Innovation in ice cream manufacturing. Shaking a traditional dairy category

Innovation in ice cream manufacturing. Shaking a traditional dairy category

ice-cream-1321202-638x359The ice cream market has remained stable for years: Flat in the USA, some backtracking in Europe and a slow growth in emerging markets with few big brands leading innovation and sales. Also, new competitors have arisen in frozen segments for this very consolidated dairy category, such as frozen yogurts. In the last years, some start-ups, corportations and independent formulators have made their moves as well to change how we eat ice cream, exploring new innovation paths in production, packaging, textures, or flavors. Ice cream hasn’t escaped either to general trends in food like the growing interest of consumers for healthier products, which in its turn has prompted the industry to reformulate some of their traditional recipes.

Kyle Hounsell, Kristine Bunker, and David Donghyun Kim, three MIT students, decided to try 3D food printing with ice cream to offer a product on demand, where consumers can choose the form or figures of the product. This is not the only attempt to produce ice cream this way. There are already other food printers in the market able to do it as it is the case of FoodForm.

In San Francisco, Smitten Ice Cream has patented another way of manufacturing ice cream, made to order, on a high-tech machine, Brrr. In this case, the cooling process is made with liquid nitrogen. The system allows to produce more natural ice cream, cutting out emulsifiers, preservatives and stabilizers. Additionally, the number of crystals is smaller and the final product has a smooth texture.

Related to food waste, another area where innovation in ice cream has arisen is packaging. The WikiPearls are an edible container for these products developed by Harvard biomedical engineering professor David Edwards. They convert ice cream in a snack that you can carry with you without melting for quite a while. Additionally, the edible skin is made of natural ingredients and particles which add nutritional properties to the product.

Interesting improvement in ice cream production has to do with a protein discovered last year by a group of researchers from the University of Dundee and the University of Edinburgh. Its name is BslA and it slows down the melting process of the ice cream and is able to develop products with lower levels of saturated fat and fewer calories.

Finally, a regular concern when innovating in ice cream is the taste and the textures. For a few years, companies have been introducing new savory flavors and innovative combinations of tastes: goat cheese, truffle or banana curry are just some examples. And, according Mintel, Japaneses take the lead in these breakthroughs.

On the other hand, traditional companies are more concerned in making their products healthier, reformulating their recipes in accordance to the demands of the consumer. It is the case of food giants such as Nestlé Dreyer’s Ice Cream which has recently announced that they are working on improving their ingredients in six of its American ice cream brands, including Häagen-Dazs, Skinny Cow and Breyer’s.

Consumers are looking for healthier versions of their favorite dairy foods. This requires a strategic innovation to maximize flavor release and product composition, and it’s related to the increasing in the use of products like almonds which are an excellent ingredient for healthy food offerings since they include protein and are nutritious. Fruits like raspberries, cranberries and blueberries are popular accompaniments to them according Innova market.

The interest in clean labelling is growing as well. 20% of new products launched had one or more claims relating to naturalness, certification, and freedom from additives and preservative.

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