By David Bernard
When it comes to frozen desserts and toppings, a number of the overall trends in gourmet food continue to push the category, such as healthful, and unique and global flavor profiles; but the producers of pints, novelties and toppings have taken things a step further, turning out surprising products, and in some cases turning back the clock as well.
In the freezer case, as in the snack, cereal and most other aisles, healthful trends are front and center. “Starting with frozen yogurt’s resurgence 8-10 years ago, the more healthful frozen dessert trend hasn’t really gone away,” explained Jillian Hillard, Marketing Manager for PreGel AMERICA, a supplier of dessert ingredients.
With the frozen pint being the dessert world’s currency of choice, and lower fat on the minds of many Americans, sorbet is gaining traction, according to Hillard, both in traditional single, smooth fruit and other flavors such as chocolate. Adventurous sorbet mix-ins are also appearing, like sea salted caramels, passion fruit sauce with seeds and peanut sauce with crispy cereal.
For healthful options that include a little more cream, or rather, “cream,” think non-dairy, a fast-growing subcategory fueled by 50 million lactose intolerant Americans, two million dairy-allergic children and one million vegans, and those avoiding saturated fats. Cashew milk ice cream is the latest iteration, wowing samplers at March’s Natural Products Expo West. Almond and coconut milk ice cream are players as well; one leading dairy-free producer now offers 17 varieties of coconut.
While healthful is in, flavor has always been in, and today’s consumers want more and varied taste experiences. “We work a lot of trade show circuits, and vanilla is still one of the top things we see requested,” explained Hillard. “But more and more, the variety of flavors is expanding, and global, more remote tastes are coming through. So while strawberry has always been an idealistic flavor, for example, now we’re seeing things like mango and guava come into play.”
There’s no need to search globally for one of the hottest flavor trends – savory. Hillard reported that PreGel recently launched popcorn, and pancakes and maple syrup flavors for frozen desserts, and they are selling briskly. “Tastes are really evolving and changing,” she said. “Look at salted caramel; when that flavor first emerged, people said, ‘Who would put salt in a dessert?’ And now … many dessert companies are actually adapting the flavor as a core part of their lines.”
As consumers embrace the frozen new, they’re also reaching out for the old. Nostalgia is in, with childhood-reminiscent flavors such as cereal-infused ice creams and novelties. And Hillard points out that with advances in food technology, those peanut covered cereal crisps and other mix-ins stay crunchy in ice cream.
Frozen pops are back, now often made of ice cream dipped in a flavorful coating like coffee or chocolate, rather than fruit centric. Novelty trends include both decadent and healthful, as more bite-size and mini ice cream sandwiches and other confections emerge.
Topping trends include simple-and-healthful, a dash of the exotic, and another page of nostalgia. A simple, thick honey sauce; ginger sauce with bits of the root, and graham cracker sauce containing pieces of the nostalgic treat; these are a few of the newer toppings that are changing the way people eat frozen desserts.