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.  

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