Temperatures and snow may have dropped a little earlier than many of us were ready for this autumn, but that winter chill served as a nice reminder to start planning for the upcoming ice cream season. And if innovations from this past year are any indicator of what’s to come, that winter chill will be quickly forgotten as processors get fired up for summer 2012. 


Greece is the word

Frozen yogurt has historically been considered a better-for-you frozen dairy dessert option by consumers. Thus, for an even greater health and wellness positioning in the freezer, Greece is the word. That’s right. The healthful halo surrounding refrigerated Greek yogurt makes the freezer a likely progression for this Mediterranean delight. 

This past year, a few entrepreneurs stepped out with frozen Greek yogurt concepts. For example, Apollo Food Group LLC, Boston, introduced Yazzo Frozen Greek Yogurt stick novelties in blueberry, raspberry and strawberry flavors. (See Dairy Foods, June 2011, page 24.) Based on a number of dairy ingredients, including Greek yogurt with live and active cultures, each 75-gram bar contains 70 calories, 6 grams of high-quality protein and no fat.

It was only a matter of time before the national players jumped on the bandwagon. The first to do so was Stonyfield Farm, Londonderry, N.H., which now offers pints of Oikos Organic Nonfat Greek Frozen Yogurt in four flavors: blueberry, chocolate, honey and vanilla.

Blueberry isn’t a traditional frozen dessert flavor, according to Gary Hirshberg, Stonyfield’s CEO. “And Greeks haven’t traditionally frozen their yogurt. So, to make this indulgently rich and delicious frozen yogurt, we told tradition to step aside,” he says. A half-cup serving of the frozen Oikos product contains 6 grams of protein, which is 50% more than regular Stonyfield frozen yogurt.

Some ingredient suppliers are offering solutions to produce frozen Greek yogurt with double the protein in order to more closely resemble claims made by their refrigerated counterparts. For example, one supplier has an ingredient system that not only doubles the protein, it removes 95% of the lactose, increasing the product’s appeal to consumers who must limit their lactose intake. At the International Dairy Show in September, this company sampled the concept with full Greek flair. The frozen yogurt had a rich baklava flavor and was swirled with caramel honey variegate, honey oat almonds and baklava pieces. 


Culinary creations

Baklava is not the only dessert that showed up in ice cream at the dairy show. One supplier described how the company travels the Americas, and at times crosses oceans, in search of innovative bakery and confection concepts that can carry over into frozen desserts. Some recent frequent flyer miles have resulted in inspirations such as Blondie Brownie (caramel-flavored ice cream blended with Blondie brownie pieces and a peanut butter ribbon), Hot Chocolate Mint (hot chocolate-flavored ice cream swirled with a whipped cream ribbon and peppermint candy pieces), Sticky Bun Cheesecake (cheesecake-flavored ice cream blended with sticky bun dough pieces and a cinnamon streusel ribbon) and Whoopie Pie (chocolate ice cream blended with chocolate cookies and a dual swirl of chocolate and whipped cream).

Another processor showed how savory flavors complement the sweet, creamy profile of ice cream. For example, Bacon Me Crazy is brown sugar-flavored ice cream blended with maple bacon toffee pieces and brown sugar bacon pecans with swirls of caramel. Because this year’s dairy show was in Atlanta, this made Georgia’s state fruit — peach — the star of an ice cream with some southern kick. The concept was peach-flavored ice cream blended with chunks of peach, cinnamon sugar pie crust and swirls of barbecue-seasoned peach pureé.

In addition to using supplier-developed culinary flavor combinations, another formulating trend is to tap into the creativity of celebrity chefs. For example, Wells Enterprises Inc., Le Mars, Iowa, teamed up with Food Network’s “The Ace of Cakes,” chef Duff Goldman. (See  “Double Dessert,” above.)

This trend is also catching on abroad. In Belgium, N.V. Belgian Icecream Group S.A. (BIG), has formed a partnership with Chef Roger van Damme, who is host of a cooking show on the European food channel “njam!” and is recognized throughout Europe as one of the most innovative Belgian patissiers. Marketed under BIG’s sub-brand Arctic and carrying the njam! logo and Van Damme’s signature and photo, the four varieties of this premium ice cream are described as simple culinary pleasures. Café Glacé is said to taste like freshly brewed coffee and cream while Koekjes Biscuits resembles buttercream cake. Dame Blanche (white lady) swirls rich dark chocolate in pure vanilla ice cream. And, of course, there’s a plain vanilla, which the company says is anything but plain because it is made from the highest quality pure vanilla. 


Showcasing premium ingredients

Working with a culinary professional is one way to provide validation to the premium nature of the product. Another is to really show it off. That’s a growing trend in Europe, where family-owned gelaterias and ice cream parlor owners are venturing into the packaged retail market in order to capture a greater share of the ice cream dollar.

For example, Bruno Gelato GmbH, a family business headquartered in Germany and producing ice cream using its secret Italian family recipe, has been supplying foodservice venues throughout Europe since 1991. In 2010, the company started offering retailers the “My Ice Cream Parlor at Home” range. The key to the premium positioning of these products is the clear container that showcases the high-quality, identifiable pieces of fruit and other inclusions, along with the omission of anything artificial. 

“For banana ice cream, for example, we use a complex process to pureé the bananas ourselves, as the pureé required is only available containing preservatives,” says Stefano Lucchetta, production manager. “We use only ‘pure’ fruit pureés for all other varieties of fruity ice cream. Here, real fruits are processed that give our range of fruity ice creams their authentic taste and unique consistency.”

A unique idea from Italy’s Pasticceria Quadrifoglio srlis drinkable ice cream. This refrigerated dessert is more than simply ice cream mix, as it is slightly aerated, yet pourable, and though not as cold as a product direct from the freezer, its texture and mouthfeel provides an illusion of being frozen ice cream. Called CremiXimo, this low-fat liquid dairy dessert comes in a recloseable bottle (200- and 500-gram options with a suggested serving size being 100 grams) in six flavors: chocolate, coffee, mint, Sicilian lemon, strawberry and vanilla. Not only can it be consumed as is, it also can be used to garnish fresh fruits and cakes, as well as be a blender for cocktails. Ultra-high temperature processing provides a 50-day refrigerated shelf life. 

For many, the warm months can’t come soon enough. And they don’t even know about all the great frozen desserts being developed.  n


Double Dessert

Many believe that ala mode is the best way to serve cake or pie. So why not simply combine the two for a double dessert?

That’s exactly what Wells Enterprises Inc., Le Mars, Iowa, did with its Blue Bunny Chef Duff Goldman ice cream creations. “For me cake and ice cream belong together like mashed potatoes and gravy,” says Duff, a celebrity cake baker on the Food Network and owner of Charm City Cakes, Baltimore. “We came up with these creations because they combine the best of both worlds and we are really excited to see the reaction of folks when they discover them in their freezer aisle.”

Duff worked directly with Blue Bunny’s ice cream flavor experts in the development of the new line, which blends rich, creamy ice cream with actual pieces of cake. Appealing to fans of Duff and the increasing number of self-proclaimed foodies in America, the new culinary line brings an unprecedented dramatic experience to the category. 

Red Carpet Red Velvet Cake is red velvet cake-flavored ice cream swirled with cream cheese frosting-flavored ice cream and red velvet cake pieces. Chocolate Lovers Triple Chocolate Cake combines decadent chocolate ice cream with fudgy chocolate cake pieces and ribbons of thick, chocolate frosting. I Do! I Do! Wedding Cake celebrates the marriage of sweet buttercream frosting ice cream and white cake pieces wrapped in delicate ribbons of raspberry sauce. Strawberries are Forever Shortcake blends the sweet taste of strawberry ice cream with real strawberries, pound cake pieces and swirls of whipped cream frosting.

With many more celebrity chefs ready and willing to license their name, we  should expect to see more culinary ice cream creations in 2012, including gelato from chef Mario Batali.  n