Swirled and Sprinkled
by Kathie Canning
An ever-expanding array of ice cream inclusions inspires
Craving something a bit sweet and a bit salty? No
problem. Have a yen for something drenched in rich chocolate and caramel,
but without all the carbs? Coming right up.
Today’s ice cream inclusions — from creamy
caramel and fruity variegates to crunchy candies and cookies in myriad
shapes — allow dairy processors to satisfy virtually any consumer
Appealing to the Ages
Ice creams with inclusions such as mint chocolate chip
and chocolate-chip cookie dough have become mainstream favorites across all
age groups. Some other inclusion combinations, however, are more
age-specific in their appeal.
According to Chris Hughes, research and development
manager for Fort Worth, Texas-based Parker Products Inc., kids seek out
“cool” colors and tart flavors.
Jana Taylor, president and owner of Tualatin,
Ore.-based Jana’s Classics, agrees, but expands that assessment a
bit. “Children are drawn to high-color-impact (flavors), strong
fruity flavors and chocolate, and have a preference for mint,” says
Taylor. “Kids also are drawn to flavors that follow a theme, look
good, do things or have shapes in them.”
Bits and pieces are more important to children than
swirls and ribbons are, contends Rod Oringer, national sales/marketing
manager for the Oringer division of Brockton, Mass.-based Concord Foods
Inc. “Kids don’t care about variegates,” he says.
“They care about the candy that’s in the ice cream.”
In general, says Taylor, teens gravitate toward
products that have high inclusion levels or “funky” flavors
with a clean taste.
Chocolate and fruit remain favorites with the teen
set, adds Kim Premo, director of research and applications for frozen
desserts for Chicago-based Guernsey Bel, a Kerry company.
Adults seem to be more divided in their inclusion
preferences. One camp seeks out highly indulgent creations, while the other
is attracted to the more-healthful alternatives.
Indulgence-inclined adults, says Taylor, are drawn to
rich flavors, lots of chocolate and fruit-enhanced products, or
“toward the caramel/brown sugar/praline flavor profiles.”
In contrast, the more health-conscious camp
increasingly is looking for low-carbohydrate, no-sugar-added versions of
favorite ice creams and inclusions, says Hughes.
Indulge Me, Please
Decadent ice cream still tops the charts across all
age groups, says Jim Taft, vice president of sales for Congers, N.Y.-based
Star Kay White Inc.
“The big four decadent building blocks for ice
cream are chocolate, caramel, marshmallow and nuts,” says Taft.
“Fruits also are used, but are not generally as popular as the richer
and more decadent ingredients.”
Chocolate remains the cornerstone of these four
“The most popular flavor is chocolate, whether it
is a piece or variegate,” says Hughes. “We are seeing more
items being chocolate coated, (including) cookie grinds, pretzels, cereal
pieces, waffle cones, etc. Mix these pieces with a marshmallow or graham
variegate and you have a winning combination.”
Caramel’s rise to indulgent superstar is more
recent. “Caramel has been around as long as chocolate, but for
whatever reason, the general public is finally aware that it is an
excellent, excellent flavor component,” says Oringer. “So
we’re seeing many more combinations using caramel variegates or dulce
de leche flavor systems.”
Decadent inclusion combinations that mimic desserts
such as tiramisu, crème brulee and s’mores also are in vogue,
says Taylor, and are expected to only increase in popularity and variety.
Subha Luck, industrial sales manager for Burlington,
Vt.-based Rhino Foods Inc., agrees, noting that cake pieces — and
even cake icing — have become very popular inclusions.
Consumers also are showing “strong
interest” in dessert-type concepts such as chocolate crème pie
and Key lime pie, adds Premo.
Combinations inspired by Hispanic dessert and flavor
favorites such as dulce de leche, tres leche, sopapillas and churros also
are in vogue, says Taylor.
This Hispanic influence in the decadent ice cream
category also can be seen on the fruit side, says Premo. “As tropical
fruits are becoming more available in the mainstream grocery market, they
have definitely gained more acceptance for use in inclusions,” she
says. “Combinations of tropical fruit with a more mainstream fruit
[such as] mango-strawberry often find more acceptance then just the
tropical fruit by itself.”
Today’s decadent ice cream inclusions not only
please the taste buds, but also are more beautiful to behold.
“[The] latest technologies are allowing ice
creams to have greater eye appeal,” says Taylor. “Multiple
inclusions and variegates are being combined by unique methods.”
That might mean twists, waves, cores or co-extrusions
of variegates or batters, says Taylor, along with glittered,
bright-colored, color-changing and rich and decadent inclusions.
“Small, complex inclusions are in demand for
great product show and for application into the expanding novelty market
where inclusions have not been possible before,” she says, adding the
inclusions must deliver unique physical, textural and flavor attributes.
The low-carb craze has affected just about every
sector of the food industry, and ice cream is no exception. Early
reduced-carbohydrate ice creams largely steered away from inclusions, but
the newer versions are beginning to sport more “bells and
whistles” as variegate and particulate suppliers become more
responsive to low-carb demand.
“Today, the products produced are so much better
than they were that even indulgent premium-product consumers are enjoying
these new products,” says Mark Graziano, vice president of sales and
marketing for Terry Lynn Inc., an Elgin, Ill.-based supplier of
fresh-roasted, made-to-order nuts. “Trends are showing that these
low-carb items are being produced and purchased in larger sizes, which
(suggests) that more than one person in the family is consuming the
Of course, nuts lend themselves well to inclusion in
reduced-carbohydrate formulations, a fact Graziano says has caused some
shortages, even with many nut crops at record numbers.
Inclusion suppliers now are receiving numerous
requests for high-quality reduced-carb ingredients such as cookie doughs,
brownies and cake mixes.
“Ice cream companies are looking for inclusions
that will meet their nutritional requirements and taste good,” says
Premo says Guernsey Bel’s customers have been
asking for inclusions with no sugar added and reduced net carbs (total
carbohydrates minus the sugar alcohols and fiber). The company now offers
many of its ingredients in reduced-carbohydrate versions.
Getting it right in the reduced-carbohydrate arena
can be challenging, however.
Unlike lowfat inclusions, which generally lack the
flavor appeal of full-fat versions, says Hughes, reduced-carbohydrate
versions often taste very rich because they retain the fat. But the high
cost associated with manufacturing reduced-carb ice creams often forces
processors to use less of the inclusion or the inclusion mix.
Alternative sweetener concepts such as polyols and
erythritols also can pose a challenge to variegate manufacturers, says
Oringer, because they react differently than sucrose-based sweeteners.
Oringer expects the current trend toward polyol
removal in the nutraceutical and confectionary sectors to soon hit the ice
cream sector as well.
“Polyols, of course, have a laxative
effect,” he says. “So we’re getting more and more
requests to remove the polyols as much as possible and go to other forms of
sweeteners such as sucralose and polydextrose.”
In addition, despite their now widespread
availability, lower-carb ice cream inclusions still vary greatly in flavor
quality, says Taft.
“Once a manufacturer is familiar with how
‘net carbs’ are calculated, formulating low-carb ingredients
becomes a matter of trial and error, but is really not that
difficult,” he says. “Making great tasting low-carb
ingredients? Now that’s another story.”
Taft also questions the staying power of many of the
current reduced-carb products.
“Many of these foods are made from highly
processed ingredients, while the low-carb models clearly call for less
processed foods,” he says. “Given the predominance of
artificial ingredients, many of these foods don’t taste as good as
their regular counterparts. Let’s not forget that another option for
the low-carb dieter is to simply eat less of the regular version of their
Getting it Right
Before pushing that peanut butter variegate through
the variegating pump — or moving those chocolate chunks through the
fruit feeder — manufacturers first must do their share of homework,
of course. They must perform a careful evaluation of current and
up-and-coming trends, develop an understanding of their target markets,
create a market-specific concept and select the right ingredients. They
also must be prepared for no small amount of trial and error.
Although most inclusion suppliers agree that the bulk
of today’s ice cream manufacturers do a fine job in the inclusions
area, a few mentioned some problem areas — and solutions that could
help thwart new-product disasters.
“Second-time purchases are driven from meeting
or exceeding the consumers’ expectations,” says Taylor. The
product not only must taste good, she stresses, but also must be appealing
to the eye.
“Most unsuccessful programs are either due to
lack of inclusions or the addition of too many inclusions, which has a
pronounced effect on the body of the ice cream or causes inadvertent
ice crystallization development,” says Taylor. “Not being
familiar with the physical properties of an inclusion can cause the most
Although too much of a good thing can hurt a
formulation, too few inclusions also will disappoint consumers.
“Customers want to get a piece with every bite,” says Luck.
The dairy processor also must consider the ease of
use of the inclusion or variegate, notes Taylor. “It must run
through their equipment on a continuously consistent basis for even
distribution of ‘product show’ in the finished ice cream
To avoid handling problems during processing,
manufacturers must store variegates and pieces at the proper temperatures,
says Premo. Ideal storage temperatures vary from ingredient to ingredient.
Hughes also offers some advice related to product
“Consumers want items that are softer in ice
cream, low-melt and things like cheesecake chunks, cake pieces, etc. These
usually taste great in ice cream, but are very difficult to ship due to the
low temperatures required to keep them from sticking,” he says.
“Once the processors do have them, many are not taking the necessary
steps to run them. Ways to alleviate this would include pulling limited
amounts from the freezer instead of a whole pallet at a time, or (using)
insulated totes on the production floor to keep the product frozen while it
is being used.” df
Inclusion suppliers are among the most creative of the
food ingredients sector, creating an ever-expanding array of sweet ribbons,
swirls and pieces. In addition, they often serve as crucial sources of
inspiration in the concept-creation process.
Jana’s Classics supplies ingredient inclusions,
flavor bases and pumpable doughs and batters, says Jana Taylor, company
president and owner. Company offerings range from “the homemade
brown-sugar true grittiness of old-fashioned cookie doughs to the smooth
confectionary texture of our cremes — from a crunch cinnamon
sopapilla baked ‘mini’ to the varied chewy cake textures of our
rich fudge brownies.”
Rhino Foods serves up “a wide variety of extruded
and baked inclusions such as cookie doughs, brownies, truffles and bakery
pieces,” says Subha Luck, industrial sales manager. “If it can
be baked, Rhino can cut it into a manageable size piece, tailor-made to
specifications and ready to put into ice cream.”
Kim Premo, Guernsey Bel’s director of research
and applications for frozen desserts, notes that her company offers
“a full breadth of ingredients” for the ice cream arena,
including toffee candies, pralines, chocolate- and oil-coated items, dough
and fudge bits, variegates and more. Many of the ingredients come in
full-fat, reduced-fat and reduced-carbohydrate versions, she adds.
Parker Products is strong in the praline and hard
candy areas, says research and development manager Chris Hughes, as well as
in chocolate-coated products. “We work directly with R&D and
processors to custom-develop products,” he adds.
On the nut side, Terri Lynn offers freshly roasted
products designed to match individual dairy specifications.
“Our chocolate-coated products are ideal for ice
cream as well,” says Mark Graziano, vice president of sales and
marketing. “We use 100 percent real chocolate. We have milk, white,
dark, and we can provide compound if the customer has a specification that
Concord’s Oringer Division can create unique
variegates that separate an ice cream from the rest of the pack.
“We’ve always been seen as a high-end
manufacturer,” says Rod Oringer, national sales/marketing manager.
“We work more in a specialty arena. … If someone’s
looking for that banana-strawberry variegate, we can probably do that
better and faster than the next guy. We’re also willing to do smaller
runs than some of the other manufacturers.”
On the fruit side, California Custom Fruits and
Flavors Inc., Irwindale, Calif., provides fruit variegates and purees
ranging from standbys such as strawberry and peach to more trendy
combinations such as apricot-mango.
Recent ice cream introductions boast a wide variety of
innovative inclusion combinations. Here are some of the more noteworthy
Cookies! Cookies! Cookies! — Brenham, Texas-based Blue Bell Creameries’ new product
infuses a brown sugar ice cream with pieces of chocolate chip cookie dough,
chocolate cream cookies and oatmeal cookies.
Reverse the Curse — Arlington,
Mass.-based Brigham Inc. created this new baseball-inspired flavor to
celebrate its 90th birthday. The company’s starts with its signature
vanilla ice cream and adds chocolate-covered peanut
“baseballs,” chocolate-covered caramel “bases” and
swirls of its fudge sauce.
Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pie — Dean Foods’ Purity Dairies Inc. of Nashville
mixes chewy Little Debbie brand oatmeal cookie pieces into a sweet cinnamon
ice cream infused with a fluffy marshmallow swirl.
Dublin Mudslide — South Burlington, Vt.-based Ben & Jerry’s Homemade
Inc. laces Irish cream liqueur-flavored ice cream with chocolate, chocolate
cookies and a coffee-fudge swirl.
Maple Caramel Walnut — The Velvet Ice Cream Co. of Utica, Ohio, teamed up with the
Longaberger basket folks to produce a maple-flavored ice cream infused with
caramel and walnuts. The maple flavor represents the strips of maple wood
used in the baskets.
Chocolate Cherry Pecan — A seasonal variety produced by Blue Bell Creameries blended
vanilla ice cream with a cherry sauce swirl, maraschino cherry halves,
pecan pieces and chocolate chunks.
Chocolate Fudge Brownie — This Breyers product, manufactured by Good
Humor-Breyers Ice Cream of Green Bay, Wis., takes no-sugar-added lowfat
chocolate ice cream and blends it with brownie pieces and a fudge swirl to
create a 98 percent fat-free ice cream with just 90 calories per serving.
Carb Karma Half Baked — Ben & Jerry’s Homemade merges reduced-carb
chocolate and vanilla ice creams with reduced-carb versions of fudge
brownies and chocolate-chip cookie dough.
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