Mixing it up with flavors

Frank, Paula

* Variety is truly the spice of life, especially when it comes to flavoring dairy products.

Flavors are all the rage these days, especially in the ice cream category, where flavors are mixed and matched the more complex, the better it seems. Some concoctions resemble ice cream versions of comfort-food favorites such as apple pie, while others capitalize on flavors such as mango or dulce de leche, made popular by growing ethnic influence. Many of these flavor ideas come from the beverage, bakery and confectionery markets.

New flavor varieties continue proliferating the fluid-milk aisle. Flavors added to milk may target kids or the adult-market specifically. The same can be said for yogurt. Certain flavors such as bubble gum or cotton candy have more “kid appeal” than flavors such as cappuccino or white chocolate raspberry.

Increasing ethnic diversity and globalization, along with consumers’ desire for gourmet-style foods, continue to impact the cheese segment. Dairy-based dips have also become more flavordiverse, incorporating ingredients such as roasted garlic and chipotle peppers.

When it comes to flavor development, the sky is usually the limit, although challenges do exist. Perhaps the biggest challenge for 2002, is maintaining the level of creativity observed during the past year.

Ice Cream’s Flavor Fusion The variety of ice cream flavors available these days is mind numbing. Many varieties contain blends of flavors with various types of inclusions.

“In the year 2001, we have seen a tremendous amount of co-branding with the cookie and candy industry,” says Peggy Pellichero, project leader, dairy applications, David Michael & Co., Philadelphia. “In addition, we have seen almost every ice cream company with a dulce de leche and an apple pie feature flavor.”

With all of the ice cream flavors available, it’s difficult to imagine that any challenges associated with using certain flavors exist, but 2001 was a difficult year for vanilla in particular, because of limited availability. “This prompted the industry to evaluate its needs for natural vanilla and what alternatives could be used,” says Karyn Hoffman, food technologist, dairy applications, McCormick & Co., Hunt Valley, Md. “Vanilla extract has a standard identity, as does natural ice cream. Thus, there are two regulations to consider when flavoring vanilla ice cream.”

Beyond vanilla, chocolate and strawberry, age-old ice cream favorites, are blends of flavors containing variegates and inclusions. Base flavors range from banana to peanut butter to gingerbread, while inclusions range from cookie crumbs, chocolate chips and nut pieces, to chocolate cups with mint or raspberry filling; cookie or brownie pieces in caricature shapes; pieces of ice cream cone; or any assortment of intricate baked good or confection.

Some ingredient suppliers offer brand-management support by creating lines of ice cream flavors complete with trade-marked names and logos – a strategy that not only supports the sales of their ingredients, but provides ice cream manufacturers with valuable marketing support.

Denali Flavors Inc., Wayland, Mich., presented its line of Bear Foot”‘ ice cream flavors under its Alaskan Classics program at the Worldwide Food Expo in October 2001 – each containing Denali’s proprietary variegate, Bear Foot Fudge. This variegate is a milk chocolate version of the company’s Moose Tracks fudge. Each flavor contains one of Denali’s proprietary inclusions such as the Bear Foot Cookie Dough, which is shaped like a bear’s foot. Dairies throughout the country have partnered with Denali to produce the Alaskan Classics series of ice cream flavors.

Making Milk more Marketable

Milk consumption sales spurred on initially by packaging innovation and promotion, seem to be turning to flavor innovation for the next growth phase.

“Obviously chocolate is number one, but coffee-based flavors are growing fast,” says Rick Stunek, marketing director, Forbes Chocolate, Cleveland. “Premium chocolate milk has seen a resurgence over the last couple of years. I see more premium chocolate, mocha and coffee milk having the strongest growth in the coming years, with other flavored offerings slowly expanding.”

Consumer demand for variety and portability, particularly in single-serve sizes was a great boon for the fluid-milk industry as Stunek explains, “Marketing needs for single-serve and flavored milks have been a great marriage. Dairies needed a variety of flavors for single-serve and many flavors (mocha, strawberry, orange-cream, vanilla) needed smaller packaging sizes to be truly marketable. Most people aren’t going to buy a gallon of orangecream milk.”

As with ice cream, many of the popular flavor concepts for milk come from other segments of the market. Orange and cream, for instance, is reminiscent of a popular frozen novelty, the orange creamsicle – vanilla ice cream coated with orange sherbet. Cappuccino and mocha flavors ride on the coattails of the coffee drink craze.

“The increasing volume and variety of milk of all flavors continues to expand as single-serve expands,” notes Stunek. “Two factors critical to this are wider distribution of milk vending machines and the use of extended shelflife products.”

Creamy Yogurt

Certain yogurt brands specifically target kids with kid-friendly flavors such as cotton candy, watermelon, strawberry kiwi, bubble gum and raspberry, notes Pellichero. Old Home Foods Inc., St. Paul, Minn., launched Old Home For Kids! Lowfat Yogurt in Smashin’ Strawberry Banana, Cherry Mania, Raspberry Wipeout, Berry Blue Burst, Extreme Orange and Watermelon Whiplash flavors. Kids tend to prefer intensely flavored yogurts that are sweeter fl-than the adult versions.

On the other end of the spectrum, decadent, cream-based yogurts in flavors such as caramel cream and raspberry, have more of an adult appeal, notes Hoffman. Creaminess is a consumer term, often used to define something decadent or rich. Dannon La Creme(TM) yogurt in dulche de leche, peach, raspberry, strawberry and vanilla, capitalizes on this trend.

At times, flavoring a yogurt base presents challenges because of its inherent acidity, but some of these difficulties have been overcome through advances in technology. “Coffee and chocolate flavors do not work well in acidic products and were difficult to deliver in the ‘original’-style yogurt. However, advances in the culture industry have led to improvements in the yogurt base where chocolate and coffee flavors can be applied with better results,” says Hoffman.

Evidence of this is found in Londonderry N.H.-based Stonyfield Farm’s, Yo Self(TM), which comes in a 6count sleeve containing three cups of chocolate organic lowfat yogurt and three cups of creme caramel.

“Acid, sweeteners and fat content affect flavor delivery and must be taken into account when developing a flavor for any product, and dairy products tend to deal with all three aspects,” says Hoffman. “Higher fat dairy products tend to inhibit the release of flavor, and flavors with light top-notes tend to ‘disappear’ into the product. Regarding sweeteners, sucrose assists in flavor release and enhances flavor perception in products. When products contain artificial-sweetener systems, the flavor profile changes dramatically. Flavors need to be developed to give a fuller, more robust and complete profile to overcome the lack of sugar.”

Well’s Dairy Inc., LaMars, Iowa, most likely faced this challenge when it introduced its Blue Bunny Lite 85 Yogurt brand made with the no-calorie sweetener Splenda (sucralose), and no added sugar. Flavors include cherry vanilla, strawberry kiwi, key lime pie, Black Forest and orange creme, among others.

Cheese Goes Chic

It’s not that consumers are tired of the cheddars and mozzarellas of the world, but globalization and exposure to different cuisines increases awareness of less-commonly known varieties. Eating smaller meals more frequently may also bring an item such as cheese to the center of the plate. After all, cheese has in fact become a bigger snack item.

Blue and Gorgonzola cheeses reportedly rank among the top ten fastest growing natural cheeses at retail. Blue cheese, with volume up 10 percent and revenue up 31 percent over the last two years, now accounts for $37 million annually at retail, while Gorgonzola, a premier Italian blue-veined cheese, has experienced volume growth of 24 percent, with an increase in revenue of 141 percent over the last two years, accounting for $4.3 million annually at retail, as indicated by AC Nielsen as of December 29, 2001.

Athenos, a product of Churny Co. Inc., a Kraft Foods company, Northbrook, Ill., and number one brand of Feta cheese, is expanding its offering in the specialty-cheese category with the introduction of Athenos Blue and Athenos Gorgonzola cheeses. The company expects a positive reaction to these new products, based not only on positive growth sales of blue and Gorgonzola cheeses, but on results from an Athenos Consumer Focus Group conducted in May of 2001, which showed that consumers view blue cheese as a good fit for the Athenos brand.

Italian varieties such as fontina and Asiago have increased in popularity. Plymouth Wis.-based Sartori Foods offers several different types of Asiago cheese. Fresh Asiago (a fresco) is a softer, creamier type; medium Asiago (a di mezzo) is a firmer, more flavorful product; and smoky Asiago (a affumicato) combines a delicate smoked flavor with creamy, sweet and peppery notes.

Regional cuisine continues to be influenced by the large domestic Hispanic population. Although many entrees have more of a Tex-Mex flair than that of authentic Mexican cuisine, food processors can rely on suppliers who offer authentic ingredients to improve upon the authenticity of their offerings. Sartori Foods offers five ‘signature’ Mexican-style cheeses including Cotija, a savory, Mexicanstyle hard-grating cheese, dubbed as the “Parmesan” of Mexico; Asadero, a tangy, zesty Mexican-melting cheese; Queso Quesadilla, a creamy, butteryflavored cheese; Mexican Medley”, a blend of shaved Asadero cheese, yellow cheddar and grated Cotija Cheese; and Quesadero(TM), a blend of Asadero and Queso Quesadilla Mexican-style cheeses.

Dips with Zip

Traditional flavors such as onion and ranch still reign supreme among dairy-based dips, although innovafive blends using ethnic-influenced ingredients are becoming more prevalent. For instance, dips may contain chiles other than the familiar jalapeno, such as the chipotle (a smoked jalapeno) or habenero type, or roasted vegetables such as onion, garlic or tomato. Additionally, seasonings containing spices characterizing a particular ethnic cuisine such as Thai or Mexican add depth and variety to ordinary dips.

Whether in dips, milk, ice cream or yogurt, flavors add perceived value. Flavors make something taste better or different, more gourmet, or perhaps like something that gives comfort and stimulates memories of freshfrom-the-oven, home cooking. The comfort food phenomenon witnessed during this past year is projected to continue, giving “old-time flavors” new-found popularity, notes Abe Sendros, market research analyst, McCormick & Co.

Flavor differentiation will continue throughout 2002, particularly in the ice cream, yogurt and milk segments. New flavors, such as grapefruit, may enter the yogurt market and possibly the ice cream segment as well, adds Sendros, as will flavors of Latin influence. In addition, keep an eye on popular confectionery, bakery and beverage flavors as they continue transitioning their way into the dairy aisle.

Copyright Stagnito Publishing Feb 2002

Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved

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