fresh mint leaves.

Hawaiian Foie Gras Peanut Butter Mousse Gabe Rucker, chef/owner of Portland Restaurants Le Pigeon and Little Bird, just won his second James Beard Award as “Best Chef: Northwest” and is releasing his first cookbook, Le Pigeon: Cooking at the Dirty Bird this September as well. His food has consistently been described as “re-inventing French cuisine.” For this collaboration, Salt & Straw used a Le Pigeon house recipe to whip together ribbons of foie gras and peanut butter mousse. This is showcased in an ice cream infused with the delicate flavors of toasted bark from a Heart of Palm tree and dotted with caramelized pineapple.

Expect the unthinkable at IDS. Hope to see you here…enjoying all the treats.

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