August 19, 2015

BLOG: Ice cream comes of age

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Once reminiscent of seaside holidays and childhood treats, ice cream has now truly come of age.   The range of ingredients available today has given rise to manufacturers experimenting with new and unusual flavour combinations – rhubarb and blackberry, anyone? – particularly where these combinations can marry the consumer demand for healthy indulgence with great taste and texture.

Fruit has long established its credentials in the ice cream market, creating rich flavours, colours and textures.  Now the once sidelined vegetable is emerging as the new ice cream hero.  Offering sophisticated flavours, strong colour and an unequivocally healthy profile, vegetables are no longer relegated to the province of savoury applications – with exciting results.

Targeting a new demographic
Nowhere is the trend towards premiumisation more evident than in the ice cream sector, where the instantly recognisable health properties of fruit and vegetables have been singled out as key to boosting consumer appeal.  Manufacturers experimenting with new and exciting combinations of natural flavours, textures and formats are helping ice cream carve its share of the adult dessert market.

Ice cream manufacturers seeking to reposition their ice cream for adult tastes are launching varieties with sophisticated flavour combinations, artisanal production methods, transparent ingredient provenance and nostalgic marketing techniques.  The value growth in this sector[i] is attributable both to premium quality products, made from recognisable, clean label ingredients, and to smaller single-serve portion sizes that speak to a premium look and feel.  First benefiting from the so-called lipstick effect[ii], where austerity conscious consumers will still indulge in costly yet small treats, ice cream has emerged from the recession to claim its place as king of premium indulgence.  Grown up flavour combinations like raspberry and mascarpone, peach, ginger and iced tea, and apricot and jalapeṅo are starting to appear in the fruit ice cream segment, while new vegetable-based varieties such as cucumber, pumpkin, and kale are set to ensure ice cream secures its position in the adult mindset.

 

Optimum sourcing for premium ingredients

Fruit and vegetable inclusion in finished goods has traditionally posed a challenge to the food manufacturer.  Colourful, delicious and undeniably good for you, fruit and vegetables present the Herculean task of getting them into production before they spoil.  Add to this the challenge of including a high acid ingredient in a dairy application, and it’s clear that ice cream manufacturers should seek the help of the experts before embarking on new product innovation.

Ice cream manufacturers would be well advised to partner with suppliers who offer control over every step of the supply chain, particularly important when working with natural crops which are inevitably prey to climate variations.  Many have shied away from the profitable marketing opportunities of including exotic fruits in their products because of their fluctuating supply.  This is where the expertise of ingredient suppliers like SVZ in supply chain control comes into its own.  By working with specialist seed breeders, the right fruit and vegetable crops can be selected and grown to meet exacting customer demands for colour and nutrient content.   Naturally occurring fruit sugars within fruit and vegetables can partially replace the added sugar in ice cream applications without affecting the desired texture – while also enriching the ice cream with valuable nutrients, natural colours and appealing flavours.

Beetroot and black carrot, for example, can help clean product labels while adding vivid colour appeal and an ice cream enriched with strawberry chunks, swirls of vibrant colour or a luxury fruit preparation can take a product range to a new price point.

 

Ingredient traceability

This high level of supply chain management not only brings confidence in supply, but also transparency of ingredient sourcing.  With the SVZ team of agronomists working alongside growers to bring knowledge of best farming practice, the latest standards in cultivation, land management, food safety and regulatory advice, manufacturers are assured of ingredient quality for their premium product lines.  Furthermore, processing fruit and vegetables in purpose built facilities directly at source minimises nutrient loss and colour degradation, essential for creating ice creams with shelf appeal. 

The high acidity profile of fruit and vegetable ingredients as well as their natural enzyme content need careful handling in a dairy environment.  Suppliers with tried and tested expertise in natural fruit and vegetable ingredients will ensure their compatibility with the specified result.  The pH level of dairy applications can exert a strong influence on colour by changing the hue of the raw ingredient dramatically in application.  By creating blends of natural fruits and vegetables and advising on recipe formulation and processing, suppliers can bring new value to the product development process.  Also key to success is to deactivate the natural enzymes inherent in fruit and vegetables – which can otherwise adversely affect end product quality and shelf life – without impacting on colour, taste and texture.

Convenient and indulgent

Part of ice cream’s charm lies in its varied eating occasions.  Whether an indulgent premium dessert, a refreshing sorbet, a single portion treat on the go, or the perceived healthy halo of a frozen yoghurt, ice cream has it all.  No longer limited to summer snacking, ice cream is the ideal foil for convenient indulgence and has become one of the food sector’s most versatile treats.

Innovation in ice cream is reaching new levels.  Typically, the ice cream sector will follow developments in the beverage industry, with new varieties featuring alcohol for a truly grown up palate.  From the aperitif style gin and tonic sorbet dessert, to port and cheese ice cream for a new twist on a traditional after dinner course, ice cream is the perfect medium to bring variety to any taste and occasion.  And the flavour, texture and nutrient profile of premium fruit and vegetable ingredients from expert suppliers like SVZ offer the perfect way to innovate.

[i] NAME Report, Euromonitor, DATE (client to confirm)

[ii] Kayleen Schaefer, The New York Times, 1 May 2008
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