The scoop on ice cream trends
By Kiki Deere
In today’s fast-moving and competitive ice cream industry, manufacturers are thinking creatively to stay afloat. In a sector traditionally ruled by big brand players, small family-run brands are fast emerging to cater for the health-conscious, while experimenting with new ingredients and flavours to create eye-catching products to please today’s Instagram generation.
Summer has finally arrived in the UK and, with new parlours popping up left right and centre, there’s more ice cream choice than ever for consumers. Wacky ice cream flavours are in vogue, and it looks like they’re here to stay – for a little while, at least.
Black ice cream may not be something entirely new (it kicked off in the US a few years ago), but it has only really been taking the UK by storm since last year. “Our black coconut ice cream has been a huge success; there’s great demand for it,” reveals Chow of Jude’s, a British family-run company whose ice creams have won scores of Great Taste Awards.
Made with coconut husks, Jude’s decision to make black ice cream is the result of two converging trends. “The increasingly popular trend of root-to-flower eating, that is, eating an entire plant without throwing anything out to reduce food waste; the second is bringing plenty of zesty fun, colour and entertainment to the forefront,” explains Chow. Instagram’s highly visual nature makes the social media platform ideal to capture vibrant and unusually coloured foods. Black ice cream provides the perfect look, keeping consumers engaged and vying for more scoops (along with more likes).
Jude’s recently launched blue vanilla ice cream not only to satisfy teens and young adults of the iGeneration but also to challenge the idea that the colour blue equates to artificial colourings. The ice cream’s vibrant colour is obtained with blue spirulina, a natural ingredient that creates a striking eye-catching colour palette. While traditional flavours such as chocolate and vanilla are not going anywhere, playful flavour combinations are gaining popularity. Indian restaurant Grand Trunk Road in northeast London counts rose petal and avocado, alongside lime and thyme sorbet, among its dessert offerings.
It’s not all about visuals though. New textures to engage the senses are also increasingly important. Purbeck, an award-winning ice cream brand from Dorset, recently launched a Jurassic Range featuring crunchy chocolate bites that recall Britain’s Jurassic Coast (think milk chocolate fossil shapes; white chocolate bones and skulls), a gorgeous stretch of coast in southern England, with rocks recording an incredible 185 million years of our planet’s history.
For an ice cream to be successful, manufacturers have to pack in not only plenty of flavour, texture and visual appearance but also a health element too. Jude’s recently launched a low-calorie range, with minis featuring less than 100 calories each. “These days, it’s all about permissible indulgence,” says Chow.
While consumers are on the look out for low calorie treats, they’re also seeking to cut their carbon footprint while reducing food’s environmental impact. Gelato Village, a multi-award winning gelateria in Leicester, only uses biodegradable and compostable consumables at its store. The company has been plastic-free for a few years, serving cold drinks in glass bottles that the company recycles.
Customers are also taking more of an interest in the provenance of their food, often selecting locally produced ice cream where possible. Gelato Village is an official supporter of the Slow Food movement, which recognises the importance of ethical and locally sourced ingredients. The company uses milk from a Leicestershire farm just over 10km away, while the honey in their award winning Bee Happy gelato (featuring honey, lemon zest and sage) comes from a bee farm a short drive away.
Consumers are also seeking to reduce their impact on the planet by avoiding dairy – the industry being a major contributor to climate change and greenhouse gas emissions – by choosing vegan ice cream. Plant-based foods and free-from ice creams are becoming increasingly popular, with more and more brands offering vegan ice cream flavours.
Cornwall-based business Coconuts Organic launched its brand in 2015 and has since seen over 100% sales growth every year. Founder Cecily Mills explains: “Ice cream is a sector that is very reliant on synthetic emulsifiers; the vast majority of ice cream brands contain them. We have set ourselves apart by creating a smooth, creamy and scoopable natural vegan ice cream without the use of mono-diglycerides. Our ice creams are made with organic coconut cream, and sweetened with unrefined coconut sugar.” The use of coconut lends the ice cream a smooth creamy consistency and a touch of sweetness.
“Our rum and raisin is our most reviewed product. It has sparked plenty of interest – it’s the only widely commercially available vegan rum and raisin ice cream in the country,” Cecily continues. Alcohol ice cream is very exciting from a flavour point of view, and has created plenty of interest as of late. “I think it’s set to be the new trend,” reveals Cecily.
Alcoholic ice lollies have also been taking the country by storm. Made with dry Provence rosé and a blend of natural fruit essences, Mirabeau’s Frosé Popsicle, a frozen cocktail lolly that launched last year, is just one example of alcoholic lollies available. Its bright pink packaging is designed to capture the company’s wine heritage while also creating a fun consumer experience.
With so many exciting ice cream trends emerging, and with dessert menus shifting, manufacturers need to be at the forefront of innovation, producing ice creams that align with consumer trends. With scores of new hip ice cream parlours and quirky flavours catering to adventurous palates, there’s a real buzz about ice cream this year – and it looks like there’s plenty more sweet news in store.