The tried and true favorites are not going away, but there is always room to create frozen desserts that include not only a “wow” factor, but a “now” factor, too.

Frozen dessert sales have been relatively flat for some time. Sales are driven by innovation, with growth of one product typically occurring at the expense of another.

The tried and true favorites are not going away, but there is always room to create frozen desserts that include not only a “wow” factor, but a “now” factor, too. This means that not only do the products catch the eye of the shopper because of their unique flavor combination, co-branding technique or use of licensed characters; they also meet the needs of today’s consumer in terms of size, package and nutritional profile.

The following 13 suppliers share with you some recent prototypes, as well as their vision of what is driving innovation in the frozen dessert category. Their inspirations will help you be more competitive in the very crowded freezer.

Danisco USA Inc.

With probiotics and functional frozen desserts growing like crazy, combining the two offers exciting possibilities. Danisco’s complete probiotic demo kit can assist in developing frozen products that seize this opportunity. The kit includes three healthy frozen dessert concepts: peach frozen yogurt with probiotics for immune health; strawberry fermented frozen yogurt with prebiotics and probiotics for digestive health; and vanilla ice cream packed with friendly bacteria for immune health. 

Frozen desserts can play a bigger part than ever before in the health and wellness trend, being ideal carriers of functional ingredients such prebiotics and probiotics. They can move beyond their traditional image as unhealthy indulgence to be considered a healthy snack.

David Michael & Co.

David Michael has paired superfoods with superfruit flavors to develop yumberry and goji berry probiotic frozen desserts. The freezing process does not destroy any significant amount of cultures; in fact, the cultures go into a dormant state. When consumed, the cultures return to a warm temperature within the body, and again become active, capable of providing all the benefits of cultures in a refrigerated yogurt product.

David Michael believes globalization will impact future flavor concepts in ice cream. Here are some great ideas. Chongos Zamoranos is a traditional Mexican dessert made from curdling whole milk with sugar and cinnamon. Peruvian cuisine has become a hot new trend and lucuma is a favorite ice cream flavor in Peru. 

Gertrude Hawk Ingredients

If it is broken…fix it. Gertrude Hawk has reinvented the traditional shelf-stable broken peanut butter cup. This dessert inclusion is engineered for frozen desserts in a low-melt formulation that provides a smooth and flavorful taste.  What’s even better, the low-melt broken peanut butter cups are free of trans-fatty acids and qualify as being natural.

Gertrude Hawk Ingredients and Denali Ingredients have developed a feature flavor that is truly global: Fleur de Sel. The flavor is vanilla ice cream swirled with a sea salt ripple and milk chocolate-covered salty caramel truffles. The companies say it is the 2010 version of dulce de leche. Expect to see more of “less is more” when it comes to new frozen desserts.

Graceland Fruit Inc.

Graceland Fruit combines top-grade fruit with sugars and a natural stabilizing system, which binds and controls the free water, inhibiting ice crystal formation. The result is a fruit ingredient that will not completely freeze. It remains scoopable, while retaining fruit piece identity and natural color. These ingredients bring rich, natural fruit flavors to a wide variety of consumer products including ice cream and frozen yogurt.  

Frozen desserts can readily participate in the health and wellness trend, as they are ideal carriers of functional ingredients such as naturally sweet infused frozen apples, cherries and blueberries, which can be added directly to consumer products with minimal thawing, yet remain soft and scoopable.

Kerry Ingredients & Flavors

Concepts that deliver on many levels, such as multiple textures and mouth-watering layers of flavors that drive the “cravability” factor, are driving growth in the frozen desserts category. In the spirit of the season, a white chocolate chai ice cream blended with a white peppermint fudge snowflake with ribbons of velvety hot fudge is sure to make your taste buds leap for joy.

Globalization has been making an impact on frozen desserts for some time, and the best approach is to deconstruct desserts from around the world and rebuild them into frozen desserts. There will continue to be an increase in the deconstruction of high-end chocolates, beverages, pastries and baked products. Innovative, all-inclusive inclusions will drive consumers’ five senses out of the world.

Norse Dairy Systems

Now there’s a cookie and crème inclusion that allows you to use up to 15% to 20% fewer pounds of cookies yet yields the same amount of finished product as today’s typical cookie inclusion. The benefits of this product go beyond reduced finished product costs, too. With approximately 9% fewer calories, 28% lower fat and 15% less sugar, compared to the standard cookie inclusion, this new product is definitely something to include in your ice cream creations.

Innovation is used to create hype, differentiate brands and increase market share for products. Look to “mom and pop” or boutique brands for trends in ethnic flavor combinations and product forms, such as mochi and gelato. In the near future, we are all hoping to see the return of real ice cream in a true half-gallon package.

Pecan Deluxe Candy Co.

Pecan Deluxe identifies innovative flavors, textures and functions in ethnic foods, trendy restaurants, European and other market offerings - then formulates creative approaches to incorporate these ideas in frozen desserts. Contrasting ingredients - sweet and salty - evolve into a new sensory appeal with grilled pears and praline pecans in a toasted coconut frozen dessert. All natural and reduced fat, the grilled pears have a distinctive roasted note melding with the caramelized sugars in New Orleans-style pralines. The coconut adds a rich tropical top note to the flavor experience.

Globalization is driving consumer interest in ethnic flavors, tropical fruits and single-origin ingredients such as cocoa. Conversion of pastries, candies and confections into frozen dessert inclusions is growing. Chewy nougats, chocolate pie chips and molded and shaved chocolates will provide interesting textures. Gelato will grow with European-style highly decorative ingredients such as nuts, fruits, biscotti and meringue pieces. Molecular gastronomy and memory-sensory mapping will help food technologists create frozen desserts tied to childhood food and olfactory nostalgia.

Sensient Technologies

Sensient has developed frozen dessert concepts with an emphasis on flavors that are familiar, but with a twist.  There is strong consumer acceptance for taking a component within a flavor system with which everyone can identify, and meshing it with something less familiar in frozen desserts.  Some great combinations are strawberry with tomato, cranberry with hibiscus, caramel with rosemary, chocolate with mascarpone cheese, and raspberries with blood orange. These are bold combinations, inspired by culinary trends.

Creative flavors from both the beverage and restaurant industries will continue to be the drivers for new frozen dessert flavor introductions. In the future, there will be more pure and natural options with simplified ingredient declarations; savory-flavored frozen desserts that contain a mixture of sweet and spicy; and manufacturers associating their brands with popular consumer issues like “green” manufacturing practices and Fair Trade ingredients.

SensoryEffects Flavor Systems

SensoryEffects has developed a way to deliver texture to an ice cream without having to use fruit feeder inclusions by incorporating crunchy crumbs into a variegate. Imagine key lime pie ice cream with a crisp graham cracker crust variegate. Or how about duplicating mom’s pretzel salad in ice cream with a crispy pretzel variegate? The company has also developed several systems to create that new tart yogurt flavor profile in a reduced-fat mix.  Top note the yogurt with fresh fruit purees for the same experience as the high-priced yogurt shops.

Flavor inspirations come from everywhere - a favorite salad, cake or exotic foreign dessert can be translated into an ice cream. Some of the frozen dessert trends to look for in the near future include more nutritionally enhanced frozen desserts, portable novelties that appeal to adults, and more frozen dairy alternative bases such as soy to service the growing population of lactose intolerance.

Star Kay White

Cookie crumb variegates in flavors such as chocolate, graham, shortbread, peanut butter and sugar cone are pumpable liquids that set up to yield a particulate-like eating character. Remarkably, these products retain their crunchy texture throughout shelf life. They have proven themselves in the marketplace as the best way to replicate the crumb crust in a pie concept, add crunch to Cookies ‘n Cream or simply add decadence.

The greatest driver of innovation in frozen desserts is the globalization of food. As we assimilate foods from other cultures, we are exposed to novel ingredients, combinations of ingredients, and the resulting flavors. One of the best examples is the use of spice with chocolates. The spice varies by ethnicity, while the familiar - the chocolate - stays constant.  

Tate & Lyle

Interest in healthy indulgence is growing among manufacturers and consumers. Tate & Lyle has developed a reduced-fat ice cream with 6% butterfat that is comparable in flavor and texture to premium ice cream. The ice cream is formulated with a unique blend of functional ingredients, has low-process viscosities and is frozen using standard freezing and hardening equipment. Tate & Lyle’s stabilizer blend provides heat-shock resistance. Reduced fat means cost savings, as well as lower calories. A specially processed cocoa powder also provides cost savings in chocolate products through reduced cocoa usage.

Premium products continue to be introduced but recently there has been more activity in finding ways to reduce fat and milk solids through formulation and new equipment and processing schemes. In addition, non-standard products are becoming more and more numerous, in part due to the ability to use cost-effective formulation strategies when not constrained by laws on product identity standards.

TIC Gums

Tic Gums is working on premium, reduced-fat ice cream without any of the usual apologies, such as coarse texture, icy, fast melting, low flavor, etc.  It is made with a blend of hydrocolloids and emulsifiers designed to make reduced-fat ice cream eat more like regular ice cream. Following full-scale production and comprehensive sensory testing, the company is proud to say that consumers liked the prototype samples more than the national brand. They showed no loss of texture, flavor or increase in iciness following freeze/thaw stress.

Consumers continue to show interest in foods that will help to manage their weight but they desire the simple rewards and indulgences that are familiar to them.  In short they are looking for something that reminds them of happy memories without all of the guilt.  Sales numbers indicate a flat or declining frozen dessert category overall, but increases in novelties, light options, frozen yogurts and sherbet/sorbet.  Consumers are purchasing more items that allow for portion control and/or healthier alternatives. The future of frozen desserts is an evolutionary change in product identity.

Tree Top Inc.

It is now possible to enjoy an indulgent frozen novelty without any of the guilt. Pomegranate vanilla yogurt bars provide a sophisticated flavor profile for even the most discriminating consumers. The bars also offer the health benefits of highly concentrated levels of antioxidants found in pomegranates, paired with a luscious, naturally sweetened yogurt base.

The infusion of exotic flavors with superfruits is a major driver of innovation in the frozen dessert category. This is becoming more apparent as the more earthy flavors of superfruits such as acai are becoming more widely accepted by consumers in the indulgent category. In the near future we will see more simple and clear labeling and high-end indulgent desserts.

Rx: Ice Cream Daily to Relieve Symptoms

A medical ice cream developed by New Zealand-based Fonterra Co-operative Group and The University of Auckland has shown early promise for combating some of the unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy. The ice cream, known as ReCharge, has started Phase 2 clinical trials in New Zealand to assess its effectiveness against chemotherapy-induced diarrhea and anemia. Even better, the “dessert with a difference” could also reduce weight loss and damage to the immune system during chemotherapy.

A number of New Zealand oncology centers are taking part in the trial. Every day, patients consume a 100-gram tub of strawberry ice cream containing two active dairy ingredients that combine to address the unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy. The trial’s manager, David Perez, says ReCharge ice cream has been welcomed by medical professionals for its tasty and palatable format, as chemotherapy patients can often lose their appetite.

Jeremy Hill, chief technology officer at Fonterra, says the development of ReCharge was the result of linking Fonterra’s team of 350 dairy researchers with the ice cream making experts at Fonterra’s company, Tip Top, and the medical expertise of the University of Auckland. “It was a tremendous technical challenge to develop this ice cream. We drew on many years of research into the health-promoting properties of milk and worked with Tip Top to incorporate a specific type of interacting milk fat and dairy protein, into a great-tasting, easily palatable ice cream for people who find it difficult to consume food,” he says. “We worked through our LactoPharma partnership with The University of Auckland to screen the dairy components for health effects. The two bio-active milk components developed for ReCharge have the unique potential to assist the body in coping with the side effects of chemotherapy.”

LactoPharma Associate Professor Geoff Krissansen, adds: “Earlier trials in the laboratory found that weight loss and damage to the gut lining were significantly reduced by the active ingredients in ReCharge. There were also marked improvements to the immune system and blood markers.”

When ReCharge goes on the market, it may be the first ice cream ever that you need a prescription to buy.

Do the World a Flavor Winner

Ben & Jerry’s, Burlington, Vt., once again turns a fan’s flavor dream into a sweet reality with the “Do The World A Flavor” competition. Wisconsin resident, Toni Gunnison, concocted a caramel ice cream with praline almonds and a caramel swirl. The flavor, which integrates Fair Trade almonds, was named Almond Delight by its creator.

Fifteen competition finalists spent a week with Fair Trade farmers at Conocado, a Fair Trade chocolate cooperative based in the Dominican Republic, with Ben & Jerry’s co-founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield. The finalists produced their flavor creation for a final judging while also participating in a local community project, building a playground for the local children.

The competition was held in spring 2009, and the winning nutty and creamy creation was picked from 100,000 flavor suggestions. Ben & Jerry’s has a long-standing tradition of turning fans’ suggestions into global successes, including iconic flavors such as Cherry Garcia and Chubby Hubby.

“Ben & Jerry’s has the best fans out there,” says Chief Flavor Guru Arnold Carbone. “Having one of them create our next special batch - and add another Fair Trade ingredient to the lineup we use is fairly nuts to some, but business as usual for us.”

The company had to tweak the name to avoid any possible trademark issues, and dubbed the concoction “Dulce Almond.” Dulce Almond will be available as a special batch flavor at Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shops nationwide on a limited-time only basis in 2010.