Vanilla and chocolate may be today’s most popular ice cream flavors, yet historical records show original ice creams were flavored with fruits and juices. And no wonder, the creamy, rich flavor and mouthfeel of frozen and sweetened cream serves as the perfect base to mix with all types of fruits — from the sweet to the sour, and the domestic to the exotic.
Adding fruit to frozen desserts is a growing trend, as such products provide permission to indulge. The consumer feels less guilt when a frozen treat also is providing the nutrients found in whole fruit.
“From a nutritional standpoint, whole fruit such as sliced, diced or even pureed, is preferred,” said Doug Bye, technical sales manager for Tree Top Inc., Selah, Wash. “With juice concentrates, the insoluble fruit solids (fiber) and some of the nutrients have been stripped away.
“Typically sliced and diced fruit particulates will be infused with sugar or other similar solids to prevent the fruit from getting icy in the finished ice cream. With soft-serve ice cream or frozen yogurt, it is best to use a smooth fruit puree, as large particulates will not go through the soft-serve equipment. Juices can also be used.”
Mr. Bay added that fruit purees and juices are used in sherbets, sorbets and water ices. Sherbets have a standard of identity (21 C.F.R. 135.140), which requires specific levels of fruit content to be present.
Identifiable pieces of fruit have eye appeal, but the color of the fruit is an important consideration.
“A food’s appearance influences consumers’ purchase decision,” said Tammi Higgins, commercial development manager-natural colors, FMC Corp., Philadelphia. “And even though most ice cream products are completely covered in packaging and the consumer never sees the product until they open the package at home, if the product is visually unappealing, a repeat purchase is unlikely.”
Mr. Bye added, “In many cases, the fruit alone will not sufficiently flavor and color the finished ice cream. In those cases, added colors or flavors — either in the fruit preparation or added separately — are typically used. For many manufacturers it is also cost prohibitive to use only fruit to deliver the desired color and flavor.”
Indeed, cost is always a factor.
“If the fruit being used in the frozen dessert is expensive, the frozen dessert manufacturer may choose to add color rather than more fruit in order to deliver the color the consumer expects,” said Stefan Hake, chief executive officer of GNT USA Inc., Tarrytown, N.Y. “The use of color in fruit preps will also vary based on the particular fruit and the application.
“For example, because strawberries are quite heat sensitive, there will be more browning after processing. As such, the color may not be that bright, warm red we expect from a strawberry frozen dessert. In this case, color would most likely be added to increase the visual appeal of the final product.”
Processing of the fruit is critical for food safety.
“It’s important that any fruit added to a frozen dessert be pasteurized to ensure proper food safety,” Mr. Bye said. “Quite often fruit ingredients are added to the dairy component post pasteurization. Given this, it is important that anything added to ice cream post pasteurization have undergone a validated 5 log kill step.”
Ms. Higgins added, “Many of the fruit preparations used in ice cream have been heat processed and as a result may either brown or fade during processing. In order to return the fruit to a color that is more representative of its natural state, coloring is added.”
One must also consider pH.
“In an ice cream with a high pH, the color of strawberries, for example, will shift to a bluish/gray during processing,” Mr. Hake said. “However, this is heavily dependent on the fruit that is being used, how the application is processed and at what point the fruit is added.”
It is frequently necessary to use coloring to standardize fruit appearance due to crop and seasonal variations, said Jody Renner-Nantz, application scientist, D.D. Williamson, Louisville, Ky.
“For example, strawberries in winter tend to have very little anthocyanin pigment,” she said. “In contrast, most in-season strawberries have plenty of color. A naturally derived, custom blend containing fruit or vegetable extracts, lycopene and caramel color can overcome the color gap between the two.”
Seasonal color variations are usually not a concern for frozen dessert manufacturers.
“If coloring is necessary, the fruit prep supplier usually adds it to the fruit preparation that they supply to the frozen dessert manufacturer,” Ms. Renner-Nantz said. “The type of coloring added to the fruit will vary based on its end use. For example, fruit preps designed for premium frozen desserts will typically rely on exempt-from-certification colors, otherwise referred to as natural colors. Economy or value frozen desserts will typically use certified colors, which tend to cost less.”
Dairy Enterprises Inc., Orrville, Ohio, recently reformulated Smith’s Premium Strawberry Ice Cream to contain no artificial flavors or colors. It is made with strawberries and strawberry puree, with the latter containing natural fruit and vegetable concentrate for color.
Penny Baker, director of marketing for Dairy Enterprises, said nationwide, strawberry is the third-most popular flavor of ice cream, trailing only vanilla and chocolate. To deliver a premium strawberry experience, the company evaluated a number of ingredient options.
“It’s a balancing act,” Ms. Baker said. “We searched for strawberries that go through the fruit feeder easily while providing even distribution in the ice cream.”
The newly formulated flavor is offered in Smith’s redesigned 1.75-quart containers with a suggested retail price of $4.69 to $4.99.
Ms. Higgins said anthocyanin-based fruit and vegetable juice concentrates work well in berry and cherry ice creams, while carotenoid-based colors, such as annatto and beta-carotene, provide a color boost to orange and peach ice creams.
“Turmeric works very well with lemon and pineapple and lime frozen desserts,” she said.
“Formulating with natural colors is not a trend; it is the future of the food and beverage industry,” Mr. Hake said. “Consumers will continue to demand real ingredients that they can recognize and feel safe consuming or feeding their families. As such, using color ingredients that are edible, such as those derived from fruits and vegetables, is particularly important in ‘fruit-containing’ products that appeal to health-minded, label-conscious consumers.”
For example, Ms. Renner-Nantz said that in a number of recent frozen Greek yogurt launches, developers have used black carrot extract to add color to strawberry, cherry and pomegranate products.
To achieve certain cooked flavors, flavor extracts may be added alongside the fruit.
“We have been able to develop a line of grilled fruit flavors that complement fruited ice creams very well,” said Emmanuel Laroche, vice-president of marketing, sensory and consumer insights for Symrise Flavors, Teterboro, N.J. “When fresh fruits are grilled, the sugars caramelize, producing some very unique flavors. We are able to capture those unique tastes, allowing ice cream makers to develop more complex fruited frozen treats.”