Suppliers of those yummy things that go into frozen desserts know no boundaries

The Blue Bunny Friazos line includes Double Fudge Frenzy, which is rich, chocolate ice cream blended with chewy brownies and layered with chocolate mousse, chocolate fudge and chewy bitter-sweet brownie pieces.
Candies, baked pieces, swirls, nuts, fruits and crunchies—all are inclusions that provide frozen dessert manufacturers with innovative add-in options to tempt consumers’ taste buds. Every year inclusion suppliers continue to out-do the previous year with their offerings. Some innovations are the result of advanced baking, extrusion, coating and alternate processing technologies. Others are the result of creative flavor combinations. And this year it looks like several new ice cream flavors are the result of hands-on research.

Take for example, as reported by The Miami Herald (Feb. 2, 2003), the team of product developers, chemists and marketers from an international flavor company who traveled to Miami to experience the city’s Cuban culture. Their intent was to be immersed in the culture in order to gain insight to the tastes and cravings of first- and second-generation Hispanics, which would help them identify flavors that the general American population might be able to embrace. In other words, they were searching for the next dulce de leche flavor.

The group took a trip to a local, very ethnic supermarket and purchased representative Hispanic flavors in the form of products such as sour orange marinade, guava and condensed milk-cream pastes, banana nectar, loroco (pickled edible flowers), chontoduro (oily, orange, acorn-shaped fruits of the pejibaye palm) and frozen pineapple and passion-fruit pulps. A side trip took to a coffee roasting plant enabled them to taste real Cuban coffee with its bitter edge, velvety texture and nutty, pleasantly smoky flavor. Lunch at a local restaurant included tropical-fruit ice creams for dessert. A mamey-flavored ice cream was described as “waxy up front with a lingering chalky textural finish, beautiful peachy-pink color, viscous and starchy.” Custard-apple ice cream tasted like “muted pear with nutty, creamy-cinnamon notes,” reports The Miami Herald.

Indeed these researchers were on track when they set off on this flavor expedition. Because flavors with Hispanic flair are hot this ice cream season.

Tres leches is groomed to be the next dulce de leche in the frozen dessert category. Almost as popular of a dessert as flan in Latin American countries, tres leches is typically rich, yellow cake drenched in sweet milky syrup and covered with a layer of meringue.

In January, Nestl?ce Cream Co., San Ramon, Calif., rolled out H?en-Dazs Tres Leches Cake. (Remember, H?en-Dazs was the first to introduce dulce de leche.) The formulation is described as bits of lightly rum-soaked sponge cake combined into rich milk and cream ice cream, swirled with a delicate ribbon of caramel and a touch of coconut flavor.

To put a spin on the concept, one inclusion supplier is offering Tres Leche con Fresa, which is cream cake pieces and strawberry and cream swirls in sweet cream ice cream.

Turkey Hill's Creamy Commotions line uses branded inclusions including Gertrude Hawk Chocolates, Jana's baked pieces and Snyder's of Hanover pretzels.
There’s also extensions of dulce de leche this year. Dulce de Leche Ole! is rich, caramelized dulce de leche chunks blended with crunchy kettle-cooked praline pecans.

Other Hispanic frozen dessert concepts use inclusions such as cinnamon pie pieces, Mexican praline patties and tropical fruit variegates.

Athens, Tenn.-based Mayfield Dairy Farms, a Dean Foods Co., Dallas, offers Ensalada de Fruta Ice Cream, which is Spanish for fruit salad. It is a unique combination of honeydew-flavored ice cream with a strawberry swirl and bits of peaches. Another Mayfield flavor called Caramel Coyote, which is dulce de leche ice cream with dulce (caramel) mini cups, is very popular among Hispanics.

Statistics show that caramel and fruit flavors are favorites among Hispanic American consumers. The popularity of fruit flavors, in general, and exotic and tropical fruits, specifically, is on the rise in the United States. It seems the tastes of the ever-growing ethnic population in the United States are affecting the overall flavor preferences of all Americans.

Novelties such as cones can use innovative inclusions to add excitement. The new Goofy Cone is topped with multi-colored bubble gum pieces.

All-American flavor combinations

There continue to be plenty of new flavor ideas based on American traditions.

Roadrunner Raspberry is dark chocolate raspberry mini cups and raspberry jam-like variegate in white chocolate-flavored ice cream. House of Bluesberry, a jazzy flavor, is wild blueberry variegate spiraling through cheesecake-flavored ice cream loaded with white chocolate truffles and gingerbread cookie dough. Red Rocket is coffee- and cream-flavored ice cream with a chocolate fudge swirl and espresso chunks. Southern Butter Pecan is a taste of old New Orleans: Butter pecan ice cream, rich butter pecan fudge and praline pecans. Hopscotch is a thick caramel spiral in butterscotch ice cream with praline nibs skipping through the ice cream.

Choco-lotta Ginger is a warm, spice-flavored streak of ginger and chocolate infused with vanilla-cookie crunchies blended with rich chocolate chunks in vanilla ice cream. Star Spangled Peppermint is chocolate ice cream with a vibrant white peppermint streak and red and blue candy stars. Front Row at the Show is popcorn bites coated in a sweet popcorn coating, crunchy praline almonds and a buttery popcorn streak swirled through vanilla ice cream.

A Herd of Laughter Cherrybo Berry is dark burgundy cherries and chocolate raspberry cups in a rich cherry ice cream with a twist of chocolate fudge. When Cookies Crumble is a mudslide of dark chocolate cookie crumbs trapped in white chocolate boulders with gooey fudge sludge all buried in a deep mocha ice cream.

What’s pulling many of these ice cream flavor concepts together are low-melt, mini chocolates/truffles that come filled with everything from caramel to peanut butter to marshmallow to fruit variegates. They come in an array of colors and different sizes and shapes. And most recently, inclusion suppliers are requesting proprietary molds of cartoon and movie characters, as well as logos or icons to sell to their customers.

Dairy Queen's Blizzard lends itself to all types of inclusions. Recently the chain debuted a monthly feature flavor program that includes Keebler Fudge Stripe Cookie Blizzard and Mint Oreo Shamrock Blizzard.
For example, Velvet Ice Cream Co., Utica, Ohio, is using Buckeye Bites low-melt chocolates in its newly reformulated Buckeye Classic ice cream. Originally a feature flavor in 1995, Velvet has im-proved the recipe. It has the same light peanut butter ice cream base, but now it has a swirl of thick Mackinac Island fudge and miniature buckeye candies, which is smooth dark chocolate surrounding a visible creamy peanut butter center.

Peanut Butter Bear Nuggets are similar in appearance and flavor to Buckeye Bites and are used in Gitchigoomie Bear Nuggets ice cream, which is snowy white vanilla ice cream with swirls of fudge and the nuggets.

Inclusion suppliers have perfected technologies to enrobe cookie pieces, graham crackers and nuts, as well as extrude and bake decadent fudgy nut brownies and raspberry cheesecake squares.

The list of frozen desserts co-branded with famous cookies and candies continues to grow every year. This season the industry is going to start to see some more regionally branded candies and cookies making their way into ice cream products.

Though a national brand, Andes Candies was never added to retail ice cream until this December, when Perry’s Ice Cream Co., Akron, N.Y. rolled out Andes Crème De Menthe and Andes Cherry Jubilee ice creams featuring chips of the branded candies.

It’s not a candy or a cookie, it’s a salty snack—make that a branded salty snack in ice cream. Turkey Hill Dairy, Conestoga, Pa., now offers Creamy Commotions Chocolate Pretzel ice cream, which is chocolate-covered Snyder’s of Hanover pretzels and fudge swirled through vanilla-flavored ice cream.

Ensalada de Fruta Ice Cream appeals to Hispanics with its unique combination of honeydew-flavored ice cream, strawberry swirl and bits of peaches.

Not to be forgotten

No-sugar-added frozen desserts continue to grow in popularity; however, just like regular ice cream, they need some excitement or category growth will quickly slow as consumers tire easily of the basic vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and butter pecan. Inclusion suppliers are perfecting formulations for sugar-free and no-sugar-added inclusions such as cheesecake cubes, chocolate-coated graham crackers, cookie dough and brownie bits.

Taking the sugar out of inclusions is making it possible for ice cream manufacturers to offer favorites such as Moose Tracks in a no-sugar-added version. In fact, Pierre’s French Ice Cream Co., Cleveland, just debuted a line of no-sugar-added ice creams, and Moose Tracks is one of them.

Other inclusions that will be showing up this summer in frozen desserts include color-changing pieces, variegates with texture, sour crunchies, popping candies and pie pieces. Just wait and see.