Friday, September 5, 2014

Clean Label Series: Frozen Desserts—See What’s New in Terms of Product and Marketing

The unseasonably cool summer in many parts of the world prevented many ice cream marketers from meeting their sales goals this year. (I know, you don’t need to be reminded. Sorry!) But this has not prevented aggressive companies from pursuing the rollout of new products as well as marketing campaigns to keep consumers eating ice cream as the temperatures get even cooler.

A key variable with many of the innovations is having the product be “label friendly.” This, of course, is not something readily defined, as the concept of clean label has many meanings. To read a comprehensive article on clean labeling of dairy foods, link HERE.

What I do know is that terms such as natural, artisan, gelato, and of course, organic, all resonate with consumers looking for permission to indulge on frozen desserts. Better-for-you formulations, including low-fat, extra protein, reduced sugar and a boost of fiber, add value, too.

Just yesterday I visited the largest of the three Whole Foods Market locations within a four-mile radius of my house. The ice cream freezer (pictured) takes up an entire aisle of the store. Within the packaged foods sector, frozen desserts and chips are almost equal in merchandising space at this Whole Foods Market. (What happened to the whole in Whole Foods Market? That’s another topic.)

All of these products have one or more of the descriptors I mentioned in common. They also do not contain any of the ingredients listed on the company’s “Unacceptable Ingredients for Food” list, which can be accessed HERE.

All of these products qualify as clean label and appeal to consumers who want to indulge, but in a label-friendly fashion.

What’s preventing your ice cream from competing in this space? Remove anything artificial—colors and flavors are the two big ones in ice cream. Don’t use artificial sweeteners. Work with the many clean-label sweetening options in the market, including the basic sugar and corn syrup, as well as stevia, monk fruit and erythritol. Skip the modified starches and opt for native, functional ones. Gums are OK, too, but some consumers do take issue with their chemically sounding names. And finally, maybe add a boost of nutrition through fiber or protein, or both.

Before I showcase products that exemplify these opportunities, here are some interesting ice cream reads.

Science Behind Ice Cream Revealed
Maya Warren, PhD student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and member of the Institute of Food Technologists Student Association, explains how food science plays an important role in the creation of ice cream. From coming up with different ingredients and flavors to making sure it stays fresh in the freezer, food scientists are hard at work creating a product that is fun and tasty. View the video and fact sheet HERE.

The Difference Between U.S. and Italian Ice Cream Consumers
According to recent reports from Canadean, U.S. consumers prioritize indulgence in ice cream consumption, whereas Italian consumers turn to that scoop of gelato for some relaxation.

That’s right. When it comes to their choice in ice cream, U.S. consumers favor indulgence over anything else. They look for the most decadent flavors to fulfil this need. The report revealed that the desire to indulge motivates 47% of ice cream consumption in the U.S., as consumers want to treat themselves with novel flavors and creamy textures for the tastiest experience. The need for indulgence is most prevalent in the consumption of impulse ice creams such as packaged cones or ice cream sandwiches, where it motivates half of consumption, at 50%. As a result, consumers see this category as an indulgent treat that offers escapism. (Those label-friendly terms give them permission to indulge.)

Many put health concerns aside when it comes to their choice of ice cream. Consumers looking for the creamiest and sweetest ingredients will often turn to products that are inherently unhealthy. (But again, health makes it easier to have a second scoop!)

Health-conscious consumers have historically either avoided ice cream completely or reduced their consumption, opting for healthier food categories to consume. (Give them permission to indulge.) When they do indulge, they will look for decadent products and moderate their consumption, choosing smaller portion sizes to reduce the guilt factor.

Consumers in the U.S. like to feel they are getting good value for money from their ice cream choice, whether they are trading up or down. However, manufacturers should remember that the primary reason for consumption is the desire to indulge, and consumers fear that cheaper products may involve a trade-off of taste--a sacrifice they are not willing to make. On the other hand, manufacturers should focus on creating products with a unique taste to satisfy consumers.

According to Joanne Hardman, analyst at Canadean, “Manufacturers should extend their portfolios to offer premium products to meet the demand for luxury indulgence, combining sweet and savory flavors such as the heat of chili or a soft hint of elderflower, and sorbet textures for those consumers looking for more novel experiences at home.”

Then there’s the busy Italians who consider ice cream as relaxation therapy. According to Canadean research, Italian consumers look to the creamy texture of ice cream to help relax and unwind after a busy day at the office. Italians who feel stressed and fatigued after a hard day’s work are sure to have their moods uplifted after some gelato.

Canadean found that 22.3% of ice cream consumption in Italy is led by the need for a comforting moment, to calm down and forget about the pressures of everyday life. Consumers in Italy often look to restore their inner balance, with simple, yet tasty ice cream products to remind them of happy times and inspire childhood memories.

Unlike other European countries where the need for the tastiest treat drives the market, this trend only influences 14.5% of consumption in Italy. Consumers look for ice creams in traditional flavors including chocolate, hazelnut and coffee, which reduces the stress and acts as recuperation mechanism.

“To boost competition in the ice cream market, Italian manufacturers should produce innovative products targeting consumers who seek to relax,” says Hardman. “As an example, the Italian market should consider Ben & Jerry’s idea to produce ice cream infused with chamomile tea.”

Check out these recent clean-label innovations that connect with consumers.

The Haagen-Dazs brand is keeping the feeling of summer alive nationwide with the introduction of its new line of decadent Haagen-Dazs Gelato bars. Whether one is catching the sunset or jumping in the car for one last road trip, flavors Strawberry Dark Chocolate, Tiramisu Dark Chocolate and Vanilla Caramel Pizzelle are planning to be the must-have treat for ice cream and gelato lovers who want to enjoy a taste of Italy in the United States. (I think spas should start serving them for the R&R factor!)

The expansion into gelato snack bars comes on the heels of the brand’s gelato line that debuted in March 2013 and, most recently, the introduction of four new gelato flavors-- Caramelized Banana Chip, Pistachio, Pomegranate Swirl and Tiramisu--in February 2014.

“With the success of the Haagen-Dazs Gelato line, consumers began to ask for on-the-go gelato options, and we brainstormed new ways for them to experience the essence of Italian gelato,” said Alex Placzek, brand director. “With unique ingredients such as pizzelle cookies, mascarpone cheese and rich dark chocolate, the new bars are crafted unlike any others on the market--a true representation of dense, delightful Italian flavor that Americans have grown to love.”

Each Haagen-Dazs Gelato Bar flavor is available in packages of three for a suggested retail price of $4.99 and will be sold nationwide beginning this month.

Whole Foods Market is rolling out Italian Gelato described as “authentic gelato made in small batches before being imported from Italy into the States.” Product labels tell a story about the artisan process, using strong graphics to communicate the inclusion or premium ingredients and clear packaging to convey product quality. Varieties are: Caramel & Sea Salt, Dark Chocolate, Hazelnut and Pistachio.

The company also offers private-label ice cream under its 365 brand. There’s nothing real special about this everyday value line other than the fact it does not contain any “unacceptable ingredients.”

The product is described as not containing any hydrogenated fats, artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners, as well as being made with milk from cows not treated with artificial growth hormones.

But if a short and simple ingredient statement is what one considers “clean label,” the Cookies & Cream variety is not a candidate. It reads:


The Fair Trade Chocolate variety is much simpler. It reads:


Other varieties in the 365 line include Butter Pecan, Fair Trade Coffee and Mint Chocolate Chip.

Speaking of Fair Trade, Three Twins Ice Cream, a San Francisco Bay Area-based manufacturer of organic and Fair Trade ice cream, is making its bulk ice cream and novelty products available to foodservice operators nationwide. Available in pans, tubs, sandwiches and cups, Three Twins is now available in bulk orders for foodservice professionals, including restaurants, universities, hospitals, corporations and more.

“With our expanded foodservice offerings, we aim to bring our inconceivably organic ice cream at an approachable price point to more people across the country,” says founding twin Neal Gottlieb.

Three Twins Ice Cream comes in 5-liter pans (22 flavors), 2.5-gallon tubs (22 flavors), 5-ounce cups (6 flavors) and 5-ounce sandwiches (3 flavors). Foodservice professionals will find Three Twins’ new 2014 flavors including Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Brownie Batter Chunk and Land of Milk and Honey alongside the staple flavors like Sea Salted Caramel, Madagascar Vanilla and Cookies & Cream.

According to a Packaged Facts recently published report entitled Proteins—Classic, Alternative and Exotic Sources: Culinary Trend Tracking Series, nuts and nut butters are riding the protein wave. This includes their inclusion in various foods, such as ice cream.

With that said…the only combination better than peanut butter and bananas is peanut butter, bananas and ice cream! Peanut Butter & Co., and Turkey Hill Dairy have joined forces to create Limited Batch All Natural Banana Peanut Butter Ice Cream, which is made with banana-flavored ice cream swirled with Peanut Butter & Co.’s Smooth Operator peanut butter.

Made in a limited batch, this is the latest addition to Turkey Hill’s All Natural Ice Cream lineup. In line with Peanut Butter & Co. and Turkey Hill’s all-natural philosophies, the flavor is made with the simplest of ingredients--just cream, milk, sugar, bananas and Peanut Butter & Co. peanut butter (made from peanuts, sugar, peanut oil and salt).

“Ice cream flavors with peanut butter always seem to be big sellers, and peanut butter and banana sandwiches are enjoying a newfound popularity,” says Peanut Butter & Co.’s Founder and President Lee Zalben. “This is an ice cream flavor whose time has come!”

On the better-for-you side of the business—and I might add, this is the type of product that gives me permission to indulge—Enlightened has added four new flavors to its frozen bar lineup. Each 75-gram stick novelty contains a mere 70 to 80 calories, 2 grams of fat and 3 grams of sugar. Here’s the bonus, each bar also provides 5 grams of fiber and 8 to 9 grams of protein, depending on variety.

Mint, Peanut Butter, Toasted Almond and Vanilla Bean join the original lineup of Coffee, Fudge and Orange Cream.     To read more about the product, link HERE.

Clean-label formulating provides permission for Americans to indulge in ice cream, Italians to relax with ice cream and everyone else simply to enjoy ice cream!

By the way, if you are looking for some R&D assistance with formulating your dream ice cream product or need a co-packer, link HERE for a list of resources. There are co-packers suited to produce organic-certified ice cream, too.

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