Friday, September 25, 2015

Dairy Show Highlights: Milking the Healthy Beverage Segment

When the 2015 International Dairy Show ended last week at McCormick Place in Chicago, exhibitors and attendees left on an upbeat note. Not only is the show reinventing itself in 2017 (ProFood Tech will make its debut April 4 to 6, 2017, at McCormick Place), it was very apparent that the new generation of dairy processors understands that innovation is necessary in order to thrive in the competitive marketplace.

For an overview of ingredient, process and package innovations showcased at the show, please read my Food Business News online column HERE.

 No segment is innovation more critical than in beverage, where Linda Gilbert, founder and CEO of EcoFocus Worldwide LLC, told Dairy Show attendees during a session hosted by Evergreen Packaging that recent research shows that nearly half (46%) of all grocery shoppers are healthy beverage shoppers. This shopper evaluates the beverage’s nutrition, ingredients and package when deciding if it is healthy or not.

Here are some interesting findings on the healthy beverage shopper. Seventy-one percent live in households earning more than $50K annually, suggesting they have spending power. They tend to be better educated (63% are college or technical school graduates) and younger (48% are millennials or post-millennials). The healthy beverage shopper skews female (52%); more than two-fifths (41%) have children at home.

The good news for dairy processors is that milk, beverages made from milk and other better-for-you beverages such as iced tea and juices—all beverages that can be processed and packaged at a dairy—fit the bill of a healthy beverage.

To read an article I recently wrote for Food Business News on the booming ready-to-drink tea market, link HERE.

What will a healthy beverage shopper pay more for? According to Gilbert, more than three-fourths (77%) of survey respondents will pay more for healthier beverages while 66% dig deeper into their pockets for locally produced offerings. Interestingly, the research shows that 36% of healthy beverage shoppers buy more refrigerated rather than shelf-stable beverages, which is 6% more likely than all shoppers.

What’s important to the healthy beverage shopper? Lower or reduced sugar is number-one, followed by being a good source of antioxidants. Good source of calcium, good source of fiber, increased protein, good source of omega-3 fatty acids and contains probiotics are also all very important to the healthy beverage shopper.

At the Dairy Show, milk-based beverage prototypes (these were shelf-stable for logistic purposes, but all formulations can readily be produced for refrigerated distribution) included Heart Healthy, a vanilla and cinnamon breakfast smoothie loaded with oat fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. It was also enriched with antioxidant vitamins A and E. If fruit flavor is preferred, there was a similarly formulated creamy fruits and oats smoothie also enriched with vitamin D. A 330-milliliter serving contained 12 or 11 grams of protein, respectively.

If a wake-up beverage is what one needs in the morning, there was a coffee and milk breakfast shake formulated to help control appetite while also delivering 13 essential vitamins and minerals.

There’s no doubt dairy processors can make beverages that contain all of the nutrients that healthy beverage shoppers are willing to pay more for. Dairy processors also have tools available to lower or reduce added sugar in these beverages.

Enzyme technology can be used to break down milk’s inherent sugar—lactose—into glucose and galactose, releasing natural sweetness and delivering a sugar reduction ranging from 20% to 50%. This technology can be paired with low- or no-calorie natural sweeteners to achieve the desired sweetness with fewer calories and less added sugar, naturally, which is very important to the healthy beverage consumer. For more information on naturally reducing sugar in dairy beverages using dairy enzymes, link HERE.

“No artificial ingredients is extremely or very important to read on a beverage label for 74% of healthy beverage consumers,” according to Gilbert. “And more than half (55%) want the beverage to be certified organic.

“Transparency earns trust,” she said. “Seventy-one percent of healthy beverage consumers say they pay attention to where the ingredients in their foods or beverages are grown.”

Results from an international consumer-attitude study conducted by DSM among more than 5,000 adults across five countries shows that they, and their children, in particular, have increased consumption of sugared dairy (34% and 53%, respectively). It also shows that they expect to continue doing so in the next three years, despite having major concerns about added sugar in dairy.

The survey data reveals that 80% of the consumers agree that dairy foods with low or no sugar are better for their health, and that more than 60% are concerned about sugar content in these products. Reasons for choosing sugar-reduced dairy are weight loss or management, as well as maintaining good health to prevent diabetes or keep up fitness levels throughout the day.

Growing concerns over added sugar will pave the way for sugar-reduced dairy all over the world. For information on opportunities in this segment, link HERE to a detailed report on consumers’ attitudes and preferences.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Highlights from the Dairy Show. Packaging Sells Our Beautiful Nutrient-Packed—Delicious—Product!

Today is the last day of the International Dairy Show. Today’s blog sponsor—Double H Plastics—is exhibiting at booth 8222. Double H Plastics also sponsored the Daily Dose of Dairy LIVE! presentation on Tuesday, which was on the topic of Innovations in Refrigerated and Frozen Dairy Desserts. You can view the presentation HERE. If you are still at the show, please stop by their booth and thank them for supporting the Daily Dose of Dairy

It was wonderful to see so many Daily Dose of Dairy subscribers this week at the International Dairy Show. Thank you so much for attending the LIVE! presentations and for your positive feedback.

As was apparent by the many product prototypes and packaging innovations on the expo floor, the way consumers buy and use food is shifting. This includes all dairy foods.

Dramatic changes in demographics, lifestyles and eating patterns are creating new opportunities for food and beverage packaging, as well as the product that goes into that package. Among the demographic mega-trends feeding into package development are changing population distribution, fewer married couples and more people living alone, smaller household size and multi-generational households, according to market research publisher Packaged Facts in the report “Food and Beverage Packaging Innovation in the U.S.: Consumer Perspectives.” (For more information on the report, link HERE.)

Two weeks ago, at the U.S. Dairy Export Council’s U.S. Dairy Innovation Conference in Boise, Idaho, Dairy Management Inc.’s (DMI) Senior Vice President of Insights Lynn Stachura explained to attendees how today’s consumer relies on graphics instead of text to communicate.
“We communicate visually more than with words,” she said. Just think about all the infographics that are everywhere today.

This visual communication was very apparent by the many packaging innovations at the Dairy Show. Today’s consumers are drawn to bold, clean colors and real-life photography on everything from ice cream cartons to milk bottles. Clear packaging is also a draw with certain foods—think fruit and yogurt parfaits and cheese spreads with inclusions—as this packaging clearly communicates what’s inside.

Interestingly, with increased use of QR codes on packages, many marketers are reducing the amount of text on packages and improving visual quality. With QR codes, consumers use their smart phones to get information about the product…how it’s made, the company’s business philosophy, where the ingredients come from, etc.

Marketers are finding clever approaches to communicate important single-word product descriptors to consumers without cluttering the package. For example, skirt printing is the technology that allows for text on composite lids, such as those used on ice cream lids. There’s also technology to write on the inside of the lids, so that when consumers remove it, they can read more about the product and its origins. This is storytelling at its finest.

In the Packaged Facts report, a number of key trends shaping food and beverage packaging are identified. Many of these trends were showcased in package concepts on display at the Dairy Show.

These include:
Targeting Millennials: While Millennials may seem like a broad and amorphous target, numerous studies show there are some commonalities. Millennials like fresh, less processed foods, as demonstrated by their preference for “fast casual restaurants that offer freshly prepared foods, and shopping the perimeter of grocery stores where fresh and non-packaged foods can be found.”

Smaller Packages are a Big Trend in Packaging: With one- or two-person households representing 61% of all U.S. households, packages sized to serve one or two people have become a big trend in packaging. Such formats include single-serve packaging, meals for two, multi-packs of individual portions and resealable packaging. The rise in smaller-footprint stores is also influencing this trend.

Packaging for Convenience: Convenience is a major selling point for food and beverage packaging. Features such as ease of opening, resealability, portability, lighter weight and no-mess dispensing are packaging benefits that influence consumers’ purchasing decisions positively.

What could be more convenient than a portion-controlled serving of decadent ice cream in a container that has a spoon attached in the lid?

See-Thru Packaging Can Boost Sales: More and more marketers are putting their products in packages that are see-thru or have see-thru windows. Transparency in packaging taps into consumer desire for transparency about how food and beverages are produced, both figuratively and literally. Companies that are transparent about their ingredients, sourcing and business practices are reaping the benefits in consumer goodwill and trust.

See-thru packaging in the dairy category is increasingly happening in the pouch format—an emerging package with many adaptations—including merchandising units that ease restocking resources. That’s right, retailers are seeking labor savings while brand owners want shelf appearance.

According to DMI’s Lynn Stachura, today’s consumers are increasingly focused on more intimate relationships with brands and companies.

The QR codes and lid printing can help tell a story,
as can merchandising units.

A patented unit showcased at the Dairy Show reduces the time required to stock shelves by 60%. It’s described as a retail-ready pack and allows for pouch products to be merchandised in the unit…no peg or shelf separator required. The merchandising unit allows for additional branding for the marketer, while assisting the retailer with stock rotation.

On the fluid side, oh my, microwave pasteurization technology has arrived. I can honestly say that few technologies make me stop in my tracks…and this is one of them. For more information, link HERE.

The new—and only (very recently) FDA-approved--aseptic carton bottle for white milk is here. First introduced in Europe in 2011, this package brings new functionality along with environmental, technological and cost benefits previously never available in the U.S. dairy beverage industry, allowing producers to deliver shelf-safe milk in a disruptive, attention-grabbing new package.

With that said, if you are still at the Dairy Show on Friday, please plan to attend the 10:00am Daily Dose of Dairy LIVE! presentation on Innovations in Milk and Dairy-Based Beverages. In my opinion, this is the most under-developed segment in the U.S. dairy foods market. It’s no wonder retail fluid milk sales are down. I understand if you cannot attend because you are already homeward bound at that time, but please, please open the link to the presentation and get inspired.

Safe travels home! (By the way, while I write this from my Chicago-based home office, I am seeing lightening across the sky. I am super sorry for many of your travel delays.)

Friday, September 11, 2015

Inclusions Forecast: Bits & Pieces that Make Consumers go WOW!

Wow, time flies…the International Dairy Show is this coming week in Chicago, Tuesday, September 15 to Friday, September 18. Today’s blog sponsor—SensoryEffects—will be exhibiting at booth 8230. SensoryEffects is also sponsoring the Daily Dose of Dairy Live! presentation on Friday from 10:00am to 10:30am on the show floor. The topic is Innovations in Milk and Dairy Beverages. (Milk is one of the most underdeveloped dairy foods categories. Attendees will walk away motivated to innovate.) Please mark your calendar and plan to attend. At the Dairy Show, SensoryEffects will be showcasing its extensive range of innovative flavor systems for all types of dairy foods, in particular refrigerated and frozen desserts, as well as milk, yogurt and dairy beverages, including an economical egg replacement system for the approaching holiday nog season.

I spent the past few days in Boise, Idaho—the number-three milk producing state in the U.S.—attending U.S. Dairy Export Council’s U.S. Dairy Innovation Conference. In addition to gaining knowledge on the dairy ingredient marketplace, I learned a lot about the state’s major crop: the potato.

What’s interesting is how culinary professionals in this city have managed to take the ordinary potato, which really is anything but ordinary, as it grows in more than 200 cultivars in colors ranging from golden yellow to deep purple, and make it high-end cuisine. They cut, dice, slice, sliver and even ball potatoes into the most amazing creations. And what really makes the diner go “wow” is all the extras, the bits and pieces that coat and cover, as well as the dips and sauces served on the side.

Milk is not much different. If anything, it is less exciting, as we only have Guernsey, Jersey, grass fed and a few other “varieties.” But we know how to coagulate, filter, ferment, flavor, freeze, pasteurize and separate it into an amazing array of products. And what makes consumers go wow? It’s the extras.

Those extras are getting more sophisticated and adventurous in all dairy foods categories. Though ice cream and yogurt are the most likely products to contain bits and pieces, formulators are getting creative with dips/spreads and refrigerated desserts. Check out these recent innovations from around the world.

In Germany, Muller Milch Reis, which is dairy-based rice pudding, comes in two new nutty flavors. One includes a creamy pistachio-based variegate. The other combines caramelized roasted almonds in a caramel variegate. These varieties join a number of fruit offerings that come blended in single-serve cups or in dual-compartment packs, with rice pudding on one side and fruits such as elderberry, gooseberry, rhubarb or plum in the other. 

The company recently introduced the World Edition yogurt line. Venezia delivers the tastes of Venice: pistachio-flavored yogurt with crunchy mini amaretto-flavored cookies to mix in. Bora Bora is coconut-flavored yogurt with a pineapple and coconut variegate on the side. Mumbai comes with a papaya fruit side while Sevilla is orange-flavored yogurt with chocolate balls.

Canada’s Chapman’s is taking a similar worldly approach with its new Flavors of the World Gelato line. The line includes Sticky Rice & Mango Gelato, which is based on a traditional Thai treat that combines sticky rice and coconut milk with mango. Sour Cherry Tango Gelato is a Latin American Fiesta designed to make the taste buds tango through the combination of tart cherry with a sour cherry ripple. Amaretto Biscotti Gelato is an Italian inspiration that combines amaretto, pistachio and chocolate flavors.

Mövenpick Ice Cream of Switzerland celebrates Africa with its new Limited Edition Africa line. The four varieties are: Bourbon Vanilla & Exotic Fruit, Madagascar Island Cocoa, Moroccan Orange Blossom & Date, and South Africa Rooibos Tea & Raspberry.

Earlier this year, Perry’s Ice Cream in the U.S. launched a premium ice cream line branded Escapes. These pint- and quart-sized treats are designed to take you on a journey, a flavorful one, according to the company.

There are 20 flavors in total, all targeting adult palates. Most of them come loaded with ingredients designed to make the consumer go wow…sometimes because they have a hint of heat other times because they combine unexpected flavors…and always because they are bursting with flavorful bits and pieces.

The line includes Banana Cream Pie (banana ice cream with vanilla-flavored cream swirls and vanilla-flavored wafers), Fireball (hot cinnamon ice cream with cinnamon-flavored swirls and cinnamonette candies), German Chocolate Cake (chocolate cake ice cream with caramel swirls, coconut shreds and pecans), Grasshopper Pie (mint ice cream with fudge swirls and chocolate-crème-filled cookies), Movie Time (popcorn-flavored ice cream with salty caramel swirls and caramel truffles), Peanut Butter Cookie (sugar cookie ice cream with peanut butter swirls and peanut butter cookie dough pieces), Sponge Candy (caramel ice cream with caramelized sugar swirls and sponge candy pieces) and White Lightning (dark chocolate ice cream with white mint fudge swirls).

These flavors might be an adventure, but the ingredients remain as local as possible. Each carton prominently displays “Made in New York” around the rim of the lid and features an attractive photographic trail of the key flavor components.

“The majority of our consumers prefer ice cream flavors that are loaded with inclusions; the more, the better,” says Eva Balazs, director of marketing and contract sales. “The trick is finding the right ingredients that complement each other for distinct and indulgent flavor combinations. Sometimes it takes several attempts before we identify that perfect cookie, fruit or nut piece and the right fudge, caramel or fruit swirl for a new flavor.”

Retailer Morrison’s in the U.K. offers an extensive range of refrigerated dairy desserts under its M Kitchen Really Good Puds brand. The sundaes are swirled layers of vanilla and flavored (chocolate, strawberry or toffee) mousse followed by a layer of either chocolate or toffee custard or strawberry compote, all topped off with flavored sponge cakes pieces. Clear plastic cups showcase the indulgent ingredients. The company also uses a clear cup for its Strawberry Cheesecake dessert, which includes a graham cracker crust bottom layer that gets topped with a cream cheese dessert and fruit.

Earlier this year, Canada’s Liberté yogurt, a brand of General Mills, launched a new Muesli and Seeds range in the U.K. The two seeds lines, which include linseeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are: Seeds & Mixed Berries and Seeds & Mixed Fruit. The two muesli barley, oats and wheat flakes with nuts and raisins) are: Muesli & Summer Fruit and Muesli & Apricot.
In the U.S., General Mills recently introduced Yoplait Plenti, which blends Greek yogurt with fruits (except the vanilla variant), whole grain oats, flax and pumpkin seeds. At 5.5 ounces, the single-serve containers are a little larger than standard Greek yogurt cups, which are 5.3 ounces. Each serving provides 140 to 150 calories and 1.5 to 2 grams of fat, depending on variety, as well as 1 gram of fiber, 12 grams of sugar and 12 grams of protein. The protein comes from the cultured nonfat milk and the grains and seeds. The fat and fiber come from the grains and seeds. Fruit and vegetable extract is a source of natural color. The eight varieties are: Black Cherry, Blueberry, Coconut, Peach, Raspberry, Spiced Apple, Strawberry and Vanilla.
These two products, as well as Stonyfield’s new Super Grains and Super Seeds, and like innovations in the market, talk to today’s consumer who is trying to follow the nutritional advice that is circulating. And that is to follow a “mostly” plant-based diet. This is not a vegan diet, or even a vegetarian diet, it is simply “more plant,” with more plant not limited to fruits and vegetables. This dietary approach includes nuts, seed and whole grains. So instead of fighting the mostly plant-based diet recommendations, these companies are giving consumers more of what they are looking for, while also still delivering high-quality dairy proteins and essentials vitamins and minerals.

Stonyfield’s new organic yogurt lines each have three variants. Super Grains comes in Maple, Strawberry and Vanilla flavors. The maple variant contains real organic maple syrup, while vanilla is naturally flavored. Strawberry comes loaded with the namesake fruit. Each combines nonfat Greek yogurt with buckwheat and quinoa. Super Seeds comes in Blueberry, Coconut and Orange-Cranberry.  The coconut variant is naturally flavored, whereas the others contain real organic fruit. Each combines nonfat Greek yogurt with softened flax seed. All six offerings come in 5.3-ounce bowls, where the bottom is clear, so that consumers can see what’s inside. A single-bowl serving contains 140 to 150 calories and 17 to 20 grams of sugar, depending on variety. Each also contains almost no fat, just under a gram of fiber and 13 grams of protein—from both dairy and plant sources.

On the savory side of the refrigerated dairy case, Alouette’s new Le Bon Dip and Le Petite Fromage bring a new dimension of taste and indulgence to everyday snacking. The products deliver craveable, balanced indulgence with natural ingredients and bold flavors.

Alouette’s Le Bon Dip features a blend of premium soft cheese, chunky vegetables you can see, and a touch of Greek yogurt for a dip that satisfies with bold, indulgent variety. Le Bon Dip contains no artificial flavors or colors and just 45 calories per serving. The yogurt contains milk protein concentrate, allowing for 2 grams of protein in every two-tablespoon serving. The dip comes in four varieties: Basil, Zucchini & Parmesan (savory roasted zucchini, aged Parmesan, and a hint of basil, topped with chunky yellow pepper and zucchini for added crunch), Fire Roasted Vegetable (fire-roasted eggplant, onion, peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and a finishing touch of oregano), Roasted Red Pepper & Chickpea (chickpeas, roasted red peppers and cumin topped with vibrant peppers and parsley) and Zesty Garden Salsa (juicy tomatoes, crunchy peppers, onions, hints of cumin and zesty lime, with a topping of chive and red bell peppers).

Also in the U.S., Bel Brands USA has made its famous Boursin Gournay cheese spreadable. The cheese dips come in the original Boursin Garlic & Herb variety—regular and light—and four other flavorful varieties. They are: Asiago & Roasted Red Pepper, Cranberry Jalapeno, Monterey Jack & Spicy Pepper, and Spinach & Artichoke.

Heat and spice are really taking off in all foods, including dairy. Check out Greek Pastures Tropical Sweet Heat Greek Yogurt. This Caribbean-inspired flavor contains sweet pineapple, ripe mango, and the fiery heat of fresh ginger and habanero peppers.

For more information on ethnic and savory flavors for dairy foods, link HERE to the article “Flavorful twists add spice to dairy” that I wrote for Food Business News.

To read more about innovative inclusions trends, link HERE to an article I wrote earlier this year for Food Business News on this topic.

See you at the Dairy Show!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Ice Cream Innovations: Five Trends Encouraging Retail Packaged Ice Cream Sales in the U.S….And What’s Going on in China?

It’s less than two weeks until the International Dairy Show takes place in Chicago (September 15 to 18). Today’s blog sponsor—Double H Plastics—will be exhibiting at booth 8222. Double H Plastics is also sponsoring the Daily Dose of Dairy Live! presentation on Tuesday, Sept. 15, from 10:00am to 10:30am on the show floor. The topic is Innovations in Refrigerated and Frozen Dairy Desserts. Please mark your calendar and plan to attend. At the Dairy Show, Double H Plastics will be showcasing its extensive range of packaging capabilities for both the refrigerated and frozen dairy cases.

During the past decade, the U.S. ice cream market has evolved into an environment more similar to what one finds in Europe and Asia, where the emphasis is on quality not quantity and where consumption is more often outside the home than inside.

Still, Americans eat a lot of ice cream. Only New Zealanders consume more ice cream per person than Americans, with Aussies in third place.

When it comes to market size, the U.S. was the largest until this year. According to new research from Mintel, at the end of 2014, there was a shift in power in the global ice cream market, with China overtaking the U.S. as the world’s biggest ice cream market.

That’s right! Between 2008 and 2014, the total market value for ice cream sales in China nearly doubled, reaching $11.4 billion. Meanwhile, the U.S. market grew at a much slower rate to $11.2 billion. Accounting for an impressive third of all ice cream products sold in 2014, volume sales of ice cream in China reached 5.9 billion liters in 2014, compared to 5.8 billion liters in the U.S. Volume sales are expected to further increase in China, reaching 6.3 billion liters by the end of this year.

Overall, global sales of ice cream reached $50 billion for the first time in 2014, increasing by 9% from 2011 when sales were valued at $46 billion, according to Mintel data.

“Rising incomes and an increasingly developed retail infrastructure and cold chain network are driving growth in the ice cream market in China,” says Alex Beckett, global food analyst at Mintel. “However, the vast array of locally produced, low-price brands present a challenge for global ice cream giants looking to develop there. China is now the powerhouse of the global ice cream market in terms of overall size, although for per capita consumption, it’s the Americans who tuck into the most ice cream each year. The pace of development, coupled with the immensity of the population, is having an increasing impact on the Chinese ice cream market.”

“While rising global volumes of ice cream mainly reflect the category’s expansion in emerging regions, ice cream has encountered challenging conditions in more developed markets like Europe and North America,” he continues. “Growth has been dampened by consumer diet concerns, competition from other categories, such as yogurt, and the perennial challenge of unseasonable weather. As the world economy’s center of gravity continues to shift away from the West, these challenges give ice cream giants all the more reason to extend their presence, and new product development investment, in more emerging economies, particularly in Asia.”

While the ice cream giants are looking at China, local ice cream makers are wise to take note of trends encouraging retail sales in their own regions. There are five I am going to discuss today.

1. Artisan, Local, Limited Edition: Make a Connection
There is a growing global appreciation of individuality and quality-over-quantity appeal in ice cream. In the U.S., for example, more than six in 10 (61%) consumers of frozen treats claim to be willing to spend more on better-quality frozen treats, while 60% of daily eaters believe that local brands are better quality than national brands, according to Mintel data.

Across Europe, there is strong interest in buying ice cream with locally sourced ingredients. In 2014, almost four in 10 ice cream and yogurt consumers in Italy (39%), France (38%) and Poland (38%) agreed that they would be interested in buying ice cream containing locally sourced ingredients. This was followed by a third (33%) in Germany and almost three in ten (28%) in Spain. In addition, 39% of U.K. consumers agree that ice cream made using authentic production methods, such as handmade or slow churned, is appealing, rising to half (51%) of consumers over age 65.

Recognizing this trend, big brands are making efforts to localize their products. This is best exemplified by the Häagen-Dazs Artisan Collection that Nestlé USA rolled out this past spring. The new line sets out to connect with the highly influential millennial demographic who is mindful of health, social and environmental issues surrounding their food. Millennials are all about seeking out foods with a local connection and experimenting with new concepts.

To produce the collection, the Häagen-Dazs brand team collaborated with notable culinary artisans from around the country to create unique flavors never before experienced in ice cream. To encourage trial, the line will only be available for a limited time. 

“To develop the Artisan Collection, we evaluated more than a hundred high-quality, culinary products,” said Kerry Hopkins, brand manager. “After months of vetting, we identified and worked hand-in-hand with six artisans to co-create our new flavors that infuse the taste of the artisans’ original creations with the rich, premium ingredients of Häagen-Dazs ice cream.”

The Chocolate Caramelized Oat was developed with Claire Keane of Clairesquares, San Francisco. Keane has been crafting flapjacks—a traditional Irish treat of caramelized, buttery oat bars drizzled in chocolate—from her own recipe since she was 12 years old. Inspired by her Irish treats, the Häagen-Dazs brand took chocolate caramelized oat clusters and blended them in a rich caramel ice cream.

The Applewood Smoked Caramel Almond variety strikes a balance between sweet and savory with help from Cruz Caudillo of Praline Patisserie, San Diego. Caudillo worked with the Häagen-Dazs brand to create swirls of smoked applewood caramel sauce combined with roasted, salted almonds into a sweet cream ice cream.

The other four flavors in the line, each with their own culinary story, are Tres Leches Brigadeiro, Banana Rum Jam, Spiced Pecan Turtle and Ginger Molasses Cookie. The six gourmet flavors come in 3.6-ounce (single-serve) and 14-ounce containers.

In addition to artisan and local, limited-edition offerings continue to draw consumers to the ice cream category. Holland, Michigan’s Hudsonville Creamery & Ice Cream Company, which hosted my son and I a few weeks ago (thank you Cary and Ray!), shared with me the two limited-edition flavors they are rolling out this month. Both sport a “limited” and “Michigan made” logo.

Cider Mill Donut is apple cider-flavored ice cream with a spiced apple swirl and real donut pieces. Fried Ice Cream—which is unbelievably delicious—is cinnamon ice cream filled with sweet pieces of cinnamon tostada chips and swirled with honey caramel.   

2. Brown Flavors: Sweet, Savory and Spicy
What do these Häagen-Dazs and Hudsonville flavors have in common? They are all brown flavors.

Brown flavors range from chocolate to vanilla…but more notably, include butterscotch, caramel, honey and nuts, as well as bakery treats such as cookies, donuts and tostados. Other flavors that fall into the brown category include bacon, cinnamon and even rum.

Brown is both color and taste. It can be umami, but does not have to be. It can also be bitter and even heat. Brown is best described as what it’s not, and that’s not bright or fruity.

Why are brown colors trending, or actually, why are bright or fruity colors not trending? Though brown colors are more common in the fall, season is only a minor influence on this trend.

The real inspiration here is consumers’ desired for “au naturel.” It’s the desire to return to nature, for simple, clean and nostalgia. It’s also the fact that most fruity colors need a little help from added coloring to make them look alive. And when they are too alive, consumers question their naturalness.

Photo source: G.S. Gelato & Desserts

G.S. Gelato & Desserts recently introduced four new gelato flavors, all of them as brown as brown can be. They are: Cinnamon Rum, Crème Brulee, Maple Bacon and Pumpkin Spice.

Schwan’s has a new offering for its home-delivery service. Autumn Treat is pumpkin-flavored ice cream with a swirling ribbon of rich cinnamon and plenty of crunchy praline pecans.

Indeed, cinnamon is big in ice cream these days! It’s brown. It provides a familiar form of heat. It also has many ethnic associations, which adventuresome consumers find attractive.

3. Tropicals: The Fruit of Choice
Not to be upstaged by brown flavors, fruit ice creams are getting more exotic. Tropical fruits, suggestive of many ethnic cuisines, are increasingly making their way into the packaged retail ice cream category.

For example, AC Creamery Inc., markets a line of Asian-inspired ice creams under the Manila Sky brand. Described as gourmet fusion, the one-year-old California company uses only local California milk (stating so on front labels) and sources many of its fruit ingredients from the Philippines.

There are six offerings in pint containers. They are:
Coco Rico: coconut ice cream with coconut swirl
Mango Dream: Manila and Mexican yellow mango ice cream with real mango bits
Mango Verde: green mango ice cream
Nutty Jack: jackfruit ice cream with roasted cashew pieces and sea salt
Purple Yumm: purple yam ice cream with cream cheese swirl
Viva Avocado: avocado ice cream with honey

4. Pints are Big; Half-Pints are Bigger
Because quality has become more important than quantity for many ice cream consumers, package size is scaling down. For example, Hudsonville recently expanded its production capabilities and is now doing pints.
Yuengling’s Ice Cream is now making its hand-made artisan ice creams available in pint-sized containers. Pints offer a great snack-size option at an extremely cost-effective price for a super-premium ice cream brand, according to the company.

Pints also enable consumers to explore new flavors. They are more adventurous when they do not have to commit to a quart or half-gallon.

5. Novelties: All about Portion Control
And as much as pints allow exploration of new flavors, single-serve items, e.g., novelties, have evolved into being more about portion control. It was not that long ago that the frozen novelty category was all about fun colors, flavors and shapes for kids.

With a growing number of parents consciously choosing to not purchase high-sugar, empty-calorie and often artificially colored foods for their kids, the frozen novelty category has evolved into focusing more on portion-control indulgences for adults. This is particularly true on the retail side of the business, where parents can take the time to read the ingredient legend.

Check out this one for a Minion novelty bar.
INGREDIENTS: Water, Sugar, Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Contains 2% or less of Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose, Carob Bean Gum, Guar Gum, Karaya Gum, Pectin, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Malic Acid, Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5, Red 40 Lake, Blue 2 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake, Yellow 6. Gum Ball {Sugar, Dextrose, Corn Syrup, Gum Base, Corn Starch, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Resinous Glaze (Confectioner’s Glaze), Glycerin, Tapioca Dextrin, Carnauba Wax, Artificial Colors (Yellow 6, Red 40, Blue 1), BHT (To Maintain Freshness)}. 

On the other hand, this line of 6-ounce cups of Weight Watchers brand product is all about portion control for adults. Manufactured under a licensing agreement by Wells’ Enterprises Inc., the new Weight Watchers cups come in six varieties: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Cookies & Cream, Mint Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter Delight and Turtle Sundae.

Want to learn more about what’s trending in ice cream? Plan to attend the Daily Dose of Dairy Live! presentation on Tuesday, Sept. 15, from 10:00am to 10:30am at the Dairy Show.