Ice cream is no longer ‘just ice cream’, and for consumers the choice has evolved far beyond chocolate, strawberry or vanilla. While many consumers are looking to stay fit and healthy, there is still an opportunity to capitalise on occasional indulgence. There are some pretty innovative moves in the ice cream category, so here are four of the best that we’ve seen at FoodBev in the past six months.
Last month, Häagen-Dazs rolled out a new range of ice cream that combines three indulgent flavours in each tub. Häagen-Dazs Trio pairs two unique flavours of the brand’s ice cream with crispy layers of Belgian chocolate – and will help the brand to sustain growth in the premium end of the category, driven by itself and Ben & Jerry’s. Brands are continuing to recognise the worth of indulgent dairy, as evidenced by a steady stream of whole-milk products, and inject new life into the dairy segment.
Nostalgia, possibly, plays a part in this. In developed economies, ice cream is one of the foods that most people have a childhood memory of, and appealing to consumers’ sense of nostalgia is a sure-fire way of increasing trial purchase in the ice cream category. Take Hostess Brands and Nestlé Dreyer’s recent collaboration on a range of ice creams adapted from Hostess’ cake products, including Twinkies, CupCakes and Sno Balls.
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At the same time that flavour is driving innovation in ice creams, many consumers are looking for snack foods that provide them with functional benefits. As with other areas of the food and beverage industry, protein is at the heart of this trend. In January, DuPont Nutrition & Health worked with ice cream manufacturer Aabybro Dairy to create a suite of frozen sorbets that are high in protein – as well as fibre. They were developed for patients at Aalborg University Hospital in Denmark.
And last month, frozen protein brand ProYo debuted a new line of low-fat ice creams, set up to challenge rapidly growing premium offerings like Halo Top and Arctic Zero. The range is available in seven different flavours – including coconut, and dark chocolate with toffee – and each ice cream delivers 10g of protein in every serving, or 35g in every tub.
They represent the two most ‘in vogue’ positions from ice cream manufacturers – low in calories and high in protein – and show that, no matter how healthy a product is, it still has to deliver on flavour!
Appealing to consumers who are increasingly adventurous is a key priority for ice cream producers. Returning to Häagen-Dazs, the luxury brand has launched a range of ice cream flavours inspired by floral flavours. The Little Gardens collection features combinations like apricot-lavender; rose, raspberry and lychee; and elderflower and blackcurrant. The packaging is decorated with colourful and decorative illustrations that match the contents and appeal to consumers.
Ice Kitchen makes a range of gourmet ice lollies, with flavours such as rose and pistachio and mojito poptail. In December, the brand, which started life in New York, announced that it was planning a sales push in the UK after securing a six-figure investment from Dutch food entrepreneurs. Ice Kitchen’s success underlines the potential for ice cream brands to use alcohol in their product development, with companies now incorporating spirits and cocktails in the actual swirls of ice cream.
Salted flavours are also big business, like Jude’s new chocolate and sea salt ice cream or Talenti’s salted peanut caramel.
Don’t tell anyone, but ice cream doesn’t need to be ice cream anymore. With consumers increasingly moving away from dairy in favour of plant-based alternatives, be it for health or lifestyle reasons, brands have jumped in to create a parallel niche in non-dairy ice creams. And for evidence of non-dairy products seeping into the mainstream, look no further than Ben & Jerry’s recently unveiled ‘ice creams’ – all made from almonds. The flavours include caramel almond brittle with salted caramel swirls; cherry garcia with cherries and fudge flakes; plus coconut seven-layer bar, which includes coconut, fudge chunks, walnuts and swirls of graham cracker and caramel.
Frozen yogurt is also popular as an alternative: last month, FoodBev reported on Skinny Cow’s new look and simplified recipe, alongside a completely new range of frozen yogurt bars. Kevin George, director of marketing for snacks for Nestle Dreyer’s Ice Cream, said that ‘individual preferences and expectations are evolving’ and claimed that the new frozen yogurt products would give consumers ‘even more ways to indulge’.
I feel like the last word should be Häagen-Dazs’; for a couple of years now, they’ve taken ice cream further with flavours such as tomato and carrot in Japan.
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