Slideshow: New twists on nostalgic flavors

by Monica Watrous
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KANSAS CITY — Food manufacturers are tapping into the comforts of childhood with new twists on old familiar flavors. Mondelēz International, Deerfield, Ill., for example, recently introduced limited-edition Cotton Candy Oreo cookies, containing a swirl of pink and blue creme flavored like the fairground favorite between two golden wafers. The product is the latest in a string of limited-edition releases that have included Red Velvet, Caramel Apple, Limeade and Cookie Dough. Rumor has it a S’mores variant is on the way.

Speaking of the campfire classic, Starbucks Corp., Seattle, this week is introducing S’mores Frappuccino handcrafted beverages in its cafes through Sept. 7. Inspired by “the nostalgic summer experience of roasting s’mores,” the company said the drink is layered with marshmallow-infused whipped cream and milk chocolate sauce with a blend of graham, coffee, milk and ice, topped with more marshmallow whipped cream and a graham cracker crumble. A bottled version of the beverage will be available in grocery stores, too. The introduction follows another whimsical Frappuccino flavor, Birthday Cake, which was available for five days at the end of March to celebrate the beverage’s 20th anniversary.

S’mores also is a featured flavor in Krispy Kreme’s spring donut lineup. Available through May 17, the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based chain has introduced summer camp-inspired treats that also include the Oreo Dirt Cake donut, a yeast donut filled with a blend of crème filling and Oreo cookie crumbles, dipped in milk chocolate and topped with Oreo cookie crumbles and a gummy worm. The donut was developed to remind of the childhood indulgence, traditionally made with chocolate pudding.

Wolfgang Candy Co., York, Pa., drew inspiration from classic soda fountain flavors with its latest launch of chocolate-covered mini pretzels. Varieties include root beer float, coated with creamy milk chocolate blended with a root beer flavor, and orange cream soda, featuring orange cream-infused white chocolate.

In its latest spate of gelato introductions, Unilever’s Talenti brand unveiled an Oatmeal Raisin Cookie flavor, which combines cookies, dark brown sugar, cinnamon and sweet raisins with gelato, created to recall a visit to Grandma’s house. Another recent addition to the freezer aisle are Dreyer’s and Edy’s Frozen Custard from Nestle USA, Glendale, Calif., in such wistful flavors as peanut butter pie, chocolate malt and snickerdoodle.

And another nostalgic product with a recent debut is a peanut butter and jelly variety of Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts, which has a creamy peanut butter and strawberry jelly-flavored filling inside a pastry crust topped with frosting and sprinkles. A spokesperson for the Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., said the lunch sack staple was one of the most requested flavors from consumers.

"Seeing cotton candy, PB&J and s'mores in other forms will always draw people in because they are familiar with those flavors; the general public has tasted all of those things and can judge with experience whether the new product is a good representation or not," said Eric Huang, the food blogger behind JunkFoodGuy.com and a co-host of “The Nosh Show” podcast. "So it's not surprising to see every company trying the same thing: S'mores Fraps will soon be followed by S'mores Oreos. PB&J Pop-Tarts was followed by Trader Joe's making PB&J yogurt....

"It's one big circle. The familiarity is an easy trigger for the impulse buy, and it becomes a flavor domino-effect for the food industry."

Retro flavors like butterscotch, licorice and malt link consumers to the comforting tastes and memories of their youth. Such evocative eats offer relief through reminiscence of simpler times. The use of nostalgic flavors was pegged by Datassential as a growing trend on dessert menus. Jennifer Aranas, project director at the Chicago food industry research firm, said such products are less risky for operators because consumers are already fondly familiar with the flavors.

“If it’s something that will likely bring to mind happy memories, then it’s a dessert consumers will seek out,” Ms. Aranas said. “When I think butterscotch, I think of the old-time, bright yellow candy in the cellophane wrap. You see the flavor in a bunch of different dessert applications, which to me is great. That’s something I would seek out because I loved the candy.”

New to the dessert menu at Applebee’s Grill & Bar are Churro S’mores, featuring churro twists served with a toasted marshmallow and chocolate dip. Additionally, Dairy Queen is set to reprise its popular Cotton Candy Blizzard ice cream treat in May.
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