Ice cream is a frozen food made from a mixture of dairy products, containing at least 10% milkfat. (This amount of fat varies, of course, depending on the product’s label—“reduced-fat,” “light,” “low-fat,” and “nonfat.”) In addition to milk solids and milkfat, a formula can contain such components as sweeteners, flavorings, emulsifiers, and stabilizers.
In the cold light of standard of identity, it all sounds pretty simple, and one might not expect a great deal of innovation in this category. But ice cream, like other frozen desserts (yogurt, ice milk, sherbet, ices, novelties, and other such products), keeps evolving, sometimes taking nontraditional directions as it reinvents itself to provide new opportunities in flavor, texture, stability, and health. (In terms of flavor alone, as we will soon see, ice cream presents opportunities that go well beyond those of vanilla or chocolate.) The result: options ranging from those that offer decadent indulgence to better-for-you qualities to a combination of both.
Every year, the Ice Cream Technology Conference of the International Dairy Foods Association honors the top frozen dessert innovations in the dairy industry. In 2011, Salted Caramel Chocolate Pretzel ice cream, developed by SensoryEffects Flavor Systems (www.sensoryeffects.com), was selected as the most innovative prototype flavor. The salty-sweet treat consisted of a combination of dark chocolate flakes and textured swirls of salty pretzel variegate added to caramel ice cream in a natural dulce de leche base and egg custard base.
Perry’s Ice Cream (www.perrysicecream.com) won the most innovative ice cream flavor (Red Velvet, an ice cream with a red velvet cake base and cream cheese swirls) and most innovative novelty (Sour Buddie Bars, sour green apple or sour blue raspberry sherbet with a vanilla ice cream center).
A quick sampling of the ice cream formulations in today’s marketplace further demonstrates some of the nontraditional directions that these frozen desserts have taken. The package of one such product, for example, reads: “This product contains alcohol and is not for children.” A new company, SnoBar (www.snobarcocktails.com), introduced an alcohol-infused premium ice cream and ice-pops that are said to deliver about 4% alcohol by volume. Varieties of the ice cream include Pink Squirrel (brandy, amaretto, and crème de cacao); Grasshopper (brandy and crème de menthe), and Brandy Alexander (brandy and a mix of crème de menthe and crème de cacao). Ice pops are offered in Cosmopolitan and Margarita versions.