Finding the right flavor mix

by David Phillips
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Interactivity is an innovative food product quality that may be great in concept but difficult to execute. In a mature category like ice cream, innovative approaches are always recommended, but often the tried and true works just as well. As ice cream makers prepare to launch new products during 2011 they are blending one part innovation with two parts comfort and familiarity.

Two new products from Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, Inc., Oakland, Calif., a division of Nestle S.A., allow consumers to play with their food. The Dreyer’s Slow Churned Shakes and Dreyer’s Smoothies are sold in the ice cream aisle, but before consumers eat them they mix them with a one-third cup of milk for 30 seconds, stir and drink them right from the container. The new line is an extension of a product already offered to food service operators. Dreyer’s also has introduced a line of fruit bars made specifically with superfruits and claiming antioxidant benefits on the packaging.

Overall, the ice cream and frozen desserts market has been soft during the past few years. To combat sales declines, marketers have introduced a number of new products offering flavor excitement, new package configurations and, as in the case of the Dreyer’s Shakes and Smoothies, interactivity. Some product lines emphasize more than one attribute.

Perry’s Ice Cream Co., Inc., Akron, N.Y., recently introduced four Gelato flavors. The line offers an adult-oriented flavor experience to a market that is familiar with Gelato, but also something more, said Marissa Wilson, a spokesperson with Perry’s.

“It’s an all-natural line as well, and we think that is something more and more consumers are looking at,” she said. “We call it out on the package as well.”

Currently Perry’s offers four Gelato flavors, including pistachio and Cannoli. Two additional new flavors will debut this spring: dark chocolate and chocolate hazelnut. Sales have been brisk, according to the company, and the products were well received when sampled at a Buffalo Italian Festival this past summer.

“It’s met our expectations and we now have it in the rotation at all of our major retailers,” said Nichole Buryta, assistant brand manager for Perry’s.

Perry’s also earned two of three first place awards earlier this month at the annual Ice Cream Technology Conference in St. Petersburg, Fla., hosted by the International Dairy Foods Association. Each year manufacturers enter new products and flavors and attendees at the conference vote for those they deem to be the most innovative. Perry’s Red Velvet Cake ice cream and Sour Buddies novelty bars were selected this year.

Ms. Buryta said Perry’s frozen yogurt sales grew 12% in 2010 and that established trends like bakery-inspired flavors continue to produce successful flavors for the company.

Tillamook Creamery, Tillamook, Ore., also has introduced bakery flavors in its regional ice cream business. Known nationwide for its cheddar cheese, Tillamook also sells ice cream in West coast markets.

The company has expanded its Premium Ice Cream line of nearly 40 year-round flavors with two new additions: Sticky Bun and Grandma’s Cake Batter. Additionally, the company is rounding out the new flavor line-up with seasonal, limited-edition flavors, including Cinnamon Banana Bliss, Pumpkin, and the fan-christened Udderly Peanutbutterly.

Reviewing market conditions

In 2009, the market research firm Mintel International Ltd., Chicago, predicted there would be slow growth in the ice cream category from 2009 to 2012. The most recent figures from the SymphonyIRI Group, Chicago, for the 52-week period ended Feb. 20, show sales by unit in the ice cream/sherbet category are down 3% to 1,325,841,000 units. Sales for the category declined 3% to $4,315,962,000.

Frozen novelties, on the other hand, performed well during the 52-week period. Frozen novelty sales rose to $2,843,875,000, according to SymphonyIRI, representing a 4% increase, and unit sales grew 7% to 986,340,000.

Ms. Buryta noted that 100-calorie portion controlled novelties have drawn a lot of interest for Perry’s.

One other area that has seen healthy sales in the same 52-week period is the super premium category. Both the Häagen-Dazs brand, which is owned by Nestle, and the Ben and Jerry’s brand, which is owned by Unilever, had dollar sales gains of more than 4% and unit growth of more than 3%.

Hot and cold concepts

For on-premise scoop shop businesses, seasonality has been pronounced. In February, Cold Stone Creamery, one of the leading on-premise ice cream franchises in North America, introduced a line of warm plated desserts designed to generate sales during the slowest part of the year for the company. The Plated Desserts line combines indulgences such as brownies, churros and funnel cake, with Cold Stone’s premium ice cream.

One example is No Fair Funnel Cake: Freshly baked, which consists of funnel cake dusted with powdered sugar, surrounded by strawberries and topped with french vanilla ice cream, strawberry puree and whipped topping. The Plated Desserts are an extension into Cold Stone Creamery’s ice cream novelties, joining the company’s ice cream cupcakes and cookie sandwiches on its menu.

“The Plated Desserts brings desserts that are rarely seen in the restaurant space, such as churros and funnel cakes, and brings elegance and a whimsical flair to these decadent treats,” said Suzanne Schutz, vice-president of marketing for Cold Stone Creamery. “The four Plated Desserts options are the perfect indulgence a la Cold Stone.”

In addition to the new Plated Desserts line, Cold Stone Creamery is extending its Gold Cone collection, a monthly rotation of unique ice cream flavors, into 2011. The March flavor is Pistachio JELL-O Pudding, and the April flavor is Peach Iced Tea.

Perry’s Ice Cream takes top honors at I.D.F.A. flavor contest

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. — The International Dairy Foods Association held its annual ice cream flavor contest during its Ice Cream Technology Conference that was held in early March in St. Petersburg. Dairy processors and ingredient suppliers entered products in three categories and attendees at the meeting voted for their favorite in each category. This year’s winners included:

• Most Innovative Ice Cream Flavor: Red Velvet by Perry’s Ice Cream Co., Inc., Akron, N.Y.

• Most Innovative Prototype Flavor: Salteo Caramel Chocolate Pretzel Ice Cream by SensoryEffects Flavor Systems, Bridgeton, Mo.

• Most Innovative Novelty: Sour Buddie Bars, Perry’s Ice Cream Co., Inc., Akron, N.Y.

“It is an honor to be selected for the I.D.F.A. awards by our respected peers in the dairy industry,” said Robin Waite, research and quality team leader for Perry’s Ice Cream. “Red Velvet is one of the hottest trends in food right now and our Sour Buddie Bars were developed with a fun, younger consumer in mind.”

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