Vanilla Or Hot Sauce? That Is The Question

By John H. Cox
Executive Director, FEMA

Just a generation ago, Americans mostly bought their ice cream in recognizable flavors like vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. Today, with boutique items like gelato, sorbet and frozen yogurt accompanying the regular ice cream in the freezer of your local supermarket, also comes an army of artisan flavors. Just like different exotic cuisines, people are open to experiment when it comes to ice cream flavors.

Balsamic Fig Mascarpone Ice Cream, Anyone?
In 2012, production of regular ice cream hit its lowest level since 1996, according to data from the International Dairy Foods Association. Conversely, sales of frozen yogurt and gelato from boutique ice cream shops and artisanal producers is growing. Flavors like cumin and honey butterscotch, salty vanilla, and pumpernickel are favorites at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, an Ohio-based producer. Coolhaus, which launched from the back of an old van, now distributes to 2,000 supermarkets and offers flavors like Cuban Cigar, Gin & Tonic and Olive Oil.

“The flavor we thought nobody would buy, and that’s the one we’re out of,” remarked Coolhaus co-founder Natasha Case, describing their most recent adventure in creating balsamic fig mascarpone ice cream. “Buyers want to know what’s cool, whereas before they just wanted to know that you do vanilla well.” She adds.


Photo Courtesy of Coolhaus
The famous Balsamic Fig Mascarpone Ice Cream

At the International Dairy Foods Association’s annual ice cream technology conference in April, producers showcased flavors such as Mexican-spiced chocolate and hot sauce ice cream. Ice cream flavors such as caramel popcorn, cotton candy, and peanut butter s’mores are headed to supermarkets. Is the recent trend of surprising and innovative ice cream flavors really as new as it seems?

Laura B. Weiss, the author of “Ice Cream: A Global History” doesn’t think so. “The desire to go beyond chocolate, vanilla and strawberry dates to the post-World War II era.” That is about the same time when Howard Johnson, famous for his roadside restaurants, tried to convince Americans to try his famous 28 flavors. Maple walnut, burgundy cherry, and fruit salad were among the most popular.

No Carding For Bourbon This Time!
Producers are trying whiskey, beer, and other alcoholic flavors in new ways. High Road Craft Ice Cream in Marietta, Georgia makes a bourbon burnt-sugar flavor. Coolhaus’ Case believes that ice cream makes a great canvas for evoking flavors in alcoholic drinks and cocktails. “And I don’t have to card people. It’s a food. “She mentions.

The next big thing will be creating more sophisticated textures. “Just in the way that people have learned to crave sophisticated flavors, they now want textures where the mouth-feel is really rich and delicious. “ Weiss says. No matter how popular the ice cream flavor is, tomorrow’s customer will be looking for an extra creamy, smooth, and rich texture.

What do you think will be the next popular artisan ice cream flavor? If you were to suggest a flavor for an ice cream what would it be? Will exotic flavors attract different age groups? Please share your thoughts with us!

The Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association of the United States (FEMA) was founded in 1909 and is the national association of the U.S. flavor industry. FEMA’s membership is comprised of flavor manufacturers, flavor users, flavor ingredient suppliers, and others with an interest in the U.S. flavor industry. The association is committed to ensuring a safe supply of flavor ingredients used in foods and beverages enjoyed by billions of men, women, and children around the world.

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