Bakers Journal

The scoop on ice cream

June 22, 2011
By Brandi Cowen

The season of backyard barbecues, picnics in the park, and cravings for
heat-beating treats is finally here. There are plenty of ways to
celebrate sunshine and blue skies, but nothing says “summer” quite like
ice cream.

The season of backyard barbecues, picnics in the park, and cravings for heat-beating treats is finally here. There are plenty of ways to celebrate sunshine and blue skies, but nothing says “summer” quite like ice cream.

Cool trends
Timeless flavours like vanilla, chocolate and strawberry still go gangbusters with the young, and the young at heart. But Andrew Waddington, vice-president with the Toronto-based consulting firm fsStrategy, says other flavours are quickly establishing themselves.

“From a flavour standpoint, we’re seeing flavours trending along the same lines as what’s popular in beverages.”

Coffee and green tea ice creams are really gaining ground, as are cappuccino, latte and mocha varieties. Mango, caramel and dulce de leche are also carving out a place for themselves as core flavours. Most big names in the ice cream world, including Häagen-Dazs and Baskin-Robbins, now offer at least one of these varieties.

Although new flavours are gaining a foothold in the freezer, demand is still high for the simple tastes of summers gone by. It’s here that nostalgia for the past meets a major trend of the present. Old-fashioned varieties are coming back in vogue as ice cream producers simplify their formulations and develop cleaner labels.

Häagen-Dazs has a new line called “five” that contains just five ingredients. The line features caramel, strawberry, lemon, mint, coffee, vanilla bean and milk chocolate ice cream. Each ice cream in the five family seeks to capture the quality of a single, familiar flavour using just five premium, all-natural ingredients.

New formulations are also emerging as the industry responds to more people living with food allergies and intolerances. Waddington notes that a number of lactose and dairy-free desserts made with soy or rice milk have been developed. These varieties aren’t mainstream yet, and they tend to sell at a higher price point than dairy-based ice creams. If your bakery caters to people on restricted diets, odds are you can find an ice cream to complement your product line.

The shift toward healthier eating is another mainstream food trend reflected in the ice cream industry. Lower fat, reduced sugar and low-calorie ice creams are also enjoying a boost in popularity as people become increasingly pre-occupied with healthy eating.

Get creative
Compound flavours – several simple flavours combined to create a more complex taste profile – are growing in popularity. Ice creams that mimic the flavours of other popular desserts are also capturing a growing chunk of the market.

Major players in the ice cream market have invested big bucks to develop flavours like strawberry cheesecake, says Karyn Johnson, an associate with fsStrategy. As a baker, you’re uniquely positioned to offer customers the real deal, serving up strawberry ice cream with chunks of your signature cheesecake sprinkled on top or swirled throughout.

Johnson points to this as evidence of a broader trend that’s been picking up momentum for some time now. The big ice cream companies are “taking desserts that are already existing elsewhere and pushing them as garnish into the ice cream.” 

For example, apple pie, sticky toffee cheesecake and French toast are must-haves this summer.

One trend taking over the ice cream market south of the border (but not yet making any real inroads here in Canada), is cake batter. Johnson says that although she’s seen the odd brand offering cake batter ice cream in grocery stores, the trend hasn’t caught on in the Canadian retail market. In contrast, “it’s huge in the U.S.” American retailers like Cold Stone Creamery are now offering a number of cake batter ice creams. These are particularly popular on college campuses.

A little experimentation to incorporate your most popular cake batter into an ice cream could pay off, positioning your bakery as a trendsetter, as well as a must-stop spot on a lazy, hazy summer day.

Serve it up
Mini-servings and smaller portions are gaining ground. Snack sizes have taken off in both foodservice and retail settings, particularly among cash-strapped and health-conscious consumers looking to treat themselves.

“Take the traditional pint that Häagen-Dazs or Ben & Jerry’s comes in. They’re actually making a mini-version of that for individual servings,” Johnson says.

Waddington adds that delivering new serving sizes in familiar forms has particular significance in the ice cream market. “People associate that pint with having a quality ice cream.” Miniaturizing that perceived quality is key to capturing business from consumers still feeling the post-recession pinch in their wallets.

Miniature ice cream cones offer a great way to cash in on the mini madness.

Cones also offer a new, summer-friendly way to capitalize on the cupcake craze: the cupcake cone. Cupcakes can either be baked in the cone, or in traditional baking pans, and placed in the cone after baking. Frost the cupcakes to resemble a scoop of ice cream heaped on top of a cone and let your imagination run wild, creating beautiful summer treats that won’t melt in the heat.

Whether you’re searching for ways to expand your product line or exploring new ways to serve customers the signature treats they know and love, ice cream may be just the thing to heat up business at your bakery this summer.

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