Thursday, February 24, 2022

Feeling Anxious? Here’s Some Good Dairy Foods News.


It’s been one of those insane weeks…and it was a short work week in a short month. Let’s pray for the world and its people.  

I hope you can find some comfort in these words of wisdom from a friend.  

The past is where depression and regret live (thinking about what we wished we had done).

The future is where stress and anxiety live (worrying about what we have to do or what's going to happen).

The present is the safest place we can be. That’s why we should be in the present and appreciate the now.

And I hope this information shared by the National Milk Producers Federation and the International Dairy Foods Association keeps you motivated to produce some of the best-tasting, most-nutritious and economical foods in the world. This is important during the current inflation crisis. 

Source: National Milk Producers Federation

The most recent Consumer Price Index is reporting the fastest retail price increases in costs in 40 years, with a hot economy and tight supply chains pushing up everything from cars to coffee. When consumers and media outlets focus their frustration, it tends to be on the prices that are most widely noticed. Gasoline is the best example. What other product routinely posts its price on big signs next to highways? 

A gallon of milk is another one, as it is a product that is in 94% of households. You can safely assume that a big part of the consuming public knows exactly what milk costs and notices when it rises.

Source: International Dairy Foods Association

This is the most recent year-over-year Consumer Price Index covering overall inflation, food and beverage inflation, and dairy categories. A gallon of whole milk—currently the most popular variety in a jug--is going up, but it is in line with other foods and beverages and lower than overall inflation. Subcategories fare even better. Cheese costs to consumers have barely budged. Ice cream remains an affordable treat. And yogurt, butter, etc., remain compelling choices of affordable, high-quality nutrition.

So what’s going on with the inflation gap? A few things, according to the National Milk Producers Federation. For starters, dairy supply chains tend to be more local and predominantly domestic, meaning some factors driving price gains in imported goods don’t apply. Dairy farmers have also done a great job of keeping markets adequately supplied, even in a year of record dairy export sales.

Source: International Dairy Foods Association

Here is a positive message that needs to be communicated to consumers: Dairy is a place to find value. 

I like to think we have learned a lot since the onset of the pandemic. And one of those things is to not take anything for granted. Every day is a gift. Every smile is a gift. Affordable, delicious and nutritious dairy foods are a gift. They are not something to be taken for granted these days.

To keep dairy products relevant to the evolving consumer, I encourage you to attend the International Dairy Foods Association’s Ice Cream Technology Conference and Yogurt & Cultured Innovation Conference on March 29 and 30. Watch this quick VIDEO for an overview. Link on the banners on this page for detailed information. 

Thursday, February 10, 2022

The Powerful Pint is Fueling Ice Cream Innovations for Summer 2022


After escaping my home in Chicago to attend Dairy Forum a few weeks ago in Palm Desert, Calif., and then the Winter Fancy Food Show this past week in Las Vegas, I have major spring fever! So, let’s talk ice cream and think about warm summer days. 

The Fancy Food Show, which is produced by the Specialty Food Association, had more than 800 exhibiting companies. The prominent theme of the show was comfort foods with a twist. These products speak to consumers who continue to seek new, yet familiar experiences at home amid the ongoing pandemic. This is fueling innovation in ice cream. 

What makes a food special? The $170.4 billion specialty food industry encompasses foods and beverages that are of the highest grade, style or quality. Their specialty nature includes attributes such as uniqueness, exotic origin, particular processing (and often an intentional lack thereof), design, limited supply, unusual application/use, compelling packaging or channel of distribution/sale. 

Smaller pack size—such as the pint—helps make ice cream special. Pints have been a powerful package size in the world of ice cream for the past decade. They command a premium and invite trial without the commitment to quart or half-gallon container. 

By definition, pints hold 16 fluid ounces of product; however, for economics, some “pint” packs contain a little less. Regardless of how much is inside, pints cost more--often a lot more—on a per-ounce-base than larger-sized ice cream containers. 

Pints help ice cream manufacturers overcome formulation challenges associated with adding lots of inclusions, especially variegates and fruit sauces that impact freezing temperature and product integrity over shelf life. This is something Ben & Jerry’s taught the ice cream industry when the brand started packing in chunks, chips, swirls and all types of flavorful ingredients that could cause the aerated ice cream mixture to collapse in a larger-sized container that would go in and out of the home freezer for multiple eating occasions.  

Pints allow for unique formulations, such as crispy layers, solid fudge tops and cores of goodies. Pints also make sense for limited-edition, special-batch and seasonal concepts. Short-time offerings create an urgency to purchase. When they come in a smaller-sized package, the consumer is often more willing to buy and bring home. There’s less of a commitment. In their mind, it’s a tasting, a sampling event. 

What is it about limited-time-offerings? It’s classic supply and demand. Shoppers recognize if they don’t purchase the product when it hits the store shelf, it may not be available the next shopping trip. They are popular because they allow consumers to be adventurous. This suggests that smaller package size may make the most sense for really innovative flavor combinations.  

Marketers must never forget that with date-specific products, for example, Valentine’s Day (don’t forget, it’s this Monday), the day after comes the discounts. That’s because consumers are ready to move on to the next big event. 

As mentioned, the Winter Fancy Food Show had numerous frozen desserts being showcased. Most were in pints. 

Little Jasmine introduced its U.S.-produced Brown Sugar Milk Tea Boba Ice Cream made with real boba imported from Taiwan. 

Heinlein Foods USA Inc., Miami, debuted its new Karinat frozen yogurt, which comes in Berry, Dulce de Leche, Greek and Passion Fruit flavors. In addition to pints, there are 4-ounce single-serve cups. 

Gelato Festival, a company that collaborates with chefs around the world to develop gelato concepts for its cafes in Europe and Los Angeles, is entering the retail pint business. Its debut dairy product is La Dolce Vita, a chocolate hazelnut flavor. There are also some vegan oat options. 

Marco Sweets & Spices, a New York-based craft ice cream start-up, showcased its culinary-inspired ice cream flavors rooted in a love for travel that first debuted in summer 2020.

The initial launch was five flavors, and since, three more have been added. All celebrate diverse, global ingredients. The company was founded to pay homage to beloved flavors from around the world and transport them from plate to pint. Crafted with epicureans in mind, each variety of Marco ice cream skillfully layers flavors, including fragrant spices sourced from Brooklyn Spice Company, bringing dimension and depth to every bite. 

The initial five flavors were: Aztec Chocolate (rich chocolate with cinnamon, ancho chile and chile de arbol), Ginger Dreamsicle (tart orange and sweet cream with a hint of spicy, bright ginger and rounded out with floral cardamom), Spicy PB Caramel (peanut butter base accented with ribbons of salted caramel and a touch of heat from chile de arbol and Aleppo pepper), Thai Coco-Lime (creamy coconut and tangy lime with a subtle smokey heat from gochugaru chili powder) and Vanilla Chai (traditional vanilla with the comforting flavors of a cup of chai, including cinnamon, ginger, fennel, cardamom, cloves, black pepper and fragrant Madagascar vanilla). 

The three new additions are: Moroccan Honey Nut (honey with almonds and warm Moroccan spices), Turkish Mocha (bold, complex coffee blend with cardamom and chocolate flakes) and Provencal Strawberry (strawberries and cream with notes of lavender and anise).  

Walpole Creamery was established in 2006 in Walpole, N.H., and only until the past few years limited distribution to New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Its award-winning ice cream starts with local fresh milk from 200-plus year old family-owned Crescent Farm, located only three miles away. Milk from the farm’s Jersey cows give Walpole Creamery’s house-made Sweet Cream base mix a 1% boost in milk fat over Holstein milk. That rich, creamy base mix is one of the company’s most popular flavors.  

Some of the creamery’s more unique flavors are: Caramel Cashew Chip (caramel ice cream laced with the salty crunch of cashews, and dark chocolate chunks), Fijan Ginger (sweet cream base with sweetly hot ginger) and Udder Joy (coconut ice cream with chocolate chunks and crunchy almonds). 

Beyond Fancy Food exhibitors, Wells Enterprises rolled out limited-edition Halo Top Devil’s Food Cake just in time for Valentine’s Day. (Reminder, again, it is this Monday!) The brand turned this classic decadent dessert into an indulgent frozen pint made with chocolate light ice cream, a white icing swirl and chocolate cake pieces. With just 360 calories per pint and an impressive 19 grams of protein per pint, it’s a loveable treat. 

Southern supermarket chain Publix has seven new limited-edition premium ice cream flavors (in quarts) that will only be available until May. They are: Bananas Foster (banana-flavored ice cream with a brown sugar rum-flavored swirl), Hazelnut Amaretto Biscotti (rich chocolate hazelnut-flavored ice cream swirled with amaretto-flavored cookie crumbles and dark chocolate flakes), Irish Crème Salted Caramel (Irish crème-flavored ice cream with a rich caramel sea salt swirl and caramel truffles), Maple Tiramisu (tiramisu-flavored ice cream with an espresso-flavored caramel swirl, studded with chocolatey espresso flakes and maple-flavored candy bits), New Orleans Caramel Praline (brown sugar ice cream with swirls of thick caramel and crunchy praline pecans), Peanut Butter Pie (peanut butter cheesecake-flavored ice cream with swirls of Mackinac peanut butter cookie ribbons and chocolate-flavored pieces) and Strawberry Shortcake (buttercream-flavored ice cream swirled with ribbons of strawberry-flavored sauce and layered with squares of soft shortcake).

Swedish better-for-you snacks brand Nick’s is rolling out six new light ice cream pints in the U.S. They are: Campfire S’mörgs (marshmallow ice cream with chocolate chunks and graham crackers), Hazelnöt Kram (hazelnut ice cream mixed with chocolate chunks), Raspbär Swirl (vanilla ice cream swirled with tart raspberries and chocolate, Rocky Fjord (chocolate ice cream, nuts and marshmallows), Strawbär Cheesecake (cheesecake ice cream mixed with strawberries and graham crackers) and Swedish Munchies (vanilla and chocolate ice cream with chunks of cookie dough and brownies). Nick’s light ice cream contains nominal net carbs, no added sugars and 260 to 420 calories per pint.

Ben & Jerry’s is growing its popular Topped line, which was introduced a year ago and features a fudgy ganache layer across the top of every pint of ice cream. Each Topped flavor provides all the chunks and swirls ice cream aficionados expect. The ganache is so abundant that the brand suggests that the best way to eat any of the Topped flavors is by using a fork to break through the ganache and mixing the chunks into the layers below. The two new varieties are Chocolate Milk & Cookies and Dirt Cake. Both include a milk chocolatey version of the ganache Topped layer--the original line featured either a dark or white chocolatey ganache—along with a chocolate cookie swirl affectionately dubbed “fairy dust.” Topped Dirt Cake is modeled after the childhood dirt cake dessert and includes a vanilla pudding ice cream base that is covered with enough cookie crumbs to bring back those days of youth.

Hudsonville Ice Cream and Little Debbie have collaborated to put a cold, creamy twist on classic snack cakes. These two family-owned brands introduced seven new ice cream flavors at Walmart stores on February 1st. The flavors are: Cosmic Brownies (brownie batter ice cream filled with mini rainbow chips and brownie pieces), Honey Buns (honey bun-flavored ice cream with glazed honey bun pieces and a sweet cinnamon swirl), Nutty Bars (peanut butter ice cream swirled with chocolatey waffle cone pieces and a thick fudge swirl), Oatmeal Creme Pies (vanilla creme ice cream with soft oatmeal cookie pieces and a hint of molasses), Strawberry Shortcake Rolls (white cake ice cream with yellow cake pieces and a tart strawberry swirl), Swiss Rolls (chocolatey cake ice cream with chocolate cake pieces and a swirl of whipped cream) and Zebra Cakes (white cake ice cream with yellow cake pieces and a milk chocolate fudge swirl). 

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream brought back Dolly Parton’s flavor—Strawberry Pretzel Pie—in celebration of her upcoming book and companion album: Run, Rose, Run. The limited-edition flavor first made its debut online in 2020 and sold out in minutes. 

Upstart ice cream company Frutero recently launched an exclusive flavor with delivery service GoPuff, a testament to the flavor innovation in the category. The new Tangerine n’ Cream flavor join Frutero’s lineup of other tropical ice cream flavors such as Mango, Passionfruit, Guava and more, but is only available through GoPuff. Frutero is on a mission to make everyday a tropical getaway.

Tropical getaway, now that sounds so nice this time of year. Happy Valentine’s weekend. Love, love, love.  

Friday, February 4, 2022

Research Shows Taste Scoops Health in Better-for-You Ice Cream.


With blizzards having blanketed more than half of the U.S., during the past two weeks, it seems like a good time to start thinking about summer…and ice cream! While most companies are already in production, and some even in distribution, of their summer 2022 rollouts, here’s something to think about as you brainstorm on future innovations. 

Research published in the Journal of Dairy Science on Nov. 8, 2021, on “Consumer perception of ice cream and frozen desserts in the ‘better-for-you’ category,” identified labeling and sensory preferences among today’s ice cream consumers. 

The research team spearheaded by Lauren Sipple, then a student at North Carolina State University and now a PhD student in food science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, conducted an online survey (n=1,051) of ice cream and frozen dessert consumers, followed by consumer acceptance testing of commercial better-for-you frozen dairy desserts. Consumers of better-for-you frozen desserts (n=578) completed various exercises to identify the attributes that drive purchase of better-for-you frozen desserts. This helped determine the attributes all frozen dessert consumers (n=1,051) perceived to make a frozen dessert better-for-you and which stabilizers or emulsifiers were most attractive on an ice cream or frozen dessert label. 

A consumer acceptance test (n=186) was also conducted using four commercial vanilla-flavored frozen dairy desserts made with different sweetening systems (sugar, sucralose and acesulfame K, monk fruit and allulose, and stevia and erythritol). Half of consumers were primed or informed with the sweeteners and basic nutritional information for the frozen desserts before tasting, and the other half of consumers evaluated samples blinded, where they were only informed that they were tasting a vanilla-flavored frozen dessert. 

Findings indicate that sweetener type and base (dairy vs. plant) were the most important attributes to better-for-you consumers when selecting a better-for-you frozen dessert (n=578). For all ice cream and better-for-you dessert consumers (n=1,051), sweetener-related claims (naturally sweetened, reduced sugar, no added sugar), along with “all natural” and a short ingredient list, were the top attributes that contributed to perception of a “healthier” frozen dessert. 

When better-for-you frozen desserts were tasted by consumers, purchase intent decreased after tasting, suggesting that frozen desserts made with natural non-nutritive sweeteners did not meet consumer expectations. Flavor of better-for-you frozen desserts remains more important than perceived healthiness. 

“Consumers perceive frozen desserts, even those in the better-for-you category, as an indulgence,” says Sipple. “Frozen dessert manufacturers should focus on naturally sweetened, dairy-based desserts with minimal sweetener-related flavor defects when designing products for the better-for-you category.”

You can access the entire paper HERE.

Source: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams 

And don’t forget, February 5, 2022, is Ice Cream for Breakfast Day. Nothing like a scoop or two with the morning cup of java. 

When it comes to vanilla, location matters. According to custom research conducted by Synergy Flavors in March 2021, 68% of consumers said vanilla from Madagascar--the top vanilla-producing country--was the most appealing when used in foods and beverages. It is described as sweet, creamy, rich, tobacco-like, balsamic and with a spicy back note. 

Other leading vanilla-producing countries include Indonesia, Mexico, Tahiti and Uganda. Indonesia is the second-largest producer of vanilla and 51% of consumers said the flavor is appealing when used in foods and beverages, according to Synergy’s research. The flavor is described as less sweet and creamy than Madagascar vanilla, with woody and slight smoky notes.  

Mexico is the third-largest producer of vanilla. Its flavor was preferred by 47% of consumers. The aroma and flavor of Mexican vanilla is described as sharp, sweet and spicy, but lacking the body that comes from Madagascar vanilla. In fourth place is Tahiti, which produces a distinct perfumed floral and anisic, less intense vanilla character. And in fifth place, Uganda produces a milk chocolate, early and bold-sweet vanilla. 

Choose your vanilla wisely!