Friday, March 31, 2017

Celebrating Caramel—A Delicious Partner to All Things Dairy

Hope to see you this coming week at ProFood Tech in Chicago. It’s not too late to send this Windy City native an EMAIL for restaurant suggestions, grocery store hot spots or just some sightseeing tips. I was happy to assist a number of you already. Just hope my suggestions don’t disappoint.

Make sure you get the Daily Dose of Dairy LIVE on your ProFood Tech calendars. Each day of the expo, which runs April 4 to 6 at McCormick Place, I will be giving trends presentations at the International Dairy Foods Association booth (#910) in the Dairy Pavilion. For more information, link HERE.

Here’s the schedule:
Tuesday, April 4
12:00-12:30 Trends in Frozen Desserts
1:00-1:30 Trends in Fluid Milk and Dairy-Based Beverages
Wednesday, April 5
12:00-12:30 Trends in Yogurt and Cultured Dairy Foods
1:00-1:30 Trends in Frozen Desserts
Thursday, April 6
12:00-12:30 Trends in Fluid Milk and Dairy-Based Beverages
1:00-1:30 Trends in Yogurt and Cultured Dairy Foods
Visit SensoryEffects at Booth 2937 at ProFood Tech.

Now let’s talk caramel, a flavor with Chicago connections. From Werther’s and Brach’s candies to Eli’s Cheesecake to Garrett’s Popcorn (think Chicago Mix: a butter, caramel and cheese popcorn trio), caramel is a part of Chicago’s food history. It also is a very relevant flavor in the ice cream category, with favorites like Praline’s & Cream and more recently, Salted Caramel. But oh, the opportunities are infinite. Here’s why.

Caramel is made by boiling sugar until it turns a light brown color, then mixing in cream, butter and vanilla. Upon cooling, depending on the recipe and the inclusion of other ingredients, it firms up. Consistency ranges from flexible and chewy to syrupy. 

Photo source: Starbucks
Those four key ingredients and the range of consistencies makes caramel an ideal carrier for varied flavors, which together work very well in many dairy applications.
The fat components of caramel do a great job mellowing the heat of chilies and spices, while at the same time allowing their flavors to explode. Think chipotle peppers.

The sweetness of caramel serves as an ideal back drop to the contrasting tastes of bitter, salty, sour and umami. Think bacon, coffee, dark chocolate, fleur de sel, Meyer lemon, and more.
The vanilla flavor, which varies in strength from caramel to caramel, can enhance some flavors while with others masks their off notes. For example, vanilla enhances the malted flavor of bourbon while subduing its throat-burning bite.   

The overall consistency of caramel makes it an ideal binding agent of other ingredients as well as a coating to protect ingredients. Think crunchy nuts and granola bites. Its high sugar content provides color protection to fresh fruits. Think bananas foster and taffy apples.

Photo source: Daffy Farms
The best way to discover new flavor adventures with caramel is to observe activities in varied food platforms, including baking and confections, as well as BaconFest. Yes, BaconFest. It starts tonight and runs all weekend in Chicago.
Lucky me is attending tonight. Check out these flavor creations on the menu, which can all be turned into a system for ice cream:
  • Bacon and apple sticky sorghum cake with honeyed bacon ice cream, bacon rum caramel and bacon Madeira syllabub

  • Bacon brownies with bourbon gelato and bacon caramel sauce
  • Bacon foie gras mousse, salted onion caramel, ricotta cheese foam, pickled cherry and pork chicharron
Photo source: BaconFest 2016
  • Buttermilk cake donut topped with a sweet and savory mélange of maple and caramel glaze, fresh pecans and bacon
  • Chocolate peanut butter salted caramel bacon fudge
  • Homemade chocolate brownie cake topped with house-rub candied bacon with a bourbon caramel glaze
  • Popcorn coated with bourbon-infused caramel sauce with bits of maple glazed bacon

Here are 15-plus dairy product innovations that entered the market this past year. The opportunities for greater innovation are infinite.

Ciao Bella, maker of premium, artisan gelato and sorbetto, just completed a packaging overhaul designed to evolve the brand to be more on trend, competitive and approachable. With the new look comes new flavors, including Baileys Sea Salt Caramel. The company partnered with Baileys to blend its rich gelato with Baileys Irish Cream. Then Ciao Bella took it one step further and added sea salt caramel.

Clean, clear packaging depicts instantly recognizable ingredients that tie to the frozen treats’ natural colors. Along with a new logo, Ciao Bella, in an unprecedented move, is replacing its current 14-ounce jar with a larger, cylindrical shaped 16-ounce container without raising prices. 

“The premium segment within the specialty frozen dessert category has witnessed tremendous growth in the last several years, particularly in the pint segment. We believe there is great opportunity to give back to our consumers with the larger container at no cost to them. We expect the introduction of our new design and pint will appeal to new fans while also maintaining our loyal brand fans through extraordinary flavor profiles and value,” says Carlos Canals, CEO. “As a company, it was important for us to create packaging that best reflects who we are as a brand and what we stand for, that means clean, natural, transparent and approachable. Now, you’ll see our unwavering commitment to the best-tasting ingredients from around the world and the excitement and appreciation of what crafting authentic gelato and sorbetto really means to us.” 

Gelato Fiasco is releasing four new flavors as part of its 2017 pint collection. One of them is a unique twist on caramel. Sweet Resurgam Gelato was named for Portland, Maine’s motto, which means, “I shall rise again.” The flavor is burnt sugar almond gelato with swirls of salted caramel and chocolate chips. All of Gelato Fiasco’s gelato pints are made with milk from Maine family dairy farms, natural cane sugar, and no artificial flavors, colors or corn syrup. 

Wells Enterprises made caramel a key flavor in one of its new Blue Bunny Bunny Snacks. Salted Caramel Pretzel is vanilla-flavored reduced-fat ice cream layered with salted caramel and chocolate-covered pretzel pieces enrobed in chocolate-flavored coating with caramel candy drizzle. 

The new ice cream snack comes in a resealable stand up pouch that contains six individually wrapped 2.4-ounce ice cream treats. Both the inner packaging and outer packaging is clear in order to let consumers see the product.

To celebrate National Breakup Day, which was February 15, the day after Valentine’s, Perry’s introduced Bad Breakup. This is sea salt caramel ice cream with milk fudge swirls and fudge-filled hearts. 


Nestle is rolling out Haagen-Dazs Trio, a line of ice cream pints that contains layers of ice cream and crispy Belgian chocolate. To get a taste of all the layers, you have to dig in. The four-variety rollout includes Salted Caramel & Chocolate. These are the ice cream flavor layers, which are layered with the crispy Belgian chocolate. 

The company is licensing the Rolo trademark from The Hershey Company to add a Rolo ice cream to its highly indulgent inclusion-based pint line, which includes Nestle Butterfinger, Nestle Drumstick and Nestle Toll House Cookie Dough. The new Rolo variety is vanilla ice cream with a caramel swirl and mini Solo candy pieces, which are chewy caramel surrounded by milk chocolate. 

Earlier this year Ben & Jerry’s rolled out some new and unusual flavors, unusual even by this adventurous brand’s standards. This includes Urban Bourbon, which features burnt caramel ice cream with almonds, fudge flakes and bourbon caramel swirls. 

Humboldt Creamery is rolling out organic ice cream pints. The company uses locally sourced fresh organic cream from pasture-raised cows, then folds in premium, wholesome ingredients, along with 60% overrun, for more deliciousness and less air. The new seven-flavor line includes Sea Salt Caramel.

Snoqualmie is introducing seven “handcrafted happiness” ice cream pints. The company prides itself on using the best possible ingredients, with many sourced from the Pacific Northwest, including grass-fed milk and cream, eggs, berries and honey. Snoqualmie Organic is a French-style, frozen custard (ice cream). It is vat-pasteurized, slow cooked and crafted in small batches with extra cream and very little air. One of the seven new flavors includes Salty Caramel, which is made with a custom organic caramel using sea salt from Portland’s Jacobsen Salt Co. 

Yasso Frozen Greek Yogurt is introducing a number of new products this season, including Toffee Caramel Chocolate Chip stick bars. With its rich, decadent taste profile, chunks of toffee and chocolate chips, one bar has just 100 calories and 5 grams of protein. 

At the end of 2016, Kemps introduced Yo2. The new frozen yogurt pint line comes in six flavors, including Salty Caramel Cookie Crunch. It is vanilla frozen yogurt with shortbread cookies, chocolaty chunks and salty caramel swirl. 

Nestlé continues to invest in its Skinny Cow frozen novelty line. Caramel is an important flavor in its better-for-you brand, which now comes in simplified recipes and updated packaging. One of the new flavors in its stick line is Salt-Kissed Caramel. 

The brand is also rolling out Crazed For Caramel low-fat ice cream sandwiches dipped in chocolate. The sandwiches are low-fat caramel ice cream with chocolate wafers fully dipped in chocolatey coating. Imagine how amazing this would be if it also had an inside layer of oozing caramel?

Kraft Heinz just rolled out Philadelphia Cheesecake Cups, with one of the four varieties being Salted Caramel. These new refrigerated snacks come in two packs of 3.25-ounce clear-plastic single-serve cups. Packages tout the fact that the snacks do not contain artificial flavors or dyes. Cheesecake filling is the first ingredient, with cream cheese the first component of the filling.

Less than a year ago, Fage introduced Crossovers, a product line described as chef-level snacking. The dual-compartment 150-gram containers have strained yogurt on one side and crunchy toppings on the other. The eight new varieties include Caramel with Almonds.

At the beginning of this year, Chobani added on to its Flip line with dessert-flavored options. The new side-by-side (yogurt and inclusions) product includes Cinnabun Fun, which is cinnamon-flavored low-fat yogurt with a side of pastry pieces, chewy caramels and cinnamon-roasted pecans. 

Also at the beginning of the year, General Mills introduced Yoplait Dippers. The dome-style container includes sweet or savory nonfat yogurt in one part and crunchy dippers in the other. The new single-serve packs come in six varieties. One of them is Caramelized Banana Greek Yogurt and Choco-Drizzled Pretzels.

See you at ProFood Tech in a few days.
Visit SensoryEffects at Booth 2937 at ProFood Tech.

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