Thursday, December 14, 2017

Dairy Foods Forecast: Ice Cream Flavor Trends 2018

Think dark, rich, ethnic, culinary…and comfort flavors.

As the year starts to wind down, food and beverage market analysts issue forecasts for macro trends that will drive innovation. I take those trends and combine them with the knowledge gained throughout the year from attending international trade shows and talking with suppliers and marketers.

In case you missed last week’s blog titled “Dairy Foods Forecast 2018: It’s All About Creating Disruption,” you can link to it HERE. I provide five macro-trends to assist with your product development and marketing efforts this coming year. I explain how it’s time to disrupt in order to differentiate.

Today’s annual blog is one of my favorites to write. It’s my forecast of what to expect in ice cream the next year or two. This forecast is fueled by the disruption taking place in the world. Good, bad or simply different, when there’s unknowns, consumers tend to seek out familiar and comforting foods.

That brings me to Flavor Forecast #1: The Basics, Premiumized. Yes, that means vanilla and chocolate, smooth. No ripples or crunchies. This is best exemplified by a recent rollout by Coolhaus. The Best of Both Worlds Vanilla is made with both Tahitian and Madagascar vanilla beans to yield a rich, sweet and sophisticated flavor with clean floral notes.

“There is nothing #basic about this elevated classic,” according to the company.

It’s time to revisit your basic flavor line--the ice creams without any inclusions--and give the flavors a makeover. Coffee might now be cold-brew. Lemon, make it with Meyer lemons.

That brings me to Flavor Forecast #2: Sophisticated Fruits. Meyer lemon is one example. Others include Sicilian blood orange, Asian pear and dragon fruit. It’s easier to add these whole fruits to the top of freshly made gelato, so for packaged retail products, it’s best to source natural flavor extracts and use them to deliver robust fruit aromas. Tell the story of the fruit. Describe it. Communicate what makes this fruit special.

Flavor Forecast #3: Deep and Dark. As much as consumers appreciate lighter, simpler comfort foods and flavors during disruptive times, they also have a darker side where they like to escape. Here’s where flavors such as brown butter, smoky almond, burned pineapple and candied bacon come into play.

Also part of Deep and Dark is boozy. Think barrel-aged flavors, whiskey, rum. Spirits with a comforting twist make Deep and Dark more inviting.

Earlier this year, Nestle Ice Cream rolled out five varieties of Haagen-Dazs Spirits to the Canadian marketplace. The new line comes in five alcohol-filled flavors. They are: Irish Cream Coffee & Biscotti (Irish cream-flavored ice cream with coffee swirl and biscotti bites), Rum Ginger Cookie (rum-infused ginger ice cream with ginger cookie pieces), Rum Vanilla Caramel Blondie (rum-infused vanilla ice cream, blondie chunks and caramel ripple), Vodka Key Lime Pie (vodka-infused key lime ice cream with graham cracker ripple) and Whiskey Chocolate Truffle (whiskey infused chocolate and white mousse ice creams with truffle pieces). With less than 1% alcohol content, the ice creams are not considered an alcohol product. 

Flavor Forecast #4: Cocktails Deconstructed. That’s a nice lead into this next trend. Youngers drinkers today have an affinity for mixed cocktails. Everything from the higher-end cosmopolitan to the tropical pina colada. Deconstructing these drinks and turning them into a non-alcoholic frozen dessert is trending in restaurants. It can happen in the packaged ice cream sector, too. 

Flavor Forecast #5: Deconstructing Desserts. For long, ice cream manufacturers offered “two-fers.” That’s when you put one dessert into another, such as brownie or cheesecake bites into ice cream. The trend of Deconstructing Desserts is more sophisticated. It’s the unique addition of individual dessert ingredients to recreate the dessert in ice cream format. An example might be blueberry cobbler, where the ice cream version has a buttery ice cream base with real blueberries and oat and graham clusters.

Flavor Forecast #6: Street Food. Food trucks, push carts and open markets, consumers love them. I challenge an ice cream marketer to roll out a line of street food-inspired ice creams. Think street cart churros. Sweet bao buns. Fruit-filled crepes.

Flavor Forecast #7: Asian Flavors. As consumers gain a better appreciation of Asian cuisine—there’s more than Chinese takeout and sushi—they want to explore the flavors of Eastern Asia. Think black sesame, matcha tea and candied ginger, as well as that Asian pear and bao buns already mentioned. Maybe it comes packed in a takeout-style cardboard box. 

Flavor Forecast #8: Honey and Butter. Honey and butter, together or separate, are trending flavors across all foods. They are appreciated as natural and delicious. In ice cream they can be used to add a premium layer of flavor. Butter did it to pecan and honey brought vanilla up notch. Work these flavors into your next creation.

Flavor Forecast #9: Coconut. The healthfulness of coconut water and coconut milk/juice has made anything and everything with coconut highly attractive to today’s consumers. Ice cream makers know that working with shredded coconut can be challenging. It’s sticky and clumps. But there’s ways around this, including having the coconut as part of an inclusion piece.

Flavor Forecast #10: Caramel with Kick. Ice cream and caramel are a match made in heaven, which was recently confirmed with the sea salt caramel flavor. The next generation of caramel variegates will have an extra layer of flavor, just not salt. Think smoky, spicy, candied, bacon, coconut, and wait for it…honey. The latest from Martha Stewart is to take caramel to new heights with a couple spoonfuls of honey. What an awesome variegate for ice cream, maybe with pieces of Asian pear.

This is the last blog of 2017. Talk soon in 2018. Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Dairy Foods Forecast 2018: It’s All About Creating Disruption

Photo source: Starbucks

‘Tis the season for commentary on what to expect this coming year. So, of course, I must chime in. I would like to preface that many of my predictions come from observing, listening and looking beyond the traditional dairy departments. I highly recommend it.

It is exhausting- and time-consuming work, but remember, scanner data only tells you what consumers purchased in the past, and only in select channels. It does not tell you why they made those purchases. It’s also not a promise of what consumers will buy tomorrow.

Survey data should be helpful, but responses often include fabrications. (That’s a fancy word for lies.) Consumers say one thing and behave differently. It’s like parallel universes. They claim to avoid meat yet the popularity of In-N-Out Burger, which is located in some of the most health-conscious regions of the U.S., is at an all-time high. (For those of you unfamiliar with the chain, it only sells beef burgers (with optional cheese), fries, milkshakes and soda. That’s it. No salads. No grilled chicken sandwiches.)

It’s amazing what you can learn from real people going about their daily life.


Just two days ago at my gym, I overheard the woman in front of me at the coffee kiosk order a latte with almond milk (what many of us prefer to call almond juice). The barista informed her they were temporarily out but have soy as an option. I almost spoke up to say there’s real milk as an option, too! I refrained and was rewarded. The woman responded that she doesn’t do soy but will take cream. She then added, with a giggle, that she prefers cream but orders almond milk because it’s healthier.

Alright my friends, digest that for a moment. There clearly is an opportunity to educate about dairy nutrition while communicating its deliciousness.

Here’s an ah hah moment. This one happened standing in an almost two-hour long line—outside the store--on Saturday at Bath & Body Works’ Annual Candle Sale. Yes, this is a thing. It was my first—and likely last—time but as long as I was there, and it was a 60F day in Chicago in December, I figured why not stand in line for normally $24.50 candles now priced at $8.99, limit 15. (I maxed my purchase.)

After about 10 minutes of self entertaining on my phone, I started conversing with my line mates. Most were alone and equally bored. I was the elder in the group, surrounded by millennial women, professionals, a few were school teachers. They started sharing online coupons, app deals, pop-up sales. I quickly learned that many Millennials, though they appreciate quality over quantity, value deals. They shop sales. They might not be clipping coupons from the Sunday paper like me, but they are downloading and scanning all types of savings. Their personal device never leaves their side.

They also crave new and different. I bought five candles of each of my three favorite scents to reach the 15 limit. Two of my new acquaintances urged me to expand my horizons and try 15 different scents, some of which the store was only offering this holiday season. They explained how exploring the unknown is an important part of who they are.

When one of them queried about my profession, her response was that she could not survive without cheese snacks. She loves them all, from Hillshire to Oscar Mayer to Sargento. Her two complaints were there’s no cheese snack app with coupons and she would like more variety. Frankly, I think there’s a great deal of options in this space, but what do I know? Sounds like limited-edition and seasonal offerings make sense for cheese snacks, too. Opportunity?

I could go on and on, but I will end with this third observation. I arrived early to Northwestern Hospital for my annual checkup a few weeks ago. Early was planned, as I love their made-to-order omelet station for breakfast. So do a lot of patients and staff. While waiting for my order, I walked around to see what else was offered. There were a lot of portion packs of fresh food, such as two hard-boiled eggs, fruit cups and, wait for it, cottage cheese bowls. Imagine yogurt and fruit parfaits, but instead, lidded plastic bowls with hand-portioned cottage cheese. Then there were sides of berries, granola and other toppings.

Of course, I had to ask about this a la carte item. I was told it sells out daily. They can’t keep it stocked during the lunch hour.

This brings me to an item I featured a few weeks ago as a Daily Dose of Dairy. This dairy parfait cup concept from DMK Group is definitely a category disruptor. The assortment consists of three products: quark-creme, classic rice pudding and skyr. The clear plastic cups carry DMK’s Milram brand and are filled half way with one of the products. The cups are sealed to maintain freshness for about three-weeks. Retailers receive the sealed cups, along with dome lids and sealing tape, so they can turn the product into fresh parfaits with fruits, nuts, granola, etc., on an as-needed basis. This decreases waste in terms of on-site scooping of product into cups as well as reduced shelf life because of opened perishability.

“Ready-to-eat snacks with fresh ingredients are totally on-trend. Consumers expect ultra-fresh products with a hand-made character in this segment,” says Matthias Rensch, chief operating officer at DMK Brand. “The new to-go concept combines ultra-fresh convenience with well-known brand quality and minimal handling.”

This type of product can also be sold alongside a self-serve topping bar. Maybe cottage cheese is one of the products.

Here are the five opportunities I’ve identified for dairy in 2018.

1. Get your products placed in foodservice channels and in supermarket departments beyond the dairy case and ice cream freezer. Do this with innovative single-serve portion packaging and creative foodservice formats.

This week, the market research experts at Packaged Facts rolled out a free e-book featuring the firm’s top food industry trends for 2018. Unlike the company’s previous predictions focusing primarily on culinary foodservice and restaurant developments, this latest e-book highlights retail food and beverage trends. It’s a must-read for brands looking to stay one step ahead of the competition as they adapt to changing consumer preferences and prepare for major market shifts in 2018 and beyond. You can download it by linking HERE.

“Grocery retail has never been more cutthroat. With razor-thin profit margins and new pricing pressure from Amazon, Lidl and ALDI, U.S. food retailers must adapt quickly in order to remain competitive and appeal to shifting consumer preferences,” says David Sprinkle, publisher for Packaged Facts and author of the e-book.

In other words, they must disrupt and change their way of doing business.

Though the report focuses on the U.S., much of the content applies to all developed countries. The fact is that the current consumer landscape prioritizes quality over quantity, but still values a good deal.

2. Focus on quality over quantity. Connect with the consumer through social media and tell them a story about the product. Offer them a deal. Ask them for feedback. Build a relationship.

It’s important to remember that these days, the term quality, in regards to food and beverage, refers to ingredient sourcing, processing method and even nutrition profile. Food and beverage entrepreneurs are disrupting the way supermarkets and foodservice channels prepare, merchandise and sell food, which means dairy processors need to shake things up.

This is no longer your granddaddy’s dairy when the family name on the side of a truck was enough to get noticed. Have your granddaddy talk about the family farm on the company app and then offer a coupon via Facebook.

3. Limited-edition and seasonal flavors must be part of every product line: butter, cheese, ice cream, milk, yogurt, etc. This includes ready-to-drink single-serve beverages. This is an important segment of food retailing and tends to be highly profitable, for manufacturers, retailers and operators. Because turnover also tends to be quick, retailers and operators are often willing to try new concepts. Single-serve beverages tend to be easier to reformulate than many foods and limited-edition and seasonal formulations and promotions are an easy way to attract shoppers.

4. Natural, organic, non-GMO…these attributes are now mainstream. The Packaged Facts e-book states that the natural and organic foods market segment is worth nearly $70 billion. From 2012 to 2016, U.S. retail sales for natural and organic foods rose at a compound annual growth rate of 7%. By 2021, growth is expected to hit double digits. Dairy processors cannot afford to not be in this space. Choose your ingredients cleanly.

5. Deliciousness, consumers want it and dairy’s got it. You know it. I know it. Even vegans know it, which is why they try so hard to duplicate dairy’s deliciousness. Sometimes the dairy industry forgets to communicate the unmatchable deliciousness of dairy. Commit to it in 2018.

It’s no longer your granddaddy’s dairy. It’s time to get disruptive to differentiate in the crowded food and beverage sector.