PG Web Extra: What’s Next for Ice Cream?

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PG Web Extra: What’s Next for Ice Cream?

By Jim Dudlicek, EnsembleIQ - 06/13/2016

Disruption is occurring across every category in the grocery store, and ice cream is no exception.

From format to flavors to what’s happening behind the scenes, plenty is changing in the frozen dessert world.

“Health-and-wellness brands are outpacing total category growth by delivering on consumer need states,” says Drew Harrington, co-founder of Quincy, Mass.-based Yasso Frozen Greek Yogurt. “Consumers are going to continue to demand products that are great-tasting and offer an enjoyable eating experience with unique flavors and fun inclusions, while meeting their nutritional objectives for them and their families. The next big thing for retailers will be the continuous expansion of better-for-you offerings that are contributing significant growth to the category with their velocities and new buyers.”

Kevin Riveroll, VP of sales and marketing at Boston-based Ciao Bella, said his company’s line of non-GMO sorbettos, which offer the same texture and mouth feel as fresh fruit, aims to shake things up in grocers' freezer.

“While they have been around for quite some time now, we are optimistic that the sorbetto category can really shine specifically, as consumers are looking for better options, even in desserts,” Riveroll notes. “The way we see it, we’re offering the delight of treating yourself to something delicious with less dessert guilt.”

Digital initiatives are going to make the different in the category, according to Steve Pratt, VP of category and shopper development at Nestlé Dreyer’s Ice Cream, in Oakland, Calif.

“Grocers need to keep their finger on the pulse of emerging mobile and digital platforms, which are key drivers in how consumers shop,” Pratt says. “Retailers that keep pace with trends like curbside pickup and delivery of custom content will be best equipped for success in the frozen dessert category.”

Meanwhile, Unilever believes in the promotion of sustainable standards that help protect the environment and promote the well-being of workers, their families and their communities, observes Nick Soukas, director of ice cream for the Englewood Cliffs, N.J.-based company.

“Unilever is at the forefront of this effort,” Soukas declares. “In fact, by 2020, Unilever will source 100 percent of its agricultural raw materials sustainably.”

For example, Unilever’s Breyers brand uses only 100 percent sustainably farmed vanilla beans that are Rainforest Alliance Certified; all Unilever vanilla beans will be Rainforest Certified by 2018.

Fun Flavor Combinations Top Trends

Tiramisu, coconut, pineapple and bananas Foster were among the most innovative flavors featured at the International Dairy Foods Association's Innovative Ice Cream Flavor Competition this past April in Bonita Springs, Fla. The competition, which showcases the creativity of U.S. ice cream makers and flavoring suppliers, is a popular part of IDFA’s annual Ice Cream Technology Conference.

“Considering the range of ice cream and frozen dessert products entered in this year’s innovative ice cream competition, we will be enjoying unusual taste combinations that blend three to four complementary flavors, as well as decadent concoctions inspired by adult beverages, including bourbon, whiskey, stout and Irish Cream, over the next year,” said Cary Frye, VP for regulatory and scientific affairs at Washington, D.C.-based IDFA. “Fun flavors such pineapple, coconut, sour cherry and maple made a strong showing, while comfort foods like cheesecake, buns, cobbler and cookies were also interpreted in the rich, creamy frozen treats.”

The contest drew 34 entries, making it a record field for the third year in a row. The more than 140 ice cream industry professionals attending the conference tasted, judged and selected the winners. First-, second- and third-place awards were presented in three categories.

Most Innovative Ice Cream Flavor: Tiramisu, a creamy interpretation of the classic Italian dessert featuring fudge swirls, pieces of ladyfinger sponge cakes and a hint of coffee, earned first place in the most innovative ice cream flavor category for Akron, N.Y.-based Perry’s Ice Cream. Second place went to Cheese Crown, a cheesecake-flavored ice cream with cinnamon-sugar pastry pieces and flakes of fondant icing, created by Graeter’s Manufacturing, in Cincinnati. Butterscotch Bomb, featuring butterscotch ice cream loaded with thick ribbons of butterscotch and filled with pieces of brownies, Heath bars, cookies and peanut butter cups, earned third place for The Ice Cream Club Inc., of Boynton Beach, Fla.

Most Innovative Novelty: Coconut and Milk Fruit Bar, which delivers a burst of cool, creamy coconut and a splash of cold milk in each bite, took first place in the most innovative novelty category. It was submitted by Miami-based Florida International University. Second-place honors went to Le Mars, Iowa-based Wells Enterprises Inc. for its Funwich sandwiches, a chocolate chip cookie layered with reduced-fat vanilla ice cream and dipped in milk chocolate coating. Cinnamon Bun, a frozen Greek yogurt bar with swirls of cinnamon spice, garnered third place for Massachusetts-based Yasso Inc.

Most Innovative Prototype Flavor: Pineapple Banana Praline Fosters, which combines pineapple with the flavor of the classic Southern desert of bananas Foster, was named the most innovative prototype flavor. It was submitted by Fruitcrown Products Corp., a Farmingdale, N.Y.-based provider of fruit bases, flavors and specialty ingredients for the dairy and food industries. Second place went to Brown Butter Bourbon Truffle, a decadent interpretation of a bourbon-flavored confection, submitted by Gertrude Hawk Chocolates, a Dunmore, Pa.-based provider of chocolate ingredients for use in food and beverage products. Blueberry Lemon Shortbread, a creamy lemon ice cream with swirls of blueberry and shortbread cookie, came in third. It was entered by Pecan Deluxe Candy Co., a Dallas-based supplier of flavoring ingredients. 

Read more about ice cream and frozen novelties in the June 2016 Progressive Grocer article "Cold-fashioned."