In our February column we discussed the importance of digestive health as the basis of all good nutrition and the role ice cream products could play in terms of providing probiotic (consumption of “live and active beneficial” bacteria) and/or probiotic friendly (that is, prebiotic) mix ingredients. We reviewed delivery of probiotics via active culturing and/or cold inoculation.

There are other options to consider. These may be in the form of particulate and/or syrup inclusions. Specifically, to “fortify” a mix (which may not be cultured, cold inoculated or formulated with prebiotic ingredients), it is conceivable that fat-modified (reduced-fat, low-fat or fat-free) and/or sugar-modified ice creams (lower sugar, no sugar added or sugar-free) could be enhanced and re-positioned with the simple addition of properly formulated and applied particulate and syrup inclusions.

Further, this relies heavily on the ability to deliver such inclusions to the ice cream, the eating quality of both inclusions and ice cream, injection rates, compatibility of probiotic and prebiotic elements and bioavailability throughout the full intended shelf-life of the finished ice cream.

Much reverts back to the formulation, manufacturing and shelf life of the inclusions. In some cases, we suspect inclusions may have to be matched to each other and, most certainly, to the ice cream into which they would be added.

Particulates are typically added at a level of about 10%, based on the weight of the ice cream. Of course, visual appeal and eating quality are prime drivers, as are compatibility with the flavor, color, sweetness and other attributes provided by the ice cream. For example, consider the desire to deliver enhanced nutritional efficacy. Not only does the ice cream need to support the added particulates from sensory and physical shelf-life perspectives; they must also support the nutritional claim to be made. This means that total fat, calories and other nutrients need to be managed accurately and precisely throughout the final product.


Start with vanilla mix

Unfortunately, if approached in a classical manner, a number of new mixes may be needed, which may not be compatible with operational efficiencies. However, using mix that already exists (for example, low-fat vanilla ice cream) and enhancing that ice cream with fortified particulates might provide the ultimate in flexibility. The good thing about particulates is that they can be formulated into a number of forms, textures, densities and flavors that can be delivered in an array of use rates.

Additional approaches could allow for delivery of the correct amount and type of probiotics and prebiotics. We may even find that classic particulates, (say fruit pieces and nutmeats) are more valuable than previously thought. Of course, the amount, type and survival of the key elements through particulate making processes and injection into ice cream are critical to success.

There is the possibility that novel approaches to making particulates may be necessary, but many formats (baked pieces, for example) may only need a minor tweak or two.

Variegating syrups or sauces can be viable sources of probiotic and prebiotic elements. For such syrups, beginning use rates will be approximately 15% based on the weight of the ice cream. Much of the same considerations for particulates needs to be managed in syrups as well. However, the lack of need of individual “piece” identity and integrity and a slightly higher use rate might allow more flexibility.

In products with both particulates and syrups, only one of the inclusion types may need to be modified so that the final nutritionally enhanced ice cream can be properly positioned in the market place. This essentially couples formulation of syrups, particulates and the finished ice cream.

While all this is sounds good, just as with any ice cream with added inclusions, not only does the eating experience but also the nutritional benefits need to be guaranteed across the full intended shelf-life of the finished product. This brings added need to control accurately and precisely the amount and type of nutrients delivered per serving while insuring the visual and other sensory attributes of the final ice cream.

No one ever said all this would be easy. Every voyage begins with a single step forward. We believe the time is right to take that step.



Learn more at the short course

For more on selection, balancing and formulating probiotic cultures and probiotic friendly ingredients, including the utility of ice cream inclusions for advanced nutritional efficacy and similar new product opportunities, attend Tharp & Young On Ice Cream, Nov. 28 to 30 in Las Vegas. Go to or call 610-975-4424 or 281-782-4536.