Ice Cream Sales Recover in 2005

Despite a problematic 2004, ice cream sales - and innovation - come roaring back in 2005.

By Diane Toops, News and Trends Editor

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Ice cream is associated with pleasure and experimentation of flavors. This new concept of mixed sensation-based pleasure is reflected in the names of recent introductions, such as Nestlé Schöller's (Germany) new Schokolade Orange, a chocolate and orange ice cream refined with spices for a unique exotic taste. Evoking sensuality and pleasure are Frigo's Cornetto Love Passion (hazelnut-stracciatella and tiramisú-cinnamon, nut and herbal flavors) in Spain, or Unilever's Seven Sins intense pleasure in the Netherlands.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Italian Ice Cream Trade Assn. (AIG), relatively unusual flavors, such as pink pepper, chili and nutmeg, are increasing in popularity, with nuts and chocolate also being confirmed among the most in-demand. However, some exotic flavors introduced just a few years ago such as kiwi, papaya and coconut, reportedly are declining.

A further trend in Western Europe is the increasing importance of fruit flavors, which are perceived as healthy as well as pleasurable. In the Netherlands, a new Orange Fresh flavor of the brand Solero was launched. The formula contains 50 percent fruit and only 4 percent fat.

Defining ice cream

USDA's specific rules define what can and can't be labeled "ice cream." To bear the "Meets USDA Ingredient Standard for Ice Cream" stamp, it has to contain at least 10 percent milk fat and a minimum of six percent non-fat milk solids, and a gallon must weigh at least 4.5 pounds.

The range of milk fat (sometimes referred to as butter fat) used in ice cream can range from the minimum 10 percent to a maximum of about 16 percent. Most premium ice creams use 14 percent milk fat. Higher fat content leads to better, richer taste and a creamier texture. Ice cream makers don't go higher than 16 percent because it would be costly and highly caloric.

The recipe for ice cream is simple, but in scientific terms, it's complicated stuff. Ice cream is a colloid, a type of emulsion - a combination of two substances that don't normally mix together. Instead, one of the substances is dispersed throughout the other. In ice cream, molecules of fat are suspended in a water-sugar-ice structure along with air bubbles. The presence of air means that ice cream is also technically a foam, according to HowStuffWorks.

In addition to milk fat, non-fat milk solids, sugar and air, ice cream also contains stabilizers and emulsifiers. Stabilizers help hold the air bubble structure together and give the ice cream a better texture. Although gelatin was originally used as a stabilizer, xanthan gum, guar gum and other compounds are used today. Emulsifiers keep the ice cream smooth and aid the distribution of the fat molecules throughout the colloid. Egg yolks once were used, but ice cream manufacturers now tend to use other chemical compounds. These stabilizers and emulsifiers make up a very small proportion (less than one percent) of the ice cream.

An ice cream diet?

New research shows that ice cream - when eaten as part of a healthy diet - may actually melt away fat, helping you lose extra pounds faster than if you had abstained. Aficionados will be happy to know that Prevention magazine developed The Ice Cream Diet. A dish a day helps you: keep bones strong; burn fat more efficiently; lower high blood pressure; crush cravings; ease PMS symptoms; fight colon cancer; stop bingeing; cut stroke risk; boost immunity; and prevent kidney stones.

Women get 1 cup and men get 1 1/2 cups of ice cream every day. You'll still drop pounds, because your treat is factored in to a nutritious diet that totals 1,500 calories a day for women and 2,000 calories for men. Since you'll be cutting 300 to 500 calories from a typical daily intake, women can lose up to 30 lbs. and men as much as 50 lbs. in a year.

To keep calories in check, you'll need to choose a reduced-calorie ice cream. But don't say yuck just yet. There are some great choices that meet the diet's guidelines of 125 calories or less per 1/2-cup serving and at least 10 percent of calcium's daily value of 100 mg per serving.

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