Friday, April 1, 2022

Five Ice Cream Observations to Fuel Your 2023 Innovations


April Fools! That photo should grab your attention. It’s a prank from Yasso, which is pretending to launch Mintiest Mint Toothpaste, Mouthwash and Floss today. The idea was inspired by Yasso’s bestselling Mint Chocolate Chip Bar, which has been compared—by its haters—to tasting like mint toothpaste. Always one to poke fun at themselves, the cult-favorite better-for-you Greek frozen yogurt brand hopes the prank brings a smile to its customers during these crazy times. 

It was wonderful to see—and hug or fist bump—so many of you at the International Dairy Foods Association’s (IDFA) Ice Cream Technology and Yogurt & Cultured Innovation Conference in Florida. The company was great. The content was interesting. And, well, the weather was fabulous. 

With almost 30 years of tracking ice cream trends behind me, I believe I am able to provide a unique perspective to the category. And, in fact, there is still time to plan your travels to the Oregon Dairy Industries meeting on April 12 to hear “Around the World One Scoop at a Time,” where I will discuss how ice cream is a craved dessert in almost every country, but the similarities end there. Discover flavors, textures and formats from beyond our borders, as well as explore U.S. concepts that are already playing in this space and identify opportunities for future innovation. For more information, link HERE

Here are five ice cream observations from the past year or so to help fuel your next innovation. 

1. Pints are powerful and should focus on indulgence. They command a premium and allow for consumers to try something new without the commitment of a larger-sized package. Price often does not matter when shopping the pint section of the freezer, which continues to grow every year.

2. Novelties, on the other hand, are designed to be single-serve items. While once considered a kids’ category, novelties are now often premium products designed for adults. They assist with portion control, so are ideal for indulgent formulations where the consumer wants a treat without the temptation to grab another scoop. They function as a grab-and-go snack and should be marketed as such. One of the biggest opportunities with novelties is better-for-you concepts. This might be in the form of high protein, probiotics, botanicals, fortification, etc. It also might be about low- or no-added sugar, which happens to be the biggest claim being made on new ice cream launches. It might also be about the inclusion of fruits, nuts and other whole food ingredients that are identifiable. The consumer knows just what they are getting in this portion pack.  

3. New ice cream flavors are paramount to keeping your brand relevant. Anything goes with ice cream flavors and those that provide shock value make for great limited-edition offerings. Investing in public relations prior to the launch provides the marketing hype to make the flavor a success and creates anticipation for the next concept in the pipeline. 

4. International recipes, imported ingredients and local sourcing, in particular, the use of upcycled ingredients, should not be trivialized. Authenticity and storytelling is key. 

5. Co-branding is back, as is exclusive partnerships with retailers. The co-branding is not simply licensing a character or making reference to some nostalgic dessert. It’s about teaming up with another food company and recreating their product as an ice cream. And, making a flavor exclusive to a specific retail chain invites that retailer to do the marketing for you. 

Ice Cream Flavor Contest
The IDFA conference hosted 178 ice cream industry professionals who tasted, judged and selected the winners from 35 ice cream innovations entered into this annual contest. Purple Daze by The Ice Cream Club Inc., took home top honors in the Most Innovative Ice Cream Flavor competition. It is black raspberry ice cream with a black raspberry crinkle and dark chocolate black raspberry cups. 

Blue Bunny Strawberry Cheesecake Twist Cone by Wells Enterprises Inc., was awarded Most Innovative Ice Cream Novelty. This concept rolled out earlier this year and is a sugar cone filled with two flavors of soft-serve dairy dessert along with a ribbon of strawberry.

Perry’s Ice Cream Company Inc., received second place for its Yellow Cake Sundae Crunch Ice Cream Bar. Third place went to Dairy Farmers of America for its Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler.

Monkey Bread from Hudsonville Ice Cream was named Most Innovative Prototype Ice Cream Flavor. I am looking forward to this flavor being commercialized. Hudsonville also grabbed a third place award for its Little Debbie Honey Bun Ice Cream, which is honey bun-flavored ice cream with glazed honey bun pieces and a sweet cinnamon swirl. Hudsonville Ice Cream and Little Debbie rolled out seven snack cake-flavored ice cream pints to Walmart stores on February 1st.

Rolling Out Now
Of course, you could only win if you entered the contest…and there are so many new ice creams entering freezers in 2022 that were not part of the contest that I feel the need to highlight some for you in this space. 

Cascade Glacier, a popular foodservice ice cream brand for more than 25 years at national parks, waterparks and other attractions along the West Coast, is bringing back one of its popular shock-value flavors: Licorice. Just looking at it you can almost taste the authentic black licorice flavor. 

Shark Tank-backed farm creamery business, The Frozen Farmer, is accelerating its Kroger partnership by joining the Kroger Racing family of brands in sponsoring JTG Daugherty Racing’s No. 47 Camaro ZL1, driven by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series. The brand is also launching a new Kroger-exclusive flavor: Apple Pie Frobert. This flavor is a blend of ice cream and sorbet made using upcycled fruit. It hit shelves nationwide this month. Frobert is the company’s better-for-you frozen dairy dessert that lessens the fat and calorie content of traditional ice cream in a sustainable way without sacrificing flavor or creaminess. 

Shock value is the name of the game for Brooklyn-based Van Leeuwen Ice Cream. Last summer the company teamed up with Kraft Heinz to bring together two of life’s greatest pleasures: ice cream and macaroni and cheese. The limited-edition ice cream sold out online in the first few hours and did not last long in scoop shops. 

Continuing with the cheese theme, Van Leeuwen is rolling out Pizza, which is pizza-flavored ice cream featuring a mozzarella base with tomatoes and basil. It is part of an exclusive launch at Walmart that also includes Bourbon Cherries Jubilee, Hot Honey (bits of honeycomb in a vanilla base with a hot honey swirl), Planet Earth (blue spirulina and matcha green tea cake), Royal Wedding Cake (floral, sweet cream cheese ice cream with chunks of lemon sponge cake with layers of elderflower frosting) and Wild Blueberry Shortcake.

Salt & Straw wants to take you back to cereal-filled Saturday mornings with its new Cereal-sly Delicious line of five cereal-inspired flavors. They are: 

Cornflake Cookies w/ Marionberry Jam: caramelized brown butter cornflake cookies crumbled into malty, cereal-flecked ice cream with gobs of marionberry jam 

OffLimits’ Cocoa Puffs’ n Cold Brew: Intelligentsia cold brew ice cream swirled with malty fudge with cereal brand OffLimits’ coffee and cocoa spheres thrown in

Peanut Butter Cheer Yo Clusters: golden cereal, gooey marshmallow fluff and creamy peanut butter made into bars until they’re extra chewy, then broken into bite-sized clusters and churned into chocolate stracciatella-flecked sweet oat cream 

Pots of Gold & Rainbows: Lucky Charms cereal steeped in cream for that bottom-of-the-bowl sweetened milk flavor with heaps of rainbow mallows

Snap & Crackle Marshmallow Treats: marshmallow-y brown butter treats, pressed and toasted into a lacy florentine, churned throughout a malty, toasted graham ice cream

And, one of my favorite shock-value flavors is Everything Bagel from Jeni’s Ice Cream. After being a very successful special-edition offering in 2021, the company is brining it back for a limited time this year.

Jeni’s uses a buttery streusel seasoned with onions, garlic, cayenne, sesame and poppy seeds in a cream cheese-flavored ice cream. The garlic and onion pieces are there and surprisingly, quite good. The cream cheese balances these two ingredients, bringing out their natural sweetness. 

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